This year’s incarnation of the May bank holiday Live at Leeds festival brought to the city an unrivalled collection of acts, from regular arena fillers to unsigned bands. The seventh outing of the hugely popular event featured over 100 artists, performing at a diverse range of venues across the city. With the event spread over three days, and presenting the all new #LaLTakeover pop-up gigs, the festival not only cemented its status as a more exciting, not to mention more affordable, alternative to Summer stalwart Leeds Festival but also, as a champion of local talent.

We at JAM have assembled a selection of highlights from across the board, ranging from the triumphant return of The Pigeon Detectives, who opened to a packed O2 arena on Saturday afternoon to The Staves, whose breath-taking performance in Trinity Church late in the evening was a fitting conclusion to an eclectic day of live music.  Enjoy.


Battle Lines started the show at The Faversham with a distinctive blend of haunting melodies and visceral rock underpinned by a throbbing electronic bass. The Leeds-based band has gone from strength to strength since their previous appearance as Alvin Purple, with their new single launch set to follow later this month at Nation of Shopkeepers. The set began slowly, with the laid-back tones of ‘The Walls’ reverberating across the strangely subdued venue but gradually built into a veritable rock tour-de-force as the audience poured in, culminating in an all-to-premature finale, as singer Carly Humphries ditched the microphone for an impromptu drum set.


The homecoming of The Pigeon Detectives on the back of a new album brought over 2000 people under the roof of the O2 arena to witness their energetic live set. Whilst the turnout, as well as the chants of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!”, were somewhat predictable, The Pigeon Detectives proved anything but as their live set packed plenty of punch. Frontman Matt Bowman, the curly-haired, showman proved his command of the stage with a rock’n’roll swagger rarely found amongst today’s NME indie devotees.


Their second performance of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon; a pop up event at the ‘Made In Leeds’ boutique shop in the Trinity shopping centre. Around a hundred dedicated fans turned out for the show with many other passers by stopping to take it in with a sense of good-natured bewilderment.  Bringing the same force and passion to this minute venue that they brought to the cavernous O2 the previous day, these consummate performers certainly know how to entertain.


Middleman got the crowd bouncing in Leeds Met’s Stage from the word go with their uncompromising genre-defying mash-up of pounding bass grooves and hip-hop mingled with rock as well as the occasional dubstep drop. A truly unique and fresh offering from the collective, whose previous appearances include Latitude and Secret Garden Party, as well as performances at Leeds and Reading Festivals as Futuresound competition winners. The packed crowd were not disappointed as Middleman dropped a selection of tracks from their brand new album, whilst their dynamic performance cemented their reputation on the circuit as some of the most exciting performers around.


Hunting Bears are a classically trained 5-piece from Leeds, whose soulful melodies enchanted the huge crowd assembled in The Wardrobe late on Saturday afternoon. The unsigned band’s distinctive alt. folk sounds clearly struck a chord, with the captivating blend of traditional instruments proving a lively alternative to the otherwise rock and electronic dominated soundscape.


An all-new feature of this year’s Live at Leeds was #LaLTakeover, which saw a host of acts, from big names to unsigned artists, performing acoustic gigs in a selection of shops across the city centre. The success of these pop-up gigs is a testament to the broadening of the festival’s reach, whilst their exclusion from the timetable ensured they remained a somewhat exclusive alternative to the main stages. We managed to catch Little Comets, whose performance at the Dr Marten’s shop off Briggate was an intimate affair and saw the up-and-coming indie rockers, fresh from their gig at the O2 academy, offering a different side to their assembled fans.


The touching soul and mellow sounds of Laura Mvula were more than enough to compensate for her late start and technical problems, whilst the soaring power of her voice verified her status as one of the must-see acts at Live at Leeds. Her talent matched only by her modesty, Laura demonstrated time and again her well warranted status as ‘The voice of 2013.’ Her orchestral backing band cut a striking accompaniment to the young singer’s emotive vocals and poignant harmonies and the eagerly anticipated act did not disappoint.


Against the magnificent backdrop of the recently refurbished Trinity Church, The Staves found a fitting home for their stunning blend of acoustic folk. On the back of a UK tour the three sisters are rapidly gaining a following throughout the country which was demonstrated by the eager anticipation surrounding their performance at Live at Leeds.  The beautiful acoustics of the church afforded the band a perfect opportunity to showcase their stunning vocals and instrumental dexterity, whilst the intimate vibe of the venue was an appropriate tribute to one of the most exciting new folk bands on the scene.


Announced only days before the festival, The Sunshine Underground’s headline slot at The Brudenell Social Club was one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the day. With the band eventually taking to the stage around 11:30 the crowd had lost none of their enthusiasm and, despite an array of technical problems threatening to mar the set, remained eager and receptive to the very end. The Sunshine Underground’s performance did not disappoint, and saw the Leeds-based indie outfit airing new material alongside their classics. Their performance at the Brudenell was a fitting finale to the diverse Live at Leeds festival, and saw one of Leeds’ most recognisable live music venues confirm its distinctive place within the vibrant Leeds music scene.


Unfortunately it will be another twelve months until the city sees such a collection of assembled talent within its bounds again, until then though, you can find links to all of the featured acts at the bottom of this article. We at JAM were blown away by this year’s Live At Leeds and we cant wait to see you all on the dancefloor next time.

Images: Benjamin Paul,   Words: Jason Albon


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