This Must Be the Place 2017, Leeds, 26 & 27 Aug
On the same weekend that thousands of teenagers descend on Bramham Park for Leeds Festival, local promoters Super Friendz cook up something very different in the heart of town
Unlike Leeds Festival itself, This Must Be the Place – now in its second year – isn’t trying to be all things to all people with a line-up that spans genres. Instead, this is a strictly indie rock affair spanning two days and two venues, with both of the latter being relative newcomers to Leeds. The Belgrave Music Hall takes its cues from venues like Manchester’s Deaf Institute, with a bar and restaurant on the ground floor, roof terrace with a cocktail bar and – most crucially – a 200-capacity live room. Headrow House, a few minutes walk away, does something very similar.
Alex Cameron provides one of Saturday’s highlights at the Belgrave, with the Australian taking the stage alongside his saxophone-playing ‘business partner’, Roy Molloy. He delivers a scintillating set drawn largely from his forthcoming debut LP, Forced Witness. Stranger’s Kiss, the record’s superb duet with Angel Olsen, suffers a little when Cameron takes it on alone, but thoroughly groovy runs through Candy May and Happy Ending more than make up for it. Cameron is a real character in the Mac DeMarco mould, and doesn’t want for stage presence, but it’s his Springsteen-esque vocals that make both this set and Forced Witness.
The weekend’s standout performance comes on Saturday night at the Belgrave, with a headlining turn from Alvvays. The Canadians are in the same boat as Cameron in that they’re here in support of an album that isn’t out yet, Antisocialites, which is released the same day as Forced Witness (8 Sep). To the more dedicated among the packed-out room, though, that doesn't matter much; only four of the ten songs on Antisocialites are brand new to the Alvvays faithful, with the other six having been aired live and uploaded to YouTube by fans at a level of quality that ranges from decent to excellent.
Accordingly, there’s no signs of nerves at what is more or less their first show anywhere behind the new record, as they fire through it almost in its entirety as well as revisiting classics like Party Police, Adult Diversion and Archie, Marry Me. They nod to their more obscure influences on Antisocialites and, fittingly, throw in a cover of a track by Edinburgh jangle-poppers The Motorcycle Boy, which flies over the audience’s heads. Still, the reaction is fervent enough to prompt a one-song encore which sees the live debut of Antisocialites closer Forget About Life. The song is a terrific distillation of frontwoman Molly Rankin’s penchant for daydreaming, and caps a performance that suggests Alvvays might be the premier purveyors of indie pop not just in Canada, but just about anywhere.
Sunday takes place at the Belgrave in its entirety, meaning that there’s no risk of the sort of clashes that, disappointingly, meant that Beach Fossils’ slot at Headrow House overlapped with Alvvays on the Sunday – with room capacities limited, trying to catch a bit of both would’ve meant running the risk of missing the latter’s performance. That means that the Belgrave is plenty busy by the time Amber Arcades takes the stage at 8.15pm for a gloriously scuzzy run through Fading Lines, Annelotte de Graaf’s stunning debut and one of last year’s standout albums. There’s not a great deal of indication of where she might be headed next sonically, even in the cuts from this year’s Cannonball EP, but gorgeous renditions of the likes of Constant’s Dream, This Time and her debut LP’s title track offset that – we’re all happy to bask in the glow of Fading Lines for a while yet.
With Monday being a bank holiday, the Sunday night crowd is in predictably merry spirits by the time Parquet Courts rock up for their 10.30pm headlining berth. The social media-averse New Yorkers constantly seem to be forging ahead with new material, almost as if they’re locked in a creative arms race with their own back catalogue, so it’s not surprising that so much of tonight’s set is dominated by last year’s terrific Human Performance LP (our ninth favourite record of 2016). There’s still room, though, for incendiary tracks from their terrific breakthrough album Light Up Gold, and it’s those tracks that really ignite the boisterous crowd. As much as they lack the poise and control of Alvvays, they make up for it with genuine punk energy.
This Must Be the Place will surely return again next year, with Super Friendz becoming more and more important to Leeds’ bustling live scene by the week; it’s a smart pairing of forward-thinking venues and promoters. The overlap in the schedule on the Saturday was unfortunate – even though it’s the nature of the beast at events like these – but otherwise, this was the perfect alternative to the festival happening ten miles down the road in Wetherby, and we didn’t even have to camp.