It's our first time at Live At Leeds. The beauty of these urban festivals is that there's always something new to discover as well as catching bands you know and love. We put on our walking shoes and managed to see ten bands. The first five are covered here.
We make it over to Leeds for some unfeasibly early hour to avoid the wristband queues so we're free to catch bands starting at 12. Polo have had some great write-ups in the previews so Belgrave Music Hall is our first port of call. Fighting our way through the beardy hipsters munching through over-priced pizzas and burgers, we make it upstairs to find the room well-populated at such an early stage in proceedings and a great music space to boot.
They start off with their previous single Party Talk and follow it with upcoming single, the delightfully brooding and slightly menacing Running Deep. They follow this with an interesting take on Arctic Monkeys' Do I Wanna Know, a song you wouldn't necessarily think would work in this format, but which ends up as an unqualified success. They then play a new song that shows that they're continually developing their songwriting craft and creating a sound of their own within a genre that often lacks in originality. Debut single Washed follows, but it's their final track, another new one entitled Visions Of Fortune, that points towards them playing much higher up the bill at future festivals.
Next up, and still at the Belgrave, are local Leeds favourites Clay. The venue has filled up considerably by the time they come on and the partisan crowd are treated to a fast and furious set of seven songs that weigh in just over twenty minutes. With multiple guitarist and keyboard options and clever use of three sets of vocals they create big up-beat three minute joyous rampant bundles of energy that would get even the most hardened most difficult to impress crowd tapping their feet to the infectious rhythm that flows seemingly naturally from them.
They don't mess about between songs, moving seamlessly from opener Oxygen to Cream, hardly pausing for breath throughout, with little interaction with the crowd, focusing on their songs. Wishing is a big hit single in the making, where all those factors described earlier come together in three minutes of sheer abandon that you can imagine a packed hall throwing itself around to rather than the more sedate post-lunch reaction it gets today. They close with Sundance, the song that rightly has garnered them so much recent attention. Two bands in and we've caught two that are set for bigger things.
We make our way, getting lost en route and having to navigate through car parks to the Faversham, where there's been a gas leak that doesn't dampen the music, but we finally get told that Bird To Beast have pulled out on the morning, one of the inevitable consequences of so many stages is that you'll trek somewhere and miss the band. Undeterred we move on to the University site where we set up camp for the late afternoon.
Glacier Pacific open up the Stylus stage, the bigger of the two rooms in use on the University campus. We're impressed immediately by their strutting confidence and their ability so early in their career to write big songs that fill rooms like this. There's no shortage of confidence and it's a well-founded belief in their own ability to take on and conquer what might be the biggest stage they've played to date. Never Let Me Go and Black Is Forever are statements of intent from a band that look and sound immediately at home up there on the stage.
Front man Elliot is engaging and entertaining between songs and cuts a fascinating figure lost in the music he and his mates are creating during them. By the time they get to the end of their set which they finish with a stunning trio of immaculate guitar anthems with pop sensibilities, Echo, Fire and lastly the shimmering majesty of Give Up, we're won over.
Next up are The Vryll Society, a band that impressed us with their debut single Beautiful Faces, with which they open the set. Hailing from Liverpool, they sound like the descendents of those great masters of twenty-first century scally psychedelia The Coral and The Zutons, songs immersed in sounds of the past, but which also sound modern, vibrant and exciting. We worry they might have shot their bolt by starting with Beautiful Faces and its strung-out, hazed-out, dazed-out instrumental sections, but the rest of their half-hour set suggests there's much more where that comes from.
Their songs feel like the product of jam sessions with a beautiful effortless flow to them as if this is the most natural thing in the world to them. The six minutes plus of the sprawling Great White's Fin encapsulates what's so great about them, there's no pandering to what they are told they should sound like, the song is a journey through their creative thought spaces and it's impossible to take your eyes off their front man Michael who loses himself wholly in the music as it progresses. Cosh is similarly ecstatic in its blissed-out groove and is tailed by a section where he turns all Ian Brown proclaiming "We are the Vryll Society" without it sounding forced or cliched. They finish with forthcoming single Deep Blue Skies and Michael leaves mid-song to let his band mates let loose and bring the song and set to its conclusion. Whether they make a commercial breakthrough or not, The Vryll Society are going to create some magic trying.
Thanks to the scheduling of the two stages, we're able to make it down into the smaller Mine venue to catch Gulf, another Liverpool band that we've read good things about and wanted to check out. Their songs fuse together a wide range of influences to create something with a sunny soothing disposition that leaves the audience with a warm glow through the strength of the songs and how they're played rather than any visual or aural histrionics.
Things take a slightly disco turn by the third song in with a pulsating beat echoing in Out There, our favourite track of their set with a little hint of Dutch Uncles running through it and that more upbeat feel continues through the rest of the set, an almost effortless fluidity coursing through their sound. They leave the audience with a smile on our faces and a desire to hear more.
Polo's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
Clay are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Glacier Pacific's website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
The Vryll Society are on Facebook and Twitter.
Gulf's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.