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At the Cutting Edge: Leeds Music Scene

At the Cutting Edge: Leeds Music Scene

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy


For the past 5 decades Leeds has played a part in almost every musical movement that has helped to shape the nationwide scene. The city’s ability to discover unearth new local talent as well as attract the biggest names from around the world has secured its place in history as a honeypot for creativity and musical talent. Covering all bases, the venues around the city play host to underground DJs playing experimental future-bass to the biggest bands from around the world. The annual Leeds Festival pulls in crowds of up to 75000 beer fuelled music lovers and is certainly an experience worth having.

Rock and Roll

Leeds’ musical past is highlighted with a selection of notable performances from a few bands you may have heard of. The city became an established urban centre after substantial growth throughout the Industrial Revolution and, by the mid-20th Century, was attracted the biggest acts at the time. 1963 saw a little-known band called The Beatles play the Odeon, now sadly lost to the world of budget fashion (aka Primark). The Who’s 1970 Valentine’s Day performance at the Leeds University Refectory has gone down in history as one of the greatest live albums ever recorded, whilst Nirvana visited the city in 1989, at the height of their power.

As well as pulling in ground breaking acts over the past 5 decades, Leeds has also spawned several of its own through the various movements. The 1970s punk scene saw highly influential band Gang of Four come through, with The Sisters of Mercy appearing in the goth movement of the early 80s. The 90s brought John Peel favourites The Wedding Present to the fore; however it is in the noughties where Leeds seemed to really begin to flourish. With the explosion of indie music into the mainstream, bands like local darlings The Kaiser Chiefs have seen huge success, along with other Leeds indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives, ¡Forward, Russia! and The Sunshine Underground.


Electronica has always played a big part in Leeds’ colourful musical heritage. Leeds Polytechnic as it was, now Leeds Metropolitan University, nurtured a thriving contemporary art scene in the 80s and produced electro outfit Soft Cell. The development of Yorkshire’s Bleeps and Bass techno scene also saw the birth of artists like LFO, Nightmares on Wax and Juno on Sheffield based Warp records. More recently Leeds based Utah Saints have had some commercial chart success with their brand of electro pop.

Drum and bass and dubstep has exploded into the mainstream over the last couple of years, but has been a feature of Leeds nightlife for a lot longer. With seminal dubstep night DMZ running, pretty much since the genres birth and other established nights such as Metropolis and Wax:On pushing the big names in DnB, the scene has gone from strength to strength. However, some would argue that with the commercial success of dubstep in particular, the music has become diluted. Pearson Sound (or Ramadanman as he was formerly known) originates in Leeds and is one third of record label Hessle Audio. Cutting a path all of his own, with a select brand of dubstep influenced house and techno, Pearson Sound is forging the way forward for bass music.


To cater for this huge range of musical styles, the city offers up a selection of old established venues and exciting new cultural hot spots. You can still go and watch bands at Leeds Refectory where The Who graced the stage or head to The Cockpit to catch the biggest names in rock, metal and indie, as well as some great weekly clubnights. In the student-centric end of town, The Brudenell Social Club and Faversham cater for that crowd and again host great local talent. In the city centre, Nation of Shopkeepers is one of a number of more alternative venues. Here you can find a more refined selection of left-field bands and DJs, for the music fans in the know, creating a cutting edge underground vibe.


The future of Leeds as a music hub of the UK is a bright one, with an ever increasing vibrancy to the city’s nightlife. Plans for Leeds arena will boost this further, with the 13,500 seat venue already under construction. Outlets for local creativity are rife within the city, with local showcases and club nights constantly striving for freshness. This really helps to push the scene in Leeds forward to more success. Come for a visit and experience Leeds music for yourself.

James Bentham is a UK blogger writing on behalf of One UK, offering great apartments in Leeds. He has been writing web content for over 5 years and really enjoys talking about music, technology and business topics.

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