Live at Leeds: The chaotic new music one-dayer in nine killer sets

Words by Vidisha Jain

…And we’re off! Festival season is alive and kicking and new music’s moment in the sun (or, more likely, apocalyptic rain and wind) is now. The Great Escape takes place this weekend (more to come here on NME.com), but first, it was the turn of Live At Leeds to get the ball rolling, as venues across the city played hosts to some of the most exciting new music in the country.

Here are some of the best sets we saw throughout the day, from synchronised bubblegum dance-pop moves to hugely affecting acoustic moments.

Barny Fletcher

The young star delivered his first live show ever at Headrow House at Saturday lunchtime, but if there was any nerves, it didn’t show. His performance was theatrical and cheeky, with the rapper-singer creating pop bangers that leave a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Just two releases to his name, ‘Christ Flow’ and ‘Blu Skyes,’ but his set provided sneak-peaks of songs ‘DOUGH’ and ‘Better Than You’, which are just as tantalising.

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

Clad on stage in Beatles merch and having ‘John Lennon Is My Jesus Christ’ as their most memorable tune, it’s easy to see where Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s rock‘n’roll inspiration comes from. Between the flare jeans, flying guitars and scissor-kicks from their lead singer, the band have all the pomp and swagger from ‘70s titans T-Rex. A second career as a gymnast to fall back on, but we reckon they’ll be alright. 

Rachel Chinouriri

Rachel’s stripped-back set provided the audience to truly bask in her gleaming vocals. Most memorably, there’s a charming and relatable aspect to her songs as she opens up about young love in the set highlight, ‘Mamma’s Boy’. Meanwhile, straight-up pop in the shape of ‘Adrenaline’ proved to be equally as vivid and infectious.

Wooze

With band members dressed in disposable face masks, rain coats and mesh blouses, the intriguing aesthetic augmented the quirky, genre-defying songs the band smashed through at the Brudenell. ‘Party Without Ya’ got things grooving, and further cuts from recent EP ‘What’s On Your Mind?’ providing more wonky rock bangers.

Chappaqua Wrestling

The band called performing at the infamous Brudenell Social Club a “milestone” and they rose to the occasion. The rawness of an acoustic guitar taking the lead was a refresher from the bruising sonics from other artists across the city, finding a soothing middle ground between intimate and rousing.

Orla Gartland

‘A typical existential pop tune’ is how Orla introduced ‘Why Am I Like This?’ at the Belgrave Music Hall once the lineup’s darker, dancier artists took over. Clearly, it connected with the audience, with the overwhelming response stopping Orla in her tracks. Other songs like ‘Between My Teeth’ dabbled with synths with delightful results, and a euphoric crowd continued the day in strong spirits.

Confidence Man

Headlining the NME Stage, their brand of chaotic dance-pop was a highlight for the dedicated revellers. 2018’s debut album ‘Confident Music for Confident People’ did the heavy-lifting, as did the duo’s fun-lovin’ dance moves, meaning a second summer of hype is more than justified.

Beabadoobee

Performing an acoustic set while sitting on a stool on stage meant Beabadoobee was practically invisible to plenty in this packed crowd, but just hearing her vocals is enough to feel the emotional impact of her songs. ‘If You Want To’ proved to hit the hardest, as well as her charming on-stage performance meant that the London-based musician is fast becoming an icon to a new breed of teens. Want proof? There was a queue of fans waiting to get their pictures taken after the set. Some impact, that.

Marsicans

Leeds’ own homegrown band Marsicans made their city proud as they performed a coveted slot at the O2 Academy for this year’s festival. With a debut album still on the horizon, the indie-pop quartet performed their bright tunes including ‘Suburbs,’ ‘Pop Ups (Sunny At The Weekend),’ and ‘Too Good,’ causing a mosh pit every corner of the venue.

Everyone You Know

An 11.15pm slot is typically hard for a band to capture the weary crowd, but this dynamic duo closed Headrow House in pulsating form. ‘Dance Like We Used To’ grabbed the audience within seconds, while lyrics like ‘we’re taking shots like we’re bulletproof’ slapped on top of the Prodigy-inspired techno-rave made Everyone You Know closed out the day with a banger or two.

Pictures by Vidisha Jain