With something of a grunge renaissance taking place in Yorkshire at the moment, it seems appropriate for Sky Larkin to wind up the Huw Stephens Introducing tour in Leeds. It’s a timely reminder that an interest in flannel shirts and heavy guitars isn’t a recent development in this part of the world.
We won’t mention the ‘g’ word again, though, because there’s far more on offer here than a lazy genre tag could suggest. Sky Larkin may have recorded debut album ‘The Golden Spike’ in Seattle with alt.rock godhead John Goodmanson (Pavement/Sleater-Kinney/The Blood Brothers) but they’ve always been too melodic, too overtly pop to warrant direct comparison with that scene’s leading lights. No, they’re a distinctly British – and distinctly Leeds – guitar band, and if one thing is obvious tonight it’s that they’ve not forgotten those roots.
“I’ve been coming to gigs here since I was 14,” gushes singer/guitarist Katie Harkin during a between-song break. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, Leeds is that village and we’re that child.” Later she thanks local label Dance To The Radio for putting out their early seven-inch singles, art collective Nous Vous and pretty much everybody else in the room by the time Sky Larkin’s 40 minutes are up.
There are tunes as well as banter, though: recent single ‘Fossil, I’ rocks so hard Harkin’s vocals strain to be heard amid the din, but album track ‘Somersault’ fares much better, with Harkin switching to Korg and delivering the night’s most majestic chorus. Past singles ‘Molten’ and ‘Summit’ both provoke raucous singalongs and see the band ramp up the showmanship, with Harkin holding her guitar aloft and plucking note-perfect melodies and sticksman Nestor Matthews – possessor of the best drummer face we’ve seen in, like, forever – doing his best impression of Animal from The Muppet Show.
From a band who once seemed almost apologetic onstage, it’s a reminder of just how far they’ve come since those early DTTR days. The night ends with half of support act Pulled Apart By Horses – fantastic earlier, too – joining Larkin onstage for a riotous version of ‘Beeline’ before Harkin leaps into the crowd during closer ‘Keepsakes’; band and audience ending the night as one. In these parts, they wouldn’t have it any other way.