Review by Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
Part 1: Live at Leeds, various venues, various acts.
So you’re pretty excited now. You’ve got your wristband and your list of acts and venues.
The smart thing to do at the annual indie feast that is Live at Leeds is to work out carefully where and when to trudge to in order to ensure you see the best-known bands on the impressive list of live gigs happening across the length and breadth of the town from noon to midnight and beyond.
It’s a special day, indeed, for music fans but, if you’ve been to a few of these things before, you will know the really smart thing is to do the exact opposite.
To make the most of Live at Leeds on May Day Bank Holiday Saturday you have to fly blind, plan less and go with the flow.
“I’ve got the bottle opener,” I tell the rest of the room at Leeds City Museum as fellow press people/VIP wrist band holders attempt to open the copious number of chilled buckets of free Fosters with just the one relevant implement.
Hit the road. Arrive at The Wardrobe. Flash the wristband. On stage are a ridiculously upbeat, perpetually smiling outfit called SJ Bravo playing their own strange band of upbeat funk pop of a distinctly 80s brand with a trio of hallelujah girly backing singers.
“They look like Go West before they had hits but there’s something of a religious cult about them,” says James.
“It’s like watching a video of the early years of Paul Young,” I add.
It’s a bit harsh on a band who are musically unusual and impressively together and write some pretty decent tunes.
We pop round the corner to Munro House where we peruse Colours May Vary bookshop and the art gallery next door.
Some great, fake front covers of albums that never were are hanging framed on the wall.
It’s an exhibition called Mock n Roll featuring the work off musicians from the Leeds scene like Pulled Apart By Horses, Owen Brinley, formerly of arty pop band The Grammatics, who played one of my Charm nights at Monteys in Harrogate a few years back at Monteys in Harrogate and Napoleon IIIrd, who also appeared once.
A life class is going on in the gallery, too.
It’s great to savour the smell of paint being applied in earnest as we exit.
The Marriott hotel on Boar Lane has a sign up for a ‘Leeds Calling’ networking session.
The bait is free beer and bacon butties, the price is to talk to representatives of Blacks Solicitors.
We happily chat to one of the partners, Asad who happily chats to us about the firm’s move into the world of rock n roll and asks us whether their promo material does the trick or not.
I tell him about my past and the Harrogate music scene and how good the AMP Awards are and how the PR company which nearly got the promo contract, Acceleris, are more rock n roll than they may have appeared, partly because the dapper Peter Davenport actually manages a teenage indie band who won the AMP Awards.
Too much of this sort of thing means we just miss hot new guitar band The Struts in the debris crowd of The Cockpit.
So we pop briefly into the hub-bub of the new Trinity shopping centre awash with even more people than Live at Leeds, all of them delighted to be shopping under its St Pancras station-like roof.
We head off to the other Trinity, the magnificent 18th century church and arts centre to discover most of the pews have been removed to allow the audience to stand.
At an acoustic gig?
It doesn’t ruin the performance of singer-songwriter, Nick Mulvey. His guitar riffs and lines are excellent, though there seems to be more angst than hooklines and the songs don’t really go anywhere.
“It’s all whine,” says James.
We talk to the soundman Martin who used to be part of the Charm ‘gang’ organising gigs at The Tube in Harrogate and Wardrobe in Leeds in the late 90s.
Now an experienced engineer himself, he earns a decent whack part of the time by doing Jane McDonald’s tours.
He tells us about another soundman friend of his who tours with forgotten 80s hitmakers Smokie.
It turns out they spent an awful lot of the year in Russia and the former Soviet Republics.
“Why?” I ask. “Because the Russians love them. They’re absolutely massive out there. They played for Putin’s birthday,”
Mid-afternoon. After a stop at a nicely put-together trendy, new café for a sausage sandwich, we march across town to the 02 Academy.
Within two minutes we are within this crammed venue.
If we hadn’t been able to brandish a silver wristband to doorman Massa, we would still have been outside 15 minutes later queuing.
Instead we’re watching an entertaining band from the northeast called Little Comets.
Upbeat, lively and very popular with the crowd of youngsters in front of the stage, the Live at Leeds programme calls them the ‘British Vampire Weekend.’
A tidy little band with those Afro-beat tinged guitars of early Vampire Weekend, they’re too meat and potatoes to quite live up to that.
Most people here would disagree, reacting to the band’s clear-cut but predictable pop skills in the same sort of way I experienced at a Two Door Cinema Club gig a couple of years back.
Part 2 of Live at Leeds review tomorrow