Live At Leeds. Three words, synonymous with a legendary gig/live album, performed in our fair city by Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers, The Who. To the latest generation of northern music lovers however, these three words mean something arguably more exciting, Live At Leeds Festival.
Live At Leeds began 8 years ago, taking a template from great city festivals, such as South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. The concept is pretty basic; every live venue in Leeds participates in hosting all day, festival-like gigs, showcasing bands from across the world, over one hectic weekend in spring. The annual event is now bigger than ever, with 15,000 ticket holders expected to descend upon the town centre over the first weekend in May.
Friday the 1st sees Blood Red Shoes bring their much-revered brand of noise-pop to the Cockpit, followed by a Live At Leeds launch party at the same venue, likely to stretch into the early hours.
Saturday is the big day, with one £25 wristband gaining you access into every venue around the city, with 200 bands competing for your attendance. With thousands of wristbands sold, the battles to get into a desired gig can be epic. I have, over the years, witnessed many a gaggle of teenage girls, sprinting up Boar Lane in a vain attempt to make it from the Cockpit, to Leeds Met in the three minute space of time between their favourite band ending and their second favourite band beginning. But this is all part of the fun. Bands for your “must watch” list for Saturday include chart toppers Clean Bandit, comedy hipsters The Midnight Beast and The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.
Sunday sees Irish rock balladeers Kodeline descend upon The O2 Academy on the back of a sold out UK tour. Their particular brand of atmospheric swooning will no doubt be the perfect antidote to a loud and messy Live At Leeds Saturday. Imagine a cosy Sunday evening watching Greys Anatomy after Saturday night’s epic Scorsese marathon. If you’re into that…
The advantages to a city festival are plentiful: Live At Leeds is way, way cheaper than your average outdoor festival, there’s no need for wellies and a pac-a-mac and most importantly, instead of paying extortionate prices for pints of the same beer over and over again, you can just pop into one of Leeds’ fine watering holes and wet your whistle on the tipple of your choice during gaps in your festival timetable.
Playing Live at Leeds was always a no-brainer for my band and we’ve played the festival at pretty much every level, from The Cockpit to Millennium Square.
Last year’s LAL show at The O2 Academy was a particularly memorable gig for us. The morning of the gig we seriously doubted the fact that we had decided to open the Festival, with an extremely early show on the Saturday.
“No one will be out of bed!” we fretted as we sound checked at what felt like 5.30am in an empty Academy.
“We should have gone on later. They won’t be warmed up!” we whinged as we hugged our cups of tea, half asleep in a cold dressing room an hour before the show. Finally, with 30 minutes before show time our tour manager burst through the door with a panicked look on his face.
“It’s full already and the queue is still snaking round the building!” he gasped.
The people of Leeds had rallied! As we stepped onto the stage it was clear to us that it was going to be a good one. From first note to last, the crowd was bonkers. A sea of maniacal bodies pogoed and danced. It may have been early, but I tell you what; Leeds had had their Weetabix.
As much as The Pigeons would love to take full credit for this electric atmosphere, I think that in part it was down to the inherent festival atmosphere that surrounds Leeds on LAL weekend. There’s a buzz in the city and right from the first band, party hats are on and the people are wired with anticipation for an all-day live music orgy.
This year, I get to experience the weekend as a punter for the first time in years and I’m really looking forward to it. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be making sure I get to the front of the queue to see Albert Hammond Jr.
Dave Best’s top five
ALBERT HAMMOND JR: The Strokes guitarist is definitely a must-see. If only out of hope that he covers his father’s hit “All I need is the air that I breathe”
PULLED APART BY HORSES: These lads never fail to give 100 per cent live, resulting in exhilarating, breathless shows to get any crowd going
MEXANINES: Highly impressive supporting us on our last UK tour, with brass and keys sections now involved, these lads have become an extremely tight musical outfit: to go with their extremely tight jeans
CLEAN BANDIT: Having recently achieved a UK number 1 single with ‘Rather Be’, there’s sure to be a frenzied atmosphere for the electro mongering Cambridge University alumni
MARSICANS: Recent output show signs of early promise being fulfilled by the poppy Leeds upstarts. Previous Arctic Monkeys-ite fair has thankfully been replaced by a more interesting quirk-pop sound along the lines of Vampire Weekend.