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Live at Leeds 2014: A review

Live at Leeds 2014: A review

By Julia Connor

The sun was out and the atmosphere was electric across Leeds on Saturday 3rd May for the city’s annual Live at Leeds festival. Having never attended the festival before, I was interested to see for myself why this festival, now in its eight year, is one of the North’s acclaimed live music events. I attended on the main day of Saturday, my photographer best friend in tow, eager to check out some familiar names as well as to discover some new emerging talent.  It’s safe to say that our afternoon and evening were spent watching an eclectic mix of performances, each with something different to offer. Perhaps rather fitting; as the day went on these became increasingly lively and upbeat, and I couldn’t deny that this is an ideal progression for someone’s festival experience. Here’s how our day turned out, along with some tips for the potential LAL attendee.

Our afternoon began in the atmospheric setting of Holy Trinity church with singer-songwriter Jamie Isaac. It’s not often you can sit in a church pew, pint of lager in hand, watching live music, but this day proved to be an exception. It’s safe to say that Isaac’s sound perfectly matched his gorgeous surroundings. Performing in a trio, Jamie does vocals and piano, backed by gentle guitar sounds and soft electronic beats from his two co-performers.  The vocal effects he uses were especially striking; the hauntingly beautiful tones and lyrics of ‘Blue break’ and ‘She dried’ echoing around the walls of the venue. This really was a moving performance that set the relaxed tone for the afternoon.

Jamie Isaac

Next we made the short walk to The Hifi Club to check out the next band on our list. The small underground club and its intimate atmosphere made the set of the London indie rock quartet Arthur Beatrice really inviting. Perhaps due to the time of day or the fact that other bigger names in the industry were performing elsewhere, a surprisingly small turnout was present for this performance. This was a shame as the band certainly deserves the spotlight; the faultless sweeping harmonies of vocalists Ella Girardot and Orlando Leopard combined with the backing of soft bass and punchy drum beats created a sophisticated blend that made for easy listening. New listeners should first check out the band’s 2013 ‘Carter’ EP.

Arthur Beatrice vocalist Ella Girardot

Suitably impressed from the last performance, we headed over to A Nation of Shopkeepers hoping to discover some new talent and found ourselves amidst the more lively audience of another indie quartet: Sundara Karma. A crowd-pleasing set with spurts of energy in all the right places, the chemistry between these four boys was undeniable. Lengthy and classic guitar solos thrown in towards the end were an especially captivating and somewhat unexpected addition. Having since listened to the band’s (albeit limited) output on Spotify, I can say that I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for their new material.  This is where what I consider to be one of Live at Leeds’ biggest strengths lies. Due to low price tag of a ticket (£25 for the day) and the small sizes and close relative proximity of many of the venues involved, festival-goers are able to wander in and out and get a vivid taste of what these artists unknown to them have to offer, alongside checking out any names they’re familiar with on the line-up before arriving on the day. The point is, the genuine music lover can’t go wrong here.

Sundara Karma

As the day drew to a close, energy-levels and expectations were high as we made our way down to one of the largest venues on the list, O2 Academy Leeds, for two of the biggest names on the bill for 2014. Following her explosive collaboration with Rudimental, Ella Eyre is a name that’s been on the tip of everyone’s tongues for the past year. Running out to greet the large turnout that had shown up especially to see her, the first thing that captured my attention was this 20-year-old’s impressive stage presence. Clearly someone with a big personality as well as big hair (she looks like a pop star, it has to be said), it was impossible not to find yourself singing and dancing along to Ella’s catchy material; this is 21st century pop music that leaves you smiling. For anyone who hasn’t already, Ella’s latest release is easy-listening that’s worth checking out – a particular recommendation goes to her moving cover of Jermaine Stewart’s ‘We don’t have to take our clothes off’.

Ella Eyre

Last but by no means least and providing the climax to a successful day, it was time for Clean Bandit to take to the stage. Having heard the classic ‘rather be’ a million times, I was admittedly slightly sceptical, suspecting that this set might just remind me of another generic club night. But how wrong I was. ‘Eclectic’ is an adjective that doesn’t even give these guys’ style full justice. Oboes, violins and steel pan sounds alongside stunning faultless harmonies and energetic deep house beats filled the venue and everyone from those pushed up against the barrier to those seated at the back were dancing.

Clean Bandit

The SoundCloud links to all the above artists featured are below. I urge you to have a listen and also to check out http://www.liveatleeds.com/artists/ for a full list of the 2014 line-up to do the same. With the likes of James Blake, Mumford and Sons, Bombay Bicycle Club and the 1975 among the Live at Leeds alumni, it’s needless to say that big things are coming for many of the 2014 line-up. The festival really does offer something unique, showcasing artists from across the musical spectrum, giving them a valuable platform and memorable experience. There are a few tips worth bearing in mind for anyone considering attending next year’s event:

1.       Start early. As soon as the first doors open make sure you’re there to really make the most of your day.

2.       Have a schedule. If there are artists you specifically want to see have a schedule to hand (and map of the city if you need one) and leave the previous venue in plenty of time to avoid queuing and potentially missing out, as popular shows at full capacity won’t allow extra people into the venues.

3.       Go to a range of venues if you can. They all have different ambience and acoustics on offer.

4.       Go and discover some new music. At least at one point in the day; wander in somewhere and see a band/artist you’ve not heard of. Nice surprises can’t be beaten.

LAL 2015: I’ll see you there.

Images: All originals by Ian Bradley

SoundCloud links

Jamie Isaac – https://soundcloud.com/jamieisaacArthur Beatrice – https://soundcloud.com/ululationSundara Karma – https://soundcloud.com/sundara-karmaElla Eyre – https://soundcloud.com/ellaeyreClean Bandit – https://soundcloud.com/cleanbandit

Student of BA Linguistics and Philosophy and 2014/15 Her Campus Leeds Co-President
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