Schedule clashes were the only possible thing that could have dampened the atmosphere at Live At Leeds 2014, with Loiners citywide basking in the bank holiday sunshine and wondering whether it was even worth wandering back into the Cockpit to catch that new local band, given such glorious conditions outside.
But wander back in they did and, as ever with Live at Leeds, the spark of excitement and energy was fixed solely on those on stage - though the weather certainly helped.
Gone were many of the marquee bookings of last year - think Laura Mvula, Everything Everything and The Walkmen - with the focus for 2014 being on home-grown talent and the showcasing of a couple of new venues. It began at the First Direct Arena, the new pod-like hub for mainstream music in the city, which served as the festival's wristband exchange, and also just around the corner at Belgrave Music Hall.
Belgrave is a wonderful place and most music fans in the city will have already become acquainted with their new favourite venue. The throng of bodies squeezed onto the roof terrace quickly dispersed as Gengahr took to the stage for a rather brisk set filled with their falsetto-pop cum stoner-rock. Given they've only got a couple of songs out there, the opening bars of 'Fill My Gums With Blood' got a pocket of knowing nods from the Belgrave crowd, though it was the dreamy, lazy beauty of 'She's A Witch' that proved to be the lynchpin of a solid set.
A relatively arduous trek up to the Leeds University Union Refectory was initially looking like a rather ill-judged decision. A handful of middle-aged BBC6 Music listeners nervously fingered through their Live at Leeds schedules in the vast canteen, shooting each other knowing glances as Ezra Furman's crew sound-checked for the first set of the day. In the end, the Chicago song-smith, with his unpretentious rattle and hum (and saxophonist), was the perfect antidote for too many pre-noon beers and ushered in the late afternoon action. When Furman's signature track 'My Zero' hit, those 6Music acolytes knew they'd made the right decision.
No Live at Leeds conquest is complete without flashing the wristband at the stalwart Brudenell Social Club and a spontaneous visit to catch London blues-rock band Palace in the games room which slowed down the pace as the sun began to go down in Leeds. Having only formed in 2013, Palace take somewhat of a crudely overt influence from Foals and, to some extent, Jeff Buckley, though vocalist Leo Wyndham has a captivating voice and the band's hypnotic melodies are certainly worth keeping an ear out for.
San Fermin were probably the most anticipated band on this year's Live at Leeds bill, and the indie-pop machine with their horns and drums engaged a sizeable audience back at the Belgrave Music Hall. There've been plenty of lazy comparisons to Grizzly Bear and even Arcade Fire, though this Brooklyn band have more fun on-stage and transcend the folk rock on their records.
Then we made a quick dash over to HIFI for Detroit rapper Lizzo who delivered another Ezra Furman moment - another sparse crowd. The atmosphere was quickly turned up a notch once the foul-mouthed 26-year-old and her sidekick/hype-woman Sophia Eris arrived on stage. They dedicated tracks to tequila, invited despairing audience members to get up on stage to give quick lessons in twerking and, of course, everyone enjoyed the raucous 'Batches n Cookies'. It was a full-throttle set at one of the more overlooked venues at Live at Leeds and probably deserved a more substantial turn out.
And so things ended back at the Refectory to catch the second half of Albert Hammond Jr, who delighted a Strokes-fan heavy crowd with slick, snappy tracks from both 'Yours to Keep' and 'Como Te Llama'. It was a strange affair and something that didn't scream headline-set, despite Albert's obvious fame and credentials. Nevertheless, it served as a reasonable bookend to cap off another successful Live at Leeds.
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