Last year one of the overriding complaints was that Live at Leeds was just a big queue. Now there could be a touch of hyperbole in that statement, but it is certainly no exaggeration to say that I was stood for an hour waiting to get into Leeds Met to see a band I don't even like (The Maccabees). Other people lamented in equal measure at standing stationary outside rather than inside the venues. This year I saw twice as many bands as last year, which reveals a happy development.
Live at Leeds has got bigger, with more venues, more bands, more fans and thankfully more organisation. Futuresound, who with the help of half of Leeds' promoters, put on this event and they are learning with every year. Perhaps the increased use of Leeds University has spread the crowd out sufficiently to prevent queues from being an issue.
I opened my day in a room above the Packhorse and saw two Wakefield bands - The Spills and Piskie Sits. You should be familiar with them. The Spills do anger and grunge with youthful finesse, where as the Piskie Sits do slacker indie with nonchalant grace. The room was ridiculously busy for two dinner-time slots and the fact that it is just a room without a stage means that those under six foot tall and stood three 'rows' back were unable to see. The sound was rock solid and was complimented so by the Piskie's lead singer Craig Hale.
Mine, which is part of Leeds University, is a splendidly shaped room for gigs, equipped with a side balcony and steps at the back which means viewing the stage is easy. I watched a band from Hull called The Neat. I was told that they sounded like The Fall, which they did. I was told that some of the lyrics were akin to the words of Mark E Smith, but I found no way to substantiate this due to muffled, suffocated vocals that were hiding behind wiry guitar and dinosaur drums.
While I was at Leeds University I took a stroll down the corridor to see Lightspeed Champion. He opened with a Beatles cover (I forget which, possibly due to inebriation) and it all went down hill after that. Songs built to nothing, like a French film about a man who owns a patisserie and lives a fairly uneventful life. Halfway through the set I went to Fuji Hero - a nice noodle bar that probably takes the prize of my number one recommendation for the day (It's down the side of the Merrion Centre if you're interested in sampling Japanese cuisine).
The next band I caught a substantial amount of was Wild Beasts at Leeds Metropolitan University. Two albums of mildly pretentious yet sonically superb wordy, falsetto, ethereal art have come from this Kendal four-piece, who now live in Leeds. They began with second album opener The Fun Powder Plot, which is a low-key song to start with, but the audience appeared entranced none the less. They seemed giddy during Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants, the bands' tour de force thus far.
I then sprinted up to The Faversham to catch The Sunshine Underground, a band I keep missing for some fateful reason. Fate was against me again as their set was blighted by technical difficulties. The guitarist Stuart Jones kicked over the drums in anger. They left the stage a few times as the PA seemed to capitulate persistently beneath their behemoth of beats and bass. When they returned for their last stand they squeezed in some crackers. Fan favourites like Put You in Your Place almost brought the place to its knees. More people seemed to be jumping up and down than not and afterwards there were many sweat-soaked revelers.
When the bands were over the drinking begun properly, for me at least, and created a headache almost as painful as that the organisers must suffer from when they are putting together this beast of an event. For that you've got to be grateful. What a day.