The weather may have been on a downer, with intermittent rain and dull skies all day long, but our spirits were high and energised for the day to come. It’s no lie that Live at Leeds boasted one of the best line up’s this year, but in saying that, there was always going to be some serious choices to be made about which bands to actually go and catch live.
The obvious choice, first of all, was to head down to The Wardrobe to catch London quintet Longfellow. They are a band that have been on our radar for a couple of years now, but this was the first time seeing them live. Led by a sonorous yet deeply emotive vocal, Longfellow’s alternative pop swells and soars with emotional depth and gentle crescendoing rhythms.
Live, their songs come to life in magnificent glory. Their sound is almost too big for the tiny walls of The Wardrobe to handle, which is emphasised more so when singer Owen James Lloyd belts out astute musings that weigh heavy on the heart, of complicated relationships, tangled emotions and motivating pearls of wisdom. This is a band that should be heard in arenas. With the recent release of their new EP ‘Remedy’ the band are set to conquer more and more hearts.
One of the ‘wow’ moments of the day was Tenterhook‘s set. The brainchild of London based Archie Faulks. His spellbinding falsetto takes centre stage providing the sweeter complexity to his romantic tales of indecision and infatuation, that soon blossom into heartfelt transcendence.
Switching from electric guitar to acoustic guitar throughout the set, the solitude of it all added to the ambience and captivating pull of his music. But I couldn’t help but picture what his set could have been with the helping hand of a backing band. But with the nature of festivals and the restrained budgets that plague the newer artists, it’s something you just have to put aside. Having said that though, who needs a band when you’re gifted with a voice like his?
It’s his emotional maturity and mastery over simple lyrical understatement that speaks much more than anything else. Tenterhook is sure to be a name that we will be hearing a lot of over the course of the next year.
Once arriving at Leeds Beckett University, a feeling of dread set in, the venue wasn’t allowing any more people in due to capacity issues but after a pro-longed 5 minutes which left like an eternity, we were allowed inside. Where we met a packed audience eagerly anticipating the arrival of Port Isla to the stage.
The band’s sound boasts the accessiblity and freeing qualities of pop with the heavier edge of alternative rock, an undercurrent of country music is rooted in the bands songwriting but nonetheless Port Isla are unlike any other band. They perform like it’s the last performance they’re ever going to give, giving a full 100% of passion and love to the crowd. One listen to their new track ‘A.L.I.V.E’ and you’ll be brimming with energy. Port Isla’s set was the perfect pick-me-up to the wavering late afternoon blues that were gradually setting in.
Throughout the day, it was inevitable that clashes would arise but it was the choice between the bright, indie rhythms of Saint Raymond, the anthemic enchantment of The Mispers and the acoustic charms of Charlie Cunningham that was the hardest decision to make. Ultimately, it was the simple pull of watching an artist perform in the vast halls of a church that won me over. After a quick sprint to the other side of town, I arrived at the Holy Trinity Church to see man of the hour, Charlie Cunningham.
First of all, I have to say that the music of Mr Cunningham is stunningly arranged and delicately strung, and judging from a room heaving with the amount of bodies that occupied its space, it’s safe to say that others felt compelled to witness the wonderment of Cunningham’s musical capacity also.
Cunningham’s voice is simple but instantly captivating. He weaves his magic over intimate strums of his acoustic guitar that take note from the warm timbres of flamenco, inspired by the time he spent in Seville, adding melodic flair to what some might consider just another set by a singer/songwriter. But Cunningham proves time and time again that his music is both distinctive and irresistible.
Knowing that Spector were playing Live at Leeds this year has made the countdown to the festival that much more nerve-racking. A band which have transported a generation of teen’s away from their semi-regular lives into the throws of frontman Macpherson’s wryly-tuned wit, self-deprecating tone and appreciation for pop culture.
As you’d associate with a band that have made such an impact on the restless hearts of today’s youth, the venue was at the epicentre of Leeds University – the Union Stylus. The large room was brimming with excitement and packed full with a student-age crowd eagerly anticipating the long-awaited return of Spector to their city.
Their set was perfectly weighted with new tracks from their forthcoming sophomore album and tracks from their debut, which of course were met by a loud uproar and a mandatory sing-a-long by all. What Spector do best is anthemic, big pop songs. Not the cheesy throw-a-way kind but pop with a backbone.
It’s Macpherson’s distinctive charms that interplay with a person’s internal dialogue, whether that be of personal failure to the solitude of growing up, you’ll always find a friend in Spector. Just as the lucky few did at the barrier where they reached out to touch their fated saviour, grasping out for that little bit of acceptance in a world full of uncertainty. Certainly, Spector do bring new meaning to the term ‘indie disco’.
To finish the day off, it was only right to head back to where it all started: The Wardrobe, to see the synth pop spectacle of Prides. There are no barriers, no hierarchies, no ego’s at a Prides show, everyone is there together to have good time – because essentially, it’s a big dance party.
When watching Prides it’s impossible not to be swept up by their energy and passion for performing. For the band and the audience it’s more than just a gig, it’s a life-affirming epiphany that everything in life doesn’t always have to be serious, if you make the most of it, you’ll be all the happier for it.