Handmade Festival Leicester 2013 Day Three

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May 272013
 

The third day of any music festival is always the tricky day. The initial burst of excitement, eagerness and exuberance have been tempered by late nights, a few too many beers, and a weariness that no matter how good the bands are going to be, you’ve had your fill, and the lift-off is just that little bit harder to achieve. Leicester’s Handmade Festival was well placed to keep the interest levels high by having a strong line-up in venues that felt intimate and distinct. There’s none of the push-and-shove from the festival organisers that big corporate festivals get. By day three of a corporate festival we too often become victims of the grinding-down of corporate sponsorship, gated entry, lunatic marauding teenage cliques, and the requisite army of festival ‘volunteers’ herding people around.

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Pop-Up Cinema Handmade Style

Sunday afternoon saw Leicester bathed in sunshine for once – it’s starting to feel like a rare event. The first stop was the Handmade Cinema at Wygston’s House. This was a gathering of short film enthusiasts, using a venue that is rarely open to the public in Leicester, but which could certainly play a more prominent role in the cultural and creative life of the city. A pop-up cinema is a great idea, and with some curation and introductions to the films, this could become a regular event for sure.

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Silent Devices

The first band I wanted to see was Silent Devices, who have been Leicester based for the last couple of years, and could do with a really big push. There was a lot to enjoy in their short’ish set. Silent Devices are well suited to a longer-form performance style, building-up and drawing-in the listener through carefully developed layers. Lead singer Josh Coyne has a resonant vocal presence that intimates depth and keeps the atmospherics grounded.

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Leicester’s Guild Hall

The Guildhall in Leicester is another venue that proved to be inspired. I doubt it’s hosted so loud an event in years. The grandness of the building gave the performances of The Demons of Ruby Mae and We Three And The Death Rattle a gothic appeal that suited their alt-rock status. Once I was back over at Firebug it was Tall Ships that really lifted me out of my day-three-stupor. Without being bombastic or self-important, Tall Ships managed to engage the Firebug crowd with a set that steadily built around a polyphony secured by some smart on-the-fly sampling. Reality is very cruel, however, and as Tall Ships worked their way to the crescendo of their last track, the power to the PA died. I don’t doubt that Tall Ships made many new fans though.

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Tall Ships

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Sulk

A quick run across to the Cookie Jar and I caught the last fifteen minutes of Sulk. Sulk are a bit like stepping-back into a Madchester/Shoe-Gazer moment. Watching this London-based band, with a keen sense of thrashing guitars and miserabalism, was right up my street. A few more people at the venue would have given Sulk a chance to shine a little more. My final stint was back at Firebug and Dutch Uncles, who gave a warmly received set in a packed, hot and sweaty venue.

So I’ve enjoyed spending the last three days wandering about Leicester. hearing new bands, seeing some old venues that really open up the city in an affirmative way. This is the second city-festival I’ve been to in the same month, and I don’t doubt the potential that city festivals like these have to become regular events that encourage grass-roots participation. Sound City in Liverpool ran Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and I wonder if a future Handmade Festival would benefit from trying the same trick? Are there any more under-used venues in Leicester that could be opened-up? Are there opportunities for parallel festivals to be grouped around the main music festival? Can we make more of the photography and creative arts that take place in Leicester? Can the strong spoken-word and literary communities in Leicester find a place and be part of the events? The potential for alt-cinema, alt.music, alt.culture alt.art, or indeed alt.anything, could be the steps that Leicester needs to take in order to win a higher profile for it’s culture and arts?

Handmade Festival Leicester 2013 Day Two

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May 262013
 

One of Leicester’s Handmade Festival best achievements has been to open-up venues in the city that aren’t usually used for public performance, or at least the kind of performance that would normally be expected to take place in them. It’s a great credit to the people who look after these venue that they have been so willing to make these spaces available.

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Bishops Street Chapel

The Bishops Street Methodist Chapel has to be one of the best hidden-gems of Leicester. With great acoustics resonance, the chapel is an airy space with loads of natural light. I felt instantly comfortable to be listening to the more intimate and acoustic side of the festival. Starting in the late Saturday afternoon with Weikie, who gave an impassioned performance demonstrating a powerful musicality that dovetailed seamlessly into the poetic wanderings of Katie Malco, before exploring the stripped-back acoustic blues of Kenworthy. Perhaps I’m getting older, but the Bishop Street Chapel cafe set the mood – especially with afternoon tea and cake. Who can complain.

Kicking-off the evening properly Up-Stairs at Firebug was Haus, with their second-ever live gig. A mixture of electronics and post-rock, delivered to the point of explosion by lead singer Adam Pickering. I think they are going to need a bigger stage if they carry on like this.

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Haus

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Nine Black Alps

Later I headed to the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery to see Nine Black Alps. Channelling Oasis, the Stone Roses and The Charlatans, these guys (sorry cliche warning!) really took the roof off and the volume levels up a few notches. This was a proper rock-n-roll band who didn’t try to noodle their way through an intimate and introspective emotionality. Nine Black Alps aren’t going to do ‘lighter-in-the-air’ moments.

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Sam Duckworth

But for sheer emotional openness, there’s no one more heartfelt than Sam Duckworth, who’s set at the Cookie Jar was warmly appreciated by a dedicated set of fans who sang-along with gusto, and who listened to Sam’s impassioned call for us to work out how we can get along together. Sam’s set was a catharsis, not just for the audience, but for himself as well. If you are looking for a turning-point in a songwriters career, when they are galvanised into pursuing a new direction, I’d mark this set by Sam Duckworth as one step along that different path.

Leicester Handmade Festival 2013 Day One

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May 252013
 

There’s something nice about mini-festivals in city centres. No more standing around in fields or sleeping on the ground in the rain. Leicester’s first Handmade Festival got under way this weekend, with bands and performers playing across five venues in the city. With a main base at Firebug, the organising team, led by the able John Helps, have managed to open-up some spaces in Leicester that wouldn’t normally be used for gigs, but which work really well.

Last night’s performances by Maybeshewill and Rolo Tomassi started the weekend off for me with loud thrashy guitars and some curious vocal performances. This wasn’t Starbucks friendly new-folk. By using the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery as a performance space, it was possible to get an idea of what a great venue the Old Leicester Library could be, and how it could become Leicester’s foremost arts and performance space.

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Well Covered by Independent Media

Later, I caught Arcane Roots upstairs at Firebug, but at which point I was a little worse-for-wear after stopping off in a couple for bars and catching-up with friends over too many beers. Town centre festivals certainly have a clear advantage over the field or farm gated-festival. The beer is a lot cheaper and there is much more choice of places to keep out of the rain.

Today I’m looking forward to seeing performances at the The Guildhall, The Cookie Jar and the Bishop Street Methodist Church. It’s great to see venues like this opened-up and used to bring live performance into the heart of Leicester, and help to establish a more diverse mix of music in the city.

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Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery

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