Live at Leeds marked the bank holiday weekend in style as a storming selection of buzz bands played to raucous, capacity crowds around the city.
The frenetic metropolitan festival had circle pits and aural disorder aplenty at venues both large and small, from Leeds’ churches and restaurants to the city’s O2 Academy.
Attendances were high across the board, few artists playing to sparse crowds, and several stages making fans wait on a one-in, one-out policy during performances.
The over 150 bands included Slaves and Rag’n’Bone Man, but the event was – as it is annually – more a tale of the upstarts and hidden gems winning new fans and making their claims to be the UK’s next breakthrough band.
The likes of The Amazons and Honeyblood starred in the larger venues, while Get Inuit provided one of the day’s most brilliantly lawless performances.
Indie rock band Judas, hometown favourites Marsicans and Newcastle’s The Pale White were other standouts, but in truth any of tens of bands could be noted, depending on any one person’s itinerary and unique vision of the day.
On Sunday a new five-band Finale event featured Maxïmo Park back to their best, plus a rare and entertaining live performance from Spector.
Live at Leeds kicked off at midday on the Saturday, but it wasn’t until 3pm – when White Lies launched the Academy stage – that the festival got into full flow.
Fans queued around the block to get in for a set that, compared to their recent headline tour, saw Harry McVeigh and the band being chatty and jubilant, playing up to the crowd and highlighting old favourites.
That set the tone for the day, as bands brought their festival sets and made an occasion of it, often at venues packed to capacity.
Live at Leeds’ ability to fill venues for so many bands is unique, and for some it would be the biggest set of their careers to date.
Marsicans and The Pale White are two such examples, the former revelling in their status as one of Leeds’ most promising bands after years of hard graft, the latter a Tyneside rock band appearing from nowhere to be one to watch from here.
The Amazons also lived up to every inch of their glowing reputation as a massive live band at a festival they’d told us they were “pumped” to play.
Rationale, the new moniker of Zimbabwe-born Tinashe, was another to sparkle, even if his set was massively delayed and hit by an apparent communication breakdown with the venue’s sound engineer.
The evening left fans spoilt for choice, although Slaves were an understandable pull, and bands like VANT and Dream Wife commanded attention deep into the night.
Glaswegian duo Honeyblood were another highlight of the day, adding an extra dimension to their recorded sound and demonstrating just why they’re playing so many outdoor festivals this summer.
Live at Leeds continues to be a fantastic fan experience, save for the queues, and gives the industry’s favourite new music event The Great Escape a run for its money in terms of the bands on offer.
The queuing at venues is unfortunate, but systematic of the demand to see the artists live, and it’s exciting to see the festival growing.
The new Finale event – plus the Friday night tour stop from Future Islands billed as the Live at Leeds opener – suggests that the organisers are trialing the idea of a full weekend event.
Many of the bands that played at the weekend will now go on to bigger stages in the summer, while Live at Leeds returns in April 2018.