Handmade Festival 2017 – Leicester, University - Sunday 30 April 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Saturday, 06 May 2017 05:00

If the Saturday of Handmade Festival 2017 taught us anything, it’s that the UK has a burgeoning rock scene right now, brimming with acts that have plenty of radio appeal and more than a few great riffs to enjoy. Sunday, then is that scene’s uglier, snottier punk cousin, the line-up stacked with some of the greatest racket inducing acts our nation can produce.


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First up for today for Über Rock are London punk mob Dead!. A big departure from the previous day’s (mostly) bread-and-butter rock offerings, Dead! combine the chunky, hard-hitting riffs of bands like Shellac and Fugazi with an accessible pop-punk aesthetic, proving that the genre has legs that take it much further than just Southern California.


Bouncing like Iggy on a pogo stick, the band are perfect for blasting away cobwebs from the previous day, howling and roaring their way into the brain with an addictive insistency that makes the band oh-so endearing. Big hype has followed the band’s career thus far (in 2012 the band were voted “Kerrang! Local Heroes” and the band were greatly talked up by both Daniel P Carter and Zane Lowe the following year with ‘We Are Dead!’) and with their decidedly Descendents-like hyperactivity, it’s not hard to see why much excitement is generated around the band.


From punk to indie, Ohboy! hit the stage of The Scholar almost instantly after Dead! finish their set. Though possessed of a similar propensity for punk outbursts in sing-along friendly songs, Ohboy! are a very different beast to Dead! with a decidedly more sedate sound that flows nicely into the (almost) sunny environs of a bank holiday Sunday afternoon.


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Sounding like a sonic relationship between britpop and 00s pop-punk, the band inspire some bounce-alongs as they power through the set. Being (presumably) new to most patrons of The Scholar, their sing-along friendly songs don’t quite get the audience participation they deserve, but nonetheless the band earn plenty of friends through their set.


Downstairs, anticipation is rife for IDLES. “This band are meant to be mental” a security guard explains to me as I try (unsuccessfully at first) to get into the pit for some snaps. IDLES debut album ‘Brutalism’ has all the hallmarks of a landmark punk release, setting ears aflame with its furious politicised humour (and, if we’re being totally honest, fantastic songs). God Damn vocalist Thom is a fuzzy blur as he flies past to get on the barrier to roar along to opener ‘Heal/Heel’ and with that, we’re off.


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Indomitable and utterly captivating, IDLES spend about 80% of their set glowering at each other on stage, the set carefully treading the line between punk rock aggression and murderous intent. ‘Well Done’, ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ and ‘1049 Gotho’ are all pure brimstone, tackled with absolute determination by the band as they roar their way through all that is Bad with Britain. Singing tunelessly at the end of songs, crashing into each-other during songs and just generally putting on a great time, IDLES are punk rock at its most obnoxious, yet somehow still utterly lovable and personable as they address the audience. This, ladies and gents, is pure brilliance.


A merciful delay of five minutes between IDLES and Youth Man means we miss no songs by Birmingham’s most unpredictable punk trio. Three fantastic EPs under their belt, Youth Man have never been anything less than totally captivating as a live force, Handmade Festival being no exception. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the gaps between each time I see Youth Man are unbearable, the band each time reaffirming just how great (and experimental) the Birmingham music scene can be.


Vocalist Kaila spits pure venom as she yelps and snarls her way through blistering cuts like ‘Look/Wait’. By no means does this mean that you can overlook drummer Marcus or bassist, each as equally frantic and spasmodic as they blast through the set. Excitement hits like a slap to the face upon hearing the industrial rumble of the bassline intro to ‘Pigs’, whilst the writing rhythms of ‘Fat Dead Elvis’ are sure to raise a quizzical eyebrow or two.


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Throw in fan favourite ‘Heavy Rain’ (from the band’s first EP) and a carefully-negotiated set closer in ‘Skin’ (“you’re out of time”, the band are told – “it’s only a short one!” they protest, given lease to thrash out one last howler) for a setlist which could excite even the most cynical punk.


Cynicism is in short supply when faced with the sheer abundance of the West Midlands scene, case and point being God Damn, whose intro tape is plodding away as we dash back into the main academy. There has been no short supply of interest in God Damn these past few years, with exceptional EP releases giving way to a monolithic album, Foo Fighters support slot, tour supports to the likes of Red Fang and Thrice and a second album which proved to be even more ambitious than the first.


With almost twelve months between the last time we were lucky enough to catch the band, God Damn are a changed entity. Whilst they have had two legs too many to be a terrible twosome for some time now, 2017 seems high time for the band to truly introduce James to the world. Opening with ‘Vultures’, it becomes clear right from the outset that God Damn aren’t here to play by any half measures tonight. Sounding utterly mammoth, the band are frantic as they roar to life.


Familiarity with the band’s setlist won’t save you here, as the band are now souped up on super-serum and caffeine. Old favourite ‘Horus’ is almost unrecognisable as the band have transformed into something otherworldly, the song’s wings spread fully for full dramatic effect. If the security were worried about IDLES, they certainly weren’t expecting a frantic Thom Edwards to fling himself down into the crowd, nor the band’s frantic energy that makes Iggy and the Stooges sound like Andy Williams.


A glorious setlist of total belters ensues: ‘When The Wind Blows’, ‘It Bites’, ‘Dead to Me’ all howl loud and proud, James switching between synth and guitar intermittently between songs just to drive home how transformed this band are. A final, cementing moment comes as the band launch into the title track from the 2013 EP ‘Heavy Money’, a song which helped herald the band as one of the freshest and most exciting acts in the UK now fully realised as a metal-punk-indie epic.


Necks are sore and throats are worse post-God Damn, a much-needed breather taken as we watch Honeyblood set up. With two superb albums and a fantastic EP behind them, it feels like the time for Honeyblood to break out and completely dominate the music world could come at any time. Nostalgia-inducing, saccharine, venomous, beautifully melodic – all of the above could describe the sound of Honeyblood and yet, none of these individual words does the band any justice.


Punchy punk rock flies out as the band kick off with ‘Ready for the Magic’, the sing-along potential massive as Honeyblood do what they do best – fill your ears with pure, punchy loveliness. Quick wit and anecdotes from guitarist Stina create a familiar atmosphere within the Academy and it doesn’t take five minutes for the band to get everyone smiling from ear to ear. “This is a song about tequila”, Stina introduces ‘Sea Hearts’, “Well, not really but I like saying that” before jumping straight into the bouncy, fuzzy-at-the-edges song.


The vocal duality between Stina and drummer Cat remains one of Honeyblood’s strongest suits, each possessed of a powerful delivery that smoothly implants the band’s earworms into the brain almost subconsciously. The stand-out comes on the brilliant ‘Super Rat’, a song which epitomises the band’s name perfectly – sweet as honey, bitter as blood. Hum along, sing along – it’s all good as long as you’re having a good time and with Honeyblood, a good time is basically guaranteed.


Deciding to head home at the close of JAWS set, we rush upstairs to spend the remainder of our evening in the company of the Brummy bands inhabiting the Academy 2. Two years have passed since Superfood released the brilliant ‘Don’t Say That’ and the band are well underway with an as-yet untitled second album. The change of pace between the band’s older, slacker-friendly britpop-ish material and the newer, alternative via synth sound is jarring on record, but in the live environment new single ‘Double Dutch’ absolutely kills.


Sedate with just enough beat to make you want to move your feet, Superfood have never suffered from any famine of great songs to play, their Handmade set proving to be no exception. Old favourites ‘Lily For Your Pad’, ‘Right On Satellite’ and ‘You Can Believe’ all get the dancefloor swinging, whilst the new material (which, to these ears shifts the band from 90s britpop to 80s northern soul club) is met with equal aplomb as the band get the party in full swing. Half an hour passes in no time and before long the band are bowing out, but not before blasting out their most iconic single to date – their eponymous track.


JAWS have always been a band that thrived on creating luscious, dream-pop inspired vibes, so seeing the band in a dancehall setting feels almost too appropriate. Taking to the stage flanked by two discoballs, the band dazzle the audience as they dive straight in to ‘Just A Boy’ from 2016’s ‘Simplicity’. Anything but simple, the melodies are exquisitely constructed to set the nostalgia senses ablaze, paced perfectly between a danceable beat and pure chill-out which sets the ears comfortably adrift.


Alternating between tracks from the latest album and ‘Be Slowly’, its 2014 predecessor, the band come fully equipped with an arsenal of great tracks to get the audience swaying. ‘Stay In’, ‘Think Too Much, Feel Too Little’ and ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’ are quintessential summer festival tracks, brimming with excitement and anthemic potential. As the headliner of the Academy 2 room, JAWS are everything you could hope for; a fun and exciting act, visually stunning with a back catalogue that leaves you swaying and humming long after the band have left the stage.


The boutique festival is enjoying a golden age right now, where independent promoters can showcase the best music in both the country and the world right now. Handmade Festival is run with a fierce independent spirit, the acts all feeling complementary to the festival’s goal to showcase the best music around at the moment. The staggering of stages ensures that catching acts is seldom a problem and the clever usage of all of the facilities of the Leicester O2 Academy means it never suffers from problems that can arise from using multiple venues to try and run a festival.


The atmosphere of Handmade is perfectly pitched to offer the fun of a festival with the comfort of a gig, boasting a selection of the very best names in the rock, indie, punk and even metal genre. This is a festival that doesn’t worry about older bands getting old – they could never keep up with the youngsters being booked anyway. If you’ve never been to a festival before, or if you just want to discover some great new artists, Handmade Festival is the festival for you.


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