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Words by Adam McCourt
The first and hopefully not the last This Must Be The Place festival took place this bank holiday Monday in Leeds city centre. It was held primarily in two of the city’s most well known music venues Belgrave Music Hall and recently established Headrow House, with a few additional gigs at the Live Art Bistro, a short 10-minute walk towards the bottom of the Headrow. The brand new festival set it sights on “bringing together music, film, art, food and drink” and compacted it all into one grand all-dayer.
As I made my way towards Headrow House to catch the opening act of the day, Oh Peas, I noticed there wasn’t as much of the hustle and bustle that naturally comes with an all-day festival held in the heart of a city, especially one notable for its high percentage of students. However by the third or fourth act of the day, it became clear that TMBTP had a particular scene in mind when organising and promoting the festival. With headliners The Wytches just above Dilly Dally and Joanna Gruesome on the lineup, it was clear that TMBTP was created for fans with a love of new wave, indie rock, psych and surf rock, and garage and noise rock. A specific market indeed, but one that proved more than successful after experiencing the crowds it attracted throughout the day.
Easing us into the day was a scene I can only imagine being influenced by the Ryan Gosling film The Place Beyond The Pines. In a mildly lit room, on a stage decorated with a banner of makeshift leaves with strings of fake ivy hanging from the rafters was a solo female artist with just her voice and guitar. Oh Peas, a soft singer/songwriter whose songs touched upon personal, very sensitive and gloomy subject matter. So sensitive to the point where I felt I was imposing on her problems just by listening. Although she stood idle onstage as she was serving up her issues on a plate, Oh Peas successfully managed to mask them in rather light-hearted overtones and bullish melodies, creating an interesting mix of emotions among her small collection of observers.
Cutting her set slightly short, I ducked out to Belgrave Music Hall in order to catch the first band there, Leeds’ own Chest Pains. It is worth noting at this point the venture between the two main venues was a mere minute walk. And considering the non-overlapping stage times, it was virtually impossible to miss much more than half a song at a time. They sauntered onstage at 2:00 PM with a deceptively casual demeanour that was shattered as they struck the first chord of their opening song. They appeared looking like the ’70s skateboard team Z-Boys at different points in their career. Guitarist/vocalist Sam Robinson and drummer Harry Rogers both sported the bleached blonde hair, sand-washed jeans and Vans look, which seeped into their music with added elements of psych rock and garage.
The mass wall of fuzzy chords and disjointed melodies left room for James Tkaczyk-Harrison to create his own melodies on bass, which acted more as hooks than bass lines. As a unit, they were solid and steady from start to finish. Their songs incorporated elements of poppy surf rock, old American Johnny Cash-style folk, and original ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, yet completely covered in the sculpted style of Chest Pains. Perfectly executed with an equally as energetic performance these guys well and truly set the festival off into a sprint.
Making another round trip of both venues, witnessing equally quirky yet a little cringey performances from Two White Cranes and Dirty Girl, the day was well underway. Each time I returned to the venues, the crowds grew more and more, reaching its highest as of yet for Dirty Girl at Leeds’ legendary Belgrave Music Hall. I next settled in Headrow House for one of the most honest performances of the day. Showered in an oversized poncho, Lail Arad openly told us she had stepped off the train a specific “17 minutes before reaching the venue”. But by no means did this stop her from transporting her audience, through her stories, to a time she evidently wished she had experienced: Greenwich Village, New York City in the ‘60s. As she invited her audience to take “at least one and a half steps forward”, she was inviting us into her world.
Her crowd interaction was very engaging, allowing us at one point to choose a cover between Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon and after finally deciding jokingly stating, “you can fight amongst yourselves later”. Her performance filled with conviction, well crafted in every way, even down to seamlessly covering up mistakes by making them an element of her show. Arad set herself apart by baring her innocent, playful nature while producing equally as lovely songs. Overall, she was an absolute delight to share a half an hour with.
The Orielles’ performance was another example of the excessive level of talent in the UK surf-psych scene. Although they played off the quirky, unsure yet cool characteristic their songs and stage presence were crafted well enough that proved they were serious about what they do. In particular, Henry Wade gave an extremely energetic performance, constantly hunched over, head banging and smashing the chords on his guitar. Their music covers a vast array of styles in their music. ‘Sliders’ and ‘Joey Says We Got It’ portrayed the poppy, relatable side of garage rock, whereas their final song ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ showcased the more obnoxious, slightly sinister side, the song dragging out in a hypnotic fashion.
Stay tuned for the rest of Adam’s review of the first-ever This Must Be The Place festival in Leeds, which will follow in the coming days.
Back in April, Irish indie rock quartet Enemies stopped in for a visit to Chicago’s Audiotree studios, just after their appearance in Austin for SXSW 2016. The band were in fine form on the day, and their energetic Audiotree Live session displayed a masterful combination of technical precision, spirited musicality and charismatic banter between songs. Though they rather surprisingly skipped over their recent single ‘Play Fire’, the band members were asked to elaborate on the making of the song’s rather acrobatic accompanying video. (If you haven’t seen it already, you can watch it here.)
The full video of Enemies’ Audiotree performance, which you can watch just below, was released for public viewing in mid-May. It includes the intricate instrumental interplay of three extended tracks from their 2013 album ‘Embark, Embrace’, ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Coral Castle’, and ‘Love Unlimited’, as well as older track ‘We’ve Been Talking’. To view photos from the live session, or to buy your own download of the audio, visit Audiotree directly by clicking here.
TGTF’s previous coverage of Enemies is right back here. We’ve also covered drummer Micheál Quinn’s other project, avant/experimental collective Meltybrains?, right here.
Back in April, Selkirk alt-rockers Frightened Rabbit released their excellent fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’. After a brief handful of live dates in the UK, the band immediately turned their attention to the American side of the pond, embarking on a late spring/early summer U.S. tour that brought them to Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom last Friday night.
Supporting Frightened Rabbit on this American tour are New York rock band Caveman, who are officially a quartet, but performed with six members on stage here at the Crescent Ballroom. The expanded lineup allowed them to fully flesh out their warm, atmospheric song arrangements for a pleasantly vibrant and engaging opening set. Frontman Matthew Iwanusa announced standout track ‘Human’ as part of the band’s upcoming record ‘Otero War’, and it immediately made me think that the new album would be well worth a listen. Also appearing on both Caveman’s live set list and their new album is anthemic track ‘Never Going Back’, for which the band just released the following sci-fi themed video.
Frightened Rabbit’s own recent album release might be described as “triumphant”, after the rather muted vibe of their fourth album ‘Pedestrian Verse’. On stage, they took immediate advantage of this triumph, opening their headline set with a blistering rendition of current single ‘Get Out’ and maintaining the high energy level through older tracks ‘Holy’ and ‘The Modern Leper’. The band started off sounding remarkably tight and energetic, especially compared to the last time I’d seen them live. I had been completely nonplussed by their rather sloppy performance at that sparsely attended show in Birmingham, Alabama back in 2013, when guitarist Gordon Skene was still in the lineup. On this night in Phoenix, however, frontman Scott Hutchison and his bandmates, most notably new guitarist Simon Liddell, who replaced Skene and fit seamlessly into the current live arrangement, seemed exponentially more confident and relaxed.
One of the set’s early highlights, the introspective new album track ’I Wish I Was Sober’, was also one of its slower moments, but Hutchison and company didn’t let their momentum ebb for long. I was excited to hear my personal favourite Frightened Rabbit song ‘Living in Colour’, which got the crowd bouncing along to Grant Hutchison’s formidable four-to-the-floor drum beat. And though ‘Things’, from 2010 release ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, has not been a particular favourite of mine, it was surprisingly effective in this night’s set, combining the full complement of instrumental effects in the band’s five-man lineup with a striking visual lighting display.
A few hardcore Frightened Rabbit fans in the crowd shouted requests for songs from the band’s 2006 debut album ‘Sing the Greys’, and though the band touched on every other album in their repertoire, Scott Hutchison confessed that he didn’t remember how to play all of those early songs. He also declined a rather incongruous request for ‘Poke’ at a high energy point in the middle of the set, calling that song “probably the biggest downer I ever wrote” (which is quite a distinction in his collection, it must be said). Instead, the band wisely stayed with their ever-growing list of established fan favourites, including ‘Pedestrian Verse’ track ‘State Hospital’ and its new album sequel-of-sorts, ‘Lump Street’.
Frightened Rabbit rounded off the set proper with three of their liveliest tunes, racing through storming versions of ‘Nothing Like You’ and the acoustic-flavoured ‘Old Old Fashioned’ before frontman Hutchison invited the crowd to sing along with the familiar and admittedly vulgar ‘Keep Yourself Warm’. Having brought my younger brother with me to the show, I found it a little awkward at first to shout out those particular lyrics, but it occurred to me that Hutchison himself does the very same thing in every show with his little brother Grant on the drum kit behind him, and so I carried on. The rest of the crowd clearly loved joining in on the chorus, and the Scottish five-piece left the stage to thunderous applause at the end of the song.
Scott Hutchison returned to the stage alone to open the encore with a poignant solo performance of ‘Die Like a Rich Boy’, which might have been an effective closer in its own right, but the band had other ideas. Hutchison’s colleagues returned to the stage to play their popular hit song ‘The Woodpile’ and a delightfully theatrical version of ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’, which featured multi-instrumentalist Billy Kennedy on percussion and cemented the band’s brilliant live impression.
Caveman’s new album ‘Otero War’ is due out on the 17th of June via Cinematic Music Group. They will continue playing support on Frightened Rabbit’s American tour with West Coast dates through the 27th of May. Frightened Rabbit will play the Sasquatch Festival in Washington State on the 29th of May before heading back across the pond for a list of summer festival appearances, including T in the Park and Latitude. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of Frightened Rabbit is collected right back here.
Caveman and Frightened Rabbit set lists:
Hometown pride is a wonderful thing. It turns a standard rock show into an emotional and memorable experience that generally resides in both the band and fans’ history as a date to remember. For the case of Cambridge-based band Lonely The Brave, Friday night’s show at Cambridge Corn Exchange was their largest hometown show to date and also the album release show for ‘Things Will Matter’, their staggeringly powerful second album.
Being sure to emphasise that this is a party rather than your run-of-the-mill affair, we have not one but three support acts: The Staycations and Swedish Death Candy kick the proceedings off before Scottish four-piece Fatherson would take to the stage. The crowd started building rapidly to catch this band who are on a quick trip to the top with their heartfelt and anthemic rock sound, and they simply did not disappoint.
When it came to Lonely The Brave’s turn on stage, the atmosphere in the room changed from expectant to vivacious. With the knowledge that the evening was being filmed for potential future release, there was obviously going to be a general anticipatory factor thrown in to both the performance and set, and they more than delivered.
Singer David Jakes, who suffers from anxiety, was more confident than ever before. Consisting of majority Cantabrigians such as myself, as well as the hardest of the core fans (shoutout to the Belgian superfan who’s travelled and seen the band in multiple countries), the swell of pride that came over the crowd when the thunderous ‘Radar’ began was unmeasurable. Being one of the harder tracks from ‘Things Will Matter’, it was a tremendously strong start, with an atmosphere of utter power and control over the audience. Things definitely didn’t digress in the slightest as the set continued, with the majority of the set made up of choices that exuberated the sheer ferocity that this band can attack with. We were even treated to cuts from the redux version of their debut album ‘The Day’s War’. ‘Science’, in particular, held strong ground with its crescendo breaking to new euphoric heights.
One omission from the setlist that was surprising was single ‘Trick of the Light’, though a 50/50 balance of both albums fit the billing well, and the band can’t be said they favour one album over the other. The pride the band takes in its songs is contagious. Emotive and soaring, Jakes uses the canvas laid out by his bandmates to reveal his inner struggles both mentally and physically. The strength it takes for anyone to unveil this is admirable, let alone to a room filled with friends, family and fans.
It was the final three songs where the evening hit its peak. ‘The Day’s War’ cut ‘Black ‘Saucers’ saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy, leaving no shoe undanced. Continuing into ‘Rattlesnakes’ and finishing with fan favourite ‘The Blue, The Green’, this final triple threat proved to just cement what everyone in the room knew already. Lonely the Brave are an unstoppable force that is gaining more momentum on a daily basis, soon to be turned into a juggernaut of melodic and deep-end qualities.
Cambridge is a town known for its academia and scholars, but for the 1,500 people in the Corn Exchange this evening, Lonely the Brave are the only thing from this town that matters, and rightly so. The band continue their English tour through to Friday of this week.
Parts 1 and 2 of Steven’s review of Leicester’s Handmade Festival 2016 posted earlier this week. Check out parts 1 and 2 here and here.
The Sunday of Handmade 2016 held particular importance for the city of Leicester. Entering anywhere within a 15-mile radius of the city, you would find yourself presented with an inordinate, but very much deserved, amount of Leicester City FC regalia, for they were soon to, but not on this day, make football history. This of course would have been detrimental in some aspect to the day’s proceedings at Handmade, since a festival of this size relies heavily on local cultural interest. However, there are also those outsiders, like myself, who make the pilgrimage and spread the word via numerous blogs, social networking posts and other ramblings. On a rare historical occasion such as this, when even non-diehard football fans are intrigued and excited by it, there will inevitably be a drop in attendance. The final day didn’t carry the same weight in atmosphere as the Saturday nor the Friday. The lineup itself wasn’t overtly weak but the bands that had that cultist draw such as Lonely The Brave, We Are Scientists or Deaf Havana were missing from this final day, bar Los Campesinos! (pictured at top), who saw the largest reception with their “landfill indie” hark back.
Easily the set of the day, and unfortunately it was one of the earlier ones so the crowd wasn’t as large as it should’ve been, was Johnny Lloyd. The ex-Tribes frontman who’s in the midst of excitement ahead of releasing his debut solo EP ‘Dreamland’, has returned with extraordinarily deep songs that utilise haunting, soft melodies and raucous crescendos to create a beautiful juxtaposition.
Other highlight sets from the day included Oscar, whose strong baritone vocals richly cover his often poppy, but at times focused and dramatic indie. Seeing Oscar on the main stage before heading once again down to the lower levels to witness USA Nails throughly annihilate any further thoughts of natural hearing, is an experience that just fortifies the uniqueness behind Handmade.
Of the minor downsides, and there really are only small, unavoidable ones, the largest of these was food outlets. Three tents on the patio area by the entrance, for a 3-day, mostly all-day festival, doesn’t leave much choice for hungry festival-goers. However due to the festival’s fairly central location, there was the option of making the 10-minute walk to a main road with further choices available. As this is a music site and not food, I shan’t go into detail on the food itself, but rest assured it was all fantastic.
With 2016 being the largest year to date for the Handmade Festival, 2017 is set to be even greater. I highly suggest you take a weekend out of your lives and make the trip to Leicester. You’ll find something new to fall in love with, be it a Jurassic Park-themed punk band or a simple photograph on one of the many displays around the venue. Either way, it’s fresh and exciting, and there’s no chance of being stuck on a muddy hill as you watch your tent slide away.
If you missed Steven’s review of Leicester’s Handmade Festival 2016 that covered the bands he caught on Friday, you can catch up right back this way.
Now that the event had settled into full swing, the Saturday of Handmade Fest came along like Christmas morning. Beginning earlier at 3 PM, the second day of the festival kicked off with a band so ridiculous in concept yet perfect in execution, missing them was simply not an option. Jurassic Pop solely write songs based around the Jurassic Park franchise, going as far as to have their bass player wear a velociraptor head. The songs were rifftastically solid, especially the rendition of ‘All That She Wants’ by Ace of Base, adapted so that the velociraptors from the scene where Robert Muldoon, the Jurassic Park gamekeeper, dies with the infamous last words “clever girl…”, are the focal point of the lyrics. (Though the band state they wrote it first—jokingly, of course—we don’t want any affidavits created from this article, please).
Taking to the stage in the allowed 15-minute time afterward, Happy Accidents were a surprising breath of fresh, chipper, air. Bouncing around like sweet-filled children, they brought the second day, which had thick grey clouds looming over it, into a metaphorical rainbow-laden field filled with fast, poppy punk music and smiles.
Sadly, I missed Cleft, who according to numerous people I spoke to, were one of the bands of the weekend. I did however manage to catch OhBoy!, who were phenomenal in every sense. Their powerful show matching the strength of their songs, the future is definitely going to be bright for this stellar band. The main talk of the entire weekend though were the later slots on this fine evening, kicking off with Cambridge’s own Lonely the Brave, who gave one of their most powerful performances I’ve seen to date, with their new songs creating a fierce, undertow to the already epic songs from their debut. After their set finished, the majority of the crowd, in the typical sheep fashion of this small festival, flowed down to The Scholar Bar where we awaited Scottish pop punk band The Xcerts. You got the sense that a lot of the crowd had been waiting to see the raw emotion and power of The Xcerts for a very long time, and the atmosphere in the room reflected this perfectly.
Headliners of the night were fellow East Anglians Deaf Havana (pictured at top), who, also road testing new material, created an explosive atmosphere which was fuelled by the crowd’s response to their heartfelt and angst ridden material. Overall, Saturday proved to be the strongest of the 3 days of the festival, with Sunday proving slightly weaker through no fault of the festival’s own. It cannot be stated enough that festivals such as Handmade are important in not only developing the cultural scene of whatever city they happen to be in, but they also give bands who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to play in an environment like this, or to get the exposure that would give them even one more fan that will fuel their passions. Moving past that slight digression, we will enter the final day of Handmade 2016 in part 3 of my review, which will appear on TGTF tomorrow.