Next time you’re looking for some live music in Leeds, these are the gig venues you need to know about…
Leeds has a music scene that’s the envy of other cities – just this year, the city made the top 5 in a survey of the most vibrant live music scenes across the UK, coming in just behind London, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow. The reason it placed so highly, is the number of amazing venues all over the city putting on an array of diverse musical talent that folk of all tastes can appreciate. So we’ve rounded them up in a handy little guide you can fall back on next time you fancy some gigs in Leeds…
First Direct Arena
Playing host to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Prince, Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam, Fleetwood Mac, Bette Midler, The Who amongst many, many others, it’s safe to say that the arrival of First Direct Arena was worth the wait. After decades without big music venues in Leeds to attract the very best, now we’ve got one of the most celebrated in the country, with it’s 13,500 capacity, fan-shaped design different to anything else out there. Keep those superstars coming…
First Direct Arena, Arena Way, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BY.
O2 Academy Leeds
Once the famed Town and Country Club, before becoming a club at the turn of the Millennium, Leeds rejoiced when O2 Academy Leeds became a live music hotspot once again in 2008. The 2,300 capacity venue has put on some of the biggest names in music, with the likes of Morrissey, Foals, The Last Shadow Pippets, The Pogues, Slayer and Ellie Goulding all playing concerts here in Leeds, and it continues to put on huge gigs making it a vital part of the city’s music scene.
O2 Academy Leeds, 55 Cookridge Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AW.
Brudenell Social Club
Possibly the highest regarded music venue in Leeds, and Brudenell Social Club is utterly deserving of that. It’s over 100 years old, but still at the forefront of the very best music. From the best up and coming talent from Leeds and beyond to bringing huge names to play intimate shows in the heart of Hyde Park, it’s become the cornerstone of Leeds’ music scene and here’s hoping it stays that way for the next 100 years.
Brudenell Social Club, 33 Queen’s Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1NY.
When The Cockpit closed, there was much sadness across the city, but there was another venue ready and waiting to pick up the reigns. The Wardrobe is a bar on the top floor, with an underground gig venue able to fit around 450 people. It puts on gigs by the best up and coming talent from Leeds and around the world as they prepare to break into the big time, meaning it’s the perfect spot to catch the next big thing before they move on to academies and arenas.
The Wardrobe, 6 St Peter’s Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AH.
Leeds University Union
Not that they’re being greedy, but Leeds University boasts three different music venues. The Refectory is the historic one, where The Who’s Live at Leeds was recorded and David Bowie once played, however it’s not in use as much anymore. The smallest one is Mine holding just a few hundred people, it’s for the more intimate gigs by up and coming talents. The main venue, however, is Stylus, with its eye-catching well-like stage, and has managed to attract the likes of The XX, Refused, Neutral Milk Hotel and Catfish and the Bottlemen.
Leeds University Union, Lifton Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
Belgrave Music Hall
Blending craft beer, street food and live music sounds challenging but it’s something Belgrave Music Hall has mastered since opening up in 2013. Their first floor welcomes all kinds of gigs, with a focus on being at the cutting edge. Jungle played their debut Leeds show here before hitting the big time, while they’ve also welcomed the likes of Royal Blood, Fat White Family, Years & Years, Fucked Up, Little Simz, Michael Head and The Fall over the past three years – just make sure you follow up your gig with a pint and a bite to eat from Patty Smith’s or Dough Boys downstairs.
Belgrave Music Hall, 1-1a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
Belgrave’s sister venue opened up in 2015 and has become one of the most popular music venues in Leeds, helped by it’s amazing beer hall, cocktail bar and rooftop terraces no doubt. Their first floor venue has already played host to some memorable shows including a rare Biffy Clyro acoustic gig, The Wytches, Bill Ryder-Jones, Basia Bulat, Jazz Cartier, LA Priest and more, with it now renowned for its diverse program, particularly as the base for Beacons Metro.
Headrow House, Bramley’s Yard, 19 The Headrow, Leeds. West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.
For years, Milo has put on concerts, but a recent change of ownership, who have laid down some brand new vibes in the Leeds venue, has really brought it back to life, with gigs being at the heart of it. Their first floor events space is now regularly playing to host to the best punk rock and indie bands from around Leeds and Yorkshire, as well as bringing in international touring acts as it aims to cement itself as one of the best small venues in the city – time to check out what’s happening down at the Call Lane bar.
Milo, 10-12 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DN.
Chances are you might not have come across Hirst’s Yard before, as it’s tucked away just off Call Lane, but if you ever fancy a decent craft beer, tasty cocktail and some cracking live music, then it’s one of the best venues in Leeds. Every Thursday and Saturday, they’ll put on a diverse range of musical talent and the kicker is, entry is absolutely free, so you can head for some tunes and not spend a fortune for a change.
Hirst’s Yard, 11-15 Hirst’s Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NJ.
Leeds Town Hall
If you’re a fan of classical music then the chances are you’ll have experienced the vast array of concerts Leeds Town Hall hosts as part of the Leeds International Concert Season each year – and a mighty impressive line up it always seems to have too. But it’s not just about classical here, in recent years the 1,200 capacity venue has welcomed The Cribs, John Grant, Daughter, Ocean Colour Scene, Ludovico Einaudi, Morrissey and Kaiser Chiefs, while it’s got a history going back to the late 60s as gig venue with Pink Floyd and Bee Gees both playing here.
Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AD.
The Fox and Newt
An old fashioned boozer, but with a secret weapon, The Fox and Newt is one of the best unknown music venues in Leeds. They regularly have gigs, some free, some not so free, but either way, they get a huge variation of artists from upcoming singer-songwriters to classic tribute bands. The bonus ball with this one is they have a bar downstairs with a huge array of real ales, including their some of their own, which they brew in their basement.
The Fox and Newt, 9 Burley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1LD.
The Duck and Drake
Nestled on the corner of Kirkgate and Harper Street, The Duck and Drake is famed pub for live music in Leeds. They regularly have artists on, with gigs on at least every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with many of them free of charge. They love blues, folk and rock in here, and sometimes they do manage to attract in some of the bigger names which will cost you to get in, but with a pint of one of their cracking ales in hand, you won’t go too far wrong.
The Duck and Drake, 43 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DR.
Temple of Boom
Part of the Byron Street Mills complex, Temple of Boom has made a name for itself in the past few years with a range of gigs. It’s become one of the best music venues in Leeds if you’re a fan of rock, punk or metal with gigs by the likes of Eagulls, Code Orange and Adolescents. In fact, its popularity has seen them do a refurb to the old building, adding new toilets, electrics and even doorways.
Temple of Boom, Byron Street Mills, Millwright Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7QG.
Call Lane haunt Oporto is without doubt one of the most popular spots for gigs in Leeds. One room is home to a vibrant bar, while the room opposite hosts regular live music, with Monday nights home to the free Gaslight Club, and other nights welcoming some of the best up and coming talent from around the UK and beyond. The likes of Slow Club, Dutch Uncles, Jaws, Glass Caves and the much missed Viola Beach have all made their way to the venue in recent times.
Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
None of the other music venues in Leeds are quite like Wharf Chambers. It’s a co-operative, meaning its run by its members for its members, and in turn puts on some of the best gigs, club nights and events in the city. How do you get in? First, you need to sign up their membership for £2 and once you’ve done that, you’re good for life. That gives you access to tickets for all their shows which range from local band all-dayers to stops on nationwide tours.
Wharf Chambers, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 7EQ.
Regarded as one of the coolest bars in Leeds, Sela Bar has that reputation not just because of its ace selection of beers, cocktails and pizzas. Oh no, it’s because of the underground haunt’s dedication to the best in jazz, soul, funk, blues and reggae, which are blasted through the speakers. They also have regular concerts on weekends, with the majority of the shows they have on free, bar for the price of your tipple.
Sela Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
The Key Club
Out of the ashes of The Cockpit, a venue was needed to cater for the rock, metal and punk community – enter The Key Club. Formerly Beat Bar and Subculture, the subterranean Merrion Street venue has become the go-to venue if you like your music harder and louder. Since 2014, they’ve welcomed the likes of We Are The Ocean, Decade, Frank Iero, The Answer, Frank Carter and Fearless Vampire Killers – not bad for a 300 capacity venue.
The Key Club, Merrion Centre, 66 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8LW.
Howard Assembly Room
One of the more versatile venues in Leeds, Howard Assembly Room is in the same building as Leeds Grand Theatre, but is much more music focussed with a programme run by Opera North. Expect classical recitals and chamber operas, but they also host a range of gigs with the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Nils Frahm, Xiu Xiu, Julia Holter, Oneohtrix Point Never and The Unthanks all stopping at the venue which was given a much needed renovation in 2009.
Howard Assembly Room, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Based on the outskirts of Leeds city centre, Eiger Studios is a versatile space which has been used for gigs, club nights and even weddings. It’s the former we’re interested in however, and since opening up in 2009 it’s played host to numerous shows and festivals, seeing the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses, Fucked Up, Sky Larkin, Coma and The Electric Soft Parade play here.
Eiger Studios, New Craven Gate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5NF.
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union
One of the busiest music venues in the city, Leeds Beckett Students’ Union is home two to different gig spaces. Stage 2 is the smaller one, hosting small gigs by local and student bands, but The Stage is the main venue holding 1100 people. Over the years it’s welcomed the likes of Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Coldplay, The Libertines and Radiohead while in recent years we’ve seen The Maccabees, Foals, Ben Howard and more grace the stage.
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union, City Campus, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3HE.
On the street connecting Briggate to Lands Lane lies the oldest theatre in Leeds. The City Varieties Music Hall opened back in 1865 and has seen performers of the ilk of Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini on its stage. These days it blends, comedy, theatre and music with its programme, the majority of which is focussed on those with an ear on yesteryear. It’s seen the likes of The Zombies, Judie Tzuke, The Searchers and Airport Convention play concerts here in recent years, as well as more modern favourites like Mark Lanegan, The Staves and Badly Drawn Boy.
City Varieties, Swan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LW.
Rock music lovers have the perfect venue in an unassuming spot – Grand Arcade’s Santiago. Being surrounded by some cracking independents doesn’t stop it from being one of the best venues to create a din. They have bands on regularly on Fridays and Saturdays, the majority of which are free, while it’s even played host to one-off gigs by the likes of Frank Turner in the past. Oh, and it’s a whiskey bar too, and what goes better with metal than a dram or two?
Santiago, 1-3 Grand Arcade, Leeds West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
One of the newest music venues in Leeds, Chunk has more to offer than just that, however. It’s a space for the collective of the same name to share ideas, encourage progression and provide a platform for local talents to prosper. That platform is a literal one too, as they host many events in their venue featuring bands who have formed or developed within Chunk, and it’s proving to be a welcome addition to the city’s music scene.
Chunk, 275 Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2JD.
Out in Chapel Allerton, Seven Arts is a cafe, bar and events space, with an intimate 100 seat venue that’s perfect for the type of artists they attract. Alongside its vast theatre, art, dance, poetry and comedy programme, it hosts Sunday Jazz bringing some of the best performers in the genre to the city on Sunday afternoons as well as providing a stage for acoustic artists and classical musicians.
Seven Arts, 31a Harrogate Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PD.
It’s fair to say that HiFi is more renowned for its vast selection of club nights, offering up everything from soul and funk to hip-hop and salsa. However, that doesn’t stop it from putting on a few spectacular gigs in Leeds every now and again, often from the genres listed above. In recent years, we’ve seen none other than Corinne Bailey Rae, Dean Blunt, Purity Ring, SBTRKT, Little Dragon, Mayer Hawthorne and Lykke Li play gigs here, and it really does diversity the music offering in Leeds.
HiFi Club, 2 Central Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DE.
Nation of Shopkeepers
Since opening up in 2009, Nation of Shopkeepers has been one of the best Leeds music venues to find the next big thing. Even though it’s a popular bar during the day, by night it welcomes a vast array of talent, with previous gigs seeing the likes of The XX, Two Door Cinema Club, Real Estate, Best Coast, Band of Skulls, James Blake, Yuck, Spring King, Peace and Palma Violets all play here before cracking the big time.
Nation of Shopkeepers, 29 Cookridge Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AG.
First Direct Arena, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds University Union, Leeds Beckett Students’ Union and O2 Academy Leeds images copyright Jess Rowbottom. The Wardrobe and Nation of Shopkeepers images copyright Nicky Rowbottom. Headrow House image copyright Nick Porter. Hirst’s Yard image copyright Contakt Photography. The Key Club image copyright Jade Till. HiFi Club image copyright IGR Photo.