Half alive at Leeds 2014

Waking up that morning, I knew something had gone awry. Instead of feeling the hunger for an all dayer in the sun, all I felt was last night’s bourbon splintering the insides of my dishevelled skull. So much for the beer shield. Hauling up and out of bed, I split open a dwindling sheet of paracetamol.

It was 10am when my lift arrived. It was The Publisher, and already the day was rapidly heating up. Heading into town, the medication was kicking in and my mood was starting to brighten too. Tickets exchanged and wristbands secured, we retreated back to Headingley to fill up on stodge before the drinking commenced.

Live at Leeds-39First stop, The Cockpit, 3pm and The Mexanines. It was busy inside, dark and dirty. Everything The ‘Pit’ should be. The band rattled through a brief but disjointed set, rarely subduing the banter, there at the back of the main room. Half way through I needed another beer, but somehow urged myself caution. Thankfully, just a couple of songs later we were back out in the light, making tracks for Trinity Church and Jamie Isaac.

While the idea of getting smashed in church does seems a bit wrong, it’s hardly the greatest sin on earth. So drink we did. And hell yesss, I enjoyed it too. The only downside was the depressing drone of Isaac’s ambient electronica. The flimsy sound floated away, somewhere over our heads. And as the first few tracks got underway proper, so did our first great debate.

It’s an unavoidable consequence of Live at Leeds. With so much to choose from, you can never please everyone. And sooner or later tension boils over. Two gigs in, this was a bit too soon for my liking. But with the group irrevocably split, a splinter cell took off, marching with saint-like conviction towards Call Lane and Oporto.

Great idea that was! Soon as we got there, the act was winding up on stage and so, with no further plan, we veered off-piste once more, sneaking blindly across the road to The Brooklyn Bar beer garden, scented with its very own greasy chip fat aroma.

Carving our diminishing group in two again, The Publisher and I made a break. Leaving the rabble to it, we laid tracks uptown, on a mission to make Leeds Met and Courtney Barnett. To my surprise and no little relief, it was a move that bore immediate fruit.

Stumbling on Barnett’s show was something of a revelation. She’s hotly tipped, but that was all new to this codger. And as her laidback lyrics drawled over country fused guitar rhythms, it was good to get my ears on an unexpected new sound. The shame was, we were late arrivals and after just a couple of rapturously received songs, Barnett disappeared and the whole room emptied. No matter, on to the next venue.

Like everywhere else we’d been in that day, Mylo was heaving. But now high on our own bravado, we pushed on upstairs and cut through the tightly packed room. Our guys were right at the front, perfectly placed.

Micky’s set list bristled with cocks, paedophiles, drinking and dirt – it didn’t go down too well with the girls in our gang and before long they bolted. Me though, I thought it was ace. A bit laddish maybe, but only for a laugh. The best spoken work I’d seen since Superheroes of Slam over in Manchester last year. I did nearly pass out on my feet half way through mind, the heat and steady drinking all of a sudden creeping up on me. But Micky’s performance was a highlight. Funny and abrasive all at once.

We were into the night now, well lubricated but not clattered yet. We took 20 minutes out to refuel at Kada’s – a Panini and a coke or two, just what the doctor ordered. Then it was a cut down to The Shed for a few ‘pick me up’ Jaegers.

It was now time for The Sunshine Underground, up at Leeds Uni The Refectory. Old habits die hard here it seems. After the debacle of last year’s gig at The Brudenell, I was dubious. But by now I was beyond frankly giving a damn, more than happy just to go with the crowd. It turned out sweet. Full of beats and bangers, The Underground played a blinder. Offering all the old favourites and a few newbies off their long awaited third album too. No danger, this was a fine return to form.

Live at Leeds was careering towards a crescendoic end. But there was still yet time for another of those agonised ‘who do we see next?’ debates. Half the crew wanted to stick around for Albert Hammond Junior. While The Publisher and me had our eyes on a quick scoot across to The Brudenell for Pulled Apart by Horses. We split, for a second time.

I hadn’t seen Pulled Apart for years, not since a crushing set at Josephs Well, maybe as far back as 2010. In that time, a mate of mine had seen the band play in Nottingham. He’d come away with stories of Tom Hudson screaming out so loud, he’d thrown up over the mosh pit at the front. Not saying that’s what I wanted to see now. But the ferocity had me hooked.

Arriving up at Hyde Park, the venue was surprisingly not that busy, and we walked straight in, no fuss. A few drinks later and we were set. The band came on stage, a blaze of riffs and slashing hair. The next thing I knew, I was haring around the mosh pit – barging into anyone who stood in my way. It was exhausting stuff, but Pulled Apart were exhilarating and brought down another brilliant Live at Leeds adventure.

All that was left was to Joe Baxi it back into town, to continue the shenanigans long into the night. I was only half alive by this point. Maybe just ten percent human. But what happened next, well that’s another story, one that’s even hazier than the day I’ve recounted here.

Until next year Leeds.

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