Leeds is a diverse powerhouse of eclectic music housed in a multitude of independently run venues across the city. Charting back to the beginnings of the various scenes reveals the undeniable influence that forward thinking promoters have had in establishing Leeds as one of the best nights out in the country.
Indie – Rock – Alternative
With Kaiser Chiefs, Alt-J and Pulled Apart by Horses all hailing from Leeds, hipsters and beardy folk alike will agree that the city is famous for its cult alternative music. Leeds University itself was the venue for The Who’s seminal Live at Leeds in 1970, and the centrally located Duchess of York (now a Hugo Boss store) boasted headline acts such as Nirvana in its heyday. Although we all sadly mourn the loss of under-the-railway-tracks rock club Cockpit (winner of BBC radio 1’s Venue of the Year in 2001), there are still many opportunities to lurk in independently run, cave-like environments to some heavy soul, psychedelic rock, indie bangers and pop punk galore. Always a favourite amongst the trendy fresher crowd is Leeds’ longest running indie night, Fuzzy Logic at Wire. Set up way back in 1999, Fuzzy Logic is graced by DJ Paul Ryan every Thursday (expect Fleetwood Mac, Artic Monkeys, Tame Impala, the Strokes & others!). Established the same year, The Wardrobe is a restaurant and bar by day but by night transforms into a live gig venue, with comedy and club nights. Watch this space in the next weeks for performances by Peep Show‘s Super Hans, fantastic soul spinning DJs, The Pigeon Detectives and Nina Nesbitt plus many more local bands and upcoming artists. To rekindle Cool Britannia vibes (a difficult task in this post-Brexit dusk) a trip down to The Stone Roses Bar for…yeah, you guessed it…Oasis, The Smiths, Blur, the Cure and a host of Britpop classics.
The 1960s Northern Soul movement of lesser known Tamla Motown records was mostly confined to the working man’s clubs of Manchester and Wigan. However, Leeds has its own unique relationship with the genre. Leeds Central Soul Club hosts the fantastic Keep the Faith whilst MoveOnUp at HiFi boasts to be the UK’s number one soul night, running for over 20 years. Hifi’s decks are also graced by the talents of such acts as Onra and Horse Meat Disco which you can see throughout the year. Thanks to the tireless work of DJs like Craig Charles, who’ve played such venues as the stable favourite Brudenell Social Club, the North is once again falling in love with funky beats. Why not boogie on down to Smokestack for DJs Chico Malo and Paul Dunphy renditions of Otis Redding and James Brown as well as New Orleans inspired cocktails.
Drum & Bass – Jungle
Playing a pivotal role in the formation of Croatian based festivals Outlook and Dimensions, no discussion of Leeds’ Drum and Bass scene would be complete without the tour de force that is SubDub. Created by promoters Simon Scott and Mark Salford in 1998, Subdub celebrates Reggae, Dub, Roots, D&B, Dancehall, Dubstep & Jungle music. All vinyl night Exodus is currently at Vox Warehouse, Dancehall Science and Central Beatz can be found at Wire, but the vibrations from legendary Iration Steppas Soundsystem were so strong in this venue that the bottles behind the bar shook uncontrollably (now that’s bassy). Relocated to its spiritual home at the West Indian Centre, which is liberally decorated with army netting, hazy smoke and dominated by wall-to-wall giant speakers, SubDub will ensure that you’ll be dancing away until the small hours. Not as aged but still slamming tunes since 2005 is Jungle Jam. Packing an impressively dense line up with household Jungle names such as Goldie, you can also enjoy a Caribbean BBQ including jerk chicken. Not to miss this November is Taking Liberties’ celebration of 25 years of Drum & Bass in Leeds at Warehouse, headlined by two of the Godfathers of DnB: Fabio and Grooverider.
House – Techno – Disco – Electro
As House music travelled across the Atlantic from the US in the 1980s, Leeds rose amongst other Northern cities such as Manchester and Liverpool to be a pioneer of a subversive scene of electronic. Big name international DJs and producers such as Paul Woolford, Ralph Lawson and Riley & Durrant all currently still have studios here. Leeds was one of the main cities which saw the rise of the electronic music scene during the 1980s.Big name international DJs and producers such as Paul Woolford, Ralph Lawson and Riley & Durrant all currently still have studios here. By 1991 Leeds had been voted the Best Clubbing City in Britain, a title it certainly deserved with events like Back to Basics, which after 25 years is Europe’s longest running house night. Back to Basics has been recently resurrected in the exciting new venue of Church, located a stones throw away from Laidlaw Library. The legendary Vague at Warehouse which ran from 1993-1996, frequented by a notoriously exclusive guest list of an incredibly colourful, mostly LGBT crowd. The night was heralded as the “Dance Equivalent of Andy Warhol’s The Factory” by the Melody Maker and boasted a playlist of hard house, techno and classic disco. Ravers are still grooving on in Leeds today in appropriated Victorian warehouse spaces such as Canal Mills and Beaver Works, where one can expect to be transported back to the second summer of love (reach for the lasers). Alternative arty-house spaces such as Hope House Gallery which hosts Cosmic Slop (established 2009) continue to thrive through hedonistic individuals like Tom Smith, who is the resident DJ. You can usually find him twiddling with a vast array of apps that make-up his DIY soundsystem, playing in his own words “anything you can dance to”.
Have you read our Venue Guide for Leeds’ best party spots?
(Photos courtesy of James Abbott-Donnelly – Back to Basics 22nd Birthday, facebook.com/fuzzylogicwire, Facebook.com/MoveOnUpLeeds, facebook.com/junglejamleeds, residentadvisor.net)