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Handmade Festival 2016 – Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 11th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

If the only music festival you’ve been to (and this is potentially more aimed to UK readers than U.S. fans) consists of standing in a muddy field in wellington boots or becoming heavily inebriated while trundling to the next stage to see a mildly hyped-up indie band, then an indoor festival, or metro-festival, is a highly different experience. Leicester’s 4th annual Handmade Festival took place on the May bank holiday with the stated goal of gathering “the best new and forward thinking music, comedy, art, film, performance and photography and bring(ing) it all together for one weekend”.

When I first arrived at the University of Leicester on the Friday, the welcoming sign of ‘H A N D M A D E’ spelt out up the stairs in large plastic letters beckoned festival-goers into the venue and gave a great indication as to how the festival sees itself: welcoming and with a hint of non-seriousness. Being a completely independent venture, Handmade is unique in that it prides itself on being a place to discover brand new things, and this is most prominent in its musical lineup. The headliners themselves are tenured enough in the industry to draw a crowd, particularly We Are Scientists (pictured at top), Deaf Havana and Lonely the Brave, who jointly win the award for “Largest T-Shirt Representation”. With these crowds drawn in, it was up to the acts beforehand, both local and national, to cement the weekend, and this they did.

On Friday, we were given the choice of either Lacura or Estrons, two bands that cover the rock spectrum nicely, with Lacura taking on the dreamscape, ease-you-in side of things and Estrons taking the face grabbing route. With both sets comfortably and officially kicking things off, the small crowd that had gathered at this early stage of the festival soon ventured to the weekend’s main stage, Academy 2, to witness Ash Mammal. This was the first sign that it would be easy to find your new favourite or soon-to-be favourite band here. Ash Mammal brought a raucous set, reminiscent of early Placebo and not easily forgotten.

An important aspect to mention before heading into any more detail on the weekend is the venue layout. In total there were three main stages for music, not including the smaller stages in the venue landing area. The main stages were the aforementioned Academy 2, the Academy 3, which was found by venturing down into the basement of the complex and through a labyrinth of corridors into a seeming ex-dance studio, and also The Scholar Bar. The initial trial of finding your way around the complex was confusing, but after one trip around the available open areas, it turned out to be a well-laid out routing that consisted of a multi-layered circle. Getting lost was a fool’s errand, and a mistake only made once.

The rest of Friday’s highlights included Black Honey, who are already gaining a serious amount of traction and for good reason. They combine blues-tinged, reverb-heavy rock with a frontwoman who has the sultry and confident attitude of Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart and Cherie Curie combined. Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic brought an electronic turn to the proceedings with a light show and tunes to make a strong enough statement that should also aide their current hype. By far the biggest highlight of the day was punk band Pretty Vicious in The Scholar Bar, a tiny venue that already made the softer acts seem edgier than you would believe. Pretty Vicious brought out their re-birth of British punk and showed us exactly how they’ve managed to score a major label deal. Snotty, abrasive with purely fantastic riffs, they’re enough to give the Sex Pistols a run for their money.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/X6uBrek6Kd4[/youtube]

Headliners We Are Scientists proved why they’re still going strong in the game after over a decade, a solid set full of the massive hits that first put them in the spotlight, peppered with newer songs which sounded just as strong. The show itself did feel like a watered down version of an atypical We Are Scientists event, at times feeling rushed. However, having taken to the stage 15 minutes late this was potentially an executed measure to get through all of the crowd pleasers.

Stay tuned to TGTF for parts 2 and 3 of Steven’s roundup of Handmade Festival 2016, which will follow in the coming days.

 

Handmade Festival 2016: writer Steven’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 26th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo of The Magic Gang by Dan Kendall

If you didn’t already heed our warning that Handmade Festival this weekend in Leicester is the festival to be at this season then perhaps, just maybe, the below list of acts that you’re going to be missing out on will change your mind. And for those who will be joining us in during the weekend, take the below list as a starting point for your own weekend musical adventure, there’s plenty to not miss out on so let us give you a bit of guidance. (To read Steven’s earlier preview of Handmade, go here.)

Lacura – Academy 3, Friday 29th April, 17:00

Drops of psychedelia amongst massive indie sounds, Lacura are your perfect opener to the weekend. It’s a toss-up between Lacura or ESTRONS, and Lacura just pip it with their dreamscapes and ethereal feel.

The Magic Gang – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 18:45

To continue your ease into the festival, The Magic Gang (pictured at top) will use their harmonious, ‘60s psych-pop style to command your elation and help you forget about that outside world. Friday afternoon’s never sounded so good. (For past coverage on The Magic Gang on TGTF, go here.)

Black Honey – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 19:45

Black Honey are gaining a lot of momentum with their dreamy, shoe-gaze-esque rock and vocals that call to mind Lana Del Rey if she actually gave us what we wanted rather than slow tempoed ballads. (For past coverage on Black Honey on TGTF, go here.)

We Are Scientists – Academy 2, Friday 29th April, 22:00

As mentioned in our preview piece, the indie duo who are affable beyond belief are gracing our shores again in support of their fifth studio album. With a guaranteed good time to close out the first day of Handmade, to miss out on We Are Scientists would mean depriving yourself of laughs and such major tunes as ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, ‘After Hours’ and new single ‘Buckle’ from brand new album ‘Helter Seltzer’. (For loads more coverage on We Are Scientists on TGTF, go here.)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le7kyRgMsuE[/youtube]

Jurassic Pop – Scholar Bar, Saturday 30th April, 15:00

In case Jurassic Pop have slid under your radar, they are a band who write songs solely based around the Jurassic Park film series. Debut EP ‘Jurassic Park 4 1/2: The Erotic Adventures of Jeff Goldblum’ is filled with punk, indie and spoken word. If this alone isn’t enough to get you to see the band then nothing will.

OhBoy! – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 17:45.

This will be around the half way point of the festival, so chances are you’ll be a pleasant state of jubilation and will want to continue this. OhBoy! are you best bet here, with songs that are both ferocious and charming, they’ll certainly kick your Saturday evening off.

The Xcerts – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 21:15

Powerful pop songs that call to mind fellow Scotsmen Biffy Clyro at their lightest. The Xcerts have been around for 10+ years and over this time you’re guaranteed they’ve worked out a killer live set that will match the brawn of their sound. (For past coverage on The Xcerts on TGTF, go here.)

Johnny Lloyd – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 17:15

If you haven’t heard ‘Hello Death’, the debut single from ex-Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd then you are missing out something extremely special. Heartfelt and solemn, it’s a thunderous track that is surely going to be a wonder to behold live.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBcv6iYXpCM[/youtube]

USA Nails – Scholar Bar, Sunday 1st May, 19:45.

Harsh, abusive sounding punk that calls to mind Black Flag and Minor Threat, USA Nails are a safe bet to ensure you leave the festival with ringing ears and to get that final bit of energy out of your system.

Beans on Toast – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 22:00

Of course, the hardest question of any festival is who to see to on the closing night. With a couple of fine choices, Beans on Toast is potentially the perfect physical representation of that festival ideology, be it a metropolitan one like Handmade or Glastonbury. With songs filled with observation and thought that appeal to every straight minded one of us, when this is matched with the sing-a-long stylings, you have a guaranteed memorable closer and one that will stick with you on that tired, hungover train journey home. (For past coverage on Beans on Toast on TGTF, go here.)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb_OvHXQjPQ[/youtube]

 

Norwich Sound and Vision 2015: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 15th October 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

After a fantastic lineup of bands on the first night of Norwich Sound and Vision 2015 Thursday, I was raring to go for another round on Friday. Of all the artists to appear at the event in East Anglia, the one I wanted to see most and had marked with big red asterisks on my schedule for my time there would be appearing at the Norwich Arts Centre that night, so I was very excited.

EKKAH, Hannah Lou Clark and Lonelady @ Norwich Arts Centre

Regular readers of TGTF know that I enjoy a good dance band that I can shake a tail feather to. So I was delighted to see EKKAH – made up of two Brummie girls named Rebecca Wilson and Rebekah Pennington, naturally – up first at the Arts Centre. Loudly self-described on their Facebook page as purveyors of “DOWNTOWN DISCO”, they didn’t disappoint with their colourful live presentation, which included the girls on vocals and their own instruments (Pennington on guitar and Wilson on keyboards), backed by an energetic band to give their sound added oomph that filled the venue well.

Ekkah live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

EKKAH’s songs have a sultriness that Donna Summer would approve of on ‘Figure It Out’. Yet there is plenty of glittery pop and r&b referencing in their music that make them totally relevant here in 2015. Even if they did a cover of ‘Forget Me Nots’ by Patrick Rushen (aka where Will Smith lifted a catchy line for ‘Men in Black’) while I was rushing out of the room to catch a glimpse and earful of my next band. They’re on tour in the UK now through November and have a bunch of festival appearances lined up, so you really have no excuse not to see them live.

A famous friend in London pointed out to me that in another life, Hannah Lou Clark was the mastermind behind FOE, a weird misfit band she fronted several years ago that both John and I adored, so no way was I missing her latest solo venture. I got a chance to see FOE perform to a packed upstairs space at LIFE club at the Great Escape 2012 during my first visit to Brighton and was reasonably impressed, so maybe my expectations were placed unreasonably high?

Hannah Lou Clark live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

Unless I feel moved emotionally by their music, I usually palm off the singer/songwriter artists to Carrie, because unless someone has an amazing voice or has some unique characteristics that set them apart from their contemporaries, they all start to sound the same to me after a while. Unfortunately for her, Clark played after EKKAH, so going from a full band with coloured lights and sparkly presentation to a single woman with a guitar onstage with no other backup couldn’t have provided more contrast. She had local support in the audience, having released her ‘Silent Type’ EP last year on Norwich label Gravy Records, whom she thanked and then got whoops of cheers in response. ‘Kids in Heat’, which appears on the EP, was a good effort live, though I couldn’t help wondering that if the volume was louder and/or she had a full backing band behind her, the effect would have been that more arresting. Guess we’ll see where she goes with it.

In London just days before, I was asked by a radio presenter mate of mine who I was most excited to see at Norwich Sound and Vision. “LoneLady. I was so upset when she pulled out of Live at Leeds.” “Was there an explanation of why? Hmm, well, she’s a fragile flower…” That isn’t how I pictured Julie Ann Campbell from Manchester at all. So I have to admit I was happy to be right, when I finally saw her onstage at the Arts Centre wielding a guitar, wearing in a dark jumper with what appeared to be a Sesame Street-themed alphabet jumper and “BEAT” emblazoned on it in coloured letters. Ha!

Lonelady live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

I had several conversations in Austin this year with male electronic artists and how there are so few female ones that have been able to rise above and become prominent on the scene. Just by name, ‘LoneLady’ seems to evoke this disparate nature, that what she is does is different and unique, separate from everyone and everything else, and this difference is refreshing. The unrelenting beats of current radio single ‘Silvering’, with its staccatoed guitar notes, couldn’t be beat (no pun intended), while the funk of the earworm that is ‘Groove It Out’ never lets up either, which worked well to get punters moving under the cover of darkness. I didn’t leave disappointed.

PINS, Beach Baby and Black Honey @ The Mash Tun

I’ve never been a fan of PINS. When their star first started to rise, I had a listen to their early stuff and was nonplussed by it. Okay, so it’s lo-fi with guitars, and it’s nothing special. What exactly wasn’t I getting? The clue probably was that it was the kids who were responding to their music, as it completely passed me by. Or at least now I can say I think I was searching too hard and looking for the wrong thing in them. When I finally saw a whole set by them in Norwich, it finally clicked for me like it had when I saw the Vaccines play live in DC 2 years ago.

PINS live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

While there’s an attempt at aloofness on the lyrical delivery on one of their earlier hits ‘Girls Like Us’ and more recent song ‘Young Girls’ (gee, notice a trend?), this isn’t the kind of music you should be taking a magnifying glass to, or to have some deep emotional bond to either. It’s the kind of music you jump up and down with your friends when the band invite you onstage to do so, which several very excited fans – both girls and boys – got to do with much glee. If you can leave your pretensions behind at the door, you can have a pretty good time getting drawn into the world these girls have created. (You might not even have a choice: I was invited by their lead singer to stand close to her while they performed, but I got away with not doing so as I was taking notes!)

Continuing the fun at the Mash Tun were London band Beach Baby, who are currently in New York this week. This should tell you something about the hype behind them; until I saw them on the bill for Norwich Sound and Vision, I’d never heard of them but apparently their cool factor must be up to 11 if they’ve already made it out over here for CMJ, including two shows at Baby’s All Right, aka where the most hyped UK bands always seem to land first when they come stateside (Glass Animals would have played their first American gig proper there last May if Dave Bayley hadn’t fallen ill).

Beach Baby live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

As you might rightly guess from their band name, their sound is pretty surf-y, with plenty fanciful guitar work and a disaffected vocal suggesting they’re so cool, they’re over themselves already. I suppose this is a good way to think, to be egoless, as they already have two massive (drunk) fans in Norwich: danced like no-one was watching, the pair stood near the singer and kept yelling “mega!” at him all night. To his credit, the band’s singer took this ball and ran with it, humouring them, saying they were going to name their next single ‘Mega’ in their honour. Snort.

My final band of Friday night were initially another mystery to me too, but they turned out to be so much more than I had expected. Although they’ve been trying to maintain an aura of anonymity in a way similar to what Mancunian recluses WU LYF were doing back in the day, after their appearance in Norwich, Black Honey can hide no longer. The Brighton group have that scuzzy, lo-fi sound that is all the rage these days with the indie kids. But the difference with this band over many others of the same genre – even PINS can’t compete on this level, I don’t think – is the charisma of their blonde, bass-playing frontman Izzy B. Phillips.

The way she talked to the crowd, it suggests she doesn’t really give a monkey’s, which is subversive in a Johnny Rotten kind of way, but it’s also oddly endearing. I don’t think it’s an act; when she told the audience they had new t-shirts for their current tour and they were selling them after they got offstage, she reminded everyone that, “you know, we need to eat.” Within the confines of lo-fi, the elements of psych and surf rock are there, and I can even hear a bit of No Doubt and Wolf Alice when Phillips puts her guard down long enough to expose her softer side, if only briefly. Oh boy, did the kids go mental over Black Honey, cheering and screaming for them after every song. If their first reception in Norwich is anything to go by, this band has got it in the bag.

Oh, and they also have a stage prop (unfortunately, I did not get a photo of him). A lawn flamingo, oddly named Jerry. You work that one out. Poor thing almost got his head bashed in by one of their guitarists, overexcited by the gig. Hope they have a spare…

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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