Along with Neighbourhood in Manchester and Sound City in Liverpool, Live at Leeds is one of my favourite city centre festivals and has now become an annual cross-Pennines pilgrimage. The quality of the emerging artists on show is always first rate. Headlining the larger spaces like the O2 Academy and Stylus will be Pale Waves, Sundara Karma, White Lies, and Baby Queen. Further down the running order, and possibly at some of Leeds’s smaller venues, I’m hoping to see the likes of W. H. Lung, Liverpool Alt-rockers Crawlers, and the prodigious Makem talent that is Tom A. Smith.
It’s about those smaller venues that I am addressing this piece. It’s not just great bands that make great festivals, it’s equally about the places, and in these financially trying times for individuals and businesses alike, I thought I’d show a bit of love towards some of my favourite Leeds venues.
It’s a taxi ride from the city centre to Queens Road in Burley, but it’s well worth the time and money to visit the Daddy of Leeds’s independent music venues – The Brudenell Social Club. Named after James Thomas Brudenell, Earl of Cardigan, and one-time owner of Kirkstall Abbey, The Brudenell is not just one of Leeds’s iconic venues, it one of the country’s iconic venues. You actually feel a little buzz just going through its doors. You’ve seen the name on countless tour posters and heard the stories about secret gigs by bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs. When you go there you feel like you are somewhere. It’s actually two rooms, the Social Club and the Community Room, it has the décor and vibe of a northern working men’s club. It’s got history, friendly bar staff, and has decent, reasonably priced beer. Check out a good band, what more could you wish for?
Staying in the north of the city is the Hyde Park Book Club. Don’t be surprised to find yourself outside a roadside vegetarian restaurant looking for a gig. You’re in the right place. Well nearly. Once you’ve realised that you’re in the right place head down the stairs at the back right and into the cellar. It has a friendly, intimate vibe and whenever I’ve been there previously it’s felt like I’m at a really pleasant house party. Oh, and the vegetarian sausage rolls are really good too.
Formerly a fire station and a library, the Lending Room, above The Library pub on Woodhouse Lane has a genuine pub-rock feel to it that rivals anything Camden has to offer. Featuring panelled walls, a low wide stage at one end faces the shiny wooden bar at the other, and the open space in-between means you are never far from the action. Try getting there earlier in the day as tackling the steps to this upstairs venue can be a bit dicey once you’ve had a couple.
One of the smaller, newer spaces at Live at Leeds is Nation of Shopkeepers. Behind an old-fashioned shop front façade on Cookridge Street lies a modern, sleek, industrial, Mitchell and Butlers pub. Nation of Shopkeepers is one of the smallest venues you are likely to visit during Live at Leeds. With a small stage adjacent to the bar, with limited standing room in front of it, Nation of Shopkeepers is an ideal place to catch an acoustic set, or something a bit more mellow and relaxing.
If you like your settings to have that authentic ‘rock club’ feel to them, then The Key Club on Merrion Street is the place for you. Subterranean and dark, with cold black walls, and a stage at one end and no other discernible landmarks, The Key Club is a great place to see loud. raucous, rock and alt-rock bands. Seeing STONE play there to a capacity crowd at 1pm was one of my highlights of last year’s Live at Leeds.
Live at Leeds tickets are still available and the event is taking place on Saturday 15th October at various venues across the city. Wherever you go have a good time in Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…