Music in Leeds

Leeds has a musical scene, and has produced many notable artists. These include both national chart topping bands such as Kaiser Chiefs, but also smaller, more local bands who play small venues around the city and make up the majority of the music scene.


The Herman's Hermits Guitarist Derek Leckenby was born in Leeds.

The Mekons and the influential Gang of Four came out of the 1970s punk movement, with the early 1980s the punk/oi! groups Abrasive Wheels, The Underdogs and The Expelled who all shared the same record label, Bristol's Riot City.

In the early to mid-1980s, the city was home to a large goth scene and many local bands who went on to have some degree of success nationally and internationally including The March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters of Mercy and Salvation (who were formed by The Sisters of Mercy roadies) .

The avant-garde art scene centred on Leeds Metropolitan University's (then Leeds Polytechnic) Fine Art course led to the formation of early 1980s electronic pioneers Soft Cell.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw success for John Peel favourites, and regular Festive 50 botherers, The Wedding Present, agitprop band Chumbawamba and indie rock group Cud.

In more recent times Leeds has gone some way to catching up cities with a richer musical heritage such as Manchester and Sheffield in terms of the number of bands originating from the city, and Leeds based bands such as Kaiser Chiefs, The Music, The Pigeon Detectives, Your Vegas, Record Department, Duels, ¡Forward, Russia!, Buen Chico; I Like Trains, The Sunshine Underground and singer Corinne Bailey Rae have achieved varying degrees of success - some in the national charts, others by gathering small but devoted followings in the area. The NME named Leeds as its number 1 musical hot-spot in 2004.

The 2010s (decade) saw the emergence of a number of second-wave grunge bands, most notably Pulled Apart by Horses, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Holy State.

Electronic music and the clubbing scene

House music had a big impact on Leeds when it arrived in the late 1980s. Early house nights included Downbeat at the Warehouse, Meltdown at the Astoria in Roundhay, and Joy and Kaos at various temporary venues, along with a thriving Shebeen or "Blues" scene in Chapeltown.

International DJs and producers like Paul Woolford, Ralph Lawson and Riley & Durrant have their studios in the city, alongside less well known DJs such as Tom Haigh, Bragguar and DJ Tango.

The earlier underground house scene developed into the Leeds club scene of the 1990s, when for a while Leeds held the title of Britain's clubbing capital. Both Back to Basics and mixed gay night Vague enjoyed the title of best club in Britain at different points in the decade, whilst The Orbit club in Morley was an internationally recognised techno mecca (Orbit closed in 2003 and was replaced by a restaurant).

In 2007, Leeds is emerging as a city with one of the most creative and diverse electronic music scenes in the UK. Club nights and collectives such as Gonzo and Room 237 hold regular events in the city and have been the catalyst for a rapidly growing electronic music scene which follows a more forward thinking, eclectic and sometimes experimental path. Artists such as Headcleaner, Chris Kubex, Gwylo, Micoland and Ant Orange are current leading lights in the scene, with local D.I.Y record labels such as Gonzo run Dirtyload Records and breakcore label Marionette providing an outlet for the wealth of electronic music coming out of Leeds. Dirtyload Records has recently seen support from Radio One's Mary Anne Hobbs, who featured a number of the labels artists in a special Breezeblock show about Leeds electronic music.

DIY scene

Leeds is very well known for its current DIY underground music scene, encompassing the genres of punk, skate punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, post-punk, noise rock, dub reggae, dubstep and electronic music among others. There is a vibrant and active community based around the DIY ethic, supported in part by Cops and Robbers, a monthly guide to DIY events in and around Leeds, and Leeds Music Scene, a guide to the city's independent music scene.


Between 1979-84 Leeds was host to the Futurama Festival, an all day event organised by John Keenan (agent and promoter) at the Queens Hall. Over the years numerous acts played e.g.: Public Image Limited, Joy Division,[1] Siouxsie and the Banshees, Soft Cell, Gang of Four amongst many others.[2]

Leeds Main Stage on 25 August 2007 in-between sets by Kings of Leon and Razorlight in the carling festival

The Moor Music Festival takes place yearly in July on Addingham Moorside near Ilkley, and regularly plays host to artists from the city.

In 1996 Leeds played host to the BBC Radio 1 Sound City festival.

Leeds initially played host to the northern leg of the V festival between 1996 and 1998 before the event moved to Weston Park, Staffordshire.

In 2000, Leeds played host to the first ever Radio 1 Love Parade at Roundhay Park.

Since 1999 the Leeds Festival, a northern leg of the well established Reading Festival, has taken place on August bank holiday weekend. The event was initially held at Temple Newsam (the venue for the Leeds V Festival) before protests from residents forced a move to Bramham Park.

Leeds is also home to the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition which is regarded highly. It was established in 1963 by Fanny Waterman with the 15th competition starting in September 2006.

Leeds Lieder was established in 2004, and hosts a yearly classical music festival at Leeds College of Music as a platform for Lieder and other forms of art song.

West Yorkshire Playhouse (along with several other smaller venues) plays host to the annual Fuseleeds festival showcasing an eclectic mix of more left-field music.

In 2006 and 2007 the two-day Wireless Festival took place at Harewood House. Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs headlined the festival in 2007.[3]

Live at Leeds is an annual multi-venue festival that takes place each May. The first Live At Leeds event took place in May 2007 to coincide with the city's 800th birthday celebrations.[4]

Each May Leeds also hosts the SlamDunk North festival, which is a festival that encompasses the genres of Emo, Pop-Punk, Ska-Punk and Rock.


Leeds plays host to many venues, currently including Leeds University refectory (where The Who recorded their 1970 live album Live at Leeds), Leeds Metropolitan University , Brudenell Social Club , The Faversham , The Hi-Fi club , The Well , The Wardrobe, Irish Centre, New Roscoe , The Cardigan Arms, The Fenton, and The Packhorse among others.

The O2 Academy Leeds opened in October 2008 on the site of the former Town & County Club music venue. The 2,300 capacity venue is run by the Academy Music Group and follows in-line with their other music venues around the UK.

This list of venues would be incomplete if The Duchess of York which was situated at 71, Vicar Lane in the city centre of Leeds, arguably the busiest music venue during its tenure, was not mentioned with honour. It was gutted by Hugo Boss, silencing a major music venue and turning this historic musical landmark in the great North of England into a boutique. There were two to three live bands performing there, seven nights a week for almost the entirety of its existence. Bands such as U2, Nirvana, Oasis, Cud, Blur, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Green Day, Chumbawamba, Steve Marriott, the Grandmothers of Invention, Barrie Gledden, Bleach, Pavement, Isaac Guillory, Dumpy's Rusty Nuts, Pulp, Coldplay, Little Chief, Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones, Ship of Fools, Stereophonics, The Wedding Present and many more.

Occasional gigs are held in Millennium Square in the city centre (including the Kaiser Chiefs in 2006), Roundhay Park (which was home to Love Parade in 2000 and has hosted gigs by Madonna, U2, Robbie Williams, Michael Jackson and The Rolling Stones), Harewood House, Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Holy Trinity Church and Leeds Parish Church. The city centre itself has a musical heritage of its own, with several bands, such as Collectors Club, choosing to set music videos there.[5]

In November 2008, plans were approved to build the First Direct Arena on Claypit Lane in Leeds city centre. Funding was approved in December 2009 and work commenced on the site in September 2010. Completion of the 12,500 capacity venue is expected in 2013..

In September 2014, The Cockpit announced it would be closing permanently after 20 years in existence.[6]

See also


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