Thursday 15 August 2013


As Beacons begins & Leeds Festival draws near, we pick, in no particular order, 15 out of many marvellous acts to see at each.
Sbtrkt - masked DJ turning darkness into offbeat joy
Local Natives - harmonies, grooves & reflective L.A anthems
Wire - legendary post punkers remaining vital  
Ghostpoet - downbeat tales in uplifting tunes 
Fucked Up - as the name suggests  
Malcolm Middleton - cult Scot unites with humourously affecting songs 
Savages - excitingly aggressive trio wind tightly  
Hookworms - heroic hypnotic local loudness  
Julia Holter - ethearal oddness quietly captivates  
Mikal Cronin - addictive US indie awesomeness  
Wytches - exciting howling garage whippersnappers  
Bill Ryder Jones - thoughtful literate folk from former Coral  
King No-One - Centre Stage winners with impressive York melodies 
John Talabot - all-night electronic glory from Spanish producer 
Django Django - artfully catchy English afrobeat to end on a high 
Deftones - main stage alt-metal drones triumphantly 
Frank Turner - folk-punk for the people by the Olympic opener
Foals - huge & intelligent math-wave 
City & Colour - moving melodies from acoustic Canadian 
A$AP Rocky - raw rapper tells us how Harlem is 
Tame Impala - warped psych remoteness wrapped in infectious tunes 
Alt-J - local lads done good celebrate awkwardly & awesomely 
Gallows - a riotous hardcore punk blast 
Tomahawk - Mike Patton's rock supergroup baffle & beguile 
Mount Kimbie - hazy electronic ambience envelops loudly 
Parquet Courts - short sharp shots of careless cool 
Tim Burgess - bowl-headed charlatan brings a laid back warmth  
Giggs - real-life Peckham-Caribbean rap from top boy bad boy 
Battle Lines - Futuresound victors kick out a passionate dynamic 
Eminem - the real slim shady brings the house down 

Friday 10 May 2013

Live at Leeds

Despite, or perhaps because of previous experience, I am drinking lager in the morning. Don't try this at home kids, it is not to be condoned and will almost definitely lead face-first towards embarrassment, amnesia & never-agains. But, if your home town will insist on hosting all-day music festivals on sunny bank-holidays, it would be rude not to.

Saturday begins for many with hangover already in full flow, Live at Leeds having opened the night before with The Unconference and a trio of gigs, from local garage-gothers Black Moth at The Wardrobe, homegrown good-timers Hope & Social at The Brudenell, and teenage 60s impersonators The Strypes at The Cockpit.

So, as afternoon strikes, Milo is supposed to ease us in gently with two fine Leeds troubadours, Lone Wolf and Sam Barrett. Except the venue is immediately packed and the former's atmospherics are less a polite introduction and more a brooding and rousing wake-up call.

Continuing the theme is Harry George Johns at Holy Trinity. A man of many a kick-ass heavy band, Johns solo is infinitely quieter yet equally raw. His heartbreaking human tales are openly touching and made all the more cathartic in this ideal church setting.

Quite the opposite approach at an overcrowded Academy, The Pigeon Detectives are shallow, unoriginal, easy to criticise and bloody enjoyable. Typically leaping and kicking, their infectious energy rouses the rabble and more than a few cool kids accidentally catch themselves joining in with the terrace singalongs.

Next, Post War Glamour Girls prove why they have a strong Stylus home crowd behind them with a set wound tight by creepy-catchy tunes and menacing eruptions in a half-hour that blasts by.

At the Met, newly-hyped London Grammar are an icy presence that wrap an anticipating audience in the warmth of their slowly-building songs. Impressive vocals keep their dangerously sparse approach enchanting and appreciated.

The buzz only increases at The Cockpit where The 1975 draw an astonishingly huge crowd that surprises even themselves. Those that get past the queues become a sweating surging mass treated to a passionate pop performance I cannot see.

A more predictable rush back to Stylus to see the next big thing, or the last big thing, punk-grrls Savages. The edgy atmosphere intensifies when the sound repeatedly buggers up. Fortunately, this makes an angry band angrier and potential disaster becomes a unified rock'n'roll riot.

I miss current big things AlunaGeorge and Rudimental at The Academy because hours of lager & loudness in darkness & daytime make a head woozy and a curry necessary. Apologies to all offended by my subsequent stench, although the day's various dubious odours by now overwhelmed everywhere.

In an array of excellent headliners, I catch the start of The Walkmen's wonderful garage sermons then join the Refectory throng for Everything Everything's jittery rhythms, complex structures and sugar-rush harmonies. The day ends suitably dancing badly and grinning moronically.

There were complaints of queues and clashes but these are inevitable at such an event and, it could be argued, add to its vitality. With surprise shows at shops and cinemas, Sunday's Millennium Square concert, Monday's football tournament and Saturday's showcase, Live at Leeds has once again proved itself to be an inventive, eclectic, organised and essential success. Well worth drinking lager in the morning for.

Tuesday 30 April 2013


It's festival season again folks! Here's our pick of the many music happenings close to home...

150 acts on 15 stages across the city make L@L the year's best pub crawl. We recommend this year's cool crowds stumble upon alunageorge, Everything Everything, Savages, The Walkmen, Still Corners, Hawk Eyes.....
Folk festival in Kirklees village this year impresses with genre legends Martin Simpson & Nic Jones.
Award-winning roots sets the right atmosphere in a splendid location headlined by Ron Sayer Jr, Jo Harman & Paddy Milner.
Second year of Pontefract sun sees lads, legends & locals unite for The Enemy, Grandmaster Flash & handmadehands.
Independent Wakefield trawl put on by local zine Rhubarb Bomb ups the ante terrifically by adding The Fall to an already enjoyable list including Ghostpoet, Let's Wrestle & Post War Glamour Girls.
Camp in beautiful North Yorkshire hills for a retro line-up of fitting festival acts New Model Army, The Orb & The Wonder Stuff.
Long-time traditional gathering presenting big folk players The Proclaimers & Show of Hands amongst family-friendly fun.
Techno intensities at Temple Newsam where Sven Vath & Richie Hawtin keep crowds high.
By families, for families, this is a recent success which this year welcomes Gaz Coombes, Willy Mason & Edwyn Collins to the Thirsk park.
Sheffield festival attracts large turn-outs to see Lianne La Havas headline after Lanterns On The Lake, Veronica Falls & Jim Jones Revue. All for FREE!
Lovely Lake District surroundings for intimate festival featuring the best local discoveries Sky Larkin, Witch Hunt & Sam Airey.
Hipsters in glorious rolling Skipton moors can this year relax to Julia Holter, riot to Fucked Up, rave to Bonobo and rejoice to Local Natives.
The huge one offers Eminem & Green Day, Phoenix & Foals, Tame Impala & alt.J, and a whole lot more of the usual shenanigans.
Growing success keeps the Madchester-friendly line-ups flowing enjoyably, this year happily tempting Primal Scream & The Cribs.
The beachfront Spa continues their annual weekend of jazz for a final summer holiday, headlined this year by the masterful Courtney Pine.

Friday 12 April 2013


The five Invisible Hands have honed an accomplished sound to stride confidently into the Leeds scene. Swirling keyboards, searching lyrics and psyching soirees are beefed up by big choruses equally likely to get hands rising and heads thinking.

Drum & bass for the noise-rocker, Cattle’s rhythm section chug intriguingly before vocals explode dementedly. A sludgy mess of hallucinatory horror, which we mean only as a compliment.

Impressively prolific Mark Wynn has quickly released three albums of offbeat oddball commentaries on social awkwardness. Short ragged songs of literate wit over catchy acoustics are monotonous, mundane and exquisitely charming.

Riff and roll newcomers Humans As Ornaments kick up an infectious racket. Blasting off with a fuzzy fury that keeps the pace through pleasing choruses and wordy verses, these chaps are a welcome addition to Leeds rock.

After admirably raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research UK, local singer-songwriter Rupert Stroud continues his consistent output of bulked-out-folk and indie singalongs of satisfying sincerity.

Meandering from Humberside is a mesmerising trip when taken through the warped weirdness of The Pigskin Godhead. Broken psych intersperses with jangly jaunts that invite us in to experience their drugged dreams

There appears to be something in the Yorkshire water. More spaced-out stories, this time from Halifax's Mother Onion. English eccentricities float to other worlds on a ride through fairgrounds, fairytales, foreboding and fun.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Leeds Arena

by John-Paul Craven
2013 will finally see the opening of The Leeds Arena. The building of the arena had been on and off more times than I care to remember. I did think it was going to be yet another mythical Leeds entity, like the Leeds Supertram or even the Blue Lady at Temple Newsam, but here were are, it’s here and it’s here to stay. It looks quite impressive as you drive past, and I can’t say I miss the Brunswick Building it replaced either.
The Merrion Centre nearby has undergone a lot of redevelopment in the last couple of years with the Arena in mind, after many years of neglect. The Merrion Centre Supermarket there is no more, currently being ripped out and developed, presumably into faceless identikit fast food units serving tasteless identikit foodstuffs to gig goers. This makes me sad in a way, as it was a bit of Leeds that was untouched and was how I remembered it from being a child in the 1980s.
The arena’s effect on the nearby transport infrastructure will no doubt be keeping the letters page of the Yorkshire Evening Post busy from the off. The times I have been to Sheffield Arena, which relatively speaking is located out of the city centre, it has been nothing short of a total nightmare to get to/from if you go by car. Now our Arena is located near one of the busiest areas for commuters in normal rush hour traffic, so heaven knows what it’s going to be like in the lead up to an event. Total Chaos it’s fair to say. I can’t see that the nearby car parks will be able to cope.
One of the main criticisms of arenas is the soulless atmosphere they create, in part due to the way the seats are set out, meaning that not everybody can see clearly. We are told that Leeds Arena’s seats have been constructed in a ‘super theatre fan shaped format’, so everyone should be able to see perfectly. Another common arena gripe is having to pay £4.20 for a pint of watered down Tuborg. It would be nice if some of Leeds’ independent food/drink providers were involved in what is sold inside the arena. As well as this, I hope that long-standing servants of musical excellence to the people of Leeds, Crash and Jumbo Records, are given decent ticket allocations for events and not just a token amount or for gigs that aren’t selling well. These shops are fundamental in stocking releases by artists early on, some of which will end up playing the arena.
But it’s the programming of the venue that will attract the most interest. The first act to be announced, JLS, saw a collective gasp of outrage all over the city. In fact, the day it was, my Facebook news feed lit up with statuses of outright contempt and ‘how dare they’ statuses, but what do you really expect? Who did you think they were going to book, Whitehouse or Throbbing Gristle?
A far more popular choice has been that of local lads done good Kaiser Chiefs, and I’m sure as time goes on the odd decent show will appear in between ‘Cbeebies characters in oversized costumes-on ice’ and Olly Murs. Elton John as the opening act was also better received, although I wish it was him appearing via time travel from 1973 after seeing his recent appearance at the Queen’s Jubilee Concert.
Anyway, surely the whole point of “The Leeds Arena” is for it to put things on to appeal to different kinds of people. (Well, I’m sure the main reason is for
SEG/event promoters to make money but you get my drift.) Different strokes for different folks as Sly & The Family Stone once sung. A glance over your Facebook/Twitter feed on a weekend when X-Factor is on will let you know that a hell of a lot of people you know like to be entertained by rubbish entertainment. Thus they probably would pay money go see such rubbish entertainment in a large venue. This isn’t a surprise to me, nor should it be to you really.
Lets face it; there aren’t many credible acts that will be able to fill a venue that size. But for the ones that can, a lot of the decent bars up there will do very handsomely out of it. I’d say an act like The Black Keys playing the arena would be the equivalent of the Mad Friday before Christmas trade-wise for bars in Leeds’ Northern Quarter such as Mojo, Sandinista and Wax. Plus with some of these shows happening during the week, a lot of those bars will get a much needed midweek boost, with the way things are at the moment it could be just the shot in the arm the independent bar scene needs. Even the nearby Hobby Horse pub might do well, if it’s still open that is.
But finally, let’s just hope they find a decent sponsor to name it. The Mike’s Carpets Arena anyone?