Review and photos by Mark Granger
After the mixed bag of day one, and the surprise highlights contained within, I was looking forward to day two. Missing the bus meant I hardly saw any of first act Faux Palms so it was straight down to the Scholar Bar for Freeze The Atlantic. As a band that contains former members of Reuben and Hundred Reasons it should come as no surprise that they tore the roof of the place with a blistering set of heavy alt-rock. Vocalist Liv Puente is a natural frontman and put his all into an entertaining performance while the rest of the band held it down tightly behind him.
On the main stage Samoans launched into their set of post rock madness, working their way through songs from their last album, including the impressive ‘The Moth’ and the meandering ‘A Thousand Knives/ A Thousand Wives’ as well as some new songs. Samoans move between being equally exhilarating and boring, sometimes within the same song and as such Samoans are ultimately a frustrating live experience.
Back in the Scholar Bar perky Plymouth jangle punks WOAHNOWS bring the sunshine to Handmade Festival. Impossibly cheery frontman Tim Rowing-Parker bounds around the stage while the band belt out songs from their new album as well as some from their previous EPs. Penultimate song ‘Breathing Games’ particularly stands out with it’s slower sections fooling the crowd into thinking we were having a reflective moment before the song burst into punky life once more.
After the sunshine of WOAHNOWS things are about to get serious as Max Raptor take to the main stage, launching into their set of politics fuelled punk. The whole band explode as soon as the first song kicks in, running around the stage like caged animals itching to break free. They don’t let up as they run through stormers like ‘England Breathes’, the fantastic ‘Obey The Whips’ and set closer ‘The King Is Dead’. Add a little ‘Who’s gonna vote?’ angry banter and we have a contender for best band of the festival so far.
Pop rock indie heroes Tellison are up next in the Scholar Bar. It’s apparent that they have easily attracted the biggest non headline crowd of Handmade so far. Songs are sung along to, song announcements get huge cheers and after a few songs it’s clear why. Tellison are brilliant at what they do, namely writing memorable pop songs with huge hooks, they are also tight as a gnats chuff right down to the intricate harmonies of the vocal break in ‘Collarbone’ which has no right to sound that lovely live.
Local band Clubs take to the main stage and launch into their set of intricate effect drenched indie songs. Although the band don’t have a massive stage presence they more than make up for it with their swirling masses of guitar and floating vocals, plus with songs like the delicate ‘Luminous’ in their arsenal they should be perfectly fine for now.
One band that doesn’t have to worry about stage presence and spectacle is Talons. Impossible to pin down but sounding impossibly heavy while taking math rock, prog rock and classical influences and mashing them into one mind-fuck of an instrumental gumbo. Two violinists stand centre stage while madness erupts around them. Whatever you think about Talons, live they are a band you can’t ignore.
After having my brain fried by Talons it’s time for some chilled out vibes in The Alumni Room with loop fiend Peter Wyeth. Using loop pedals, an acoustic guitar, a glockenspiel and a toy singing bird Wyeth proceeds to make a 45 minute set become one dreamy musical journey that flies by, captivating the small audience with his mastery of his art.
Headlining the Scholar Bar stage are Tall Ships and they seem to have the same crowd as Tellison although they only have the pop hooks in common. Tall Ships’ music is infused with much proggier sounds and an energy that gets the crowd moving from the off. But as with day one, I must leave early because I have to see that band everyone’s going on about headline the main stage.
Maybe I’m tired, but Bo Ningen are the second main stage headliners in a row to underwhelm me. Loud, spectacular to watch and tight as you like but for some reason it just didn’t grab my balls and make me want to stay. So off I went to The Alumni Room once more for another quiet end to the day with Johnny Foreigner frontman Alexei Berrow under his solo guise of Yr Friends. With a set that comprises both original songs about Placebo being shit nowadays and covers of All Saints ‘Pure Shores’ and Irving Berlin’s ‘What’ll I Do?’ – the latter re-imagined into an acoustic masterpiece – it’s a fantastic end to the second day of what’s turning out to be a fantastic festival.