Art School Girlfriend @ Oporto Bar – 8 November 2023

There is nothing quite like the sensation of coming in from the cold to the warmth. That much rang true on this chilly November night in the heart of the City of Leeds.

Shrugging off the cold was easy, entering the comforting warmth of Oporto Bar. Much can be said for its charm, from the bright, orange glow of the neon sign behind the bar, to the alternative and independent crowd on-hand. For a Wednesday night, it was lively even before the room for the show opened.

Many of the crowd had attended the bar just for the social and the atmosphere! There were glimpses of times where I questioned whether I was in England or an American bar. Never before have brick walls, tiled bars and wooden panels felt so welcoming!

For the better part of the millennium thus far, Oporto has provided enthusiastic life and entertainment to the fine people of Leeds, with resident DJs and weekly live music. In a prime location down the famed Call Lane, not far from the Corn Exchange, it boasts a 120-capacity live room and bar that truly set the tone for the evening’s show.

After a friendly meet-and-greet with the doorman, I mounted the step into the “venue” room and instantly recognised its intimate setting. Within arms’ length from music admirers and drinkers to my left and right, this compact space provided a unique ambience that some venues across the City have achieved.

The support opened the show at bang-on 7pm, welcoming an astonishing array of electronically-produced beats and pulsating textures of sound and noise. With a gentle but infectious personality, Caitlin LM impressed me with each track she performed. Building progressively from slow to faster dance tracks, what struck me as standout was the Manchester native’s impressive ability to harmonise her beats with the use of instruments including her voice, a saxophone and even a flute. It was this performance that truly allowed her to reach out to those who may be experiencing her work for the very first time. It left a remarkable impression, particularly how candidly transparent and humble she came across in her delivery between tracks.

The electronic pop resumed with the main course – the arrival of Art School Girlfriend. Musician, producer and songwriter Polly Louise Mackey had long been ingrained in the indie rock and pop scenes, starting with breakout performances in her shoegaze band Deaf Club, and later providing backing vocals for The Maccabees. It was in Margate in 2016 where she realized her calling, as her act began to take off.

Two albums later, Polly was joined by a group of touring musicians and took her act on the road, including a stop in Ye Olde Leeds. The sophomoric sensation captivated the sold-out standing-room audience with a selected compilation of tracks that were as true to her recorded work as feasibly possible. The electronica was benefited by the intimacy that Oporto’s gig room provided, as the union played an array of songs from her two releases, and even squeezed in a cover of Prince’s 1984 bopper “I Would Die 4 U”.

And as the show drew to a close after a wowing thirteen-song set, Art School Girlfriend reacquainted me with the rhythmic side of music I had rarely experienced in all my years of attending live music events.

As I opened that door to the harsh, fresh cold and began my journey back home, I counted myself thankful that I now had some new artists to enjoy through the late fall’s night.

Art School Girlfriend wraps up a spectacular year with a date in Switzerland before hopping over to Denmark, Germany, Spain and France in the new year. Their sophomoric album ‘Soft Landing’ dropped in August to positive reviews. Keep your eyes peeled for future dates on the website,

Caitlin LM continues to impress newcomers to her music with tantalising performances. Her latest single “Breathe Again” is available to listen to now. To keep in touch with the instrumentalist, including where you can see where she’s playing next, head on over to her Instagram.

Editor’s note: Apologies to everyone – we had a mishap with the gig photography. Entirely my fault. Mags.

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