Fourth-year advertising and design masters student El Craig shares some of her favourite places to see live music in Leeds.
Leeds is known for its music scene, and there’s never a shortage of live music to enjoy. At some of Leeds’ best venues, artists from all over the world have performed. There’s something for everyone in the city, from massive arenas like First Direct to small, intimate performance places like Hyde Park Book Club.
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite music venues in Leeds that you should visit throughout your university years!
It’s a tie between Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House for my personal favourite. Both locations exude cool, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some incredible artists and bands in a tiny, private setting. Jorja Smith and The Fall have graced Belgrave’s intimate 300-seat concert hall, and the venue has seen some fantastic acts. Similarly, Headrow’s facility has a maximum capacity of 150 people and is the go-to venue for up-and-coming acts. Before becoming famous, artists like Loyle Carner and Biig Piig performed here. Make your way to the rooftops of both venues for a pleasant post-show drink!
The Brudenell Social Club, located in the heart of Hyde Park, is a popular hangout for Leeds students. This long-running social club hosts big-name bands and performances by local artists. Brudenell is always buzzing with the best up-and-coming musicians making their impact on the music world, thanks to three separate performance spaces.
Similarly, the Hyde Park Book Club, located on Hyde Park Corner, is a terrific intimate setting. By day, it’s a wonderful vegan/veggie café, and by night, it’s a sophisticated bar. If you’re lucky, the vibrations from a gig in the basement will be booming while you’re having a drink in the bar.
Leeds University Union and Leeds Beckett Union are student favourites for a larger but still personal performance from all of our favourite musicians. They are only a 15-minute walk from the student heart of Hyde Park. The Refectory, which can seat 2100 people, Stylus, which can house 1000 people, and Pyramid, which is noted for more intimate performances, make up the Leeds University Union. The venue has a long and illustrious history in the music business, having hosted some of the biggest names in the industry, including Arctic Monkeys, David Bowie, and, most recently, Peggy Gou! Here’s an impressive list of every performer from 1969 to 2018.
The O2 Academy is located in the heart of the city, just a short distance from Beckett Union. This is one of Leeds’ busiest and most popular venues, presenting a mix of club nights and live music. Many prominent acts in pop, rock and hip hop have performed at the venue, with Foals and Morrissey among those who have graced the stage.
The First Direct Arena, located further inside the city, is the place to go if you want to witness the best stars in the world. Since its inception in 2013, it has hosted a slew of big artists, like Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and Fleetwood Mac, to mention a few. Despite its 13,500 capacity, the venue still provides a fantastic audience experience, as it has won awards for its unique fan-shaped design, which offers incredible views from any seat.
If you’re looking for something a little different and some jazzy vibes, head to Dominos Bar, one of Leeds’ best-kept secrets. This underground speakeasy in the spirit of New York displays some outstanding Jazz talent and is sure to thrill your senses. They feature live music every night of the week, and it’s free on Sundays through Thursdays, but it’ll set you back £5 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Following that is The Wardrobe, which features dozens of new promising artists. With a capacity of 450 people, the venue embraces you in an intimate performance, ensuring a memorable evening. Catfish and the Bottlemen infamously played here before breaking out, making it a hotbed for up-and-coming bands.
This list is by no means complete, and there are many more fantastic music venues to discover in Leeds and the surrounding areas. One thing is certain: live music is never far away in Leeds!