The Live At Leeds organisers were probably hoping for anything but rain. My Dad drops me off me off post- Leeds match (0–0 with Rotherham if you must know) (15th if you must know) outside the First Direct Arena. I came dressed for a festival, T-Shirt and light jacket, and quite clearly not for the weather. Its that fine rain that soaks you through. I pick up my wristband, a special blue one with VIP written on it, and head to somewhere, anywhere indoors.
Where to head? I look at my programme, – oh Stornaway are playing now, I’ve heard of them, at the O2 Academy…where’s that?
I’m not the only one who doesn’t know where it is. Two guys come up to me: “Know where the O2 Arena is pal?”. Resisting the temptation to laugh, and in an attempt to avoid looking stupid, I send them off in what turns out to be the completely wrong direction. Two less people in front of me in the queue, I guess.
I’ve previously described O2 Academies as the Wetherspoon’s of gig venues. I stand by that. I takes them an age to search my bag for alcohol; I’d been home the previous day, it contained clothes, a laptop, and freshly written notes on differential Geometry. Stornoway take their time too. There’s a prick next to me with long hair and a cowboy hat that’s getting impatient. He keeps yelling. I wish he wouldn’t, so does everyone else.
When they do finally come on Stornoway storm their way through a set filled of pretty folk-pop melodies and lyrics I can’t quite make out. There are some technical problems: half way through a song the vocals cut out for a minute and then cut back in again. I don’t think the vocalist recognises. “We’re Stornoway and we’re from …..” *technical glitch again*. I guess we’ll never know. Well OK, I have since looked and they’re from Oxford. Not an answer that really warranted the googling time. They finish on a song called ‘Zorbing’ and it’s fantastic fun, it lodges instantly into my head. Sort of Belle and Sebastian meets Fleet Foxes meets Housemartins meets Vampire Weekend (if Ezra Keoeing was less pleased with himself). It’s a perfect song for summer and post-exams bliss. If only I wasn’t in pre-exams hell.
Next up I switch to the Dr. Martens Stage at the (newly rebranded) Leeds Beckett Student’s Union. It’s ram-packed when I get through the door, which again took ages (“Is there any alcohol in there?” they resorted to asking me). On stage, and mid way through their first number are Menace Beach. A fantastic local band with a strong whiff of 90s Smashing Pumpkins style guitar music. “Tastes Like Medicine” is the most infectious of the bunch, and features the sort of melodies that you’ll find alongside Father Damian’s shouting on a ‘Fucked Up’ track (see “Queen of Hearts”). The home crowd makes the set extra special and they’re playing in front of a much bigger group of people than when I last saw them a few years back (supporting Parquet Courts at the Brudenell). Certainly a band to watch for the future. And one listen to in the meantime.
Genghar are next up. They all look a bit awkward, apart from the vocalist – who looks like a rugby player, but sings like he’s having his testicles squeezed (a bit like Hayden Thorpe from Wild Beasts). The music’s nice and everything, but I think everyone’s next door watching ratboy, and as a result the atmosphere feels quite flat. There’s nothing worse than a half full gig venue (other than the possibility of a half full Elland Road). Still, the music’s nice and everything. If you like the idea of Alt-J if they had the vocalist from Wheatus then you’re in for a treat. ‘Heroine’ is a track that particularly stands out. It’s just lovely.
Crap train times mean that the last act has to be Hookworms, another local band.
How would I describe Hookworms? Well if you took, say, Swans, but then made them quit a bit heavier and quite a bit faster, and then you added in some screamed vocals and some electronic stuff going on over the top. It one of those ones where you have to see it to understand it.
The set is completely mental and the only thing that stops me from throwing myself into the mass of mashing bodies is the great big bag I’m lugging around (and the notepad I’m holding, you know, to make all my notes on…). The band don’t stop once to introduce a song, or even to introduce themselves; it’s just belter after belter, and we all lap it up.
I make my way out of the venue, towards the station, and two hours later my ears are still ringing. Hookworms were unbelievably loud. I’ve since listened to them on Spotify. It one of those ones where you have to see it to understand it.
Despite me having to leave early, from what I saw Live At Leeds 2015 was a success. Sure the weather could have been better, but that can’t be helped, and the booking of local acts Menace Beach and Hookworms went down an absolute cracker. Maybe next year I’ll be able to make it past tea time.