Tunes To Hold Off The Rain: Live At Leeds In The Park 2022 | Gigwise

The inaugural Live At Leeds In The Park takes place on a surprisingly chilly summer Saturday. The air is brisk, and the clouds are grey, but the lords of the weather have decided to hold off the rain just for today. And we should all be grateful; the first outdoor edition of Live At Leeds is a joyous success, a celebration of a day we haven’t seen for years. For thousands of music lovers, this will be their first walk back onto those hallowed festival fields, and that excitement is infectious.

The first thing you notice when walking onto Temple Newsam is that it is very steep. The main stage is situated below a hill that the DIY Big Top looks over, as does the appropriately named Hill Top Stage. It’s a nice situation that allows people who might not want to get stuck into the moshpits to watch their favorite bands from a distance with no fear of having to peer over a tall person’s shoulders. On the other hand, concerning the latter two stages, problems arise. They neighbor each other, with overlap between them bleeding into each other, with Big Top audiences being interrupted by flashes of Hill Top crossover. The Lounge Society, the festival’s openers, fall victim to this; their set is plagued by interruptions from The Royston Club directly across the field, meaning we unintendedly get two sets at the same time. Yorkshire natives The Lounge Society work hard against this, yet despite obvious musical talent (particularly from the lead guitarist who valiantly overcomes a faulty strap twice), their set falls short of the mark. All the cliches of psychedelic rock are here; the King Gizzard-esque riffs feel predictable, the attitude feels forced and you know as soon as they come on stage that their closing number will be an 8 minute freakout, it’s part of the rulebook they seem so keen to follow. For a festival that prides itself on showcasing new music, The Lounge Society feel like a throwback to a throwback, a coordinated, stylistic showcase of a genre but with hardly any forward-looking substance.

On the main stage, however, Lauran Hibberd sounds the wakeup call that brings the festival to life. Donning a lavishly bright, and frankly iconic, orange suit, Hibberd bounces across the stage with her sugary indie pop tunes armed with barrels of wit and flair. She’s not reinventing the wheel, but she’s not trying to, and her music feels like a contribution rather than an imitation. Whether it’s Hibberd’s question of “who here has ever sent nudes?” to an afternoon crowd, her cheeky dedication of ‘How Am I Still Alive?’ to the Queen or seeing her and her band playfighting during the climax of a song, there’s a joy that carries the set, and spreads throughout the crowd. “If I never see you again, have a nice life” Hibberd states as she closes the set, but I doubt she’ll need to worry about that given the reaction to her set on Saturday.

A while later on the Big Top, Dream Wife take the stage for a raucous display of passionate and ferocious rock. Alice Go and Bella Podpadec bound about with ceaseless vigour, and Rakel Mjöll stands powerfully at the centre; the ringmaster of the show, she can switch from a soulful croon to a fierce shriek within seconds, enticing the crowd with her every word. The band are playful, with ‘Sports!’ devolving into a battle between Go and Podpadec, whilst Mjöll shoots dollars (sadly, but realistically fake) all over the crowd, but also contains an important message at its heart. “Gender is a social construct, and we are here to tear it apart!” Mjöll shouts, making an explicit statement of inclusion for transgender and non-binary listeners- something that, in a time of intensified transphobia, a lot of bands and artists in their position seem unwilling to do. They air a new song, a semi-spoken word piece aimed at abusive men, with lyrics that are timely and affecting in their frankness. As the cathartic explosion of ‘FUU’ closes the set, and Mjöll dives into the crowd, the impact they leave won’t be forgotten; we all leave the tent newly christened as “bad bitches” for life.

In true Spinal Tap fashion, the setting is turned from 10 to 11 as Confidence Man shuffle on stage, wearing suits with shoulders huge enough to make David Byrne jealous. Within their set, they have two costume changes, all of them owning their flagrant theatricality- the highlight of which comes in the form of neon shoulder pads and bra cones. If all of this sounds incredibly ridiculous, that’s because it is. Confidence Man are here to bring “the party of the year”, and that’s exactly what they do in their sensational 45 minutes. The choreography and stage tricks are remarkably impressive, it feels like an arena show condensed into a humbler form. The chemistry between Janet and Sugar is incredible, their performances complement each other’s so well, backed by two masked, yet incredibly skilful backing musicians who hype up the crowd with instrumentals designed to get the crowd dancing whilst the leads change their outfits. Everybody is dancing along with the band by the end, even the security; it’s a set that units all in the tent and they even bring the sun out! Unquestionably the highlight of the day.

As well as being a festival that celebrates new music, Live At Leeds In The Park takes time to pay respect to the elder statespeople of indie. Tribes are one such example; their singer Johnny Lloyd states that it has been 10 years since they last played a show in Leeds, having previously broken up in 2013 and reformed in the aftermath of the pandemic. As a result, this might just be the oldest crowd of the festival; they’re on at the same time as Sports Team, whose audience were most likely too young to even remember Tribes in their heyday. But what we get is essentially a primer of their career, with all their old favorites being played including a couple of new songs too. Dedicated fans sing all the words at the front, having waited 10 years for this comeback. It’s quite touching. Elsewhere on the Dork stage, up and coming artists are given a platform to shine throughout the day; Isle of Wight newcomers Coach Party take the stage later in the day, considering the artists they are on at the same time as, their crowd isn’t huge, but it’s one that reciprocates their energy. Tiny moshpits break out to songs like ‘Shit TV’ and ‘FLAG (Feel Like a Girl)’, and we get the feeling this small crowd will be telling their friends about this. Coach Party are a band who are clever, charming and endearing; one who will be taking bigger stages in years to come.

Justin Young walks onto the main stage with a gigantic smile on his face. What greets him is a crowd that have had his band’s name on their lips the whole day; the excitement for The Vaccines has been high all day, and now it has reached fever pitch. The indie heroes open with the spaghetti western punk of ‘Wanderlust’, before delivering a wall-to-wall run of hits. The Vaccines are not today’s headliners, but in another universe, maybe they should have been. Back in Love City is an album that embraces pop in all its pomp and pleasantries; it is unarguably at home on stages like this. New songs ‘Headphones Baby’ and ‘Jump Off the Top’ are greeted like old friends, whereas the old friends are greeted like family. ‘Post Break Up Sex’ gets the crowd leaping, and mass singalongs break out to ‘Teenage Icon’ and ‘Wetsuit’. By now, 12 years into their career, they are adept at having the crowd in the palm of their hands, and the closing run of ‘All My Friends Are Falling in Love’, ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘All in White’ sees a perfect balance of energy, it sparks off the band and is perfectly reciprocated in the crowd.

As the sun sets, and the darkness draws closer, it provides the perfect atmosphere for headliners Bombay Bicycle Club to bring their magical sounds to Leeds. The crowd take time to gather, but gather they do; their opener ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ is greeted with arms aloft and open lungs. The set only goes from strength to strength- ‘Shuffle’, ‘Feel’ and ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ featuring frequent collaborator Liz Lawrence are all early highlights, before they give the crowd a taste of new material. ‘I Want to Be Your Only Pet’ is darkly seductive and loose in a way their material has never sounded before, it’s exciting to hear where they’ll be pushing their music to next. Jack Steadman grins lovingly throughout this set, airing tracks from their 2009 debut, the title track from 2020’s Everything Else Has Gone Wrong and the communal release of ‘Luna’ and ‘Carry Me’. During the latter, lead guitarist Jamie MacColl instructs the crowd to get on each other’s shoulders, and they stay up there until the last hurrah of ‘Always Like This’ rings out through the field. It’s moving, seeing everybody singing, dancing and celebrating being in this moment, a moment that will stay with me for a long time and one that closes the festival beautifully. Live At Leeds In The Park, despite early issues, has been a monumental success, with the quality of bands high, a crowd of all ages here to have a good time, and staff who are friendly and accommodating. It’s a festival with warmth and care at the heart of it, and one I hope to see return next year.

See photos from Sophie Vaughan below:

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