Category Archives: Culture Vulture Pieces

Culture Vulture: Group Inerane / Flower-Corsano Duo

Published 5 December 2011 on Culture Vulture

Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Saturday 3 December 2011

Sonic intensity: that’s the Flower-Corsano Duo.  Known for his collaborations with Bjork and Richard Bishop of the Sun City Girls, Chris Corsano is a visually fascinating, technically brilliant and highly experimental drummer.  Watching him incorporate violin strings, Tibetan singing bowls, mallets, bows and hybrid thrash-jazz into his performance knocks you for six, making you wonder if he has some secret, additional arms growing somewhere else.

He’s joined by Leeds’ own Mike Flower from the drone ensemble Vibracathedral Orchestra, who has at his hands a shahi baaja, a fascinating instrument that’s a type of Indian zither, amped up and overdriven to the point where it’s not that far away from heavy metal.  Add a dronebox into the mix and the set becomes an explosive mix of sonic rises and falls, the sound soaring upwards towards a white-noise peak – then slowly, gradually falling again into a calming drone.  Exhilarating.  Cleansing, even.  Think of Lightning Bolt, then turn it up a notch.  Leeds should be proud that one of these brilliant musicians is from this city.

Group Inerane are from Agadez in northern Niger.  With two electric guitars, bass and drums, the Tuareg music they play is instantly danceable, similar to the music of the slightly more famous Tinariwen.  Their music is part of a musical revolution originating in the Libyan Berber refugee camps in the 1980s, with the guitar substituting the rifle as a political weapon.  Unfortunately, Group Inerane have been forced to change their lineup since their first album was released in 2007, after their second guitarist, Adi Mohamad, was shot dead during the recent Tuareg rebellions in West Africa.

This electrified Sahara sound is, essentially, amazing party music.  It’s a shame that the Howard Assembly Room has seats tonight, but nevertheless people are dancing in their chairs, the balcony and the aisles – the rhythm shuffles and syncopates so much that you’ve just got to move your body somehow.  If there’s one criticism, it’s that this evening seemed a bit short, but perhaps that’s because the music was so engrossing.

Leeds – more gigs like this please!

Culture Vulture: Leeds Music City

Published on Saturday 1 October on The Culture Vulture

There’s a swathe of excellent gigs happening this autumn in Leeds, and not without good reason.  Leeds is a fine musical city, and alongside household names such as the Kaiser Chiefs and Corrine Bailey Rae, there’s a thriving DIY music scene bubbling underneath the surface.

If you’re looking for something a little different from an overpriced bar and funky house, then don’t worry, you’re spoilt for choice!  Here’s a pick of the plethora of events coming up in October:

Raise The Roof Festival

7 October, Leeds West Indian Centre, Chapeltown

If you’ve never been, then you have to go.  Simple.  Held every year at the West Indian Centre, this year’s title is ‘The Twisted Ballroom’ – there’s a circus, theatre shows, visuals, healing areas…like a little Glastonbury under one roof.  And of course, there’s the music, with headliners this year including the legendary DJs Utah Saints and 7-piece Radio 1 favourites Dub Pistols.  ‘Dubious attire and fancy dress recommended’, they say.  Tickets and information available from

Brainwash Festival VI

14 – 16 October, The Brudenell Social Club / Royal Park Cellars, Hyde Park

What happens when you take a huge lineup of artists that you’ll never see on Jools Holland, some of the finest bands Leeds has to offer and sprinkle it with respected underground musicians from around the world?  The answer is probably Brainwash.  From grinding rock to electronic experimentation, the bill includes Glaswegians Dananananaykroyd, Chicagoan multi-instrumentalist Juffage, a side-project from someone in Pavement and much more.  It’s a great opportunity to discover music you’ve probably never heard of, and to buy a round of ludicrously cheap beers while you’re there.

Zun Zun Egui / Runners / Ex-Cissy Band

20 October, Wharf Chambers, Wharf Street, Central Leeds

Fomerly the Common Place, this old pie factory in Central Leeds has been saved from becoming another set of swanky apartments and is instead home to a new live music venue.  Literally centimetres away from the gaudy (and much more expensive) Call Lane area, it’s miles away in terms of music.  Bristolians Zun Zun Egui are, according to what I’ve read, ‘a multi faceted, all night kaleidoscopic party rock band that consume musical and cultural styles like they do hot meals’.  That’s reason enough to go, surely.  Also appearing are Leeds’ excellent synth quartet Runners, and a set from the remnants of local funk band Cissy.  Membership is required for entry, but it’s just a pound, and you get unrestricted access to a well-stocked Sam Smith’s bar.  More details at and here.

Jeramiah Ferrari / Cowtown / Tantz

21 October, The Packhorse, Woodhouse Lane

Raising funds for a good cause, in support of the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s mission to the UN climate change talks in Durban, South Africa this November.  And there’s an excellent coalition of music on offer: headliners Jeramiah Ferrari blend upbeat calypso and reggae with heavy, head-nodding rock, and tore the roof off Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival earlier this year.  Also appearing are Leeds’ favourite electro-synth rockers Cowtown (all with matching jumpers), and probably the only klezmer fusion band in the city, Tantz, laying down Eastern European grooves with some hip-hop thrown in.  Plus, there’s a raffle, the prizes up for grabs including two free tickets to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, a chocolate making workshop and much more.  Just a fiver, and all proceeds to the UKYCC.  More details here.

…and many more…

All the larger and more established gigs and clubnights are well publicised and can easily be found.  But there’s plenty more independent events not mentioned in detail above due to lack of space.  So,here’s a brief list:

14 October: Rainbow Road, Wharf Chambers, Wharf Street, Central Leeds

Excellent new clubnight at the former Common Place from the people who used to run ‘Let’s Be Friends’ there.  Membership or guest entry required.  More here:

22 October: Empire Strikes British Wildlife, Empire, Bridge End, Central Leeds

All-dayer at the new Empire live music bar, opposite the Adelphi pub in central Leeds.  It’s put together by those responsible for British Wildlife Festival, a multi-venue DIY festival in central Leeds each year.  Star Wars fancy dress recommended.  Check out the lineup at

29 October: Runners / Lazarus Clamp / Chips for the Poor, The Fox and Newt, Burley Road

Lovely little pub with its own brewery, just out of the city centre.  Excellent bands covering electro to Fall-esque rock.  More details here.

Support your local music scene!






Culture Vulture: Green-themed cream tea at Headingley’s Bowery!

Originally published on Thurs 4 August 2011 at

Nestled by the side of a busy crossroads, it could be easy to miss The Bowery, a wonderfully unusual café in north Headingley.  One of Leeds’ hidden cultural treasures, it’s home to a fascinating little art gallery – climb the stairs and you’ll find an ever-changing range of exhibitions by local artists. If you feel like you want to get involved with making art, there are regular workshops covering everything from photography to floristry, too.

Downstairs, alongside the coffee and cake, you’ll find a boutique nestled with ceramics, textiles, jewellery and other artwork on sale from local designers and exciting emerging artists.  And if that wasn’t enough, they sell some of the finest coffee in the land, recently making it into The Times’ top 10 coffee shops in the UK.

It might be worth checking it out on Sunday 21 August, when it’ll be taken over for an afternoon quiz with a difference. Leeds University student Kristina Diprose is hosting a cream tea fundraiser for her work with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, a national non-profit organisation working to bring young people together for positive action on climate change.  This November, Kristina will be one of ten young people from the UK attending UN climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, taking the concerns of British youth to international decision-makers.

She says of her chance to attend the South Africa negotiations: “This is an amazing opportunity and I’m so excited to be involved. Young people need to make sure that negotiators and world leaders know we care about these talks.  The decisions made in South Africa will affect our generation for decades to come”.

It’s a quiz, sure, but for five pounds, this includes a tea or coffee, homemade scones with jam and cream, a charity donation and the chance to win a pair of theatre tickets to a performance of your choice – worth up to £60 – kindly donated by the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  It could well be better than a pint in a dingy bar!

It all starts at 3.30pm on Sunday 21 August. There’s only 30 places available, which must be booked in advance from The Bowery.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Call 0113 2242284 to book your place, or check out the Facebook page for the event for more details.

Culture Vulture: I Love West Leeds Arts Festival

Originally published on Weds 29 June 2011 at

Seven years in the running, I Love West Leeds Arts Festival (1-24 July) is a staple in the arts calendar of the city.  Hosted in dozens of quirky places across Leeds’ western edge, this year’s events span a wide range of activities for all the family, taking in airstream caravans, converted garden sheds and even a swimming pool!

I asked director Jane Earnshaw about some the things we can expect to find at what promises to be the biggest and most exciting festival yet.


“A big part of our programme is the Festival Day, which moves around the area every year.  For 2011 it’s going to be at Bramley Falls Park, on 3 July.  We’ve got a load of sheds – regular, garden sheds – but we’ve crammed them full of artists instead.  They’re going to be filled with all sorts of things – there’s a pedal-powered shed full of music and gadgets, some potting sheds, and there’s a festival tattoo parlour!  Don’t worry, it’s temporary – but you can’t leave without one!

“We’ve got Chol Theatre coming over from Huddersfield, who’ll be bringing a bright orange dome, complete with a series of plastic arms poking out the top, to stage a quirky theatre show.  There’s also a 1950s Airstream caravan! It’s going to have an old-fashioned sweet shop inside, and all the sweets will be free.  But – there’s a catch.  In order to get free sweets, you have to exchange knowledge.  I won’t say anything else – you’ll have to find out more on the day!  Plus, some fantastic singers from Bramley Elderly Action will be transformed into The Viking Grandmas – all kitted out in Viking gear, horned helmets and all!  Plus, much, much more, with tipis, tents and arts and crafts for all the family.

“There’s so many new things in the festival this year, but one of my favourites – and it makes me laugh every time I think about it – is Dog Art, an exhibition we’re doing for dogs.  Not of dogs, but for dogs!  Rather than things all being in one place, we try and do things out in the community, and there’s often lots of dog walkers, and lots of lampposts!  So we’ve been collecting photos of things we think dogs might like to see – bones, toys, dog food – and of course, other dogs’ bottoms!  We’ve been sticking these on lampposts around Bramley Falls Park and on Rodley Town Street.  It just makes me laugh every time I think about it.

“Also new this year is a roving cinema.  We’ve done film screenings before, with drive-ins and bike-ins, but this year we’ve got a huge inflatable screen that’s going to be popping up all over West Leeds.  It’s about 20 feet tall!  There’ll be four films screening over four nights, all of which will be free.  But we’re not content with just having the screen, so a team of us handmade about 25 beautiful camping chairs to go with it.  We’re a bit nuts, really.

“The Wild West Music Trail is two fantastic musicians called Harry and Sam.  They’ve been travelling around West Leeds performing music in outdoor spaces – woods, fields, tunnels and so on – then recording it to see how the spaces makes the music sound different.  After that they put their music on the web, and devised a little trail around West Leeds consisting of QR codes on lampposts and walls.  These are things that look like funny little squares, but you can scan them with your smartphone – just point your phone at it, and experience lots of lovely music.  It’ll keep you fit too – the trail’s about 10 miles long!

“Four cafes in Armley will be taken over by four artists for a whole week as they make some takeaway art for customers.  It’s called The Full Artist’s Breakfast, and they’ll be drawing art on windows, tablecloths, and there’ll be a set of badges to collect from each cafe that’ll make up a Full English breakfast – get your sausages from one place, your eggs from another, and so on.  I’m so excited by that, I’ll be eating my own body weight in breakfasts around Armley!

“Finally – but this isn’t all – we like Bramley Baths.  It’s a fantastic old Edwardian swimming pool, which has quaint little changing cubicles around the sides, and a beautiful balcony curving round the wall above it.  We’ve teamed up with the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra,a fantastic group of people who love taking classical music to the public.  But we’ve gone one further – we’ve decided to build a stage, slap bang in the middle of the swimming pool, in the water!  The orchestra will be on the stage, performing Handel’s Water Music, and the audience will be in there with them.  For those who don’t fancy donning the speedos, there’ll be seats up on the balcony, and some cake too.  It’s been quite a mammoth task to set up – we have a wonderful team of people working with us.  We’re really honoured that all the staff at Bramley Baths, the orchestra and the crew have offered to do this for the love of Bramley Baths alone – I’m truly grateful to all of them”.

The festival begins this Friday 1 July at Armley Mills, with Active Crossover, a sound installation at Armley Mills Industrial Museum.  Discover much, much more about I Love West Leeds Arts Festival, and download the complete programme, at