Ah, festival season, how we’ve missed you. Today’s proceedings in Leeds might be significantly less muddy than what’s to come over the next few months, but Live at Leeds 2017 turns out to be no less raucous. It may still be relatively early in the festival day, but London scamps King Nun aren’t the types to go in gently. Fresh from honing their chops on the recent Dirty Hit tour with Superfood and Pale Waves, the quartet have become a ferocious force of gnarly riffs and wonky song structures.
The likes of newie ‘Wet Wipe’ and early single ‘Tulip’ ring with the kind of fizzing potential of early, ‘Leisure’-era Blur, and by the time they close with a hedonistic one-two of ‘Hung Around’ and ‘Speakerface’ – singer Theo Polyzoides stomping and hopping round the stage like a man possessed by the spirit of an excitable toddler – the very decent-sized afternoon crowd are in the palm of their hands. Visibly chomping at the bit, the most exciting thing about King Nun is that they’re only just getting started.
After a two hour drive down the A1, DIY’s favourite Geordies Eat Fast emerge onto the Brudenell’s stage in a haze of distortion and blue light. It’s a fitting way to introduce themselves to Live at Leeds; deliciously scuzzy but still packed with melody, the first taste of their new ‘Immortal Kombat’ EP fits brilliantly alongside their earlier offerings. Granted, it’s not all plain-sailing - bassist Mark Brown manages to do the near-impossible by breaking a bass string mid-set - but it’s a great glimpse of the four-piece in all their fuzzy glory.
By the time Dream Wife take to the stage, the room is packed out and the effects of all-day drinking are starting to kick in. Despite going up against all manner of clashes at venues elsewhere, you’d never have guessed it: Dream Wife are on top fighting form this evening.
While Alice Go and Bella Podpadec are expert players, it’s up to Rakel Mjöll to be a leader who’s equal parts angelic and fierce. Throughout their set of perfectly angular pop songs, she bounds around stage but it’s within the likes of ‘Somebody’ - where she yells the song’s chorus of “I am not a body, I’m somebody” front and centre - and the chaos-inciting ‘F.U.U.’ that she and the band really come to full, visceral life. This may still be an early juncture in their career, but there’s no denying that this band are destined for much bigger things.
Over at the Nation of Shopkeepers, with two years off the circuit and playing their first festival show back, Superfood are having a shitter of a time. Plagued by technical hiccups, it takes the band a solid 20 minutes in front of a twitchy crowd to begin, but when they do all is forgiven. Kicking off with a couple of fan-placating oldies (‘Lily For your Pad To Rest On’, ‘You Can Believe’), they then dish up three superlative new cuts from their forthcoming second record that prove Superfood were always way, way more than just another B-Town band.In ‘Natural Supersoul’, they’ve got a groove-laden, Prince-tinged slinker that gets the crowd busting moves last seen in the New York underground of the ’70s, while sample-heavy banger ‘Where’s The Bass Amp?’ stakes a claim for the most giddily infectious song of the whole night. They end with their namesake debut ‘Superfood’ and, earlier hitches all forgotten, you sense that these returning heroes could be the dark horses of the festival season.
Contrasting the grit of the majority of the day’s bands with some polish, Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom are going places. Fresh from playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Dua Lipa, they take to the Games Room and proceed to crash their way through a blistering half an hour. Vocalist Mette Mortensen weaves her way through the crowd, stopping to hurl certain lines of tracks from debut EP ‘Love To Hate It’ inches from audience members’ faces. It’s bratty, brilliant and full of confidence.
When Trudy & The Romance follow them, there’s no fewer wide-eyed grins across the room. Unstoppably fun as ever, the Liverpool trio skip their way through a catalogue that’s bigger, better and more packed with hits than a band at Trudy’s stage of their career should be allowed, and ‘Wild’ receives full-on shrieks usually reserved for boybands quite unlike Trudy & The Romance. It’s fully deserved though, and the highlight of proceedings in the Games Room. When album time comes around for this lot, they’ll no doubt be playing to far more.
It’s been only three weeks since the release of ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ but judging by their heroes’ welcome to the Brudenell tonight, fans of The Big Moon have been awaiting this moment for much, much longer. Whispers of ‘this venue is too small for them’ echo through the crowd before their entrance and when they do kick things off - with the anthemic ‘Silent Movie Susie’ - it’s clear to see that statement is true.
What ensues is nothing short of a celebration, with the quartet racing through old favourites and new highlights alike, both of which earn word-for-word singalongs to boot. Newie ‘Bonfire’ is a particular highlight, while their brilliantly warped but familiar take on Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ still has pride of place. The best part, though, is the look on the band’s faces: two years on since their first festival performance at Live at Leeds, they couldn’t look more elated at how far they’ve come.
Frontman Johnny Rocket – aka Lias Saoudi of fabulously grotty oiks the Fat White Family – might be on more sartorially tasteful form than usual, having abandoned his recent penchant for taping breakfast foods to his chest, but The Moonlandingz are still nothing short of a mind-boggling live proposition. Thrusting and contorting his way round the stage, Saoudi leads his band through the ridiculous romp of ‘Black Hanz’ and ‘Chateau Neuf de Pape’ like a hellish bingo caller from a working men’s club gone wrong. Their niche lands somewhere in the chintzy underbelly, and in a venue where you can still buy a packet of Space Raiders for 20p it makes total sense. By the time they bring out The Big Moon’s Jules Jackson for a theatrical run through of recent single ‘The Strangle Of Anna’, the bizarre, brilliant world of this ‘fictional band’ brought to life is complete.
Berlin-based garage duo GURR then finish off proceedings in the way every booze-drenched all-dayer deserves: with bucketloads of fun. They rattle through a bonkers cover of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ alongside cuts from debut album ‘In My Head’ and finish a non-stop Brudenell program that sees 2017 hurtled into festival season with suitable lashings of chaos, and some of the finest new bands we have.
Photos: Emma Swann