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Live At Leeds 2019

This was my first experience of Live at Leeds, if you love live music and have the stamina to keep going (it runs from 12 noon to 12 midnight) then this may me the best city-based festival you will ever go to.

The sheer number of venues open and bands playing is quite daunting, I did some planning as there were a few bands I wanted to see but, as I expected, my plans fell apart as the day went on and, if I’m honest, I eventually ran out of steam.

One of the great joys of this festival though is that having to change your plans means sometimes you end up watching a band you have no intention of watching and find yourself seeing something you really enjoy.

I allowed myself to follow some recommendations from friends quite early on and threw my original plan out of the window. It was well worth it as I found some bands I can’t wait to listen to more.

My day started with Tallsaint in the Brudenell Social Club, she has a lot of talent, a good stage presence and an excellent voice. To start playing at midday must have been difficult but the crowd were already up for it and she put on an excellent show. I think the material still needs a bit of work but, when she gets that sorted she has the ability to break out.

My second band of the day at Hyde Park Book Club were the Pearl Harts, they were honest early on in their gig that they’d gotten to Leeds a day early and may have partaken of a couple of alcoholic beverages. If this is them feeling a bit rough and not at their best heaven help their audiences when they are fully on it. If you want to Rock, go and see a Pearl Harts gig now! They play awesome, visceral Rock. Think the White Stripes meets Greta Van Fleet meets the whole of early 70’s Rock in one show and you’re still won’t get it, it’s so much more than that. For a band who were on at 1pm having a pretty much full venue must have felt good. This band turned it up to 10 and blew us away, what’s not to love!

I then headed to the Key Club for Saint Agnes, a band with a big reputation for full on live shows. The venue was packed, and Kitty and the band delivered a full-on show which culminated in her stage diving into the crowd while continuing to sing. This is a band who have decided to go for it. For me they didn’t always reach the heights I expected from their reputation, but I think I was very much in the minority in the venue for thinking that.

It was at this point the plan started to go wrong as there was too big a queue to get into see Sophie and the Giants, maybe next time.

A brief pit stop allowed for energy levels to be replenished, which was just as well as the next band were Dream Wife at Leeds Becket University. This band are on it, they have so much confidence in what they are doing and have a brilliant level of interaction with the crowd insisting all the bad bitches come to the front of the crowd. The whole band have tremendous stage presence and their infectious brand of Punk/Rock/Pop is infectious.

Straight after I went to the other stage in Leeds Becket to see a band I had no intention of seeing, Saltwater Sun, but they were playing, and I was there so I went. I am so glad I did, this band are genuine contenders, I loved this quintet from Reading. I think they could best be described as Pop Rock but that isn’t being fair to them. There is an endearing quality to this band and some kick ass songs.

I went straight from that stage back to the bigger stage in Becket to see Genghar. They opened with a dreamlike song with an almost falsetto vocal. I enjoyed it, but they weren’t the best band I saw on the day. I began to find the vocal annoying. I may again have been in a minority as the crowd grew throughout the gig and seemed to really enjoy it. I decided to head to another venue and try something else (one of the joys of live at Leeds is there always someone else playing somewhere else).

That something turned out to be the Mysterines at The Church. The venue is amazing with a full stain glass window behind the stage through which the sun was still flowing (I can imagine it was a nightmare for anyone taking photographs). The band themselves are unashamedly Punk Rock. They had attitude, a driving baseline and what seemed like an often lot of anger. They will need to find something to add to the mix to create some variety but for now they are a thoroughly enjoyable.

My final band of the day wasn’t planned, I’ll be honest, I was running out of steam and was debating how many more bands to see. I popped to the venue next to The Church, The Chapel, to see who was on. I’m so glad I did as I discovered Retro Video Club who I have already listened to a few times since I got home. There are a quality band with great stage presence, even if the bassist does look about 10 years old, who have some quality songs. The banter with the crowd was good, including some backwards and forwards singing. For me this was a great band to finish on.

I can sum up my day simply, I saw some great bands, some good bands and some I won’t bother seeing again. I discovered three bands in The Pearl Harts, Saltwater Sun and Retro Video Club that I’m going to be listening to a lot more and will try to see live again. I wish I’d lasted to see the Murder Capital as I really wanted to, but I ran out of steam, next time!

Live at Leeds, if you didn’t go this year you’ve made a mistake, don’t do it again and make sure you’re there next year.

Review - Iain McClay

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