Review and photos by Mark Granger
Perhaps unsurprisingly in the week before the election, there’s a political air about Leicester’s Handmade Festival. On more than one occasion David Cameron will get called a cunt and to no-one’s surprise the whole line up of the three day event seems to be leaning heavily left.
The weekend kicks off with Liverpool’s Hooton Tennis Club on the main stage and their laid back pop is a perfect intro to the weekend. The band’s songs are awash with a heavy 90’s indie influence and despite some songs having pretentious titles like ‘And Then Camilla Drew Fourteen Dots On Her Knee’ they also have the choruses like the one on ‘Power Pierre’. Great Stuff.
Down in the Scholar bar is Dark Dark Horse. The other musical project of Maybeshewill bassist/producer Jamie Ward, Dark Dark Horse were never going to be bad and so they aren’t. A pleasing, pulsing electronic swathe of melancholia, the intricate pop arrangements on songs like ‘Mercury Nevada’ ensure the band should carve a fine career of their own.
On record Autobahn are a post punk band, and a pretty decent one at that; live, however, they are a different matter. The singer prowls the stage in a trench coat and yells incoherently into the microphone, ruining any subtlety the recordings bring to proceedings and not adding anything new to replace it. At one stage he sings and plays a keyboard with his back to the audience which only adds to my annoyance. Luckily something much more exciting is about to kick off back in the Scholar bar.
Baby Godzilla don’t know how to play a bad show. A bold statement that maybe but, unlike Autobahn, any of the subtlety of their songs lost in their frantic shows is more than made up for in entertainment value. Before the end of the first song, guitarists Matt and Jonny are in their usual place i.e. as far away from the stage as possible, handing microphones to bemused festival goers who are just wandering through. As always they somehow manage to keep their riffs under control as they flail through the crowd, and the songs are never under threat of losing their way thanks to the insanely tight rhythm section. There are two massive sing-alongs to end the set in the form of their ‘hit’ ‘Powerboat Disaster’ and the disjointed ‘Three Legged Race.Ist’ before they leave the room to massive applause.
Schedule clashes mean that I only catch the back end of Los Angeles’ Francisco The Man’s set and as any band that has to follow Baby Godzilla would, their set lacks something in comparison. They are pretty static on stage which would be fine if their songs compensated for this lack of movement, but with their set being standard indie pop music there’s nothing to stop their performance from being anything but a come down. Not so for Delta Sleep whose powerful set of heavy math rock in The Cave captivates the small audience with complex rhythms and musical interplay that engages the brain and the body enough to bring energy levels back up.
After what has been a pretty loud festival so far it’s time for a (slightly) quieter interlude in The Alumni Room where Leicester’s own folk punk protest singer Grace Petrie is playing. Her mix of politically charged songs and more personal numbers turn out to be more powerful than any of the up to eleven performances thus far. ‘I Do Not Have The Power To Cause A Flood’ manages to take down the Ugandan president, UKIP, Putin and Jeremy Clarkson in one fell swoop and but it’s the magnificent ‘Ivy’; an emotional tale of having to rush back from Glastonbury 2014 in time for the birth of her niece, that is the highpoint of the set. With songs that make you think as well as tug at your heartstrings, Grace Petrie proves that power comes from the music and not necessarily from the size of your amps and pedal boards.
A quick glance of London’s Childhood in the Scholar Bar leaves me impressed by their indie pop but my eagerness to catch the much hyped Eagulls means I leave before the end of their set. This turns out to be a mistake because behind the hype lies a disappointingly boring set of alt rock that fails to set my world alight although the crowd loves it.
Luckily back in the Alumni Room is Sam Duckworth ready to entertain a small crowd with an intimate acoustic set, complete with long rants between songs, rants only fuelled by an audience member asking who he is going to vote for. The song count therefore suffers but what he does deliver he delivers with conviction and, of course, ends on Get Cape song ‘The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (Part One)’ and consequently a big ole sing-along.
So, a mixed bag for the first day of Handmade Festival 2015 with the best performances lying far away from the main stage.