Live at Leeds 2016

Rat Boy, Estrons, Blood Red Shoes and INHEAVEN are among this year’s highlights.

By the time Kagoule hit the stage, the Brudenell Social Club is already packed out, and the Nottingham band are in their scuzzy element. Familiar favourite ‘Glue’ rings out with its brilliant taunting chorus before newer track ‘Pharmacy’ trembles with dark trepidation, showing just how many shades the three-piece now have in their spectrum. Bassist / vocalist Lucy Hatter is mesmerising to watch, her unnerving stare only occasionally broken by piercing screams - together, the trio are a powerful force. (SJ)

Demob Happy, as it turns out, aren’t having the smoothest day. Having been stuck in traffic for most of their allotted time, the quartet waste no time in getting on stage and after the quickest load-in on record, they blast through two of their jagged offerings before the plug’s pulled. A fleeting appearance, but it’s a pummelling seven minutes. Despite their bad luck, instead of moaning about red lights and service stations, they persevere. It might not have been the longest set, but it still hits hard. (SJ)

Disaster was spared by Demob, and teen prodigy Declan McKenna has a similar experience. Last year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition winner admits he’s having a “fucking nightmare”. A year on from playing scrappy sets as a solo artist, he’s now completed by a five-piece band. When they click, everything works without a hitch. But the Korg’s broken, and Declan’s having to improvise. He does so impressively, switching ‘Paracetamol’’s synth line into guitar chords and leading the group through his emotional, affecting pop. Towards the end of the song, the Korg suddenly wakes up for a timely coda. It’s a eureka moment Declan fully deserves. (JM)

Live at Leeds 2016 Live at Leeds 2016 Live at Leeds 2016 Live at Leeds 2016

With a queue snaking the whole way around the venue, back to the main road, and across a nearby car park, Mystery Jets' mid-afternoon set at the O2 Academy is easily one of the most contended places to be. Those who stick out the wait certainly aren’t disappointed. Playing a set that spans across their thirteen years, the group are in rude form, guitarist Will Rees and bassist Jack Flanagan taking turns diving into the crowd and strutting across centre stage. Engaging with an unrivalled energy - every lyric echoed back across the densely packed room - it's hard to tell who's enjoying the moment more. (JG)

Estrons claim they’re about to play “slow and romantic” music, but they’re lying. The Welsh four-piece’s music would prefer to bite your head off than launch into a loved-up serenade. Vocalist Tali Kallstrom is possessed, throwing herself across the Brudenell’s stage, every vicious scream a call to arms. Romance can wait - these guys are stampeding past the hype with energy lining every seam. (JM)

Tucked away around the corner of Leeds Beckett's SU bar, it'd be easy to assume that INHEAVEN could find themselves hidden from view. When they play their first few chords, though, their gravitational pull draws in punters in droves. Already, the band sound gigantic, their shoegazey guitars both mesmerising and commanding. New single 'Baby's Alright' is a real highlight with the throng at the front echoing back every word. The quartet may still be laying the foundations, but if tonight's anything to go by, they're set on building skywards. (SJ)

Feeling sleepy? Spare a thought for Sløtface, a Norwegian force who’ve been in three countries over the last twenty-four hours. Final destination Leeds could be the unlucky recipient of a tired performance, but Haley Shea and her crew of ridiculously tall Nordic chaps are on fire. Naps aren’t an option, so instead they launch themselves into an all-killer set, ‘Kill it With Kindness’ and new single ‘Sponge State’ both snarling standouts. (JM)

The excitement greeting Spring King as they take to the stage at Stylus is nearing fever pitch. Each song from debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is met with the fondness and enthusiasm of a dear friend, and the group revel in every moment. Whether powering the room from behind his drum kit, or prowling centre stage during the 'They're Coming After You', frontman Tarek Musa commands the crowd. Mayhem breaks out in a matter of minutes, energy driving the audience into circle pits and crowdsurfers sailing towards the stage (before being chased back where they came from by security at rapid speed). (JG)

Anticipation hangs thick in the air, back at Leeds Beckett's SU. By the time Blood Red shoes stride out on stage for one of their first live sets in almost a year, the room's packed with bodies, exploding into life as the intro begins. This duo are loud in the best way and the crowd knows it. Mosh pits dominate the floor as they run through 'The Perfect Mess’, 'Lost Kids' is dark and brooding, while 'It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ shows off their more brutal side. The pair might have spent the past nine months off the road, but they're as visceral as ever, and tonight is proof that they really have been missed. (SJ)

Later at the Brudenell, all eyes are on Loyle Carner, a London wordsmith who mixes tragedy with quick-witted lyricism and sleepy, strung out beats. There’s a presence to this newcomer, a confidence defining his every move. He gives a “real” freestyle (not like those other chancers, he claims), debuting impressive new material alongside the touching ‘Florence’. The latter is about a little sister he never had, but he finishes by telling the crowd that he’s about to get a real, adopted little sis. There’s a reason he looks so full of beans. (JM)

For the past year, Rat Boy’s soaked up the plaudits, a season ticket seat reserved on the buzz train. But now it’s business time for the Essex youngster, whose debut album is prepped for release later this year. Tonight’s headline set at DIY’s Brudenell Social Club stage screams of a step up. The freakish cartoons he doodles for fun are suddenly life-size cardboard cutouts. A band of half-lad, half-awkward teenager merrymen don’t miss a beat. And new material like ‘Splendid Young Man’ and ‘Morse Code’ sits pretty with certified giants ‘Fake ID’ and ‘Move’. There’s a transition at play and he’s far from the finished article, but Rat Boy’s showcasing a new ambition. (JM)

Words: Sarah Jamieson, Jamie Milton, Jessica Goodman
Photos: Emma Swann

Tags: Blood Red Shoes, Demob Happy, Rat Boy, Live at Leeds in the City, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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