EP REVIEW – Apollo Junction ‘II’

There’s no doubt about it; Apollo Junction, you could say, are having a pretty damn good 2015.

4th September sees them on the main stage at Bingley Music Live sharing the bill with the likes of James and Cast. Not too shabby at all. This isn’t the start of the festival season for them though. They kick-started their summer of festivals at York’s Apollo Festival (Headlined by Inspiral Carpets and Space), captured the audience at Oakwell Festival (The Feeling, Dodgy) and following their appearance at Bingley, will be playing Yorfest (The Pigeon Detectives) before returning to their home city with Leeds University mid-October.

Apollo Junction image courtesy of facebook.com/ApolloJunction

Apollo Junction image courtesy of facebook.com/ApolloJunction

Interspersed with stints on the radio, local and national press, they have somehow managed to release a new EP.

‘II’ available now, features 4 tracks; ‘I Could Dance With You’, ‘Blood On Hands’, ‘In Your Arms and ‘Woke Up’.

Fancy a bit of Electro/Indie-Pop? ‘I Could Dance With You’ will solve that one for you. A slow solo introduction builds into a head-bopping worthy chorus that once stuck into your head, will not leave (and is far from being a bad thing in doing so!).

‘Blood On Hands’ begins slightly darker and more sinister, with an addictive riff between verse/chorus and vice-versa. I’m no expert but I would release this song as soon as possible, it does need to be heard. Royal Blood crossed with Biffy Clyro and maybe a bit of 3rd album Kaiser Chiefs?

‘In Your Arms’ in contrast slows completely down, but it works. A soothing ‘ballad’ (Kind of) until about 2 minutes in, at which point the song gradually picks up a little bit of temp. The vocals and harmonies on this track are extremely impressive.

‘Woke Up’ returns to a catchy ‘Indie-Pop’ number with yet another lively chorus and melodic bass line. There’s a nice little exchange of vocals and harmonies again towards the conclusion of the song making it an ideal ending.

An impressive EP release from Apollo Junction and following local and national coverage over the last few months, one that has not gone unnoticed

So what’s next for the band? Who knows, however I think a full-length album and tour is probably what most fans are desperate to see.

Apollo Junction ‘II’ is available for a limited time free HERE

The unique animated video for ‘In Your Arms’ can be found  HERE

SONG REVIEWS – ‘Loaded Gun’ and ‘Her’ – The Contravenes

‘Loaded Gun’ and ‘Her’ are songs by indie-rock Leeds band The Contravenes. Full of guitars, percussion and the raw vocal talent of Denny Parker, they’re the style of band you want to discover late afternoon at a music festival. A band and you can tap your feet, nod your head and jump with; but still pay attention to.

The Contravenes

The Contravenes

‘Loaded Gun’, beginning with a lonely guitar riff, soon intensifies, drawing in additional instruments. If you think The Walkmen, crossed with The Libertines, you’re probably on the right lines. Well composed, good old guitar-led rock from a band that can already produce a high quality melody.

What’s nice then is that ‘Her’ is a different style completely. The intensity of the song is stripped completely back, focusing more on the lyrics with a simple percussion in the background and the tones of a guitar accompanying the vocals. Proof if it was ever needed that The Contravenes are versatile in what they do.

Having just played a successful gig at 360 Club with The Vendettas, The Contravenes are playing as a part of the Oxjam Leeds opening event this Saturday 18th July 2015 at The Primrose (Meanwood Road, LS7 2HZ). A free event it’d be foolish not to go check them and the other acts out.

Visit The Contravenes Soundcloud to listen to both tracks https://soundcloud.com/the-contravenes

Music video for ‘Loaded Gun’ can be found https://vimeo.com/115779143

www.facebook.com/thecontravenes

PREVIEW Live at Leeds 2015

The sun is shining (Albeit briefly but it will be back!) and I’ve been awake since about 6.30am with a niggling thought.

Just where do I begin my Live at Leeds 2015 journey?

Yes, it’s that day again and genuinely I can truly say this year I am bamboozled. Completely.

I usually ‘go with the flow’ but due to excessive time through unemployment, I thought this time around I would have a little listen to the acts beforehand that I liked the ‘vibe’ of.  Now that has left me stuck.

Do I slope around the corner from Wristband Exchange to Belgrave first for the electro-pop goodness of Polo, fulfil my steps quota to the maximum hitting Oporto for Ireland’s The Riptide Movement or combine amazing food and music at Nation of Shopkeepers for NGOD.

And this is only for the 12.00pm slot. Do not even get me started on the rest of the day.

See, the free city bus used to be my friend for these dilemmas, but I’m not even sure they can plant me in 3 places at once for this situation. Plus squeezing in refreshments breaks (Which is also a big choice game with the delightful street food options now on offer!) makes it all part of the fun.

It’s come a long way since the days of 2007 at approximately £10.00 a ticket, where the venues kind of slotted neatly together and your only food dilemma was if it was wrong to re-visit McDonalds twice in a day (so long as it was a different branch).  We’ve lost The Cockpit, Joseph’s Well and gained more venues, rebranding others.

But that’s the appeal to a festival like this. Planning for a day that never goes to plan and confusing the hell out of non-festival people who obliviously choose to come shopping and cannot understand why town is so busy.

Therefore, I am simply going to list the bands that I would like to see during today (I could post the whole line-up but even I had to cut the list down), and await to see if I see any of them, most of them or simply tear up the line-up and see where I end up.

Or not, because I’ve just changed my mind, again.

I’m sure my dilemmas will continue through the day via Twitter.

@leedsoundslocal

EP REVIEW – THE GRAND – ‘Incapacitated, Ill Fated, and In Love’

You can never have too much of a good thing. Too right. In this instance it’s music; more specifically bands hailing from Wakefield.

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EP Cover

This Friday sees the release of  ‘Incapacitated, Ill-Fated and In Love EP’ by The Grand; a 3-piece alternative outfit who in recent months have received numerous airplay opportunities on BBC Leeds and featured on the Yorkshire Evening Post Postmusic podcast.

Starting the record with the dramatic bassline of ‘Romance is Dead’, gradually building with vocals, percussion and guitars it is immediately a likeable, foot-tapping, melody. This theme continues into through the ‘A City That Loves Me’ (Which also includes the use of what sound like brass instruments, somewhat adding to the uplifting of the song).

With thought-provoking song titles and lyrics which, may I add, are sung so emotively (Think Hamilton Leitheuser ‘strained’) that it makes the listener feel like they are personally being told a story for each song.

This is particularly the case for slower number, ‘Don’t You Hate it When I’m Right’ which personally I feel is one of those songs which needs to be played and heard live. There is such an incredible clash of sounds; deep and sultry bass tones, resulting in a crescendo of instrumental.

The Grand

The Grand

Increasing the pace, The Grand showcase they can produce a mixture of guitar and bass infused dramatic melodies, teamed with strong vocal ability, creating an alternative ‘pop’ sound that is very addictive.

They certainly know how to compose a record as well. Just as ‘Romance is Dead’ led us into the album, the almost haunting ‘Evening Fell, The Curtains Close’ uses and echoing vocal range to build us up before subtly reducing the input before the final guitar pluck is heard.

Tickets are selling fast for the show at Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds on Friday 24th April.

After listening to the EP, is it any wonder?

The Grand ‘Incapacitated, Ill-Fated and In Love’ is available to pre-order from Friday 24th April 2015. See www.facebook.com/thegrandwakefield for more information.

LIVE REVIEW: American Authors – Brudenell Social Club, 20th November 2014

A music fan born and bred in Leeds, I was ashamed to have never encountered Brudenell Social Club until now, in my mid-twenties.

Tonight sees the arrival of American Authors, a 5-piece from Brooklyn, New York. To date mainly associated with providing the soundtrack to the Toyota Prius advert (‘Best Day of My Life’ in case you are wondering) as well as one of the more identifiable FIFA 2014 songs (‘Hit It’) it is chance for the alternative pop-rock outfit to showcase the rest of their talent in the iconic venue within the depths of Hyde Park, Leeds.

First to hit the stage however is Mike Dignam. An acoustic-led feel-good folk/pop artist. Attracting the predominantly student crowd Mike’s songs tell stories of fun times and relationships – allowing the audience to clap cheer and sing along. A definite music act to watch over the next year.

The break between the acts allows me to look around the venue. A more hexagonal (!) stage area that is sunken down in front of the traditional social club bar and seating. A welcome break from the modern music clubs in the centre and selling ales from £1.99, it is a more traditional setting. The acoustics are wonderful, simply echoing around the room.

American Authors arrive on stage to a mixture of cheers, whistles and screams. Immediately enveloping the entire crowd into clapping, stamping their feet and in some cases jumping (This I noted was not the case for those holding alcoholic beverages)

The moment I regret relying on just my phone camera...

The moment I regret relying on just my phone camera…

Playing through their album ‘Oh what a life’, including the occasional cover (Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’) frontman Zac Barnett’s energy is endless, evidently proving, should they need to, that they are a band more than capable of producing more than just a couple of ‘soundtrack’ hits.

Naturally humouring the crowd about the English weather (Despite New York sitting under a blanket of snow!) it feels like one big party with friends, a complete carnival atmosphere. The band is quite frankly a delight to watch, genuinely loving what they do, and a breath of fresh air to liven the dank November evening.

Returning to the stage for an encore, the band proceeds to invite the crowd to ‘stick around’ to chat after the gig. This alone restores my faith in the music industry. Since the closure of The Cockpit in Leeds I have been genuinely worried that venues such as Brudenell Social Club, would be forgotten about by artists. However, seeing a band like American Authors tonight with so much passion, leaves hope for the live music scene just yet.

Where shall we hold the next gig?

Over the last few years, the student population of Leeds has gradually expanded taking it into the suburbs.

What was originally Leeds City Centre and Hyde Park advanced through Headingley, and through the expansion and recognition of Leeds Trinity University, Horsforth has now become enveloped within the student population.

Therefore it hardly came as a surprise when they announced a ‘Fresher’s Week’ set of events at the University itself.

Why post about this? Far-fetched and probably not a possibility (Or already explored) once I heard about Scouting For Girls playing Leeds Trinity University I started to wonder.

Why can’t Leeds Trinity SU become an outdoor gig venue?

Not a crazy schedule – since the University of Leeds SU and Leeds Met Beckett SU have reduced their gig schedule over the years with other venues in the city centre. Millenium Square has hosted outdoor events too.

However I do genuinely think it could work, and generate additional income for the local area.

With good transport links back into Leeds City Centre (Horsforth Train Station and regular buses servicing the ‘top end’ of Horsforth), plenty of pubs and restaurants in the local area (And takeaways for the post-gig snacks) it would be a challenge to take that gig experience to the suburbs.

Perhaps from Easter onwards when the student lifestyles are calming down, I don’t know.

It may be a suggestion which has immediate issues. Sound restrictions, all the Health and Safety ‘T&C’s’, but I feel it is a consideration which would start to spread the love of live music to a greater level.

Plus the day I can walk to and from a gig from my house is a happy day.

Just my thoughts and food for thought – I’ll blame the change of weather and the recent demise of yet another music venue.

Just when you thought the Festival season had finished

Leaving summertime makes me grumpy. Extremely grumpy. To me summertime means endless days or sunshine (Hopefully) holidays and of course; Festivals.

Therefore, amongst the dismal turn to Autumn/Winter, comes the announcement of

Leeds Americana Festival – 22nd November 2014

Here we are

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I’ll be honest – not a clue what it is about or how it has come to happen but so far the following have been announced;

Patrick Wolf
Rachel Sermanni
Ellen and the Escapades
Paul Thomas Saunders
Farewell JR
Ajimal
Tessera Skies
Boss Caine
Hunting Bears
We Died at Sea
Charlie Stott
Avalon Peacock
The Sea Whores

Tickets priced at no more than £20 combined with the fact Trinity Church is being used as the venue; it seems it may be too good to miss.

The Cockpit era has ended

I’ve left it a couple of weeks to talk about the closure of The Cockpit.

Why? Mainly because it gave me chance to think about my experiences there over the years and shake my head in disbelief that one of the most pivotal venues of the Leeds music scene has gone under without so much of a whimper. Simply with a statement explaining how the structural condition of the venue is no longer viable for purpose.

I could rattle on forever about the memories from that place. I liked the fact nobody ever tried to decorate or ‘clean’ the place up. That’s not what it was about. The Cockpit was being able to enjoy a range of music with friends, or even complete strangers, without any judgement.  You wanted to thrash about by yourself on the front row of a gig? Be our guest. Prefer to dance away with friends to 90’s Pop Punk on £1.50 bottles of Fosters and cheap mixers? Not a problem. There were no rules, no clichés; turn up, enjoy your music, have fun.

I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I went to The Cockpit. Gigs upon gigs; those that you’ve planned for months and counting down to, last minute reviewing slots for the local webzines, Live at Leeds Festival slots, or those days where you called your friends up to go out that night for a gig just ‘because for’.

I remember one of the gigs. Thursday 3rd May 2007. I was reviewing Saosin. The first support act appeared; the lighting was a little hazy that night and the sound quality not great. The band on the stage weren’t, in my opinion, setting the world alight anytime soon. You could see the potential but the vocals needed to be smoother, the melodies sharper.

Fast forward several years. The band that night? You Me At Six. Every band has to start at the smaller gigs though, right?

Then there were the club nights. Oh the club nights.

18th birthdays, 21st birthdays, Fresher’s weeks, Summer ‘downtime’ where you had the entire dancefloor to yourselves. There wasn’t one occasion that The Cockpit didn’t cater for. Running out of the exit at the end of a gig to join the queue ready for the club night (on the £1 drink specials until 3.00am). It was just what you did. You could guarantee that if opinions were divided about where to go that night, The Cockpit would end up becoming the unanimous decision.

Rumours began stirring several months ago that the venue was in trouble. The parent company was allegedly facing administration, the building was apparently now unsafe and therefore everybody started rushing to attend the last Garage of the era.

Then we were stopped in our tracks. It was only closing for a refurbishment, no fear. Reassuring most music fans, admittedly I was still dubious – hadn’t The Cockpit undergone an ‘extensive refurbishment’ the previous summer (and THOSE toilets remained the same!)? However, gigs were rescheduled, promotion for club nights resumed, job done.

Edging towards the reopening of The Cockpit, no real word had been published about it. Worryingly it would soon be the start f the new academic term – a popular time for music venues across the city.

Then came the dreaded announcement. The Cockpit wouldn’t be reopening. No more acts would make their breakthrough at a venue that has accommodated the likes of Muse, Coldplay and Biffy Clyro in their early days.

Perhaps it is time for a new era. Leeds has sadly seen venues shut over the years, however there is a real gut feeling that this is one that would be foolish to try and ‘replace’.

It has been one of those articles that I never expected to write. You always assumed that the ticket stubs would be shown to the next generations with stories to tell.

I still wish it had put up a fight at the end, but thank you The Cockpit for shaping a generation of music.

Gig Preview: City of Lights @ 360 Club, The Library

If you’re heading out tonight, amongst all the festivals there are still gigs popping up over the city!

 

City Of Lights – The Library 360 Club, LS2 3AP

(C) City Of Lights

it’s been a busy run of gigs for City Of Lights since their Live at Leeds appearance back at the start of May. Tonight sees them perform at the 360 Club @ The Library, Hyde Park.

Guitar infused rock/pop and anthemic choruses. Having previously seen these guys allbeit briefly at Live at Leeds, this is a gig well worth checking out to kickstart your weekend antics.

Can’t make tonight?. They’re making an appearance at The Tramlines Festival on Sunday 27th July 2014.

https://www.facebook.com/cityoflightsmusic

 

Festivals this weekend… (3)

All of these festivals make me happy. Okay, so, excited. It means the height of British Summertime has arrived.

We’re going up into North Yorkshire now.

The last one I’m featuring this weekend is;

The Deer Shed Festival – Baldersby ParkTopcliffe, Thirsk, YO7 3BZ

 

(C) Deer Shed Festival

 

Price? Due to popular demand only Tier 3 Adult tickets remain at £109.00 for the weekend

Headed up by the likes of Johnny Marr, British Sea Power and Stornoway; the music combined with the arts, family events and of course, the Science element of the festival really make this a unique one-of-a-kind weekend.

Music Line Up 

Science Line Up

What more can you ask for?