(See Part 1 by Molly Forsyth)
It’s nothing new to say that festivals, even metropolitan ones, really come alive at night. With the day drawing to a close and the night time approaching, I made my way down into the depths of the city to Leeds College of Music. On my agenda was one of the most captivating emerging singer-songwriters of the moment; Manchester’s JP Cooper.
Cooper’s voice stopped me in my tracks when I first heard his stunning ‘When the darkness comes’ EP not long before the festival, so it was safe to say my expectations for his live set were high. Despite the unconventional theatre-style layout of the venue and the off the beaten track location, the crowd of all ages was an impressive size. In contrast with the bustling central venues like O2 Academy and Leeds Beckett where festival-goers can wander in and out freely and discover new sounds, it was clear this Leeds College of Music crowd had planned in advance to seek out this talented Mancunian.
With just the man himself and his acoustic guitar taking to the stage, all it took was the opening four words of the breath-taking ‘You colour me in gold’ to have the audience captivated. This was followed by a varied selection from his 3 self-recorded EPs including the bewitching ‘satellites’, the heart achingly romantic and intensely beautiful ‘the only reason’ and ‘closer’ and closing with the more upbeat ‘what went wrong’, to which we all found ourselves clicking along. I have no doubt I wasn’t the only one left with genuine chills after this faultless and moving performance.
Fans of soulful and melancholic song-writing from the likes of Ray Lamontagne, Damien Rice and Paolo Nutini should take note.
I could’ve stayed in the same spot all night with no complaints but it was time to head to the vibrant and energetic hub of Leeds’ Northern Quarter that is Belgrave Music Hall for something a lot more upbeat. With the drinks flowing and a more animated crowd waiting in anticipation, London-based duo Ekkah took to the stage. These girls knew exactly how to please their audience, pumping out the infectious hooks from their ‘Last chance to dance’ EP, a lively cover of Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget me nots’ (the chorus whose melody is used in the Men in Black theme – a tune and a half) and a saxophone solo that had everyone from the front to the back of the room grooving shamelessly – more than appropriate for the Saturday night of Bank Holiday weekend.
Shortlisted for The Guardian’s Sound of 2015; long-time friends Rebekah Pennington and Rebecca Wilson and their band make soulful and sun-kissed pop with a retro flavour that suited what is one of the trendiest live music venues in Leeds to perfection. These girls are pretty certain to win over many a festival-goer in 2015; with sets at this year’s Parklife, Secret Garden Party and Bestival and in the pipeline for the summer.
Also gracing the stage of Belgrave’s upstairs room was the final act on my agenda for this year’s LAL; Nimmo. Fronted by another female duo (an unplanned running theme for me), Nimmo are a five-piece electronic band heralding from London who recently signed to Columbia Records and have received positive reviews from The Guardian, XFM and Clash Music. Their sound is energetic groove-driven disco pop, with darkly resonant lyrics of heartbreak and relationship breakdown. Vocalists Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett sang in unison for most of the choruses, which meant it was impossible to not be shaken by the intensity of the vocals. The musicianship and passion from the rest of the band also didn’t go unnoticed. The forceful piano, electric guitar and drums meant the instrumental solos and outros were the parts of each song that really hit me hardest.
Model and singer Agyness Deyn was so moved by the band’s debut single ‘Change’ that she insisted on directing the video for the track, which you can see below. Those familiar with the Parisian electronic music label Kitsuné, and also fans of The XX and New Order should tune into the sounds of Nimmo.
Live at Leeds continues to impress when it comes to selecting the finest emerging talents from across the musical spectrum, enabling music lovers to see what’s guaranteed to be the next big thing before the rest of the world catches on. The long list of notable alumni includes James Blake, Marina and the Diamonds, London Grammar and Ed Sheeran to name but a few. Naturally it’s impossible to see them all, so it’s worth having a realistic number of artists on your agenda for the day and planning well in advance (the venues involved are spread well across the LS postcodes).
Awarded the title of ‘Best Metropolitan Festival’ in the UK Festival awards 2014, it’s great to see the festival industry giving the event the recognition it deserves. 2016 is LAL’s 10th Birthday, so watch this space for an extra special edition come the next May Day Bank Holiday weekend.
By Julia Connor
Title image by Tom Joy courtesy of http://press.liveatleeds.com/2015/