Music review: This Must Be the Place festival at Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House, Leeds

Dirty Girl at This Must Be the Place festival. Picture: David Hodgson

Dirty Girl at This Must Be the Place festival. Picture: David Hodgson

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The sun was out in Leeds. It had been all Bank Holiday weekend, which suited the crowds amassing on both roof terraces at established venue Belgrave Music Hall and the hugely impressive, Headrow House.

Come Bank Holiday Monday and the sun remained covering an impressive list of 21 (should have been 22 but The Japanese House pulled out of proceedings) musical acts in those venues, together with newcomer Live Art Bistro, all curated by Leeds promotions company Super Friendz. The line-up displayed an eclectic mix of musical styles, new and emerging bands alongside established acts on a, as it transpired, well organised and clockwork like schedule throughout the day.

Dirty Girl

First up were Dirty Girl in the Belgrave. Originally from York the band saw this as somewhat of a homecoming. Given the all female line-up, it would at first view appear churlish and lazy to simply compare them to Hole or L7 but their guitar laden punky rock makes such similarities obvious. Tight drumming provided the perfect backdrop but the vocals seemed light on this showing and given the clear musical influences, a more acerbic attitude could have been expected.

Lail Arad

British-Israeli singer songwriter was sung Leonard Cohen songs as a child and if debut album Someone New lit the flames, new album The Onion should fan them. Opening song Pickled Love is a whimsical piece of poetry, 1934 was a song for childhood hero Leonard Cohen and the Arad gainfully attempted (unsuccessfully, but then it was 4pm) to get the crowd to sing along in French to Milo. New single Lay Down and a cover of Paul Simon’s I Know What I Know closed an excellent short set.

Lail Arad at This Must Be The Place festival. Picture: David Hodgson

Lail Arad at This Must Be The Place festival. Picture: David Hodgson

Harkin

Katie Harkin is Leeds born and bred and for three albums, one half of the guitar pop band Sky Larkin. Touring as a solo artist her music has entered a darker phase than the previous guise and it’s better for it. The mix in the Headrow appeared to be slightly misaligned somewhat with the vocals seemingly turned down but this did mean that Harkin was able to demonstrate excellent musicianship and a clear ear for a guitar laden tune.

Weirds

Having been described as hypnotic psych-rockers, the Leeds band cite Foals and Melvins as major influences on their style, and both were apparent in a high energy set of loud guitar music, with lead singer Aidan Razzall regularly leaving the stage to charge through the audience. The rift laden heavy guitar music changed the tone of the Belgrave Music Hall and Razzall’s distorted vocals screamed a perfect accompaniment.

Bill Ryder Jones

Ryder Jones undoubtedly has pedigree, having plied his trade in The Coral until 2008. Supporting his current solo album, his third in all, West Kirby County Primary, which is a heavier effort than previous, whilst retaining the strong folk influences. Thankfully turning up with a full band to really capture the depth in the songs, after opening with Catherine and Huskisson, Ryder Jones plays hook after hook, other highlights being Daniel, Two to Birkenhead and closer Satellites. The latter is probably the artist’s finest song and brought an excellent set to a close.

Tom Vek

Despite some lengthy absences from the music industry in between releasing three studio albums, Headrow House was packed for the day’s headline act. Vek seems to divide opinions and it’s not hard to see way. The music he produces is strong and made for this sort of venue, hard electronic basslines overlaid with punchy lighter musical harmonies. For the most part it’s a strong set, Vek’s voice isn’t the strongest and this does start to drag the set back slightly towards the end however as a close to an excellent day, the crowd left on a high, the sun now but a distant memory.

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