Review | Live at Leeds
16:30 Big Ups (actually Fawn Spots)
Arriving at the Leeds Union’s most awkward due to its obscure layout club, I realised that it was jam-packed with a crowd of many beards and tattoos, patiently waiting to receive their dose of energy from an up-and-coming New York post-hardcore outfit, Big Ups. However, it was announced that the post-hardcore people were stuck in the traffic and Fawn Spots, the band that was originally coming up next, were taking their spot. Noticeably, the crowd was not all that happy with the substitute, as the beards were bopping quite slowly despite the very fast rhythm that the band was throwing in. Soon after a raw instrumental track where Fawn Spots’ guitarists practically clashed their guitars together to find out who is the nosiest of them, I saw a kid in a British Sea Power t-shirt leaving with the most confused look I’ve ever seen as I was looking down from the balcony designed so oddly that at least half of my sight was obstructed, making it more of a bunker. Besides all the technical dif
ficulties and confusion, Fawn Spots played a fine set of motorhead-the-way-of-metz tunes.
17:00 Big Ups (now for real)
As I was originally planning to cover Big Ups, I decided to wait for them to finally arrive and set up, so I started to aimlessly wander around Union’s many rooms. I understood that I had been absent for a tad too long after I came back to the infamous Mine to see Big Ups playing their penultimate song of the evening. Their vocalist was practically creeping around the scene, occasionally attacking his fellow bandmate’s drum kit with a drumstick. Big Ups have been receiving a lot of attention from various major music publications, specifically after the release of this year’s ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’ (not even remotely close to 65 and not even days, but oh well) and it clearly showed. Their sound was refined and up-to-date, despite the actual genre they work within being rather clumsy. However, there was a fly in the ointment: the crowd was considerably smaller now, apparently a lot of people decided not to wait for Big Ups which is clearly understandable, given the festival’s tight
schedule and the venues being spread out all across the town.
Now here is when I made the biggest mistake of the evening. I and my friends decided to take a lunch break and I was assuring them how excited I was to see Cheatahs at the Brudenell while chewing on my kebab. We rushed from campus to the Brudenell to see around 10-15 people cheering for some band (later I found out that they were Primitive Parts) sporadically screaming “Yeah! Rock and Roll!”. I realised that something was clearly wrong and started to double-check the festival’s tense schedule on my phone. Cheatahs were playing Leeds Uni’s Stylus. So we dashed back to campus to see them playing three last songs. The venue was considerably packed and some folks at the front row were going bananas. The band was playing some nice shoegaze-ish inde-rock numbers with long instrumental patches, including some from this year’s self-titled album.
20:00 Los Compensinos!
The refectory was packed long before Los Compensinos! started to perform and even before the sound check guy intensively yet rather reluctantly checked all the mics saying “Check. Yep.” Then the Cardiff band enthusiastically opened the set with “For Flotsam” as the refectory’s projectors were thoroughly making everyone blind with overly colourful beams gliding all around, almost purposefully hitting people in the eye. After the first song Gareth Campensinos, the group’s vocalist, stripped down to a t-shirt reading ENGLAND written over a map (I would go with a wild guess saying it was a map of England), and made a strange joke which went along the lines of him saying “Considering the recent results, I think it’s safe to say that we’re the second best team in Yorkshire!” which the audience met with an obligatory “boo”. Then the band continued to rock and Gareth was having a blast actively visualising the lyrics with his hands, and especially fingers. After they played a crowd favourit
e, a song about an avocado, I decided to leave due to being late to see the next band.
Obviously, I was late again, mostly because of the fact that Tennis played the Wardrobe, a place that is located practically on the other side of the third largest city in the UK. I entered the venue to see a rather random setting with some people dancing at the back of the room, but the front rows being considerably still and chill. Tennis played some of their newer material filled with the band’s trade-mark breeziness and the 80’s vibe, including ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘100 Lovers’. The set was finished with ‘Origins’, as some dude in a long black leather trench with a ponytail started to look all cheered up chanting along, apparently he hit the jackpot with that tune. Sadly, the sound was mixed in quite a weird manner. Alaina Moore’s vocals were way too high-pitched and loud, to the point where after each time she exclaimed “Thank you!” after performing a song, the complex issue of hear loss would come to mind. Having said that, everyone seemed to enjoy their time at the gig and Tenni
s successfully did their job being dreamy.
22:00 Fuck Buttons
Fortunately, the location where Fuck Buttons played that night was relatively close to where Tennis presented their music, and I was lucky enough to arrive just 5 minutes prior to the Fuck Buttons gig and see all of it in all its beauty. If seeing Los Campensinos! was somewhat of a low point of the night due to various reasons, it seems absolutely fair to say that Fuck Button’s performance was its pinnacle, or at least set it uphill. The London (originally of Bristol) two-piece delivered an over an hour long set of several tracks, mostly from their last year’s critically acclaimed album ‘Slow Focus’. The sound was neatly engineered and the audience was able to experience Fuck Buttons’ heavy structured sonic texture of drone-music-meats-heavy-beats nature with complex yet catchy looped rhythms. A large screen with trippy visuals made by the band’s Andrew Hung, against which the duo’s silhouettes were projected supplemented their set. The crowd went absolutely insane when Fuck Buttonsput on ‘The Red Wing’ followed by ‘Brainfreeze’, the highlights of ‘Slow Focus’. Then the group swiftly left the stage after Andrew Hung said “Thank you. See you again!”, looped the phrase and set it to gradually fade away with noise waves still roaring in the background.
23:00 Pulled Apart By Horses
If there is a way to describe how most of the Live at Leeds’ attendees were feeling after roaming the city to see as many of their favourites as possible for the whole day, that probably would be saying “pulled apart by horses”. The Observer once made a pointedly bold statement of naming this band “the best live band in Britain”, and honestly, that night showed me why. So, not even surprisingly, I was late to reach the Leeds’ beloved Brudenell where the Leeds’ beloved Pulled Apart By Horses were practically slaying it. As soon as I entered the absolutely stuffy dark room filled with red lights and spirited people, right next to me a fight started and the brawlers soon got pulled apart by the bouncers, who seemed to enjoy the process more than anyone else around. I started to scratch my way closer to the stage. Eventually, I saw a giant mosh pit downstairs. “Is everyone drunk and sexy?” requested the band’s guitarist. “Cider! Cider!” he continued. After the group started to smash thefirst chords of Iggy Pop’s famous “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, I, as well as many other people, found it simply irresistible to partake in that intense sweaty activity downstairs. Soon after that, the guitarist tore a giant Live At Leeds poster off the wall, threw it into the horde of people and stage dived to join them. No regrets.