Are You Listening? Festival @ various venues across Reading (18 April '15) // Words: Saam Das
Reading's Are You Listening? Festival entered its third edition in 2015, one of an increasing string of urban-based multi-venue festivals. With dozens of acts playing across more than ten venues, there was plenty on offer - and better still, everything seemed terribly well organised. A worthy counterpart to the established Reading Festival.
Arriving fashionably late, we pick up our wristband at The Bowery District and pop our head in to see Maaians - sticking around once we notice the double drummers. Musically, the band have a bit of a Battles thing going, and their ambitions extend to including some trombone action at one point. Their seemingly never-ending closing track is pure indulgence but otherwise, an engaging start to AYL Fest.
Next on our list are one of our suggested acts to see, London quartet CAVES.. Considering their dark sounds, they perform admirably in the well-lit setting of The Pavlov's Dog - competing also against the Chelsea-Man Utd game on the pub's many screens and a wedding going on across the road. Epic from the outset with opener 'Happy Home', the band successfully channel the likes of Editors and The National.
The Oakford Social Club plays host to a solo set from Hannah Lou Clark, most recently known as FOE. Her latest guise presents crunchy riffs and occasional use of a drum machine, but it felts somewhat restrained compared to her recorded material. We stick around to catch GOLDN, one of the local acts we might never have discovered had it not been for a festival like this. Their Brolin-meets-How To Dress Well smooth grooves is accompanied by a somewhat rough around the edges live performance but we'll be exploring the rest of their new album shortly.
Having not been around Reading before, we worry about managing to find South Street Arts Centre but it turns out that Reading is smaller than we thought and no dramas occur en route. Here we catch the much talked about Sophie Jamieson and her band. Perplexingly, Sophie seems incredibly tentative in between songs yet utterly confident once in the throes of the music. But we'd probably have a lot of confidence in the music too, with odes to Daughter in the live performance.
We head across the building to catch HART's debut gig. It's occasionally stop-start as he finds his feet amongst various gadgetry and tuning issues but with such a powerful voice and a charming disposition (off-stage too, we should add), the set never feels in jeopardy. Built around HART's hauntingly falsetto vocals, the general Sigur Ros-influenced sound often gives way to something more electronic - a beguiling combination.
We only watch some of Smoke Fairies set before heading back to the big smoke - their music isn't really our cup of tea and we've had a long day/are getting a bit old now. They do however attract the biggest audience of the festival that we've seen. Speaking of which, we never have to queue to get into any venue, which is practically unheard of (and most welcome, for punters at least) at a festival like this.
Clashing with Record Store Day and the unexpected Reading-Arsenal FA Cup semi-final probably didn't help numbers, although we hope that the organisers won't be discouraged from putting this excellent festival on again. With no mud or overflowing toilets in sight, but plenty of strong music from the local area and beyond, bring on Are You Listening? Festival 2015.
Find more info at areyoulistening.org.uk.