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Live at Leeds 2022: In Review

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Sundara Karma - Photo Credit Ellisha Iddon

Featuring conversations with Joe and The Shitboys, Dim Imagery and Sofar Sounds Leeds.

A minion walks into a bar.

Mercifully, this is (mostly) not the start of an anticlimactic joke, but instead a real event you will undoubtedly witness, are you ever to find yourself outside the Wetherspoons in Leeds Station on a Saturday morning.

A heaving throng of already-raucous football fans, dreary eyed commuters enraged at the misfortune of landing a Saturday shift, and of course Otley runners dressed as minions, the addition of bucket hat clad Live at Leeds attendees to the melee on October 15th gave the station more of a chaotic-neutral feel than ever before.

After the resounding success of the inaugural Live at Leeds: In The Park Festival, which took place in May of this year, this autumn we saw Live at Leeds In The City once again occupy its new-for-2021 timeslot of mid-October. And whilst the magnitude of its sister event (and the high praise it garnered) posed an inevitably tough act to follow, Saturday the 15th saw Live at Leeds cement itself as the crowing jewel of inner-city festivals. With over 100 acts descending upon the best and brightest of the city’s live music venues, we disembarked from the train with Pret subscriptions clutched tightly to our chests, and joined the ruckus.

Having previously welcomed the likes of Ed Sheeran and George Ezra to the side streets of Leeds during the infancy of their careers, since its first incursion in 2007 Live at Leeds has consistently provided attendees with ‘I saw them before they were big’ bragging rights, and continues to introduce festival-goers to a whole host of emerging artists.

To kick off our day of discovery, we headed over to the Wardrobe to sit down with ‘queer vegan shitpunks’ (to quote them directly) Joe and The Shitboys, who were set to play Key Club later in the day.

Having rapidly cemented themselves over the past couple of years as an integral part of the Faroe Island’s underground rock scene, the country’s Conservative backdrop left the band feeling increasingly alienated by the prevailing political culture of their nation growing up. ‘You don’t want to be gay, and you don’t want to be a woman either’ explains vocalist Fríði (A.K.A. "Joe Shit") ‘but it was fun that you had something to rebel against within your own circles.’

As well as waging war against the misogyny, homophobia and discrimination prevalent within the population of their archipelago, their track ‘Save The Planet, You Dumb Shit’ sees the five piece take the global population to task in a bid to encourage people to make incremental daily changes in order to clean up the planet: ‘Buy from thrift stores (you dumb shit) Recycle (you dumb shit) Take shorter showers (you dumb shit.)’

Whilst the early 1970s saw tracks addressing ‘green issues’ by the likes of Neil Young, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell dominate mainstream music, the 21st century has seen the production of climate-centric songs all but dry up, causing the BBC to pen an article in 2015 simply asking “Where are all the climate change songs?” Responding to me posing the same question to him, Joe suggests that perhaps it is culpability which has discouraged modern musicians from addressing environmental issues: ‘I think it’s a very alienating thing, because we’re all guilty. So a song about sustainability, it attacks all of us, and I think we tend to want to have a good time when we listen to music.’ He finishes by adding: ‘Every songwriter has a song about heartbreak- you’d think there’d be enough.’ And interestingly, it feels as though this ‘heartbreak fatigue’ Joe alludes to has been slowly rippling across the music industry over the past few years, with tracks such as Overheated by Billie Eilish, New Demo by Soccer Mommy and of course Save the Planet, You Dumb Shit signposting that perhaps we are on the cusp of welcoming a new era of more climate conscious music.

In a bid to spread their message far and wide, Joe and The Shitboys’ appearance at The Key Club for Live At Leeds sits within a wider European festival touring schedule, which they have dubbed the ‘Manspredatour 2022’. Having already embarked on three dates before heading to Leeds, I’m keen to know whether their foray across Europe has produced any memorable touring stories, and am not disappointed: ‘We were heading home from Lowlands festival in Amsterdam, and weed is legal there but you can’t just smoke and drive a cab’, explains Joe, ‘But that’s what our cab driver was doing, and he kept asking one of our band members what it was like in the Faroes… it turned out this guy was selling drugs and wanted a guy on the inside. He kept thinking we wouldn’t get stopped because we are air quotes “famous” in The Faroes but that’s not true… we get stopped all the time.’

Gruff Rhys - Photo Credit - Mark James

Buoyed by tales of drug mules and recycling, we swapped shitpunk for post-punk and raced over to the Brudenell to catch the beginning of the day’s festivities at Leeds’ most iconic live venue. After easing in with a spellbinding set from Gruff Rhys which packed out the main room, the community room rumbled to life with a triumphant and visceral set on home soil from Leeds based outfit Dim Imagery, made even more impressive by the fact that just ten minutes before the set started, they’d by sat out shivering in the cold with yours truly, nattering about all things post-post-nu-Wave-Brexit-Post-Punk.

Citing Preoccupations, The Fall and Shame as central to shaping their sound, Dim Imagery describe themselves as ‘Post Brexit angst mixed with the new wave of the 80s’, a genre which has undoubtedly captured the imagination of the music press in recent years. Having been described by eager journalists as ‘Nu Post Punk’, ‘Post Post Punk’, and perhaps most famously by Matthew Perpetua of NPR as ‘Post Brexit New Wave’, the various terms coined have all sought to encapsulate (as Perpetua puts it) ‘U.K. bands that kinda talk-sing over post-punk music, and sometimes it's more like post-rock […] the politics isn’t always foregrounded, but there's an unmistakable feeling of shame, disappointment and pessimism about Britain's future permeating all of this music.’

Dim Imagery - Photo Credit - Lily Burgess

Given that the original post punk movement of the 1980s was awarded its ‘post’ prefix in an attempt to loosely capture the various and diverse non-rock genres beginning to reshape punk, the question remains whether this new movement should really be described as post-post-punk at all, given that the bands associated with this post-Brexit sound span an even more diverse web of genres than before. I pose this rather daunting question to Dim Imagery, who manage to deliver a very insightful answer for 2:30pm on a Saturday: ‘I think the issue with post punk is that it does have the danger of just being an umbrella term now.’ Explains lead singer Matt. ‘It encapsulates so many different iterations of it. You could in theory look at the very beginnings of Sports Team, who are effectively an indie band now, and find certain aspects of some post-punk in there, and then you go right the way through to bands like Protomarytr- and that’s post-punk to an extent as well.’ So where does Dim Imagery’s sound sit amidst a genre that spans Sports Team and Protomartyr? ‘I guess we’re somewhere in-between the two’ Matt laughs.

So how did these lads from Leeds with a lust for life meet? Matt has the very modern answer: ‘All of us studied in Leeds, and I’ve known Charlie for 6 years now. He’s also in Dense and I remember seeing their first gig at Uni in the pyramid cafe. Jack, Seth and I met three years ago in 2019, and that basically came from a Facebook post saying ‘Need a vocalist please!’ Seth and Jack elaborate: ‘We were in a psychedelic band and had a gig and two of the band members had left the week before- so luckily Matt came to the rescue. From there, having started as a psych band, lockdown happened, and we took ourselves away for a year and decided that we were going to change the band entirely - only one song from that era survived but was heavily edited. This is going to be the first big show that we’ve done as the current five- so for it to be Live at Leeds is class.’

Leeds has long been heralded for its vibrant post-punk scene, with the Brudenell serving as a stomping ground for some of the country’s brightest talent during the 1970s, a tradition which has continued all the way through to present day, with the venue notably playing a central role in catapulting Mercury Award nominees Yard Act to meteoric success. As Dim Imagery put it ‘to be given a community room set straight after Gruff Rhys is not bad’, and having delivered an enthralling performance filled with powerful guitar lines and fervent vocals, the fact that even the most stoic of Radio 6 dads could be seen firmly nodding their heads along was testament enough that it was a set very well deserved.

Their plans for after? ‘Get drunk.. and go and see W.H. Lung.’

Sofar Sounds - Photo Credit Kika Rodriguez Szymon Nieborak and Natalie Maciejuk

Having abandoned all hope of successfully booking an Uber, we hopped on the Burley Park train back into town, swung by the Pret in the station for coffee #2 of the day and headed to the sanctuary of Mill Hill Chapel. Playing host to a lineup curated by the Sofar Sounds Leeds team, 2022 marks the first time the unitarian chapel has welcomed the festival into its idyllic setting, with its wonderful acoustics providing a much needed haven of serenity amidst a frenetic day of dashing around. As we arrived, we were lucky enough to catch the very end of a beautifully delicate set by Jemima Coulter, before sitting down with Sofar Leeds’ city lead Amy Illingworth to chat about the organisation’s involvement with the festival, and their relationship with Mill Hill Chapel. ‘Sofar is about community and discovering and supporting new musicians’ explains Amy- ‘We’re all about being super supportive and respectful of the artists, having a lovely time and connecting with each other- and hopefully that’s whats happening today!’

Sofar Sounds - Photo Credit Kika Rodriguez Szymon Nieborak and Natalie Maciejuk

Amy has been involved with Sofar Leeds since she first moved to the city as a student in 2018, and has been leading the local team for just over a year, with several events a month taking place at top secret venues across the city, the lineups for which remain unannounced until the very moment musicians take to the stage. ‘I love the sense of community here’ explains Amy, when I ask her why she chose to curate Sofar’s Live At Leeds lineup at Mill Hill. ’Coming into a place of worship as a person who doesn’t follow any faith and just being completely welcomed and treated as part of whats going on has been amazing. They’re just really up for having art going on, supporting creativity and just having good people around. We’ve used Mill Hill as venue before for Sofar, and off the back of that I put on a couple of events with my own band in 2021 and just really loved the feel- it’s a beautiful space!’

Whilst we could have all happily parked ourselves in the pews of Mill Hill for the remainder of the day, we forced ourselves to swap to the beautiful stained glass tinted floors of the chapel for the grey concrete streets of Leeds City Centre, hopping straight into an uber in a mad dash effort to catch London’s finest 11 piece (I think I counted 11) of nomadic disco punks, Fake Turins. Despite hailing from London, the band pulled a strong crowd to the Brudenell community room for their half an hour set from 6:30-7, with the powerful vocals and wonderful theatrics of frontman Dominic Rose pairing with the blistering talent of the brass, strings and percussion sections to deliver a rousing pre-pie symphony.

Having chowed down on one of the Brudenell’s infamous pies we were, ironically, late to The Dinner Party’s set over at the main room, which saw the band deliver an absolute masterclass in both performance and impeccable dressing. Alongside the brilliant talent of guitarists Emily and Lizzie, keyboardist Aurora and bassist Georgia, vocalist Abigaille’s soaring voice and elegant yet powerful stage presence were truly a tour de force. As mentioned earlier, over the years Live at Leeds has provided attendees with the opportunity to claim ‘I saw them before they were big’ bragging rights on several occasions, and I won’t be surprised if being at this set will become an ‘I swear I was there’ moment in years to come. No notes.

After catching a brilliant set from Bull which saw them leave everything on the floor (including some pie vouchers for the Brudenell- round two anyone?) we ran over to Hyde Park Book Club to catch Swim Deep’s 9pm set, relentlessly checking our phones en-route in fear of the dreaded ‘this venue is now at capacity’ notification. Luckily, we made it into the basement and even managed to grab a pint of the venue’s famous house lager in time for the beginning of the set – but that’s a story for another time (AKA: check out the interview here.)

Swim Deep - Photo Credit Ellisha Iddon

Having once again walked the age-old pilgrimage from Book Club back to Brudenell, we closed out the night with several more pints, and a blistering set from Brighton based experimental jazz-punk outfit Opus Kink. Signed to Hideous Mink, the same label Fake Turins are also attached to, the band had the Brudenell main room packed out for the penultimate set of the evening, despite being up against the likes of Spector and Pale Waves over in town.

Scheduled to head out on tour with Warmduscher in early November, it’s evident that Opus Kink are born to perform live. The combination of frontman Angus Rodger’s magnetic stage presence with the pure talent of the brass section led the entirety of the main room to descend into a giddy mosh pit within the first five minuts of the show; if perfection and chaos were to form the two circles of a venn diagram, you would find Opus Kink firmly planted in the middle.

Los Bitchos - Photo Credit Kika Rodriguez

Just as you can always trust Messi to find the back of the net when it comes to taking penalties, Los Bitchos closed out the night with a reliably brilliant set of their distinctive brand of psychedelic-surf cumbia (I know that was a poor comparison but allow it.) And just like that, having debuted their new Christmas song to an enthralled audience, they disappeared from the stage in a swirl of brightly coloured suits.

Seven sets, two Prets and one magical day later, as fans surrounded the stage to chat to the band and grab some merch, it was clear that Live at Leeds had once again delivered not just a wonderful programme of talent, but one that was underpinned by an unwavering sense of community too.

Article By Maddi Fearn

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