This annual city-wide music festival gets more prestigious as time goes by. While attention is inevitably paid to the bigger and more established acts there’s always a chance that, if you play your cards right, you’ll see a band that will have broken massive by the end of the year, and that is the true joy of festivals like these. So among the big draws like The Pigeon Detectives, Peace, Everything Everything and Laura Mvula, the likes of The Crookes, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Lulu James proved highlights of Live At Leeds’ seventh time round. But those canny enough to attend are privileged to witness a breathtaking set that is expansive, cinematic and intimate at the same time.
Following a rowdy set from We Were Frontiers; who opened the day’s events at a rather quiet Brudenell Social Club, young Oxford five-piece Wild Swim rather timidly followed in proving that their ‘swim’ is better than the rest (fellow swimming enthusiasts Swim Deep, Swimming Lessons and Splashh also performed at Live At Leeds).
New-pop four-piece The Crookes may have only just travelled up to road from Sheffield to make it to the festival, but festival-goers put off other bands to brave the huge queues already forming for The 1975, who were to follow The Crookes’ set at the Cockpit. Performing tracks such as ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Only In The Dark’, The Crookes impress the young crowd with their new-pop sound and trademark head-nodding dances.
Newcastle newcomer Lulu James has been making her mark recently following a stint supporting Jessie Ware on tour, and an appearance of Later With Jools Holland which followed their short set at this year’s Live At Leeds. Impressive vocals and astounding stage presence set Lulu James apart from the rest, and was greatly enjoyed by the supportive albeit small crowd at The Faversham. Hen parties galore and interesting reactions as the days-drinking takes its toll, performing tracks such as ‘Closer’, ‘Be Safe’ and ‘Sweetest Thing’, Lulu James impressed with her 80s influenced soul-pop.
They may be best known as the band behind the Swedish-furniture-take on ‘You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties’, but Man Like Me’s The Streets-esque sound proved a hit with the crowd; even entailing a fan-girling dressing room approach on their exit from the stage. The majority of the crowd may have looked clueless as to their surroundings, the band or even in some cases their identity, but Man Like Me’s upbeat and dancey music replaced any loss of sunshine as the day went on.
As the day went on and sunglasses were replaced with beer goggles, it was up to Everything Everything to give Live At Leeds goers a fitting send off until next year. Faced with a packed-out Refectory, the band appeared to a roar of cheers; either a testament to their beloved and interesting complex dance-pop or their common uniform – this time a grey jumpsuit. The appreciation of new album ‘Arc’ was evident, with fans pushing themselves up against the barrier in the hope of being noticed as ‘the one who knows the words’, though it is still their debut album Man Alive’s hits ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, ‘Photoshop Handsome’ and the talented whistler’s favourite ‘Schoolin’’ that send the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd left bruised by their own wild antics, the year ahead is set aside for recovery in time for next year’s Live At Leeds installment.
Meanwhile as technical problems delay Melody’s Echo Chamber’s performance by half an hour, this frustration is vastly outweighed by the high quality and consistency of the songs. The spacey effect-laden guitar soundscapes are the most prominent aspects of the music, with Melody Prochet’s beautiful, high-register vocals just about audible behind this wall of sound, like a disconnected voice in a waking dream. ‘I Follow You’ and ‘Endless Shore’ are both replete with the psychedelic ’60s hallmarks of Tame Impala (whose lead singer Kevin Parker produced the self-titled album), and the spine-tingling keyboard effects of ‘Quand Vas Tu Rentrer?’ are a particular highlight. And that is what makes Melody’s Echo Chamber great – their music is aimed at the parts of the brain that control memory and dreams. The amount of people nodding their heads with their eyes closed, lost in their own little reveries, is testament to the effect they have. With any justice, their reputation will continue to grow and allow them to fill significantly bigger venues and reach more fans
Charlotte Stones / Ed Biggs