Review and photos by Mark Granger
Day three of Leicester’s Handmade Festival starts with little choice due to the last minute cancellation of Best Friends, so the final day is ushered in Leicester’s Rich List in the Cave. They play a strong set of well crafted electronic pop and ease the crowd into a day that’s about to get more than a little manic.
The first band on the main stage is Allusondrugs who have already started to garner quite a reputation for their live shows and it’s not long before the whole band are whirling around the stage in a slightly unhinged manner. Their music is decidedly heavier than on record, their more spaced out moments becoming a huge wall of grungey psychedelic sound. There’s a loud cheer as they kick into crowd favourite ‘Am I Weird’ and the set ends with singer Jason Moules tackling one of the guitarists to the ground as the band descend into manic noise around them. A blistering set.
Then it’s back down to the Cave for a shufty at a band I’ve wanted to catch live since their 2013 EP Oscillations. Although playing to quite a small share of festival goers Juniors launch into ‘Elusion’ from their latest EP Barcelona like their life depends on it and from then on play a set of ultra catchy post-hardcore that shows a band that are going places fast, you just need to join them.
Talking of bands that play like their life is in danger – enter Brawlers on the main stage. Brawlers play fun, hook filled pop rock that is designed to dance along to like a loon, and so we do, as does frontman Harry Johns who, with whiskey bottle in hand, proceeds to enter the crowd for an up close and personal performance. Songs like ‘Drink & Dial’ and ‘Instagram Famous’ get the crowd revved up as does Johns’ rant against the kids who are to cool to dance. Brawlers take the energy up a notch and set the bar for the day.
Down in the Cave Waking Aida don’t quite match Brawlers’ energy levels but bring something completely different to the table. Waking Aida play purely instrumental post-hardcore which is at points as gentle as it is heavy and unofficial frontman and guitarist James Cleary is a natural entertainer who showboats with his guitar like he’s in Iron Maiden which, don’t get me wrong, is meant as a good thing. But take said showboating away and the music still stands up – itself as dramatic as you could hope for, taking the audience on a musical thrill ride. If you’re one of those people still unconvinced by instrumental bands check out Waking Aida.
Like Peter Wyeth the day before Howard James Kenny is a man that builds his set around loops and unusual sounds, and he provides the first volume relief for the day. His set is gentle experimental folk that, as these Alumni Room sets are proving to do, enthrals the assembled crowd. Despite technical problems he pushes through with his tune ‘My Wrongs’ and Massive Attack cover ‘Teardrop’ being the highlights.
Back in the Cave it’s time for some jazz infused folk from Charlotte Carpenter. From the start she has the crowd in her hands, her songs both intimate and powerful, something about her delivery making everything else in the room seem unimportant. Having said that God Damn are about to kick off on the main stage so I duck out early so as not to miss any of their set.
God Damn have been slowly building up a loyal fanbase over the last few years and with their debut album Vultures on the horizon things are about to go up a notch for the Nottingham based duo. The band have played Leicester many times over the last few years but this is their biggest show in the city to date and they take to the larger room like they were born to fill it. Coming on to a squall of feedback the band rip the heads off the crowd with an album heavy set, the crowd going mental for ‘When The Wind Blows’, ‘Maladie Melodie’ and the ridiculously good ‘Vultures’. The biggest cheer, however, is saved for ‘Heavy Money’ which is greeted like the old friend that it is. Judging by this performance God Damn are only going to keep getting bigger, so see them now. That’s an order.
It’s a celebratory return for Leicester’s Buenos Aires who’ve been pretty quiet of late but the crowd stuffed into the Cave show they’ve been missed. Ripping through their set of post-hardcore goodness Buenos Aries show that they’re a band that should be better known and it seems the crowd agree when they introduce their song ‘Record Breaker’ which, according to frontman Jake Wright “made a splash in the Wigston Magna area” (pretty specific Leicestershire based joke there). Check them out, buy their music and they might just bless us with some more live shows.
Ever see a band and then wonder how they’ve managed to slip under your musical radar? That’s what Future Of The Left have done and I’m pretty angry with everyone for not coming up to me in the street an demanding I buy their music. Future Of The Left are one of those bands that show everyone else how songs should be written, gigs should be performed and generally what a band should be. Their set is devoid of weak points, songs like ‘Manchasm’ and ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ are simply sublime and the crowd lap it up. Yet another band to have a member go AWOL into the crowd, and another band that end in chaos as Andrew Falkous slowly dismantles the drum kit while Jack Egglestone is still playing. How this band wasn’t headlining is beyond me.
The festival ends for me with Speaking In Italics back in the cave and the small space is heaving as the local band tear into their brand of progressive alternative rock and they give it their all with ‘Chasing Our Tails’ being a highlight of their set. A great local band to end a great local festival.
Slaves are starting their headline set as I leave for the last bus home but I’m happy. Handmade Festival has been a triumph and a testament to how these things should be done. You can keep your Download and Reading and Leeds, Handmade Festival is independent and where the real music is.