It’s up there with the best festivals for showcasing emerging musical talent in the UK. Live at Leeds has quite the reputation to uphold and 2019 didn’t disappoint.
Boasting a whopping 190 acts over 19 diverse venues across the city, giving upcoming artists their opportunity in the spotlight alongside some of the UK’s more established acts, Live at Leeds 2019 served up a melting pot of musical brilliance and showed why the North of England is the ideal stage for the country’s next big things.
Seeing every act on your musical wish list is pretty much impossible. But after we’d enjoyed eight acts across seven venues in just under ten hours, we felt we’d made a solid effort. Highlights of the early afternoon included a soulful session from alternative singer/songwriter Lucas Watt at one of the festival’s more intimate venues (The Social) followed by a breath-taking (literally – the ‘throwing my arms in the air like I just don’t care’ took its toll) set by Derbyshire-based electronic funk and disco trio Patawawa, served up at the moody and interesting converted Chapel.
One of the biggest surprises of the day came from Wakefield’s Skinny Living who, bringing things down a notch at Leeds University’s Riley Smith Lecture Theatre, treated us with their indie-folk kinda vibe, using their music to tackle hard-hitting and thought-provoking issues of the modern world.
Generally, the rule is, the later you’re on at LAL the bigger you are, and that certainly was the case as the evening wore on. Kicking the evening session off was multi-instrumentalist duo Apre, at the ever cool and undeniably hipster venue, Nation of Shopkeepers. Being from that dark land ‘the South’, I had my reservations. However, in our chat beforehand, both Jules and Charlie assured me that they are a perfect match for the more “up for it” and “less stiff than in London” crowds the North has to offer. Playing only a handful of the 80 tracks they’ve written in the past year, including Gap Year 2008 and Everybody Loves You, the duo got the evening off to a sensational start.
Proving that Leeds holds its own as one of the sickest gigs to play for alternative talent, Brisbane’s “sexy, silly, sassy” (in their own words) Confidence Man cranked up the energy (and the volume) back in the Riley Smith Lecture Theatre. The one-in-one-out crowd were treated to an electro-dance set reminiscent of the likes of Basement Jaxx, showing us just why this brand of pop music deserves its 21st century revival.
Validating Manchester’s reputation as a self-confessed musical powerhouse of great bands with something to say were The Slow Readers Club who, with their indie doom pop anthems Cavalcade and I saw a Ghost, brought a new meaning to the term spiritual awakening at Church. While over at Lending Room, Manchester-based five-piece Larkins showed exactly why they are dubbed the Pennines next big arena act. Offering up favourites such as Something Beautiful as well as newer material like the thought-provoking TV Dream, they promised a party and most definitely delivered at the Lending Room.
To finish things off we headed to see one of LAL 2019’s headline acts, Tom Grennan. The UK’s hottest new solo artist needed no introduction and, playing to a packed-to-the-rafters Farah Lecture Theatre at Leeds University, he closed the show in style and whetted our appetite for the infamous LAL after-party over at Brudenell. With catchy hits such as Found What I’ve Been Looking For and Sober, this kid is certainly one to watch.
Coming away from Live at Leeds, I understand why bands find the ‘sum yourself up in three words’ question so tricky. Truth be told, only three words for LAL would be just im-poss-ible.
Main image: LAL 2019. Tom Grennan. Credit: Lewis Evans.
To read Sarah’s interviews with Confidence Man, Larkins and The Slow Readers Club ahead of Live At Leeds 2019, click here.