Live at Leeds is the perfect festival for discovering new bands and homegrown talent. It was nominated as Best Festival for Emerging Talent at the festival awards last year. This year’s festival stayed true to that intention, and showcased some of the best guitar bands the UK has to offer.
The weather didn’t quite hold up its end of the bargain – but then we are in Yorkshire. It didn’t really rain and it didn’t really shine either – so I’ll chalk that up as a win. One venue was closed on account of flooding, which seems like a missed opportunity. Not one set we saw that day would have failed to be enlivened by a bit of paddling and some inflatables.
We started as we meant to go on – by seeing a really great local band. Tranqua Lite had the task of playing at noon in a venue (Chapel) which was absolutely freezing. Despite the chill they were able to set the bar high with a performance which was the best we’ve seen from them, with a setlist that ranged from heady (‘Retrogression’) to dreamy (‘Hassle Heart’) to apoplectic (‘Phantasmagoria’).
Other local highlights included The Golden Age of TV & Talkboy, both playing the Hifi stage. Talkboy really shone with strong melodies buoyed by great harmonies and confident stage presence. Skipton’s Lucas Watt made perfect accompaniment for some pints in the Social, while Cassia – all the way from Macclesfield – lit up Church with a blend of indie-pop and calypso that made a long windy walk entirely worthwhile.
The headliners were no strangers to playing this city – Metronomy, Sundara Karma & Tom Grennan – but LaL is really all about wandering about and stumbling onto your new favourite band.
This was the case when, unclear of who exactly was scheduled to play, we milled into Oporto and caught a short, sweet set of indie-pop brilliance. It sounded like a John Hughes movie, with a romantic moony sound underscored by driving post-punk. That band was Thyla and they were the best band we saw all day.
As the evening approached headliner sets began to pop off. We enjoyed whenyoung’s anarchic but pretty guitar-rock and colour block suits. When Sundara Karma lit up the 02 with the anthemic ‘Flame’, it felt like a perfect cap to a long day of great music.
Live at Leeds has pivoted away from big letter crowd-pleasers in favour of a more regional focus on grassroots indie-rock, giving the festival a distinct feel and identity among the many inner-city fests vying for your attention. For lovers of guitar music Live at Leeds is an essential.