Live Music Venues in Leeds: A Pink Wafer Guide
Leeds is increasingly recognised for its stellar selection of clubs and music venues that open their arms to both new and old. From warehouse raves and candle-lit jazz, to DIY dives and unassuming pubs, you’d be unlucky not to find what you’re after amongst Leeds’ brimming selection of music venues. With a whole year of promising gigs ahead, here is a list of some of those that stand out in the city.
Wharf Chambers is at the forefront in creating an inclusive, community-driven ethos in the musical society of Leeds. With sticker-painted walls and an intimate, higgledy-piggledy stage, this 180 capacity venue will land you right in the heart of the city’s triumphant underground music scene. Playing host to many incredible up and coming Leeds bands, Wharf Chambers makes an example of the wonders that Leeds’ music scene can produce, as as welcoming underground royalty such as Omni and Duds. With a beer garden nestled beneath trees, and a quality selection of ales and vegan street food up its sleeve, this is a welcoming space that encapsulates what so many of us enjoy about live music.
Brudenell Social Club
Speak to any inhabitant of Leeds and they’ll tell you that Brudenell Social Club is quite possibly the best music venue in the UK. What was once a good old-fashioned working men’s club has been made into the musical hub of Leeds. The owners of Brude, The Clarks, brought the building to life whilst managing to preserve the 70’s décor and layout. Holding a maximum 400 capacity, the main room has been graced by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs and Jonathan Richman in its time. Although considered the pinnacle of Leeds venues, the booking process never overlooks home-grown talent and is forever giving local acts the chance to support some big names. Whether to enjoy a show or just to play pool, Brudenell Social Club is well worth an evening for its charming aura alone.
The Wardrobe is a spot where you can catch some seriously big names in an intimate setting. Meander your way down the stairs below the cocktail and craft ale bar and be welcomed by the dimly-lit charm of this 450-capacity space. So many acts have graced its stage on their way to the top – Amy Winehouse, George Ezra and Catfish and the Bottlemen to name a few. For those of you looking to keep the party going, The Wardrobe often hosts club nights with funk and soul DJs late into the night. If immersive performance in a welcoming environment sounds like your cup of tea, then make sure to fit this spot into your next Leeds visit.
Belgrave Music Hall
Pizza, beer, a roof terrace – and a cracking music venue. Belgrave is a staple of the nightlife scene in Leeds. What was once a recreational hall and nursery school has been transformed into a trendy, industrial craft beer hall that attracts locals of all ages throughout Leeds. Above the ground floor bar is the knockout 300 capacity events space with its towering stage and snug area to boot. Venture up to the second floor and you’re greeted by a tropical rooftop terrace with its own beer taps that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. Perfect for when the UK sun so kindly graces us with its presence (there can be sun in Leeds, we promise!) Add on the stellar canteen-style food and this place has everything you need to enjoy a night in the city.
Amongst the vibrancy and merriment of Call Lane, Oporto stands out as an exceptional 120 capacity venue and bar. This space is separated down the middle – on one side you have the infamous Oporto bar with its swinging ceiling lights and table-top dancing, and on the other you can lose yourself in the heat of the weekly live music the venue hosts. If you need any proof of Oporto’s prestige, you can see for yourself in the sheer amount of polaroid photos of previous bands and artists that cover the walls. Oporto hits the nail on the head when it comes to creating the grassroots, hell for leather atmosphere that comes with up and coming bands and the energy of the Leeds live music scene. Coupled with top-notch vegan junk food, Oporto is definitely not one you should miss.
Headrow House is a sleek multi-story bar and venue slap-bang in the heart of Leeds city centre. These guys always guarantee the best of modern music in their intimate 150 capacity space that boasts a sleek modern stage and impressive neon stage lighting. Formerly a textiles mill, you’ll find Headrow House’s large rooms are always lively on a weekend with house DJs and two separate bars. The purpose-built music venue is often home to touring bands that are destined to be massive and the booking agents at work always manage to secure amazing acts. You’ll be lucky to find a swankier music venue than Headrow House anywhere in the UK. Look for the £5 steak and chips deal they run every day from 12-8. It’s banging.
Hyde Park Book Club
Just out of the city, in the epicentre of the student neighbourhood, you’ll find Hyde Park Book Club. This ex-petrol station is divided into three sections – a snug/bar area often rammed full of locals supporting Leeds’ plethora of talented jazz musicians, a vintage-esque café serving vegan food, walled with (you guessed it) books for punters to exchange and enjoy, and a 100-capacity basement venue that champions the Hyde Park DIY scene, as well as hosting touring bands. The buzz of this underground space encapsulates the vibrancy of the Leeds student-led music scene. The beers are great, the staff are always welcoming, and they host music almost every night of the week. What’s not to love?
Follow the stairs down to Sela bar in amongst New Briggate and you’ll be entering one of the biggest hubs for live jazz within the LS postcode. This is where the Leeds’ hot-shots go to perform and often host open public jam sessions. Jazz isn’t the only genre on the menu at Sela though. The Mojah Reggae band take the stage every Wednesday bringing all the dub and reggae vibes. Talking of menus, the pizzas at this place are something to behold, and the kitchen is open till midnight for those late-night munchies! The low lighting and up-close-and-personal stage in Sela make for a real inclusive atmosphere and a truly enjoyable way of experiencing music that bigger stages can’t offer. Topped with a cocktail selection hand-picked from across the globe, Sela Bar is always a recipe for an enjoyable night.
This spot is a seriously hidden gem within the Leeds music venue circle. Entering Domino Club is a ticket to a New York Speakeasy without the 9-hour flight. A jazz/cocktail bar at its core, this club offers so much more than your average jazz bar. Firstly, you enter Domino through the back-door of a swanky barber shop. You feel like an extra from The Godfather entering this place. They play host to some of the best jazz vocalists on offer from Wednesday to Sunday and welcome touring jazz acts from around the globe. The Domino funk and soul band play bi-monthly and are sure to bring the party with them. This is a popular venue amongst the locals and an evening spent down below will prove to you why.
Between the edges of the city centre and the verges of Hyde Park, The Lending Room takes pride of place. What was once a grand public library is now the epicentre of Leeds’ indie rock scene, boasting a seismic quality of sound via their top of the range PA system and an impressively large stage. Many of the original features of the library have been preserved, such as the plush, sloping staircase you enter the venue upon, which is what gives this place the character locals gravitate towards. This historical spot acts as the stepping stone for those in the midst of their inevitable breakthrough and some now-household names have graced its stage in the past. Alt-J famously began their careers at The Lending Room, so expect many of the acts you catch here to follow in their footsteps!
A magnet for the local talent of Hyde Park and music lovers alike, LS6’s vibrantly decorated walls contain some of the best jazz nights in Leeds along with weekly open mic sessions that not a single musician in Leeds doesn’t know about. Low lighting, a quality selection of real ales and an intimate, inclusive vibe are what gives this place its charm. The addition of the stellar events schedule means it always ticks the right boxes. They also serve up a mean breakfast for the morning after.
The Hifi Club can be filed under night-life royalty in Leeds city centre. As well as their superior club nights, when Hifi turns its hands to live music you know you’re in for an exceptional show. Past acts to have taken to the stage are the likes of Gilles Peterson, and Nightmares on Wax. Wednesdays are always taken by Hifi’s event ‘Move on Up’, with DJs playing funk, soul and disco tunes non-stop until the early hours, so make sure you dig out your best dancing shoes! ‘The Sunday Joint’ is free entry and the stage is always taken by the amazing soul, funk, reggae or disco talent in Leeds. The level of live music you can enjoy at no cost is almost criminal!
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