Anticipation for The North’s leading metropolitan festival has been building like bubbles in a soda bottle for months, with every line-up announcement shaking new levels of excitement. Finally, when the day came, the bottle-cap was unleashed and Live at Leeds turned the city’s music venues into sticky messes as the UK’s most exciting bands were sprayed across Leeds. Docs were scuffed, fishnets were ripped and years were made as unmissable acts such as Black Honey, Slaves, The Magic Gang and The Big Moon graced the city centre.
At 12pm, doors opened and many of the first beers of the day were cracked open. Even the graveyard slots hosted sensational acts; from angsty shoegazers Plaza christening The Chapel to the husky indie-rock of Fling shaking the walls of Leeds Beckett. At 2pm, London lads Indigo Husk magnetised punters to Belgrave Music Hall, which was literally packed by the time they got into their set. Blending the high-energy of punk with the lo-fi charm of garage rock, Indigo Husk proved themselves to be ones to look out for. Clearly overwhelmed by the surreal turnout and the small pockets of the crowd that sang back their lyrics, the south-east Londoners were fuelled by adrenaline that spilled into the crowd.
Meanwhile, a queue was snaking around O2 Academy in anticipation for White Lies’ hour and a half long set; and yes the wait was definitely worth it. Harry McVeigh’s tenderly powerful vocals swept across the room, inciting fans to clamber atop of shoulders and embrace strangers as everyone shouted back the lyrics in unison. The spectacular lighting augmented White Lies’ enchanting electricity, as they delivered an impeccable set full of anthemic bangers – ‘To Lose My Life’, ‘Big TV’ and ‘Don’t Want to Feel It All’ being particular highlights. As they bowed to their adoring crowd at the end of their set, it was clear how genuinely grateful and touched the West London icons were.
But things at 02 Academy had only just begun. It was now time for the gloriously slick and sultry Black Honey to own the stage. Frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips is the epitome of empowering, with her effortless magnetism and irresistible cool, as she struts in her fluffy cuffed jeans and signature cowboy boots. The sweltering bliss of Black Honey’s live performance is intoxicating, with Izzy’s hypnotising allure and natural charm washing away all the worlds troubles for just one set.
Stumbling back into the daylight was a shock, and adding to the surrealness was the novelty of walking to venues and bumping into your favourite band-members. As we walked to see The Magic Gang at The Church, chatting with Jules from The Big Moon, we passed a friend causally walking with Honeyblood drummer, Cat Myers. To add to the magic, the infectious guitar hooks and nostalgic escapism of The Magic Gang blanketed the senses as the Brighton dreamers incited moshes left, right and centre with their idyllic bangers. No one had two feet on the floor, as they blissfully chanted back the lyrics to their favourite feel-good tunes; ‘All That I Want Is You’ and ‘Alright’ were particularly savage as sweaty teens thrashed about with one shoe in hand after salvaging it from the bottom of a pit.
As the sun set, tough decisions dawned. Jaws or Temples? Superfood or HMLTD? Honeyblood or Slaves? VANT or Rag’n’Bone Man? A sweaty break-neck gig or a well-deserved pit-stop in McDonalds’ finest booth? In anticipation of the solid line-up Brudenell had to offer that night, the opportunity to recharge was definitely recommended. The evening belonged to The Brudenell. The pristine line-up of bands, featuring Dream Wife, The Big Moon and The Moonlandingz, coupled with the effects of day-drinking ensured that a euphorically perfect time was inevitable.
Dream Wife were impeccable as usual. Guitarist Alice Go was gloriously possessed by her thunderously graceful riffs as she flew about the stage, making bassist Bella Podpadec smile as she delivered basslines with wild abandon. Rakel Mjōll was having the time of her life, bouncing through each song with unrestrained vitality. Her honeyed voice seductively enticed you in before biting back with a venomous sting, particularly with the furious battle cry of ‘FUU’.
The Big Moon were certainly the cherry on the perfectly-baked cake. “This is one of the best gigs we’ve played! You’re all beautiful!” beamed Jules after the centre floor of The Brudenell swarmed with blurred bodies as the formidable foursome supplied banger after banger. Bassist Celia was over the [big] moon and couldn’t contain her happiness and was beaming from ear-to-ear as adoring fans sang back lyrics and guitar hooks alike; “Big up the Soph!” shouted pockets of the crowd in reaction to Soph Nathan’s mouth-wateringly virtuosic guitar riffs. Two years since their first ever festival performance at Live at Leeds, they couldn’t be more elated at how far they’ve come. The Big Moon are something truly special, resurrecting guitar music while they’re at it. Although perfectly intimate, The Brudenell was definitely too small to contain their roofless energy and virtuosity.
It would be hard to top the perfection that was this year’s line-up but, with Live at Leeds’ tendency to just get better and better, it is inevitable that 2018 will be yet another unmissable year with and impeccable line-up.
Words by Meg Firth
Photograph by Julia Pomeroy