Live Review

Live At Leeds 2011

One of the best pound for pound line-ups of its kind.

And so the onslaught begins. Summer is a double edged sword for any fan of live music, and 2011 seems to have ramped it up to ridiculous proportions. So with festival season taking it’s first steps into a summer of binge drinking, fast food devouring and megabus riding, it’s hard to know whether to be excited or frightened for your waistline and your wallet.

First stop for much of the sunburnt class of ’11 appears to have been Live at Leeds, the kind of cheapish inner city, multi-venue all dayer that must be ubiquitous to any city anywhere in the country. Those au fait with the workings of the metropolis hosting the event can relax and have themselves a good time. Those travelling on the 8:45 coach from Manchester have a little bit more to worry about.

First of all, it becomes apparent that previously dreamt plans are pretty much useless when Brudenell Social Club – arguably one of the best venues in the country – is far too long of a walking distance to just ‘pop in’ and see an act. With nobody on the bill worthy of writing off the whole day for, one of the gems of the north has to be casually discarded in favour of sweating upstairs in a venue called Milos. Love Ships do a fine job of starting the day, with a local fanbase clearly audible amongst the discussions over whether it is too early to start drinking. They’re at their best when showing energy to match the layered racket they pump out, though it seems they’re in a constant battle with an urge to be Biffy Clyro that somewhat stops it from being heartracing.

Then the hopping starts. Leeds based Films pack out Nation of Shopkeepers but struggle to win over a crowd more desperate to chat than to listen, not even filling their allotted 30 minutes of stage time before calling it a day. James Blake shows there is no shame in that, struggling to rise above the banter-levels of conversation for his post-something warbling. The crowd at least clap in the right places, and seem mostly to have turned up to feel the soles of their shoes shake during the sub-bass bits of Limit to your Love. Hardly the ravenous hordes of megafans that the start of the year felt guaranteed to bring him, but still – baby steps.

And then, to the watered down cider that is a university campus. Stalking Horses are based around the area and play to a mildly interested audience who at least seem to dig their slightly dated alternative/indie musings. Upstairs, in the bizarre of back room spaces, Mazes bang out a set with their usual ramshackle charm, perhaps the most shocking moment of which is their claim to be from London. Still, after years of convincing everyone in Manchester that they’re brilliant, it’s genuinely pleasing to see them doing so outside of the city’s confines, even if singer Jack does throw a mini strop after the soundman decides not to let them play one last song.

By this point, the urge to stay put is near irresistible, but the lure of Slow Club is strong enough to make a dart up the road feel very much worth it. With easily the biggest audience seen on the day, they do that awkward between album set of combining new material with the ‘classic’ stuff, the blending not helped by the fact that all the tracks taken from their forthcoming LP seem to be slow and meandering. As expected, people jump along to the songs they know and endure the ones they don’t whilst staying static.

Just as outsiders are beginning to get the hang of the city, the end is in sight, and with good time made back to see pretty much the entirety of Let’s Wrestles set, worrys about the journey home almost manage to hamper something close to a coming of age concert. The vestiges of youth are still apparent, but beneath those childish jokes that marked the start of their career, it appears they were actually hiding a really good band – who knew? By this point in the lifespan of The Twilight Sad, you probably already know whether you like them or not, and though people use terms like life-affirming for their albums, they’re not helped by some poor mixing from the sounddesk, though even with that resolved they probably wouldn’t have been able to convert any disbelievers with a relatively weak showing.

Dutch Uncles finish off the day with an incredibly strong showing – their first live show following the release of their debut album. They’re long since been the least well kept secret of the north-west, their tight melodies and dramatised pop only looks to have been magnified from going into the studio. So as the beer wears off and the masses make their marches home, it’s difficult to argue against Live at Leeds having one of the best pound for pound line-ups of its kind, but you can’t help wondering what a grim day it might have been if the treks between venues had ben rain soaked instead of sundrenched.

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