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To read the first half of Martin’s review of Live at Leeds 2014, go here.
Happyness sound like they come from Slackersville, USA, their sound reminiscent of college rock luminaries such as The Lemonheads. But a quick post-gig chat with affable singer Jonny Allan reveals they’re actually from South London – it’s their record collections, not their accents, that are transatlantic. What’s also very British is their moderately grumpy, slightly pained, dead-pan intra-song witticisms (imagine if Derek and Clive formed a band and cut out most of the swearing) which puts the lie to their optimistic name.
Such obscurantism matches the music well – the full name of one song is revealed to be ‘I’m Wearing Win Butler’s Hair; There’s a Scalpless Singer of a Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’. Said song has a superbly laid-back groove, making it pretty much the perfect song for a late afternoon spent indoors when it’s sunny outside. There’s every day at a festival there’s a band who summarise the mood, linking atmosphere, location and sound in a perfect circle of gentle euphoria – Happyness are that today.
Woman’s Hour (pictured at top) trade in gentle washes of electronica and minimal beats, topped with Fiona Burgess’ peachily delicate croon. Smooth and fragile, here appropriately swathed in smoke-machine atmosphere, Burgess making smooth motions with her hands as if hosting a communal tai-chi class. Much like the smoke, there’s the suspicion that Woman’s Hour are a bit ethereal, slightly monotonal, perhaps without the dynamics to structure a set which fully engages right to the end. Within their niche, very competent, but The xx have nothing to fear.
Highasakite sound like nobody else and are certainly the most ambitious band of the day. They make a fantastic orchestrated noise, perhaps best described as prog-pop, where guitars are just another instrument to carry their elegant, architectural melodies. Ingrid Helene Håvik strolls on stage unassumingly, wearing a hoodie several sizes too big, but when she starts to sing, the true potential of the band begins to be realised. ‘Since Last Wednesday’ is an epic on the theme of loss, featuring cathedral-size pipe organ and enormous drum hits, ‘Indian Summer’ has an enormous uplifting chorus, and latest single ‘Leaving No Traces’ melds spaghetti-western sensibilities with an electronic pop chorus which manages to be both icy cold and deeply emotional all at the same time. Quite a ride.
Each member of the band appears to be a virtuoso, particularly the impossibly-talented, formally-trained synth player Marte Eberson, whose playing stands out as being as stunning as her looks. In the back room of the Brudenell, with not much more than a handful of audience members, this starts to feel like a rare treat, of a band with stadium-sized potential playing a private gig for a select few who know the secret of where to find nuggets of otherworldly music. This is the performance of the day, and, for that matter, of the year so far.
There could hardly be two bands more different than Highasakite and The Orielles. One is an ensemble of refined, trained musicians who formed at the Trondheim Jazz Observatory. The other is a group of two sisters and their schoolfriend from Halifax who have a, shall we say, more rudimentary approach to their instruments. What isn’t rudimentary is their ability with a tune. Their sound is 60s-inspired melodic surf-psyche-garage of the most endearing naiveté. But there they are on Spotify and iTunes, with an EP and a single, showing for more experienced practitioners how to go about this music business thing.
Check out something like ‘Old Stuff // New Glass’ from their ‘Hindering Waves’ EP (video of the title track we featured earlier on TGTF here) – there’s a fantastic surf-guitar sound that Dick Dale would be proud of, there’s the double-double-barrelled Esme-Dee Hand-Halford giving Louise Wener a lesson or two in offhand cool, and her sister’s Ringo Starr-esque drumming holding it all together with a simple, tight groove. They even take on a bit of white funk in ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. Tonight, the audience are mostly men, mostly at least twice the band’s age, heads nodding and feet tapping to the frenzy of noise coming from the stage, as the band race through their set with no banter or niceties to lighten the intensity. You might go to see them for the novelty of age, but you’ll stay for the tunes. (For more of our coverage on the Orielles, go here.)
By the time TGTF arrives at Leeds University for a look at the Wytches, the well-refreshed crowd are already as excited as a toddler at Christmas, bless them. The appearance of Kristian Bell and his the sound of his dirty power chords sends them over the edge – a tsunami of people surge forward and crush the photographers and their expensive gear who’ve braved the front of stage position. The photographers don’t stay long, the crowd continuing to press wave after wave of human flesh against the barrier. A fight breaks out at one point, which seems perfectly normal given the circumstances.
The band themselves do have a nice line in semitonal noise, mixing ’60s psychedelia with ’90s mainstream grunge like Temples‘ naughty little brothers. In ‘Wire Framed Mattress’, Bell emotes about his dignity collapsing, and it’s clear some members of the crowd can relate to him from first-hand experience this evening. Overall, The Wytches are about as scary as a Vincent Price film, and just as corny, but they’re good for a laugh in a paradoxically light-hearted way. Just don’t stand at the front if you value your bones unbroken. (For more of our coverage on the Wytches, go here.)
It’s left to Drenge to wrap the night up. They take the visceral impact of an act like the Wytches but manage to tidy it up a bit, making proper songs that don’t rely on tons of reverb and walls of noise, but feature audacious concepts like groove and melody. Eoin Loveless is a positive guitar hero for a new generation, despite, or perhaps because of, not really ever playing a solo. (For more of our coverage on Drenge, go here.)He loves a good riff, though. Kids these days, eh? Sadly the crowd here is even further removed from the mores of polite society than the previous one, with flying beer cups, extreme moshing (some punters even come complete with anticipatory plaster casts already applied), and the final straw – enthusiastic vomiting just in front of the speaker stack. TGTF retreats to a safe distance – outside the venue, watching from the stage door – just to be able to enjoy the performance without being assaulted by various fluids, bodily or otherwise. And that’s it. The end.
The genius of Live at Leeds is that it attracts enough ticket sales from those wanting to see bigger, more mainstream acts – apparently Frank Turner’s acoustic set was at capacity long before stage time – that they can afford to run a fringe of more interesting new music. DIY’s programming of the Brudenell was flawless – in another universe TGTF stayed there all day and saw The Amazing Snakeheads, Fair Ohs and Pulled Apart By Horses. But the program is so varied that there’s something for everyone, and at £25 for a whole day of class acts, superb value. Roll on 2015.
Live at Leeds has 24 venues, each with an average of 12 slots during the day. If my maths is correct, and assuming one has a Star Trek-style transporting machine which enables instant travel between one venue and the next, that means there are 24 ^ 12, or 36,500,000,000,000,000 different ways to schedule one’s day. Clearly a task that even the most musically-informed maths whiz would find a challenge. Thankfully, the lovely people at DIY had come up with such a tasteful and diverse lineup for their Brudenell Social Club residency, that such venue-hopping became almost entirely unnecessary.
TGTF’s day began with a very pleasant walk in beaming sunshine to the Faversham on the edge of the Leeds University campus, in a quest to kick everything off with a native Leeds band. Marsicans have got riffs and jangles and lovely Yorkshire-accented vocals, hooks you could hang a greatcoat on, all mixed together to generate the musical equivalent of an enormous grin on a summer’s day. They’ve got a single out, ‘Terrapin’, which is generously available for free, which is matched in jollity only by their previous release ‘Chivalry’, whose enormous singalong chorus is, if anything, an even more diligent earworm.
The walk from the Faversham to the Brudenell Social Club is a stage-setting experience in itself. The settled sandstone calmness of campus life gives way to tired yet still noble multi-storey brick terraces. Many residents sit on their front porches, smoking whilst taking in the sun. A 19th-century school has been demolished, leaving only rubble and temporary fencing as a bleak reminder of its proud history. Perhaps it’s the wrought-iron shutters across front doors and windows, or the scattering of dog-eared independent supermarkets, minicab firms and backstreet garages, which all conspire to create a distinctive atmosphere of, if not menace necessarily, then lives lived in complete indifference to the shiny artifice of Leeds’ city centre, lives in which concerns about protecting oneself from crime, or of how to pay the electricity bill, take higher precedence than another new shopping centre, or indeed the niceties of contemporary independent music.
Those few souls living in Burley or Woodhouse who are indeed partial to decent live music every night of the week are fortunate, because that is precisely what the Brudenell provides. The place is as aesthetically unattractive as venues get: architecturally lumpen, with a circular auditorium which does nothing for the acoustics. The interior bears the hallmarks of many an enthusiastic amateur DIYer. How appropriate for today’s residency. The PA in the main room is deafening – always bring ear plugs. But there’s no doubt that it’s also a deeply funky place, imbued with a century’s history of bacchanalia, repurposed as a live venue despite its physical shortcomings with more respect than any number of cookie-cutter chain pubs have for their former banking halls.
Ten minutes is all that TGTF gets of Bearfoot Beware, and it’s enough to determine that this self-confessed mathy three-piece can do tunes, funk, and boot-stamping riffs in equal measure and to an equally high standard. Imagine if Red Hot Chili Peppers were still good and decided to mix their loose funk with complex, bordering on atonal, guitar work, replete with diminished fifths, and theme their songs equally unconventionally. ‘My Love is a Seagull’ is a prime example: there’s two or three intense guitar themes, a bizarre hula drum interlude with all manner of swirling guitar effects; the final minute of instrumental call-and-response has bassist Ric Vowden bouncing and throwing shapes – as do, if they have any soul at all, the audience.
The biggest crowd of the afternoon is drawn for Parisian trio We Were Evergreen (pictured at top). And theirs is the trickiest set to describe. Imagine Manet’s A Bar At The Folie Bergère, then further imagine the late-19th century beat combo which might supply the background music: at once providing beautiful harmonies, a touch of twee sweetness, yet bathing in a decadent groove that is both inspired by and further encourages their city in its bohemian, bourgeois excess. Then bring those minstrels into the present day, equip them with looping pedals, synths, and a ukulele, and you are getting close to We Were Evergreen’s sound.
There’s a touch of Röyksopp in the way Michael Liot’s gentle delivery combines with the electronic beats and toy-like synth melodies, and in the rhythms that gently build to a danceable crescendo. But the songs don’t descend into by-numbers euphoricism: there’s solid songwriting chops on display. ‘False Start’ has a rock-solid chorus, complex, almost obscurantist lyrics, and a surfeit of beeps and bleeps to keep the most ardent electronica fan happy. Their debut album ‘Towards’ was essentially released at this gig – it’s officially out on the Monday hence but copies are on sale here – on the evidence of this performance it’s shaping up to be one of 2014’s essential purchases.
Coasts breeze onstage in a whirlwind of white denim, Doc Martens and wild-eyed charisma. In case one was in any doubt, they’ve brought a palm tree to reinforce their self-confessed trop-pop credentials. But that’s only half the story. With their big melodies and shape-throwing frontman they’re bidding for the affections of Hollyoaks viewers, The 1975 devotees, and any girl who cares to wear denim hotpants in the spring. Musically there’s nothing new about the sound – Fenech-Soler have been doing this Balearic-indie for years – but fair play for trying to breathe new life into this dance-related genre, even if it means that despite five members they still rely heavily on backing tracks to reinforce the dancefloor-friendly beats, one of which inevitably goes catastrophically wrong mid-song.
‘Rush of Blood’ relies on familiar saccharine tropes – “you took the beat in my heart / the words in my mouth / kept me out of the dark / you put the taste on my tongue / the life in my soul / give me air for my lungs”. Smitten, isn’t he? Their live performance reflects these motifs, the drama dialled up to 11 from beginning to end. The faux-sincere intensity does, frankly, wear a little thin after a while, with little in the way of dynamics to maintain interest across the whole set. Much like a takeaway burger, one’s hunger is quickly satiated by the carefully-engineered sensory button-pushing, but when it’s over all that’s left is a guilty, greasy aftertaste.
If Coasts are the class jocks, then Jarbird are the shy, retiring, bookish geeks quietly planning world domination from their perfectly-ordered desks right at the front of the class. In utter contrast to what’s gone before, they deliver fragile four-part harmonies and delicate instrumentation – live electronic drums vie with synth and the most skeletal of Stratocaster work – to create something quite unique and of a compelling, delicate beauty. Recent single ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ evokes a deep sense of yearning melancholy, whilst somehow still remaining optimistic and uplifting – an impressive feat of composition. Clearly still a young band, they have an endearing humility to their presentation that comes as a refreshing change to those who clearly yearn for nothing less than to make themselves enormous in the music business. Jarbird, precisely because they let the music speak for itself, deserve to do very well indeed.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s riveting account of Live at Leeds 2014.
Live at Leeds is one of the most intense examples of one of the most intense of gig-going events: the one-dayer. Leeds boasts more than its fair share of fine venues, and Live at Leeds brings them together under one banner for 12 hours of fine new music. Your brave correspondent has attempted to listen to every one of the over 200 artists on offer – and failed. Therefore here’s a list of what stands out as a possible way to negotiate the myriad of combinations.
The Brudenell Social Club has a strong offer all day. We Were Evergreen (3 pm) trade in Parisian twee-pop blended with indie tunes: a fine, summery start. And after that, because the Brudenell has two stages, it’s one band after the other, every half hour. No time to even visit the bar. Dive In are from Glastonbury and offer chiming melodies and a voice uncannily similar to Brian Molko, if he was full of happy pills. Coasts have the nerve to call their latest single ‘A Rush Of Blood’ – and although there is a touch of Coldplay in some of their soaring choruses, they’re unlikely to be confused with the London behemoth: there’s a nice discordant solo in ‘Stay’, and ‘Wallow’ is almost like Bastille with big guitars. A mixed bag then, but certainly one worth assessing live.
Jarbird bring some admirably minimalist electronica overlaid with a lot of twisted, vocodered singing. And with a song called ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ betraying a humourous cynicism, what’s not to like? Happyness, despite being from London, bring sunshine-on-a-string Americana – ‘It’s on You’ properly chugs like the Lemonheads, chock full of classic melodies and a college-rock slacker sensibility; ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ is a slow-burner, with a lazy bassline sketching out a groove and slurred vocals about drawing letters on one’s person. As you do. Woman’s Hour are a bit like a cross between Wild Beasts and The xx – which gives them a lot to live up to. They sound capable of it. With their debut album coming in July, now is a great time to check them out.
From smooth electropop to guitars – both Creases and Primitive Parts supply lo-fi riffing and retro rock ‘n’ roll beats. Primitive Parts clearly have one or two Graham Coxon records in their collection. Onwards: I can’t stop playing ‘Hiroshima’, a fine example of orchestral pop from Norway’s Highasakite. Ingrid Helene Håvik’s vocals are stunning, framed beautifully by the delicate instrumentation.
The 8 pm hour provides a dilemma – whether to make the 10-minute walk to The Packhorse to catch TGTF favourites The Orielles; perhaps a taxi ride to the Belgrave Music Hall to see the suave chamber delights of New York’s San Fermin, coming over all Tindersticks and Hem; or to stay at the Brudenell for an increasingly noisy night, kicking off with Montreal’s hard-riffing duo Solids. Indeed, the picture of where to be and what to hear becomes increasingly distant and hazy as the night draws in. Several hotly-tipped acts will have already been missed: Courtney Barnett, Flyte, Arthur Beatrice, and the headliners are either heavy-ish (Pulled Apart By Horses, Catfish And The Bottlemen (pictured at top), The Hold Steady), or poppy-ish (Clean Bandit, King Charles). Leeds’ very own I Like Trains set up a homecoming gig at Leeds Town Hall, celebrating 10 years in the biz.
In short, there’s something for everyone, and nobody can see everything, so it’s probably best to go with the flow and not worry too much about it. Or just spend all day at the Brudenell. See you there…
As if to celebrate a communal emergence from a very Dry January, this week three of TGTF’s favourite city-based festivals revealed great chunks of lineup. Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City take place on the same May bank holiday weekend, although Leeds is really only a one-dayer, whereas Liverpool treats its weary punters to the full 3-day marathon. And southerners don’t miss out either, as a week later the entire PR population of London decamps their beards and designer handbags to Brighton’s The Great Escape. For some, it’s a holiday, for others, well, they’ll need a holiday afterwards. [Having done both Sound City and Great Escape back to back 2 years in a row, I concur with the latter. – Ed.]
Like the artists themselves, for instance. There’s only so many buzz bands to go round of course, but at the time of writing already five hardy acts are lined up to play at all three events. Here we take a quick look at each and try to determine exactly why they’ve been picked to play three big shows in a week.
Liverpool’s Circa Waves (pictured at top) may well have heard the odd Libertines album in their time (and there were one or two odd ones!): the frantically strummed guitars and the big, melodic choruses have just the right amount of familiarity for them to sound like old friends already; the addition of a pronounced Liverpudlian twang in the vocal delivery of ‘Get Away’ adds a welcome point of differentiation from the seminal Londoners. Similarly, ‘Good For Me’ carries more than a hint of The Strokes’ ‘Last Nite’, although forsaking the latter’s bone-dry retro production for a wider, more modern sound. The big question is, are they more than the sum of their parts, or simply destined to follow paths that others first trod over a decade ago? No doubt their live show will provide the answer.
The we come to Melburnian slacker chick Courtney Barnett, famed for her Dylan-esquely-meandering autobiographical ditties. ‘Avant Gardener’, in its baggy groove and surreal, stream-of-consciousness take on a medical emergency, sounds nothing less than if Shaun Ryder had happened to be an Australian woman and was produced by Beck. Stranger things have happened. But there’s more than just a swaying rhythm and a clever turn of phrase to this antipodean artisan: her debut collection ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ displays an enviable depth and maturity: being no stranger to a 5-minute epic, something like ‘Anonymous Club’ showcases Barnett’s ability to turn down the tempo and bring out a more circumspect, even sombre, mood, all led by her gently vulnerable voice. Truly a talent deserving of a wider audience – and these three gigs will provide that.
If you spend your nights lying awake trying to decide which flavour of rock you like better – the big, heavy, riffy version with screamed vocals, or the more jangly, melodic stuff with at least vaguely recognisable lyrics, then I’m pleased to say you can sleep easier from now on – Darlia from Blackpool have locked both styles in a negotiating room, not letting them emerge until they agreed on some sort of uneasy musical truce. Despite its portentous title, ‘Napalm’ even goes a bit garage-rock in the middle eight, before the Metal Zone pedal is stamped on again and the riffage re-emerges. It’s doubtful that this is a tribute to Napalm Death, who in comparison make this lot sound like a nursery singalong, but it powers along nicely in its own punk-pop-metal way. There are hints of Green Day here, although Darlia come nowhere close to knocking out the sort of world-class melodies that Billie Joe and Co lose down the back of the sofa. Indeed, on occasion, such as on recent single ‘Queen Of Hearts’ from the Knock Knock EP, the light/heavy contrasts don’t sit easily together at all. Much as there’s no demand for a lemon meringue pork pie, I wonder whether metalheads might dismiss Darlia as too lightweight to admit to liking, whilst the riffs might scare off the mainstream audience that bought so many copies of ‘American Idiot’. Time will tell.
Dolomite Minor also do heavy, but theirs is the weight of a fuzzbox, lashings of spring reverb, a repetitive, loping groove, and handfuls of late-60s/early-70s proto-hard rock attitude. There’s a touch of psychedelia too, but they don’t venture far enough away from their riffs to really earn the epithet. And what they carry in musical weight they absolutely drop down the toilet in terms of lyrical sophistication. From ‘Let Me Go’: “The sun goes up / the sun comes down / everyone goes out on the town”, and ‘Microphone’: “Go get her a microphone / all she needs is a gramophone”. There’s a lot of “Spoon on the Moon in June” going on here. With a tune. To be fair to them, fancy-pants lyrics are not the point here: a fey singer-songwriter might have a bunch of clever words, but do they have an industrial revolution guitar riff and drums than could kill a pigeon? No. They’re from Southampton, and so are Band Of Skulls, and they play a Gretsch guitar, and so do Band Of Skulls, which are of course just a couple of big coincidences and in no way has one influenced the other. No sirree. Nevertheless, as the latest in a long line of two-piece teenage riffmeisters, nobody could accuse Dolomite Minor of poor timing. There must be a lot of unemployed bassists out there.
And so we come to Marika Hackman, who has featured in TGTF a number of times before; the Brighton-based singer-songwriter and sometime model knocks out pieces of delicate fragility and open-hearted honesty, sometimes bordering on gruesome realmusik (see ‘Cannibal’ from 2013’s ‘That Iron Taste’ mini-album). Mary caught the end of her very popular show at The Great Escape last year, a very sparse affair with Hackman accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. Let’s hope she’s expanded her live palette somewhat this year: a good part of the joy held within her recorded material are the entirely self-played arrangements – ramshackle at times – that add depth and groove to the idiosyncratic song structures.
There we have it – five artists “doing the triple” of urban festivals this May. There will be more lineup announcements between now and then, and if any more acts end up playing all three festivals, we’ll feature those too – but what more incentive could you need?
London quartet Wolf Alice have just announced a May 2014 tour of the UK, to follow their appearance at SXSW 2014 in March. Tour dates include festival appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds, and Stockton’s Sunday Live the first May bank holiday, as well as the band’s largest headline show to date at London Scala on the 28th of May. Wolf Alice will be joined by Superfood on all dates except on 12th of May. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday the 5th February at 9 AM.
The band’s EP ‘Blush’ is out now on Chess Club Records. Check out the video for the song of the same title below the tour date listing.
Thursday 1st May 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Friday 2nd May 2014 – Liverpool Sound City
Saturday 3rd May 2014 – Live at Leeds
Sunday 4th May 2014 – Stockton Sunday Live
Monday 5th May 2014 – Hull Fruit
Tuesday 6th May 2014 – Sheffield Leadmill 2
Wednesday 7th May 2014 – Newcastle Think Tank
Thursday 8th May 2014 – York Duchess
Monday 12th May 2014 – Birmingham Temple
Tuesday 13th May 2014 – Oxford Academy 2
Wednesday 14th May 2014 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 15th May 2014 – Bedford Esquires
Friday 16th May 2014 – Guildford Boileroom
Saturday 17th May 2014 – Leicester Cookie Jar
Sunday 18th May 2014 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Tuesday 20th May 2014 – Brighton Haunt
Wednesday 21st May 2014 – Preston 53 Degrees
Thursday 22nd May 2014 – Stoke Sugarmill
Tuesday 27th May 2014 – Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms
Wednesday 28th May 2014 – London Scala
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 29th January 2014 at 4:00 pm
Clean Bandit have been poking around for a couple of years, but most people have only heard of them recently, their single ‘Rather Be’ hitting the top of the UK charts this week. The four-piece fuse house rhythms with classical influences into a heady mix danceable by all, so it’s no wonder their latest single has skyrocketed up the charts.
Last month in London, Clean Bandit graced a Fred Perry Sub-Sonic Live bill, where they performed this rendition of ‘Rather Be’ committed to film. Watch it below. The band have already been announced as a band not to miss at both Live at Leeds 2014 and Liverpool Sound City 2014, taking place the first bank holiday weekend of May.