This is getting somewhat predictable: we’ve covered Live at Leeds most years over the last decade, and every year, the preview piece begins with some comment about it getting bigger and better each year, and how it’s a barometer of taste, and how they book the big names just before they go stratospheric. And guess what: every year, it’s true, and for 2017 it’s truer than ever. This year, however, the full lineup with venues and times has been made available considerably earlier, making planning in advance a whole lot easier. And when you’re looking at over 200 bands playing across some 20 or so stages at however many venues cross a large city, these things matter.
Traditionally, Live at Leeds has a handful of big-name draws and myriad up-and-comers. This year is no exception, but the number, range and depth of the larger-name acts is admirable: Slaves (O2, 21:00), White Lies (15:00 at the O2) and Wild Beasts (Leeds Beckett, 21:00) are names which speak for themselves, while Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (University Refectory, 21:45) has become a household name since he was announced for Live at Leeds, thanks to scoring both Best Breakthrough Act and the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits in February. Meanwhile, Rory Wynne has just completed a UK tour of academy-sized venue is part of the NME Awards Tour alongside Blossoms and Cabbage, and Frightened Rabbit are hardly obscure, either, as a band who regularly play 1,500 or so capacity venues.
It’s the range of acts which invariably makes Live at Leeds such an exciting proposition, and if the alternative edge of the mainstream is comfortably represented, so is the wealth of talent that’s bubbling under from all corners of the musical spectrum. It also offers insanely good value for money: this year, a day ticket is still only £32.50. Here are our top picks from an immense selection of acts (and you’ll note we’ve placed them in running order, although that isn’t to say it’s going to be possible to see them all, logistically!)
Piles of Clothes (The Social: 12:30): understated, acoustic, singer-songwriter, separated from the pack by a self-deprecating and downbeat humour and introspection balanced by self-awareness.
Team Picture (DIY Stage, Brudenell Social Club: 13:00) – Pitched as being for fans of The Breeders, The Birthday Party, and The Dandy Warhols, Leeds five-piece Team Picture do a neat line in angular post-punk with a nifty infusion of 90s alt-rock.
Dead Naked Hippies (Key Club, 13:15) – pedalling grungy dream-pop, this female-fronted quartet know all about dynamics and how to bring the angst-laden noise.
Luxury Death (Brudenell, 14:00) – this electro indie synth punk duo get our vote simply because they’re ace. Here’s a flavour:
Black Honey (O2 Academy: 17:00) – pitched as being for fans of The Breeders, Veruca Salt, and Lana Del Rey, the Brighton foursome have real knack for delivering guitar-driven alt rock with a dark pop edge.
Artificial Pleasure (Oporto: 18:00) – Ok so there’s a whacky, highly stylised aspect to the presentation, but Artificial Pleasure evoke the spirit of a time when image – beyond beards and tattoos – mattered, while musically, they invite comparisons to Talking Heads and 80s Bowie.
October Drift – (When The Gramophone Rings Stage, The Lending Room: 20:00).– Sure, the Interpol, Joy Division, Editors thing has been done to death, but these guys do it well and we like that.
Honeyblood (Stylus, 21:00) – There’s nothing wrong with pop when it’s done well, and Honeyblood make great, noisy, guitar driven pop. They’ve also got some nice tunes which will brighten your day.
Teleman (The Wardrobe, 21:30) – W&H covered these guys in their previous incarnation as Pete & the Pirates. Teleman have traded that band’s brash style for a subtler approach, and it works.
Let’s Eat Grandma (The Chapel: 23:00) – As their blurb puts it, ‘multi-instrumentalist teenagers Rosa and Jenny create imaginative and original music that crosses the worlds of experimental pop and progressive weirdness.’ In other words, what’s not to like?