Various Venues, Leeds, Saturday May 4
Nothing challenges temperamental British springtime weather like a multi-venue festival, and putting on a festival that demands a lot of outdoor activity in May shows an admirable dedication to party vibes. Now in its seventh year, Live At Leeds has streamlined its usual two-day line-up into 24 hours of shit-hotness, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. Heavy on new bands, its line-up is a who’s who of all the acts likely to make a big noise over the summer. The result is a day so full of choices, prioritising becomes an art in itself.
Kicking off in the early afternoon are Londoners Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs. Despite being approximately 348 times better (our maths is a little rusty) than any of the other options in their time slot, the quintet only half-fill the Leeds University Refectory. Still, with Boyer’s brilliantly odd, inimitably spite-ridden vocals and the gargantuan triple-header of ‘Be Nice’, ‘Be Glamorous’ and ‘Things We Be’ (think New York art-punk gone decadently dandy), the quintet are an early festival highlight.
Across town, Fryars and King Krule are making a back-to-back bid to intensify the mood in the Holy Trinity Church. The former, re-emerging after a brief period of success in 2008, proves that a few years of maturing and learning to sound less like Esser (remember him?) can do wonders. Joined by a live guitarist and bassist, with backing tracks completing the setup, the newly sombre soloist sounds like Gwilym Gold with a James Blake obsession. Krule, meanwhile, packs the venue out for his set. It may have taken a while for the artist formerly known as Zoo Kid to hit his stride, but Archie Marshall’s baritone Jamie T-isms are winning out now.
Back in the Refectory, Splashh sound like the essence of summer boiled down into one hazy mass of sun-drenched guitars and odes to love and lazing around. Old favourites ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘Vacation’ are as blissful as ever, and an extended closer of ‘Need It’ finds them as capable of a gloriously heavy wig-out as a beatifically woozy love-in. Essentially, the band are the (mostly) antipodean equivalent of Swim Deep and should be revered as such, and it just so happens that the actual Swim Deep are getting a whole lot of love just down the road. Packing out The Cockpit, with a queue stretching down the road, cuts from their forthcoming album sound as summery as Splashh did earlier. “We’re meant to finish now, but we’re gonna play ‘King City’ anyway,” grins singer Austin Williams at the end of their set. No-one complains.
In the none-too-tiny surroundings of the O2 Academy, AlunaGeorge make a successful claim to being the dance-pop crossover it’s cool to like with their giant Disclosure collaboration ‘White Noise’, while back at The Cockpit, Unknown Mortal Orchestra serve up a set predominantly drawn from recent album ‘II’. Songs like ‘Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)’ may make for subtler thrills than those from their schizophrenic debut, but by ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’, the crowd are digging it.
After such a strong day, it’s a shame that the festival eventually bows out on a relatively sour note. Between Darwin Deez (half an hour late, still plugging his synchronised dance routine shtick and coming on like your irritating mate who constantly labels himelf “kooky” and “quirky”) and Melody’s Echo Chamber (also ridiculously late, less annoying than Darwin Deez but sufficiently lacking in charisma or excitement to make her late-night set anything more than merely pleasant), it seems the real treats have been and gone. Still, when was the last time you saw five world-class acts in a day?