The Belgrave Music Hall is one of the best venues in the country and is fast becoming one of Leeds’ most well-known gems. With its cozy snug bar, stunning rooftop garden and endless supplies of fresh pizza and loaded session fries, its the ultimate place to spend an idle weekend. So, its annual bank-holiday weekend festival This Must Be The Place has been the top of my list to check out for a number of years now. Excitedly I bought myself a Saturday day ticket and headed up North, and was not disappointed. In the space of one day, this single venue festival gave crowds a taste of some of the most talked about underground acts in the country (namely Black Midi), alongside established favorites such as Ghostpoet and the straight up weird and wonderful sounds of bands such as Jockstrap. Despite crowds being relatively small, and the looming presence of Leeds Festival in the distance distracting a large number of music fans, This Must Be The Place transformed the Belgrave into a truly varied haven of new music.
The Saturday afternoon was opened by solo musician Imi, whose performance on her own led to a struggle to maintain stage presence throughout her set. Despite this, her new wave-esque sound was impressive. If Imi, whose vocal talent and musical ear was evident throughout her performance, was supported by a band with equal skill to elevate her performance the impact upon the small but engaged audience would have been infinitely bigger. Despite Imi‘s undeniable enthusiasm the show felt somewhat lacking and left many in the crowd feeling underwhelmed.
And so it became Bas Jan‘s chance to take the stage. The band’s folksy, spoken word style of music is one that demands confidence and assurance in its delivery in order to have maximum impact. Despite beginning the set with a chant upon their intentions for the performance Bas Jan‘s nerves, doubtlessly worsened by the size of the crowd, came through and left their lyrics not quite hitting the spot. As the crowd grew, so did their confidence, and elements of bands such as the B52s, Stealing Sheep, and Lets Eat Grandma, began to show in their musical style. Despite their self-assurance growing throughout the show, the majority of it was uninspiring and somewhat dull at times, they would have benefitted immeasurably from a Courtney Barnett-esque style of lyrical delivery.
So with the crowd’s expectations lowered by the disappointments of the previous acts, Jockstrap took the stage and completely blew their minds with a performance unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Orchestral ballads escalated into psychedelic flute solos to an EDM beat and progressed into a full-blown verse of grime, all within the space of a single song. And, as each song sprawled across the musical spectrum, the band clearly took joy in the pure shock and bewilderment felt across the crowd. The music was unique, fascinating and skillfully controlled in its use of silence and noise. The self-assured nature of the band within the madness and the sheer enjoyment they seemed to be getting out of their performance left crowds feeling unsure in what they were witnessing, but certain that they wanted more.
The next slot was taken by Black Midi, a band that has become an enigma of the new music community. Despite not having released any songs they have the reputation of one of the best live bands in the country; and have managed to sell out shows and yet to be released singles while nobody is really sure who they are. And, as they produced their unique sound, you couldn’t help but feel like you were witnessing the start of something important and special. Perhaps it was their intimidating nature and mysterious reputation, or it’s their style of guitar that is at times reminiscent of early foals while simultaneously feeling much darker, but this band felt serious. And, just as the power of the music was starting to fully take over the audience, the set was over as suddenly as it began. The singer indicated to a somewhat disgruntled band that the show was over despite them clearly being prepared to play more, leaving the majority of the band, and the audience, feeling underwhelmed. Perhaps the decision lay in a disappointment in the set and was an attempt to maintain the image as the best new band you’ve never heard of, but it left a previously enthusiastic crowd feeling disappointed and unappreciated. Black Midi certainly feel like they have the potential to be a very important band, but they need to learn to control and disguise disappointment if they want to break out of the London music scene to the rest of the country.
And finally, thirty minutes late, Ghostpoet took the stage. He was immediately forgiven by the previously agitated crowd as he gently coaxed them nearer to the stage and performed with the confidence and the expertise of a seasoned musician. Ghostpoet was a self-assured and talented performer, supported by an equally skilled band that functioned collectively to do the music the most justice possible. In person, Ghostpoet and his music were as effortlessly cool and distinct as on record. The rich sound made by the group of talented musicians was cut through with Ghostpoet‘s lyrical poetry and, after the falling out and uncertainty of other acts of the day, Ghostpoet brought back to earth everything that a live performance can (and should) be.
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