Leeds University boasts with three different music venues. The smallest one is Mine, holding just a few hundred people for more intimate gigs by up and coming talents. The main venue is Stylus, with its eye-catching stage, that has attracted the likes of The XX, Refused, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Catfish and the Bottlemen.
The Refectory, however, is the historic one; a 2,100 capacity venue in the heart of the Student Union campus building, popularly known as The Refec. It has played host to the most important acts around since the late 60s, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Strokes, Basement Jaxx, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, James Brown, Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Frank Turner, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, or The Killers.
But the venue is most renowned for The Who landmark live album Live at Leeds which was recorded here on 14 February 1970 and released in May 1970. The album is routinely cited as the best live rock recording of all time, including an awesome cover of Summertime Blues and an extended, 14-minute rendition of My Generation. Check out the setlist of this legendary evening here. Originally, it was planned to release the Hull concert one day later but due to technical problems the Leeds records had to be taken. In 2010 finally, the Hull concert has been released in a special issue together with the Leeds one.
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were on hand 36 years later in 2006, when a plaque at the outside building was dedicated to commemorate the Valentines Day concert and album. When here, why not have a cheap student lunch.
The Fav is located close to the universities, a compound of bar and kitchen. Serving excellent fresh home made food from local suppliers, wherever possible. When weather permits, the large outside terrace is a lovely place to eat and drink. Also home to a small venue with occasional live music.
A real hot spot is Nation of Shopkeepers. One of the best choices in Leeds for a pre gig dinner or some drinks after the concert. Weather allowing, enjoy a cold drink or one of the fancy burgers in the wonderful outside courtyard. The inside is a inspiring mix of art and live music.
Irish pub Shenanigans is an overwhelmingly friendly place with Irish and Folk music sounds. Have a snack and a beer and if you're lucky, there's also some kind of live music on today's event calendar. They carefully pick their bands and musicians for their talent, so perhaps you'll discover some new favourites tunes tonight.
Jumbo Records is a centrally located, independent record shop with a huge range of vinyl and CDs. Running for decades now, it is a real paradise especially if you are an enthusiast of old stuff or current vinyl. There are loads of records to browse. Jumbo covers the whole spectrum of Rock, Indie, and Pop to Dance, Jazz, and much more. Also strongly supporting local artists and newcomers.
When the Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen opened in 2013, it responded to a need for a large-room live music venue with a decent bar, craft beer, and reliable street food. What was once a large nursery school in the city’s Northern Quarter is now a vibrant, youthful, three-storey hangout and one of the city’s best live music venues. Ultimate highlight: the spectacular roof terrace.
Brudenell Social Club is a non-profit community and live music venue northwest of Leeds city centre. It is a centrepiece of the local music scene and most famous for hosting secret gigs for bands like Franz Ferdinand, British Sea Power, and Kaiser Chiefs. It is owned and run by members, for members.
The arrival of this first large-capacity venue was undoubtedly long-overdue. Before, Leeds was left behind as huge Rock bands toured the country, who were forced to play in Sheffield, Liverpool, or Manchester, instead of the city equally famed for its contribution to music. The calendar of First Direct Arena has a strong emphasis on Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It's an impressive Gothic building that hosts O2 Academy Leeds. With global superstars as well as local newcomers on the event calendar, this is one of the most renowned venues in town. Also centrally located in walking distance to main sightseeing attractions, shopping options and numerous bars and restaurants, O2 Academy is a hotspot for both locals and tourists.
Leeds Festival alongside with its twin Reading Festival, marks one of the most iconic British music events. Basically a Rock festival, it also showcases a line-up that spans various genres including Metal, Punk, Indie, and House. It's a true Hall Of Fame that have graced Leeds Festival famous main stage. Among them AC/DC, Metallica, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few.
The Wardrobe offers a full event calendar of gigs, combined with excellent drinks and food. Also a great choice if you are looking for smaller shows - whether music, comedy, or art performances. The basement venue hosts bigger, yet intimate live performances. As for the kitchen, The Wardrobe provides a delicious selection of pre or post gig snacks, salads, and burgers on its menu.
Headrow House opened up in 2015 and has since become one of the most popular music venues in Leeds, helped by it’s amazing beer hall, cocktail bar, restaurant, and rooftop terraces, no doubt. For a really cool relaxed feel and definitely worth a visit. Also hosting numerous live performances from both renowned and upcoming artists and bands.
Since its beginnings in 2007, Live at Leeds is an award winning metropolitan festival held annually within a variety of venues and spaces in Leeds city centre. Most of them even in walking distance. It showcases the best new emerging artists alongside more established acts from around the world.
This is the place when you are fond of heavier music. May it be Punk or all variations of Heavy Metal - this intimate live music venue is all about a great gig experience.
The Refectory (Photo by Birgit Bachmeier & Stefan Ramsthaler)
Area around the Refectory in Leeds (Photo by Bachmeier / Ramsthaler )
Blue plaque at Refectory Leeds reminding of The Who's legendary album Live at Leeds (Photo by Bachmeier / Ramsthaler )