The city of Leeds is cold and wet, resembling a miserable winter’s day more than an evening in Spring. But in Oporto, a bar and live music venue in the lower end of the city, the atmosphere couldn’t be further from the glumness outside. As you step inside, the warmth coming from the people tightly packed in the venue hits you, before the intensity of people chatting at the bar, mixed with the sounds of support acts PEAKES and Diving Station, sets the mood for the evening.
The reason Oporto is full to the brim with people of varying ages is because Leeds 5-piece Heir are launching their latest single I’ll Pick You Up. The alternative pop band who formed in 2015 have had a successful couple of years, gaining support slots for the likes of Honne, Lawson and The Dunwells, and have recently been announced to perform at this year’s Live at Leeds Festival.
Tonight is the biggest night of Larkin’s career so far. The Manchester four-piece have successfully sold out the 700 capacity venue but most importantly, they’ve sold out their biggest headline show to date. As the audience gradually pile in, support acts The Nix and Corella give remarkable performances, setting the mood and getting the crowd excited and energised for the main event.
As the room darkens and the stage is lit with flashing strobe lights, Larkins file on one by one, picking up their instruments for opening number Velvet. For many bands, playing a headline sold out show would be a daunting prospect, but any nerves that may have been felt were kept firmly hidden. Velvet sets the bar high and the live performance is notably made better than the studio version by frontman Josh Noble’s vocal ad libbing between verses.
The past 10 years for Busted have been a strange mix. Having split on bad terms back in 2005, the three-piece boyband went their separate ways. Charlie toured with Fightstar before turning to a solo career. James formed pop rock band Son of Dork and turned his hand at writing a West End musical. And after a brief stint in rehab after the band split, Matt launched an arguably unsuccessful solo career and dabbled in acting with a brief appearance in EastEnders.
After a few years out of the spotlight, James and Matt joined forces with McFly in 2013 to form the super group McBusted. They did two successful tours, performing classic tracks by both bands, as well as songs from their new joint album. Whilst many enjoyed the invention of this new super group and the opportunity to hear old Busted songs, there was one question that hung over like a dark cloud; is Charlie coming back? At the end of 2015, after McBusted had fizzled out, speculations of Charlie returning to Busted were rife on social media, and in November that year, everyone’s wishes came true; Charlie was back. Having released their third album Night Driver at the end of 2016, the band are now performing it live across the country, arriving in Manchester on Thursday night to a packed out venue.
Beans On Toast
A Spanner in the Works
[Xtra Mile Recordings]
It is without doubt that 2016 has been one of those years that won’t be forgotten for a long time. With momentous showbiz deaths, a US election like no other and the biggest shake up of all, The Great British Bake Off announcing its move to Channel 4, 2016 has dealt all its wild cards at once but with no spectacular jackpot at the end. That was until DIY folk singer Beans On Toast released his latest offering, with a fitting title, A Spanner in the Works.
For the eighth consecutive year, Essex born singer songwriter Jay McAllister has stuck with tradition and released this album on 1st December, notably his birthday. With seven albums already to his name, his latest record sees him embracing technology to create an album that was recorded at his friend’s house on solely his laptop. With him fully embracing his DIY culture, A Spanner in the Works offers a mixture of genres and styles from heartfelt, personal songs to tracks with political subjects that only an artist like Beans is quite brave enough to sing about.
As the audience in the sold out arena chat amongst themselves, a breaking story from Wild World Communications hits the screen. No it’s not another update on the American Presidential Election, it’s breaking news that indie-pop band Bastille are about to take to the stage.
Whilst the news reporter continues, the instantly recognisable intro of Good Grief begins to reverberate around the room. It’s quite an achievement that with only two albums under their belt, Bastille are able to play sold out arena shows. But whilst it may seem like yesterday that their debut single Pompeii was being played on the radio, three years have since passed and it’s clear the band have been honing their skills all this time, proving why they deserve to be performing to crowds of this size.
Although the band are based in London, lead singer Dan Smith and keyboardist Kyle Simmons both attended Leeds University, so in some ways this is like a homecoming gig. “We’re back in our uni town and we’re so happy to be here,” proclaims Smith mid set. A reminder of how successful the band have become comes in the shape of Smith reminiscing about once playing the O2 Academy and Stylus, popular small venues in the city. But whilst the size of their audience may have increased over the years, the band are still as humble as when they first started. Smith continuously thanks the audience and appears taken aback by their enthusiastic response each time.
Having just finished touring the country on their sold out UK tour, newcomers on the indie rock scene, The Hunna, sat down with Georgia Arundell to discuss the challenges when starting out as a band, the highlights from their recent tour and their killer schedule for 2017.
You’ve just finished your sold out UK tour. What would you say was the highlight for you?
Jermaine [bassist]: Glasgow was pretty cool. We played to around 700 people. There were just so many pits every fucking song. They were going crazy. You could really see that the fans were connecting with the music, which is always good to see.
So was that the most memorable venue from the tour?
Jack [drummer]: I’d say the venue in a boat in Bristol.
Dan [lead guitarist]: Yeah The Thekla was pretty cool. The venue was on a boat. And we walked onto the stage to ‘I’m On A Mother F*cking Boat’ – it was dope.
As your album only came out a couple of months ago, this is the first time that you’ve toured and people have already heard your album. Was the reception different compared to previous tours because of that?
Jermaine: Yeah definitely. With the first show you could see a difference from that to the last tour. The fans are so much more into it and you can see it in their eyes. We thrive off the energy of the fans, so every show got crazier and crazier.
Dan: The Hunna Squad is growing, definitely. At every venue we turned up to our fans have been waiting, which never really happened before. There were a lot of queues, which is really special.
“It’s a Friday night in Manchester and it’s gonna be a fucking good night.”
In one of the most infamous venues that Manchester has to offer, Irish singer songwriter Gavin James takes to the Gorilla stage to a screaming crowd. With nothing but a couple of guitars to aid him, the 25-year-old stands solo on stage. Tonight there are no gimmicks – all eyes and ears are focussed on him.
In the packed out dimly lit room, James announces before his opening song, “it’s so smoky in here it’s like we’re in a fucking cloud.” With all the effing and blinding, it’s hard to believe that such a pure and delicate voice comes from the same person. But as the guitar riff for opening song, ‘Til the Sun Comes Up’ begins, the crowd fall silent and James’ voice begins to resonate around the room. With not a single phone screen to be seen, the room is submerged into pure darkness, with just the faintest spotlight beaming on James. The audience are clearly absorbing his refined and crisp voice, as the room stands so still and quiet that you could hear a pin drop.