Leaf Tea Shop celebrates five years of being at the very heart of Liverpool’s music scene, Getintothis staff pay tribute to its musical highlights.
Leaf Tea Shop at FIVE. Boy, where does the time go? We can remember venturing down to the Baltic Triangle in search of a new electronica night at this new place like it was only yesterday.
When we got there, Leaf Mk I (now the Baltic Social) had all the hallmarks of something special; it was intriguing, a mini arts playground with plenty of ideas at work – and the people, music and energy was apparent. Skip forward a year or so, and the move to Bold Street seemed like a natural fit. An independent spirit and bold owner, in Natalie Haywood, in the heart of Liverpool’s arts and music quarter. It made sense. And the old Microzine building was transformed (or should we say, left pretty much the same – that was its charm – rough round the edges with vintage decor, a splash of colour, grand red curtains and that whopping back-lit L).
Food, drink and craft has always been a big thing to those who run and frequent, Leaf Tea Shop (to use it’s official name, does anyone use that?) but to us – it’s all about the music – we barely go downstairs at all these days, preferring a quiet corner upstairs in the daytime or in the mix in the evening when Mellowtone, Harvest Sun or whoever hosts an event.
Compiling this highlights package has been a little mad going; sifting through the archives and seeing who’s played at Leaf – it’s quite extraordinary; massive props to all the promoters and festival types who staged the events listed below – there’s too many to list, and I don’t wanna miss anyone out. You folks know who you are.
At Getintothis HQ, we’ve enjoyed writing this, which usually goes hand in hand with how you feel about the subject. So big up to Natalie, her trusty lieutenant Becky Todd and staff past & present for making it one of the go-to independent arts and music venues in the city. It’s pretty damn rare to have a place that is pretty much universally loved by people from any background/interests – we think they nail it.
Adam Lowerson, Getintothis deputy editor
I’ve had some boss times at Leaf. Whether it’s been watching a gig, popping in for a couple of pints or getting lunch, it’s always one of my favourite places in town to go. It’s a testament to how good the food is that you can never get a bloody table.
In terms of music though, one highlight is certainly the Gambles set that I stumbled across at Sound City 2014. I walked up the stairs into a packed room in stunned silence, stood in a room-wide circle around the lone singer, completely unplugged, standing and singing with his acoustic guitar, lit only by candles and fairy lights. It was the most intimate live music experience i’ve had, and one i’ll never forget.
Another great night was Lapsley’s homecoming show earlier this year. I must have been the only person in the room that wasn’t a friend or family member as the atmosphere was so incredibly warm and celebratory. Lapsley’s set was something special, too, and it felt like you were witnessing a future superstar.
Paul Higham, Getintothis features writer
To begin, an admission. Being London based until late 2014 and only returning to my home city all too infrequently, most of my tangible ‘memories’ of Leaf are fairly recent.
Yet what sticks most in the mind is venturing upstairs during a Sound City visit and being taken aback by the welcomingly laid back vibe. All dimly lit and comfortable Chesterfield sofas, it felt much like the London I’d left at home for the weekend.
When did Liverpool become so hip? It is thus to Leaf that I owe the biggest debt. Somewhere, while reclining in its gentle, easy atmosphere, was born the kernel of an idea: the possibility of returning home. A few short years later I did just that and haven’t regretted it one bit.
Indeed, Leaf played host to the first show I saw after finally severing all links with the Smoke. Leaving the office in London for the very last time and heading, excitably, from Lime Street to Leaf to see outlaw-country troubadour Sturgill Simpson, I remember vividly the strange almost intoxicating feeling of freedom and possibility. Leaf will forever remain in my heart.
More recent memories of memorable gigs include a sweltering yet intense Timber Timbre show, all bathed in red and eerie atmospherics, a James Yorkston masterclass as he competed with admirable professionalism against an open mic night downstairs. Earlier this year Norman Blake and Jad Fair excelled while reviving their, on the face of it, unlikely collaboration and I was screaming gig of the year* to all prepared to listen in the aftermath of October’s Vetiver gig.
*alcohol may have been taken
Patrick Clarke, Getintothis‘ new music editor
My favourite trip to Leaf was coincidentally my last, before moving away from Liverpool. It was an incredibly rare showing from 60s psych survivors Kaleidoscope, or one of them at least, frontman Peter Daltrey standing resplendent in the same velvet jacket and cravate he wore in the ’60s in front of backing band Trembling Bells, steaming through what seemed like the entirety of the band’s vastly overlooked back catalogue, in between shambolic, rambling anecdotes.
I was there reviewing for Bido Lito!, one of those “yeah I’ve heard of them, might be good” kind of gigs. What followed was at times ludicrous, at others immensely moving, yet for the entirety an eye-opener into the history of psychedelia’s oft-ignored pioneers.
Vicky Pearson, Getintothis‘ social media editor and photographer
My first visit to Leaf was actually for a Getintothis team meeting. Being new to the city at that time I had yet to discover the plethora of eccentric and eclectic treats that Bold Street has to offer. After the initial dip Leaf then became a regular haunt for me. Stopping off after work, hanging about waiting for gigs (taking full advantage of the Wifi of course) or entertaining friends and family from out of town, Leaf is always on my list of where to go when people come asking.
The upstairs venue is one of my favourites anywhere, because it feels you could be anywhere. Night after night it transforms itself into a little cove of hustle and bustle with an air of exclusivity (but not in that snooty kind of way). The acts get to pick the room up and put it back down in a place and time of their choosing. Almost every gig at Leaf ends with me saying something along the lines of “don’t you feel like you could have been in San Fransico/Seattle/Texas* in the 70s/60s/20s*”.
One thing i’ve learnt from spending an excessive amount of time around the place is you never know who you’re going to run into when you’re in Leaf, so it’s always worth popping in!
*insert any city and era combination.
Glyn Akroyd – Getintothis staff writer
I’ve had some great memories at Leaf including my first gig shoot when I was putting a portfolio together courtesy of the wonderful Mr Johnny Sands and his Open mic nights to the recent Grant Lee Philips and Vetiver shows, both examples of great songwriting and passionate delivery. But I’m going to plump for Mellowtone’s 10th Anniversary Party as my fave though, a tremendous evening featuring some excellent performances from the likes of Dave O’Grady and Silent Sleep, great tunes from the Beaten Tracks chaps and an atmosphere of genuine warmth.
Gary Lambert, Getintothis contributor
Leaf holds a very special place in my heart due to a battle with depression. I was tasked by my counsellor to go to an event which I would enjoy but would make me feel very uncomfortable for a while and I was not allowed to have the comfort of a pint or leave. I picked a gig in Leaf for, I think, £3 which was By The Sea supported by Filter Distortion. It was hell on one level, but I pushed myself through it and sipped at my Champagne Cassis tea (still my favourite now).
And then By The Sea came on and everything started to change. The stress and nervous tension drifted away with their chilled jangling guitars, my mind cleared and for the first time in months I felt myself properly smile. Leaf is a place that I always now feel comfortable in regardless of circumstance. Alone, with friends, with family, with colleagues, having a tea, having a beer, having some excellent food, on good dates, on very bad dates, at Pudding Club or open mic nights. Leaf covers everything. Although I draw the line at doing yoga! Even as I type this I have fantastic nights flooding my memory. Lindi Ortega and The Strypes from afar. Liverpool acts like Rosenblume and All We Are. And also one magical night watching Bird during the most ethereal period which will forever stand as one of the greatest gigs of my life.
Paul Riley, Getintothis staff writer
Upstairs has become one of the homes for Mellowtone, and is one of the nicest places in town to watch music of a folk, African, blues or Americana bent. Blue Rose Code was someone I didn’t know, as is sometimes the way when reviewing, and he completely blew me away with just an acoustic guitar and his voice. At times whispering gently into the mic, and at others screaming to the ceiling from the back of the stage, Ross Wilson‘s performance was hair-raisingly astonishing. It was also perfectly suited to the space, with its bare-brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. Not only the best gig I have seen at Leaf, but one of the best I have seen from a solo artist in some time.
Gaz Jones, Getintothis photographer
Peter Guy, Getintothis editor
“It’s been mad going through the archives and seeing who’s played at Leaf – it’s quite extraordinary to be fair; but big up to Natalie Haywood, Becky Todd and staff past & present for making it one of the go-to independent arts and music venues in the city – it’s pretty damn rare to have a place that is pretty much universally loved by people from any background/interests – I think they nail it. Also massive props to all the promoters and festival types who staged the events listed below – there’s too many to list, and I don’t wanna miss anyone out. You folks know who you are. Enjoyed writing this, which usually goes hand in hand with how you feel about the subject.”
Peter Guy’s top 11 Leaf on Bold Street gigging hits
Temples, May 2013 (review)
Heavenly Recordings‘ glam heads announced their arrival in Liverpool in a mayhem-fuelled mad one quite uncharacteristically for Leaf with loud psych riffs and an additional punch-up down the front between photographers and on-lookers. The bouncers didn’t quite know what to make of it – this thing isn’t meant to happen in Leaf. Temples took everything in their stride later bagging Rough Trade‘s album of the year.
MONEY, June 2013 (review)
Manchester’s new hype band MONEY entered Leaf from the back of the room for their debut Liverpool date. Frontman Jamie then proceeded to climb on tables, drink revellers drinks, kiss ladies’ hands and then lie on the floor. In between were celestial moments of guitar-infused beauty – a rare night when the hype was justified – and a week later they were across the front pages of the nation’s music press.
Mellowtone’s 10 Birthday Party, December 2014 (review)
Liverpool folk-roots-collective Mellowtone are part of the fabric of Liverpool’s live music fraternity – and their 10th birthday party last Christmas reflected as such. With around a dozen artists including Nick Ellis, Dave O’Grady and Ragz on display, this was as much a communal celebration as a musical one. It was very lovely indeed.
How To Dress Well, June 2013 (review)
US electronic dude HTDW thrilled with both his falsetto and also his mild manner – you could hear a pin drop.
College, Kalax, October 2014 (review)
‘That dude who did The Drive‘ soundtrack finally made his debut in Liverpool after a cancelled plane first time round threatened to scupper fans of the Ryan Gosling cult classic. Big walloping French cinematic soundscapes collided with a pretty whacked out light display. But the night was also notable for young Liverpool electronic artist Kalax who perhaps stole the show for his own brand of Gallic electroclash.
Låpsley, March 2014 (review)
The debut outing for Låpsley would be a frenzy of A&R competing with her school friends gaggling for a first glimpse of the Formby girl who’d racked out hundreds of thousands of hits for her demo track Station. She didn’t care a jot, instead laughed the night away as the sell out crowd lapped it up in spades. A year later and she signed to XL Recordings. Incredible.
Julia Holter, May 2013 (review)
A sublime exercise in songcraft and charming a crowd. Anyone who saw Holter at Leaf fell under her spell. Marvellous.
The GIT Award, May 2012-2013 (review / review) (picture gallery)
The first two GIT Award events played host to more than 30 new acts many in their infancy before signing to labels and receiving international acclaim. Bill Ryder-Jones, Forest Swords, Stealing Sheep, Mugstar, Dan Croll and Esco Williams all featured in live performances. While The Kazimier and Hillsborough Justice Collective received the poignant Inspiration Awards. The winners were Loved Ones and Baltic Fleet – but it was the prevailing sense of Merseyside music uniting under one roof which felt even more satisfying.
Mick Head and The Sand Band, December 2012 (review)
The comeback was complete for one of Liverpool’s most-loved musical sons. After a rollercoaster battling demons, the Shack and Pale Fountains frontman, Michael Head dazzled a super-packed house at Leaf with an array of favourites and a raft of new tunes. His nerves may have been jangling but there was so much love in the room it felt like a genuine moment of the year. That The Sand Band backed him up was extra special. A real be there night of live music.
Jeniferever, The Wild Eyes, April 2011 (review)
Post-rock cult heroes Jeniferever played a super rare show in Leaf backed by an equally rare outing by The Wild Eyes. A night of high drama, big tunes and the lasting memory that we may never see either band play again.
Savages, Palma Violets, July 2012 (review)
Possibly the biggest hype night in Leaf‘s history. The entirety of the national and many international media descended on Liverpool for the opening night of this duo’s tour – in one corner a multi-national raw punk all-female punk band, the other an all-lads Clash-a-like rock and roll collective. Sixty minutes later and the place was torn to shreds, both bands excelling with Savages‘ malevolent bite just edging it over the boys.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Marty Saleh, Keith Ainsworth, Tomas Adams, Peter Goodbody, Glyn Akroyd, Gaz Jones & Simon Lewis