Live at Leeds provided a roller coaster ride of highs and lows this year…

2019 festival season has officially arrived, and as usual, Live at Leeds kicked off the calendar on  Saturday 4th May, the first May bank holiday weekend. Live at Leeds is a festival that knows what it is – a guitar-heavy, DIY rock-focused offering with the odd curveball. Burgeoning talents rubbing shoulders with indie landfill, the 2019 edition of Live at Leeds provided a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows.

The diverse collection of venues is one of the festival’s greatest pulls, with more than 20 spaces utilised as stages. Independent pub/clubs like Nation of Shopkeepers and The Wardrobe boasted the festival’s pick of grassroots soul. The latter welcomed an eyebrow-raising influx of fans as Hull DIY indie quartet, The Hubbards, whet the appetite of early bird fans at lunchtime.


Drenge were another DIY garage rock outfit who tempted a larger-than-expected slew of numbers to their show, this time in O2 Academy Leeds. The Sheffield duo have tightened their performance, whilst retaining their gloomy dystopian vibe. “We wanted a Lion King video but couldn’t afford it”, joked singer and guitarist Eoin Loveless, as an eerie monochrome video of poverty-stricken Eastern European communities unfolded behind the band.

If you were looking for a light antidote to Drenge’s doom-imbued strumming, then the sun-kissed electronica of Elder Island should have offered just that. Unfortunately, a muddy sound system overpowered most of the higher notes, including lead vocalist Katy Sargent’s top lines and her electronic cello, which, on record, cuts through other instrumentation. The beauty of impressive tracks from recent debut album The Omnitone Collection, such as ‘Kape Fear’, were never fully realised. Nevertheless Elder Island proved themselves one to watch ahead of their impending autumn/winter tour.

Sadly, venue issues were not limited to Elder Island’s set. Metronomy cancelled just hours before their hotly anticipated show at Leeds University. Communication regarding the cancellation was sketchy – it took viewing the band’s Instagram  to learn that it was due to a burst pipe at Leeds Stylus. The festival team managed to relocate all four supporting artists, leaving Metronomy’s fans (many of whom had trudged up to the venue in time for their show specifically) feeling very short-changed.

Kate Tempest

So it was time for plan B – Kate Tempest. Moments into her performance, a teary Tempest told Leeds Beckett Students’ Union, “I just discovered that one of my best friends died, like 2 hours ago”. What followed was a performance to an attentive and respectful audience, as Tempest unloaded a deep and insightful stream of consciousness, painting our modern tech-obsessed world with a dystopia-tinged brush. Her set could not be categorised, with its malformation of lo-fi hip hop beats and politically charged spoken word. Kate Tempest perfectly articulates 2019’s stew of confusion and apathy.

Live at Leeds remains a buzzing hub for fresh indie music. From cafes to clubs, the whole city gets stuck in, creating a community feel which is refreshing in the face of other more commercial options. Despite this, the way the festival handled a major headliner cancellation was very disappointing. Organisers attempted to brush the issue under the carpet, which later fuelled the fire of complaints on Twitter.

Photo credits:
Lead – Lewis Evans
Drenge – Barnaby Fairely
Kate Tempest – Sam Barrett

Tickets for Live at Leeds 2020 are on sale now.