While there’s something special and comfortable about a much loved and slowly decaying music venue in my eyes, unfortunately it also says something about the perilous state of live music in the UK at the moment. There’s plenty of super-big arena venues for the likes of Coldplay, but few seem to realise or care that to get to be Coldplay bands have to put in the hours picking up the experience by playing in smaller venues. Thankfully Leeds still has a pretty decent live music scene, and one of the newest and plushest places is the joint venue Church and Chapel up near the Leeds University campus.
Chapel is the little brother of Church located through an entrance leading from the rear of the original 17th century town church on the main Woodhead Road leading past the University. Chapel has a sizable bar on the back wall, and a route to the loos leading down the side of the stage on the other side. The venue looks nicely furnished and new looking. Unlike the other half, Church, which looks like a church (doh), Chapel is really one large hall.
I was at Chapel to see Jordan Allen, the wonderfully bouncing Sheafs and the hugely exciting Elephant Trees. It being mid winter, the venue was cold with its large volume of open space but it did soon warm up. The sound of the music was good and clear, and I liked it that the security wasn’t so super intense as to break up the crowd surfing for Sheafs. There were a couple of sweet University lads there with a polite North Eastern style (they were from Sunderland) who took time out to chat with this old gimmer about the joys of writing music reviews (I write elsewhere too) and catching new music. It’s not unexpected but there’s a goodly number of Leeds University students at the venue, but there was also a smattering of us grizzled oldsters who could swop a story or two about the Smiths live if we could be bothered to talk to each other.
The bar was slightly disappointing in that they didn’t serve real ale from the pumps, but they did at least have cans of Brewdog Punk IPA in stock, albeit at a stonking £4.90 for a small can. I suspect that even if you come back and read this review 10 years hence in 2027 your eyes will still water at that price. For current comparison you can grab 4 cans of the same at an off-licence for £6.
On the downside, it seemed a kids party was taking place upstairs (18 year olds with beer) and I spotted some pouring of beer onto the audience below through the atrium during the Sheafs set; I’m not sure why wasting good beer is fun. Likewise, the visit to the loos were fraught with overexcited teen boys having something of a water fight in the toilets; the floor was certainly squelchy and I wasn’t up for inspecting it too closely.
To sum up, Chapel is a nice venue (although for the wow factor I prefer the “Church” half of the building. There’s good sound, the place feels comfortable, there’s a good mix of clientele and it’s easy to find.
*Photo of the amazing Elephant Trees at Chapel