There were always going to be some tough choices to make. The logistics of navigating between venues was as much of a determiner of this year’s review trail, based around the question, ‘if I go to see X, who will I miss while in transit before and after? On this basis, I figured I’d either have to skip the excellent line-up at the Brudenell, or spend all day there – which seemed unfair to all of the other venues and their excellent lineups.
Having been lured by just a couple of tracks available on the ‘net, I was keen to catch LaRissa, and she didn’t disappoint. The live drums – which were a shade dominant – brought a real dynamic to the synth-led sound, defined by dark, low basslines and retro lead synth sounds. Her brooding, operatic voice was often buried, but still the sense of drama and a controlled intensity came across to the full room at Oporto.
Over at A Nation of Shopkeepers, Eve Belle was knocking out some mellow but heartfelt acoustic singer-songwriterly tunes. Augmented by drum machine, epic rolling piano and sweeping synths, her sad girl songs realise a full studio production in a small live space, and her mainstream potential is massive.
A band with absolutely no mainstream potential despite having their own TV show in their native Australia are These New South Whales. Crap gags, non-sequiturs and non-stories punctuate driving mathy (post-)punk songs performed amidst blinding strobes and billowing smoke, which sets off the alarms during ‘Anaphylaxis’ (which followed a frivolous mid-set Q&A session). Not only did they keep their kit on, but they also managed to pack 13 songs into half an hour. Bloody brilliant.
One of the great things about Live at Leeds’ scheduling is the placing of big-name acts throughout the day, and Drenge opening the O2’s running at 3:15 ensured a big early-doors turnout, largely consisting of young trendies. Now performing as a four-piece, the set draws heavily on the new synth-loaded album, ‘Strange Creatures.’ I find myself wondering what differentiates Drenge in 2019 from so many other contemporary alt-rock bands? Not a lot, at least sonically, and Eoin Loveless comes across as the middle-class poster-boy of post-grunge with some brilliantly uncoordinated student clubnight dancing. But in their favour, they’re a whole lot less emo than the zeitgeist, they do pack some solid riffs, they do sustain the energy and thus satisfy the deep and enthusiastic mosh-pit, and closer ‘Let’s Pretend’ slow-burns to an epic climax.
Dead Naked Hippies manage to pull quite a crowd to HiFi – and one that’s a lot less townie. They seem to thrive on the energy, too, with Jacob Marston’s hefty drumming keeping things tight while Joe Clarke’s squalling guitar threatens to explode out of control. All the while, Lucy Jowett owns every inch of the room as she prowls the stage and the audience with her trademark shapes and big-lunged vocals. The new material showcased on this outing is strong, too, and shows there’s no danger of them losing their edge.
The raucous rockabilly grunge of The Mysterines, propelled by some urgent, nagging basslines, suffers from a somewhat muddy sound at Church – something that often seems to hamper festival performances in the venue. Nevertheless, Lia Metcalfe delivers a full-throated roar worthy of Courtney Love back in the day, which cuts through the murk with some meaty hooks.
Back to HiFi, and my legs are starting to feel the mileage now – but Faux Pas more than justify the effort. Reuben Cowl’s grotesquely parodic rendition of drag paints a striking picture, as he stands, skinny limbs protruding from a summer dress, makeup smeared across his face and ‘RUNT’ crudely scrawled on his chest, awkwardly responding to audience calls he can’t decipher. But then, how do you respond to a bloke shouting ‘runts and punks unite!’ even if you do hear it? Placebo may be the obvious comparison for their brand of emotionally-charged, bittersweet, noisy indie/alt-rock crossover, but there’s a lot going on here and although he’s thick in guyliner, Lewis Egdell is burly as he aces and lurches and throws his guitar around, firing out some angular noise as he does so. It’s a storming set, and pretty loud, too.
Local label Come Play With Me have consistently showcased some remarkable talent through their singles releases since launching, and as they’re curating the HiFi stage, it’s small wonder the venue is hosting such a strong lineup – strong enough to save my tired feet and stay put for the next two bands, with The Golden Age of TV up next. It’s been nearly a year since I caught them at Long Division, and they’ve evolved since then, with the bassist from Fizzy Blood now in their ranks, amongst other changes. Less overtly indie, more muscular and sassy, they balance intricately mathy elements with rippling washes of guitar, building towering crescendos of shoegazey, tremolo-riven overdrive over which Bea Fletcher channels Liz Frazer to glorious effect.
Anyone who’s worked in an office environment will know that teams can be fractious and unpredictable units, and Team Picture, who’ve always been a disparate bunch, seem markedly disconnected tonight. They’ve dropped ‘Birthday Blues’ and anything remotely hooky from the set in favour of sprawling discontinuity. Yes, there are stretches of chugging motoric krautrock, but then there’s a whole mess of miscellaneous stuff where the band sound like they look, and it seems they’re embracing their weirdness and irreconcilable differences. You’ve got some Arcade Fire referencing in the male singer / guitarist, and some major goth with the female singer / synth player. The bassist looks like he’s stepped out of The Associates in his brown woollen suit and he’s really giving it some, in contrast to the more stilted action of the others… apart from the guitarist /synth player who’s centre stage but doesn’t seem to have much to do, and instead goes full Bez when not guzzling cider... but then, he doesn’t play a wrong note all set and delivers a truly magnificent falsetto vocal on the song he leads on. ‘Clone You’ is mournful, wistful, aching, and while nothing seems to fit, at the same time, it does.
It’s been an age since The Slow Readers Club gatecrashed my listening awareness and the pages of Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ with second album ‘Cavalcade’ – an album that’s been stuck on repeat ever since. They’re half an hour late on as the curse of Church strikes again thanks to issues with mic leads. It’s clear they’re not precocious: they just need vocals and backing vocals. They’re more than worth the wait, and exude an understated charisma that emanates not only from front man Aaron Starkie but the band as a whole.
It’s clear from the crowd response that ‘Cavalcade’ remains a firm fan favourite, too, and it features prominently in a career-panning setlist as they draw the night to a close at Church and bring the curtain down on yet another top-notch Live at Leeds.