It's the start of the bank holiday weekend. You shuffle into Belgrave Music Hall alongside people you vaguely recognise from gigs and after-work drinks at Brudenell Social Club. It's half 1 on a Saturday afternoon and Van Houten are playing their woozy psychedelic pop. This must be the place.
The weekender has kept a vaguely low profile, but the line up boasts a plethora of quality under-the-radar music. From local bands to UK aficionados on the indie scene, This Must Be The Place was the place to be this bank holiday. Bands stretching from Brighton to The North descended on Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House to bring the best of new British music to punters on their long weekend.
Kicking off the proceedings at Belgrave were local dreamers Van Houten. The recent Clue Records signees have an effortless ability to sedate an audience with their intoxicating lo-fi soundscapes, draping the crowd in a blanket of colourful sound textures. New singles ‘Moon’ and ‘Running Scared’ gave a delectable taste of the five-piece’s upcoming debut album, out September 15th.
Meanwhile, at Headrow House, fellow local band Sea Legs woke up the crowd with their infectious hooks and uplifting, thought-provoking lyrics. Tipped by Futuresound as ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2019, and receiving attention from BBC Introducing, Sea Legs are certainly an unmissable act on the bill. With only two tracks available online, the three-piece treated listeners to a catalogue of unreleased music. It was a nod to the future of exceptional releases from the unsigned Leeds trio.
Back at Belgrave, jellyskin’s soundcheck enticed in an intrigued crowd from the sunny smoking area. With their imposing techno-beats and icy synths, the pair transported listeners into an unknown realm of intertwining textures and astronomical soundscapes. Zia Larty-Healy (vocals, synths) and Will Ainsley (Guitar, vocals) have become stalwarts of the Leeds gig scene, yet each set feels entirely unique. With an ever-developing sound, jellyskin are a band that offers uncompromising, unpredictable and unforgettable music.
Scalping followed, transforming the bank holiday afternoon into a murky 4 am session in a faraway basement. Abrasive live techno beats were complimented by raging bass and mind-melting visuals. They were the perfect follow up to jellyskin, which boasted This Must Be The Place’s attention to thoughtful curation with the line-up.
As the sun set over Belgrave, Brighton three-piece Our Girl took to the stage. Frontwoman Soph Nathan saunters between purring melodies and vicious vocals as her perfect guitar tone drove the band. Navigating love and friendship across tracks from their eponymous debut album, the three-piece exuded a close kinship and chemistry. Nathan’s visceral lyricism is mirrored by bassist Josh Taylor and drummer Lauren Wilson driving rhythm section, delivering a set of tender yet tempestuous melodies.
Headlining the Saturday was Bill Ryder-Jones. Low-key and unassuming, Ryder-Jones played a heartfelt and tender set in between jokingly cutting remarks towards the audience. Ryder-Jones’ delivers his tender vocals in a way that seems like he’s singing directly into your ear. “If this song means anything to anyone, thank you”, the under-slept frontman gently expresses into the mic before flowing into ‘Daniel’, a beautiful track dedicated to his elder brother. Ryder-Jones has a charming ability to dip between emotionally raw tracks and sharp Northwestern quips slating the audience. He held the entire room in the palm of his blistered hands (at one point managing to get someone to bring him a beer from the bar), gathering everyone’s respect with his tender and off-kilter performance.
The next day dawned with Straight Girl warming up the Belgrave stage. Straight Girl is someone who has to be witnessed; no prose can do their energy and performance justice. Like a splash of cold water, they revived the sun-stroked crowd and injected adrenaline into anyone within a five-meter radius. Mounting the monitors and lurching about the stage with an improvised DanceStar party-esque routine, Straight Girl was equally unpredictable and spectacular. This set was the last of a trifecta of gigs across the weekend, but Straight Girl shows no sign of slowing down. Their new single, ‘Ugly’ (“it’s about queer self-acceptance”), will be released on September 13th (“the spookiest of days”) and they’ll be going on a DIY headline tour across England in October, ending back at Belgrave Music Hall on November 1st.
Over at Headrow House, Leeds own Team Picture possessed the stage in all-white lab coats. Concocting their famous recipe of fuzzy guitar hooks and earworm synths live on stage, the set was a reminder that Team Picture are amongst the tightest bands in Leeds. Blurring the lines between unfiltered 80s alt-rock and wonky indie, Team Picture delivers a plethora of sounds that swim in your head for hours.
Back at Belgrave, it was time for the sedative aura of Art School Girlfriend. The monicker of Polly Mackey (Deaf Club), Art School Girlfriend is a solo project that exhibits Mackey’s multi-instrumentalism and glistening songwriting ability. Flowing through tracks such as ‘Come Back To Me’, ‘Moon’ and new single ‘Diving’, the set was an exploration of queer identity, lust and disillusionment over enchantingly ambient production.
Next up was the widely anticipated Tallsaint. Moving her mic stand away immediately after soundcheck, frontwoman Louisa Osborn magnetised the crowd with her unapologetic energy and intelligent, layered and introspective lyricism. Opening with ‘Touch’, Osborn’s expansive vocals were augmented by the band’s minimal percussion and atmospheric space. Blending retro synths with upbeat pop hook and eloquent vocals, Tallsaint brings refreshing, emotionally intelligent, socially-aware pop (and covers of Victoria Beckham’s solo career).
Self Esteem brought the party. The main room filled with fans flocking in from near and far, exclusively to see Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s (Slowclub) latest project. Clad in all red, the band took to the stage and immediately held the doting crowd. Clad in red T-shirts that read "Believe women”, Self Esteem delivered a socially conscious and empowering set at a time where women’s voices are being dampened and frequently second-guessed. Performing a vocal solo version of ‘She Reigns’, the band stood in formation and clicked their fingers. The vocal harmonies captivated the crowd so much you could hear a plastic pint cup drop on the carpet of the far bar. After closing the set with ‘The Best’, a playlist went on the house speakers and the band danced towards each other's arms. It's was clear that this is a band of people that love what they do together and play every show as if it's their last.
Running behind schedule, a patient crowd waited in anticipation for West London singer-songwriter and dexterous guitarist Nilüfer Yanya. With an absent drummer, the stripped-back set augmented Yanya’s seemingly effortless musicianship and unwavering performance abilities. Opening with ‘Monsters Under The Bed’, Yanya’s melodic hooks wormed across the room. Her recent debut album Miss Universe is a collection of tracks that exhibit Yanya’s genre-bending approach to songwriting and her increasingly ambitious scope of sound. Closing with the visceral clashes of album-closer ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Year’, Yanya departed the stage leaving mouths open wide and her tracks flocking to individual’s Spotify playlists.
This Must Be The Place boasted a beautifully curated and diverse line-up that flaunted some of the best of new British music. Creating a platform for local bands while still inviting big names, This Must Be The Place truly was the place to be this bank holiday weekend.
Words and Images by Meg Firth (@allthesenicepeople, @megfirthphoto)