Festival Review: Handmade Festival 2018

on Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Handmade Festival (Leicester, 5-6 May '18) // Words: Saam Das

Leicester's Summer Sundae Festival was a notable selection in the UK festival calendar prior to its formal cancellation in 2013, but thankfully in its wake emerged a new music festival in the area - Handmade. An independent festival with a keen eye for new music, Handmade's also had bands of the stature of We Are Scientists and Frightened Rabbit as headliners, and 2018 offered a similar mix of established and new names.

This year's Handmade was headlined by Drenge and Circa Waves but we were there for one of the festival's opening acts, Anteros. Admittedly only catching the back end of their set on the Union Square stage, anthemic tracks like 'Breakfast' and 'Anteros' nonetheless suggest a higher billing at future festivals would be well deserved.

To quote Ryan Reynolds' titular character from 'Deadpool', off-kilter duo Her's commendably delivered "maximum effort" in their early O2 Academy Main Stage set. Coming across as the ultimate odd-couple, their infectious enthusiasm and lo-fi wonky pop was an unexpected delight. Back at Union Square, Geowulf may have been relatively pedestrian in comparison, but 'Drink Too Much' and its soothing melodies offered undoubtedly one of the best tunes of the weekend.

Over at the main stage, Eyre Llew busily constructed their post-rock soundscapes, while blast-from-the-past Nine Black Alps did their grungey thing to a sizable crowd. Over at the Union Square, the Weezer-inspired Indoor Pets offered urgency from the outset, mixed in with a pleasing smattering of dry humour - "this next song is about all my friends. It's called 'All My Friends'." All told, jolly good fun.

Grace Petrie took a rather more serious stance during her main stage set but for good reason. Her politically and emotionally charged material was electric - Petrie's powerful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics providing deep insight and resonance with her disaffection of the current situation in the UK. Billy Bragg would be proud.

Detroit rock veterans Protomartyr were similarly serious in terms of their businessman-like performance and attire, although for this writer at least, the more rambunctious and messy fare of Peaness (*titters*) were of greater interest. Aligned with the excellent Alcopop! Records, who have recently welcomed Art Brut to their fold, this triple threat attracted one of the busiest audiences of the weekend in the intimate setting of The Scholar.

Up next were two of the heavy hitters of the weekend, albeit with rather different target demographics, Spector and Future Of The Left. The former's set took some time to get going, before going into turbo with fan favourite tracks like 'Chevy Thunder' and 'All The Sad Young Men' evoking a strong response. The ever-forceful Future Of The Left brought an unparalleled moshpit-inducing intensity to Handmade Festival, as well as an unparalleled love of ludicrous song titles, including 'adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood'.

Low Island suffered from a high billing despite their relative youth as an outfit, but the small Union Square crowd proved receptive to the Oxford contingent's atmospheric synthy RnB-infused fare, particularly when the maracas were unleashed. Their Jungle-esque sound should see more followers arriving soon enough, and we were satisfied enough to call it a night, ahead of Drenge and The Big Moon's Saturday headline slots.

Sunday began with a mini-adventure to the Attenborough Arts Centre, the only Handmade venue outside of the O2 Academy/University of Leicester complex, which also rather unexpectedly housed a small but impressive exhibition on the heydays of British professional wrestling. Music-wise, the seemingly un-Googleable punk duo Earls were both intimidating and amusing, finishing their set with a track that mostly consisted of the refrain of "I wanna get drunk and get laid".

Back at the O2 Academy, local man Magique was turning it on early doors, alongside his live band. Having played the festival in former outfit Clubs, CJ Pandit's smooth grooves in his latest guise went down a treat. At a very different end of the spectrum, noise merchants Black Futures offered the most theatrical performance of Handmade - the energetic duo dressed in black juxtaposed against a mysterious silent quartet adorned in white coveralls, whose only liberation appeared to be a bit of nodding at the end of the performance. Bonkers.

Jazzy in disposition and somewhat in musical style, Easy Life were making playing a main stage festival slot to new fans look...well...easy. Led by the enigmatic Murray Cameron, Easy Life's sounds encompass the likes of Jamie T and The Streets, with a perhaps unexpectedly brass-based tinge. A tough act to follow, but the trio of The Orielles had a reasonable stab, only suffering from occasional bouts of guitar-fuelled self-indulgence.

Gengahr were similarly competent, but it was Dinosaur Pile-Up who again kicked things up a notch with their riotous fare including 'Nature Nurture' and 'Peninsula' proving particularly popular with the receptive Union Square crowd. Chirpy Northerners Little Comets were also big fan favourites, with particular reference to 'One Night In October' and 'Dancing Song', and a suitable ending point for our first Handmade Festival. And quite probably not our last.

Find more about Handmade Festival and purchase early bird tickets for 2019 at handmadefestival.co.uk.

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