In the musical underground, the prospect of something such as a local festival that gets hundreds of attendee's per year is something that should be played by everyone. Not only is it a great profiling opportunity, but it also allows you to sell merchandise and the most important thing, play live. The ethos of the project has always been to "celebrate the best in upcoming local bands alongside more established national acts". The whole event takes place over various small venues in leeds- Brudenell Social Club, The Cockpit, rooms in the University student union along with the celebrated 02 Academy in the city centre. The premise being that you will travel between these venues, seeing who you please, buying plenty of alcohol along the way and just generally having a good time. As most musical geeks do, I sorted myself a daily plan and proceeded to wander to all the events.
Harry George Johns was first up, and like a select number of his audience (I imagine) I had gained knowledge of the artist from his short stint in Leeds' superb rockers Dinosaur Pile-Up- more about them later. However, Harry left the band in order to concentrate on his first love, his solo career. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and the tattoos on his sleeve, George Johns proceeds into a set based around love, loss and desperation, his strong wails complimenting the homely atmosphere of the Holy Trinity church where the acoustic performers for the day were based. Reminding us that his record resides on the table at the front of this venue, as well as the fact that early next year a second effort will be emerging from the budding songwriter. His signature beanie hat is the only thing that differentiates him from the majority of other singer-songwriters with guitars that have emerged since Newton Falkner some six/seven years ago, which is unfortunate, but you have to respect how difficult it is to be revolutionary if you want to limit yourself to the bare acoustics of music.
Over to the Refectory in the student union of my lovely University I trudge. I spent the rest of the day there, initially trying to get into the 02 to show my support for The Pigeon Detectives, who probably still think they're the best band in the world when actually they're rubbish. Unfortunately my decision meant missing the always impressive Tribes, but I’ll be sure to catch them on their way round the touring circuit at some point. The refectory housed a true monster at quarter to five that day - Dinosaur Pile-Up. A name that derived from a scene in Peter Jackson's poor take on King Kong, the brain child of Matt Bigland, a Leeds Met dropout with a dream- to bring heavy riffs with acceptable pop hooks to the forte' once again. Its bands like this that make the Leeds scene so key, and Live At Leeds so important, bringing them all together. Ever since my very in-tuned father introduced me to "My Rock n Roll" on the bands Myspace account, I became fascinated with the 90's Seattle revival that seemed to be rooted in the track.
The band have since grown to be something else entirely, they are no where near 'another Nirvana'. Heavily influenced by bands such as Weezer, Foo Fighters, Pixies and Ash, DPU are currently awaiting the release of their second record "Nature Nuture"- ready to drop on June 17th. Opening with the track from free download off their website "Lip-Hook-Kiss", the drums are pounding, the distortion of the guitar and bass is mixing and the crowd are starting to understand what they're in for. "We're gonna take a few minutes to sort the sound, cos that sounded a bit shit" exclaims frontman Bigland. The three-piece then launch into a 'greatest hits' set of "Mona Lisa" "Traynor" and "My Rock n Roll". The crowd at this point get lively and the biggest (and only) moshpit I've experienced at a DPU gig emerges energetically. New single "Derail" is introduced next which mellows out the high powered headbangers, before the amps are turned to 11 for "Arizona Waiting" and finally "Birds and Planes" a true vintage gem. The band moodily trudges off, but later Tweets show how impressed they were with our response. It wasn't us dudes, it was you. Setlist: Lip-Hook-Kiss, Mona Lisa, My Rock n Roll, Traynor, Derail, Arizona Waiting, Peninsula, Birds and Planes
A nice drink break on the University's Tannery which is then followed by a trip to the smallest venue space of them all, 'Mine'. Here Leeds' own Humanfly demonstrated a run through of their intense prog epic "Awesome Science". Released just this year, this sees the band (who on every record have found a new box to fit themselves in, and then think out of) swapping their signature bellowing vocals and heavy-slung metal riffs for more tender- space-age soundscapes, some lasting around fifteen minutes in length. Sadly have heard this weekend that the label that Humanfly, Hawk Eyes, Blacklisters and Nine Black Alps have all released material with- Brew- have decided to call it a day. Really quite a gutting thing as this was a label who's control was all about the artist. They didn't care for singles band and ultimately, that could've been their downfall as in a business its all about profits. Sad how music works nowadays.
Londons' noisy female four-piece Savages then take to the stage in the University's 'Stylus'. This gig was the last before their album release on the bank holiday Monday. The powerful burst of "Hit Me" lasting under two minutes sums all that you need to know about this band, into a concise slab of noisey/groovy poetry. The bass is the main instrument in this band, the guitar has some interesting and spikey riffs but its the bass that places the idea for everyone to move around to. The drums then pound, the guitar then screaaamss from some unholy place and lead singer Jehn presents her strange and desperate wail. It’s all so powerful and yes, some of it sounds a bit like Joy Division who I like to distance myself from at all times, but this is four alluring women making incredible music. Lead single "Husbands" closes the show with its repetitive riff and strong build up to a crunching finale. Despite some technical issues with microphones, this was one of the best performances of the day, by far.
The final band of the evening was Hawk Eyes. Now veterans of the Leeds musical circuit, the band initially formed in the mid- 2000's, released their debut on Brew in 2010, the "Mindhammers" EP in 2011 and just last year, the very impressive "Ideas" hit the shelves. Their set tonight featured no material from their first LP, which is my favourite of theirs but then it makes complete sense. Now working on further material, the band probably played those first few songs millions of times in the early days, and now have the platform to forget those and concentrate on moving forward as a band, to songs that aren't just shouting and being really, really fucking loud. Opener "Headstrung" is a great starter, mainly because it was a single choice. On YouTube, the amazing public are divided whether the opening riff should then continue and what the song blares into should be a separate entity. No, its fine as it is. Leads you in to a false sense of 'oh here's a straight forward rock song' before going all discordant and weird and then getting near-trance like with a finger-tapping interlude in the centre. "Crack Another One" and "Dead Man's Hand" from the 2011 EP emerge, both seemingly fluid. The final track played however, is the best song on their latest record, "Bears By The Head". Billy from Blacklisters joins them onstage and therefore a dualed vocal scream sets us all in our places. A brilliant end to a superb day. Hawk Eyes, here's to the future gentlemen.
Setlist:Headstrung, Crack Another One, Witch Hunt, Hollywood Sweatshop, Kiss This, Dead Mans Hand, Bears By The Head.
Other bands captured at Leeds Live this year on behalf of Mudkiss by Mike Gatiss were Electric Guest, Little Comets, and George Ezra.
Review by Callum Barnes