Keith Goldhanger reports from the Handmade Festival. A ‘Totally Awesome Music and Arts Festival’ held in Leicester.
This is something we really should have been telling you about before the event not after (first apology). . . .
We didn’t expect when we arrived in Leicester that we’d manage as many bands as we did over the weekend. Handmade is not The Great Escape down on the south coast where it’s sometimes advisable to bring a motorbike if you want to catch as much as possible without a break. Here at Handmade we have four venues all separated by some spiral stairs, glass doors, wooden floors and some nourishing food bars.
Stop for a chat and a fag and you could miss an act. If you get fed up with whatever is going on then there’s always next door and that umbrella we brought along thinking we’d be strolling up and down a busy high street with wasn’t required once.
Immediately upon our arrival and establishing this we are thrilled to be here. Especially once we realised we might be able to watch a bit of everything on the poster that tempted us here in the first place. Even if it meant missing the hit at the end or sneaking out during a new one. Look at this line up that a few of us managed to catch most of.
These details weren’t mentioned on the invites and there’s a few of these bands that won’t get name checked here because frankly, there were loads.
That’s the second apology we’re making.
We’ll remind you about the set up of this festival again when next years event comes around. There’s a good chance we might be heading the queue to get in again.
It’s noticeable in 2017 the amount of people watching these bands who appear to be old enough to be the parents of some of these acts in front of us today. Bands are beginning to appeal to an even wider age group now than they were ten years ago. We’d like to think that the tunes we all fell in love with three decades ago are the same ones these people on stage have been brought up listening to as they got ready for school or sat in the back of their parents cars heading towards another caravan holiday they didn’t want to go on.
Not that these bands seem to be copying the music we’re referring to here but certainly the attitude is something we can draw comparisons with. The bands seem younger and the audience seem older at Handmade and this is a good thing also because we knew if we got ourselves out a bit more often we’d get to see that there really might be more than just five old blokes like us in this country that are as thoroughly entertained by what we’re witnessing this weekend (or even this year). Just as excited as we were when we started going out to gigs as teenagers.
This is something some of us are also pleased about.
Manchester’s CABBAGE are sounding like The Fat White Family reminding us yet again of (and for a few moments during day one looking a bit like) The Virgin Prunes. Those alongside us at the front struggling with our dodgy backs and wobbly knees are aware of this we’d like to think and may have the tunes we’re all loving at the moment on a cassette (OK then – A playlist) with other bands that may include The Mob, The Dead Kennedys, Bad Breeding or The Fall.
This is something that encourages us as well.
Unfortunately for Cabbage there appears to be a fair old storm brewing around the incident regarding Lee Broadbent’s recent alleged behaviour when the band supported Kasabian recently. At least one band today ask from the stage that we don’t go and see them and we have one or two conversations today where we learn that there are people here today that know very little about this band’s music at the moment but are aware of the recent controversy.
This isn’t a good thing.
Cabbage are one of the most exciting bands around at the moment and one of the most talked about but we don’t need any of that tabloid stuff, dodgy behaviour, pictures in the paper, getting into fights or being the Sex Pistols any more. We want lovey dovey stuff where everyone cares and thinks about one another please.
MUNCIE GIRLS are making bouncy punk rock and giving a shout out to local deceased author Sue Townsend (Adrian Mole) and mentioning her reliance on The NHS and the connection she had with the city. The days when bands are accused of not having much worth saying are fading fast. It sometimes feels that almost everyone at the moment, from the queue to get train tickets to the bloke behind the bar seems to have something relevant to add to the state of this country at the moment. Most bands we see nowadays seem to have something to say to the point that one of us might start a little quiz sometime where you have to match a quote with a band we all love. It’s comforting to also know we all seem to be pretty much on the same side.
Hopefully this will be reflected when we go to the polls in a few weeks time.
PULLED APART BY HORSES are starting to look like spoof heavy metal band Bad News but thank goodness they’re not beginning to sound like them. This Leeds quartet are sounding even heavier and at times faster than we could have possibly imagined all those years ago when they opened the XFM all dayer back when London based radio station was still called XFM. They’ve conquered Reading and Download and they’ll continue to crawl over their audience and further up the festival bills as the next few years plod on we imagine. Always worth seeing at any opportunity.
KAGOULE arrive and look like they’re struggling with the contents of the venue’s smoke machine (There’s a lot of these around here this weekend) and the bass drum that doesn’t stop slipping around on the shiny floor. The more we hear these marvellously crafted tunes that we could have easily been dancing to about the same time The Pixies first came to the UK the better they seem to sound.
SHAME (right pic) are Saturdays highlight. It’s like we’re watching a young Jimmy Pursey or Ian Dury fronting Leeds upstarts Eaguls.
Charlie Steen has a voice that might be more than fitting in a young Oi! band in 2017 but he seems to know better. Most of the tunes are spoken, he runs on the spot, struggles with his trousers, the anger is audible and Shame are making the right noises to compliment the times we live in. Confused and angry but with a feeling of still being in control.
But only just being in control.
This band are everywhere at the moment, for the second Saturday running this is their second show of the day – see them.
A brisk kip and we’re back for day two (or three for those that arrived Friday) and within a few minutes we are dizzy with excitement again, running up stairs, through corridors and into large rooms getting glimpses of as many bands as we can.
WILLIE J HEALEY has a voice as rough as ours after a long night out on the tiles. He’s accompanied buy some superb musicians performing some ace new tunes some of us will be investigating more. A brisk walk past the comforting sounds of OH BOY! and then it’s down some stairs to see IDLES front man Joe pacing the large stage nodding to those already at the front and waiting patiently like the rest of us for the rest of his band to join him and plough through some of the most thrilling stuff anyone is likely to witness in 2017. Before the end of the show he’s in the audience, lost in a sea of bodies tangled up in the guitar lead that has an amp attached to one end of it and an unsuspecting audience member hitting the strings on the other end. Security seem to be talking on their little radios they have and we wonder what they could be talking about as Idles crank up the noise, throw themselves around the stage, climb over the barriers and join in dancing alongside the large audience all seemingly lapping all this up joyously.
IDLES are brutal, furious, tight, entertaining, raucous, are leaders in the UK’s newest musical genre christened today by the band themselves as ‘Chubby dad rock’ and as great as anyone you’re likely to witness this year.
“Why don’t you like football?, even Gary Lineker likes football !” ……..and we’re sure he mentioned something about pissing in a sink.
Idles seem to be constantly gigging at the moment also so go and see them now whilst you can still afford a couple of pints after the entrance fee. Yet again we leave the room overhearing nothing but praise from those having just popped their Idles cherry.
Idles depart but not before urging us all us to go and see young Hull upstarts LIFE (pic right) up on the next floor and many of us oblige. This lot are on fire today. Front man Mez sweating like Jarvis on strong coffee, maybe he’s sleep deprived but he’s presenting us with a stare that could scare old ladies. He twists and turns his body and has the look of a young child in a ball pit all to himself, pressing his hands and face against the glass to get attention but looking more at his own reflection than what is going on in front of him. The four piece shake, point, wave their hands, snarl, thrash their guitars and are another band we sometimes feel (or would like to feel) stole their parents record collection at a young age and wanted guitars instead of Scalextric for their tenth birthday. Their time is coming, a debut album is on its way, we expect many short sharp songs and we hope it won’t be long before we have gangs of youths singing along with the catchy punk rock choruses that Life seem to have by the bucket load.
HAPPYNESS (right pic)can always remind us we need to take a rest sometimes. Their tunes come and go and remind us we sometimes need to go to bed at night. If the new Grandaddy album is simply becoming too much of a sing a long now (or too depressingly sad since Kevin Garcia died this week) when you want to hear something that’ll help fade out the day then Happyness do the job just as well. A sublime performance from another of our favourites over the past few years.
BRITISH SEA POWER (top picture) managed to walk on stage and play Bad Bohemian and the sound is faultless. We get to hug a few bears and wave our beers (in that order), lift our arms in the air for Waving Flags, shout along to No Lucifer and complain it was all over too soon. Another band we haven’t seen the last of this year and hopefully we’ll be even more clued up on the latest album next time than we are currently.
Ten seconds later we were in the company of Welsh electronics wizards GALLOPS (pic right) who are yet another band crawling around the country and making grown people lose themselves in a torrent of beats, thuds, drones and feedback. This is superb noisy electronica performed at its finest that those with a healthy obsession with Toronto’s Holy Fuck, or New York residents Battles are going to embrace and add to their music collections. Gallops are from Wrexham and have recently released their second album after a short hiatus following their debut. This is something that’ll be rather high up on the list of a lot of favourite albums once the year tails off one imagines.
Finally, to calm us down a bit a walk back down a few steps and we’re in the company of FRIGHTENED RABBIT who charm us with their tunes that sound like The Proclaimers with The Arcade fire as they’re backing band. They have those few hundred of us still standing, singing along to songs we don’t know, clapping along and waving our arms around and getting ready for the Stadium shows that may come one day.
This was a hectic two days that could have been three (this is the third apology) had some of us arrived a day earlier to witness bands that appeared elsewhere in the city that we couldn’t get to on time to see but were accessible for anyone with a weekend pass. Friday’s line up looked great and included bands that will surely be included in similar events such as Handmade across the UK over the next couple of years. Leeds and Newcastle were holding similar events over the weekend and Brighton’s Great Escape is only a couple of weeks away.
Bands from across the globe all with a similar outlook in life nowadays all seem to be providing a soundtrack that remind us of the reasons many of us into music in the first place and bands are beginning to say a few things about the subjects in life that are beginning to concern many of us.
This is important now, especially in the UK. We have a country full of superb musicians making some of the best music we’ve ever heard. Soaking up influences from a long past and still making noises many of us have never heard before.
The 2017 Handmade Festival must be one of the strongest events we’ve come across for a while. Bands on the rise, with something to say and different ways to say it. Allowing those who felt the need to start going ape in preparation of the forthcoming Summer to start going ape.
All in one massive building for two days.
More photo’s here : https://www.flickr.com/photos/14386564@N00/albums/72157683398225436
All words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.