Live At Leeds 2016 review: So many new bands impressed
Live At Leeds 2016 review

Celebrated the festival's tenth anniversary with over one-hundred hot bands and some memorable performances

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The Sherlocks at Live at Leeds

Live At Leeds was a jam-packed musical occasion on Saturday, celebrating the festival’s tenth anniversary with over one-hundred hot bands and some memorable performances. But it wasn’t without its faults, as Katy Blackwood reports.

There are better starts to a festival day.

The morning dawns with the undesirable twist of headliner Jess Glynne‘s withdrawal through illness, with no time for the organisers to arrange a marquee replacement.

This elevates indie pop band Circa Waves and hometown girl Corinne Bailey Rae to the top of the bill, but let’s be honest: the sheer number of emerging talents on show still leaves music-lovers spoiled for choice.

From the get-go, hard-hitting performances come thick and fast, as one of our tips – jangly Chesterfield upstarts Trash – provide the pick of the openers at Oporto, and perform to a surprisingly substantial audience considering the early time slot.

The Briggate stage – an outdoor platform for new bands to perform on the bustling high street to shoppers and music aficionados alike – also starts early doors, and Glass Caves are similarly impressive in the opening slot.

Where Fires Are

Where Fires Are were among the highlights in the afternoon / photo: Katy Blackwood

Fizzy Blood‘s set at The Key Club and The Jackobins at Leeds Beckett University are possibly the most popular dinnertime destinations, with barely room to get through the door at the former.

The Brudenell Social Club also offers a whole host of exciting, hotly-tipped bands to choose from across two stages, although its location proves too far away for those focusing on the city centre destinations.

This proves a recurring problem as the day progresses for many, with not only the usual festival clashes to contend with, but the sprawling locations and – later – a number of stages running well behind schedule.

Still, the Brudenell offers enough to be an all-day destination in itself, and those there are treated to loud sets from Kagoule and local band Narcs, plus the hidden gem of politically-charged Welsh rock band ESTRONS.

Circa Waves at Live at Leeds

Circa Waves on-stage at Leeds University / photo: Anthony Longstaff

Such bands make it the place to be in the afternoon, although both Leeds and Beckett universities, with larger crowds and a much boozed-up student atmosphere, feature electric performances throughout the day.

The Briggate stage welcomes Where Fires Are, a local band usually found in small venues and making the most of the exposure by winning new fans with a loaded rock performance.

The 4pm time slot is the most congested of the day, with the aforementioned Where Fires Are plus rowdy punks FEWS, Southsea indie boys Kassassin Street, and Mystery Jets opening at the O2 Academy.

Mystery Jets re-appear later on for an in-store performance at the city’s Dr. Martens store, scheduled for 7pm but running massively behind, as many performances are by this point of the day.

Queues outside Dr Martens at Live at Leeds

The queue outside of Dr. Martens ahead of the Mystery Jets in-store / photo: Katy Blackwood

But when they finally do emerge, their set is charming and jovial, featuring both the classic hits plus material from their latest album Curve of the Earth in a performance well worth the eager wait.

The early evening provides many of the day’s highlights as a whole, as The Sherlocks show why they’re spoken of as the next big thing in-front of a massive crowd at the LUU Refectory.

The Leeds University Union, in fact, provides many of the day’s best bands, including Clean Cut Kid, raucous post-punks Spring King, and Blossoms across its two sponsored stages.

The large crowds and the lack of Jess Glynne at the Academy make it feel like the real main stage, especially at the O2’s last performer – Shura – receives one of the poorest turn-outs despite much media hype.

Kloe at Live at Leeds

Kloe on-stage at Belgrave Music Hall / photo: Katy Blackwood

The day’s most disappointing set comes at Belgrave Music Hall from future pop star Kloe, whose laboured soundcheck continues deep into her set and whose songs fail to translate well to the live stage.

It is one of very few letdowns, as the bands generally live up to expectations and the sun remains bright, in vast contrast to the damp weather at Live at Leeds 2015.

By the middle of the evening it is no easier to pick a stage to attend, with Pumarosa – one of the most exciting new bands of the moment – at the Wardrobe, and Dirty Hit’s Benjamin Francis Leftwich at the Holy Trinity Church.

The return of alternative rock duo Blood Red Shoes at Leeds Beckett shines most, with their time out from live shows sapping none of the relentless energy that they bring to the stage.

Red-hot rock band Sundara Karma, who are looking set to have a major breakthrough year, pack out The Faversham, and the LUU stages keep the major names coming with We Are Scientists and Circa Waves.

Where Fires Are at Live at Leeds

The Briggate stage featured new bands performing on the busy high street / photo: Katy Blackwood

Some of the venues quieten toward the late slots, the early comers perhaps heading home, although the Brudenell remains lively – if not livelier – thanks to Rat Boy‘s 11pm headline performance.

Tipped to be this year’s break-out indie star, he completes the day’s live music with an enjoyable performance, as those keen to stay out into the early hours head to the after party at The Wardrobe.

Live at Leeds is always an opportunity to catch lots of exciting new bands, and this year’s batch did not disappoint, with everyone surely going home with memories of a riotous highlight.

That said, the scheduling and time-keeping of some of the stages is an issue that the organisers may wish to address for 2017, and the withdrawal of Jess Glynne cannot be overlooked as a dampener.

But in some ways, Live at Leeds is not about the headliners – in this sense it is the north’s answer to Brighton’s Great Escape – and so many new bands impressed as to more than make up for her absence.

Live at Leeds undoubtedly remains the north’s premiere one-day music event – and a fitting start to the festival season.

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Live at Leeds 2016 – in pictures