Right when I was about to burst from stress, with only the prospect of the summer’s music keeping me going, a free pass was dropped in my metaphorical lap. Leicester’s ever growing genre-bending independent music festival was just the weekend I needed. I headed down to the O2 Academy representing LUSH Radio and it was the first time (though hopefully not the last) that I entered a venue with my name legitimately on the press list. It could technically be considered my first festival experience and I was determined to make the most of it.
First up, in the Scholar was the electronic ambiance of Dark Dark Horse whose big sound provided a captivating early evening set. Upstairs in Queens Hall Autobahn were turning the smoke machine up to full as the audience was treated to the eccentric, trench coat-wearing, frontman who strutted about like a punk mad scientist. The third stage, nicknamed the Cave, had mirrors running along the entire right hand wall which gave the stage charm and personality. First on in the Cave was Get Inuit and they successfully blended upbeat tunes with down-to-earth messages in what was an all-round pleasant set.
The Alumni room was set up as an acoustic stage. It was here that Grace Petrie, popular protest singer, delivered a set to packed crowd and showed that she knew how to work an audience. Her interactivity with the crowd was engaging and entertaining. Her talent also shone through on the guitar and her vocals, both of which made the set an enjoyable listen. Meanwhile in Queen’s Hall Scottish duo Honeyblood provided one of the best sets of the festival. They combined gritty garage rock with gentle vocals, and the drummer was on top form. Indie pop outfit Childhood provided some choruses as big as the lead singer’s afro before Friday headliners Eagulls brought the night to a close with some thumping bass lines and a Jarvis Cocker-like swagger.
Freeze The Atlantic provided one of the loudest sets of the festival. They were a post-hardcore band full of talented musicians and their songs were bursting with energy. Upstairs Samoans produced some solid math-rock tunes that showed great light and shade and left the room nodding along nicely. In The Cave Luke Leighfield pumped out incredibly catchy, straightforward indie rock. His set was packed with uplifting and genuinely touching songs, making it one of the weekends highlights.
The real high point of the day came from Max Raptor who played an early evening slot in Queens Hall. The band is a typical modern punk outfit, aggressive and punchy, with similarly heavy vocals. The great energy with which the band performed whipped the crowd into frenzy. One of the strangest acts of the festival was Ex Comets, a six-piece hailing from Leicester. Much of the band’s music revolves around space. The music was ambient and relied heavily on a central bass line which gave the set rhythm whilst several of the band members sang in unison about laser beams and living in space. A very strange act, but also fun to watch. While all this was going on The Cinema, directly opposite the Alumni Room, was showing Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed masterpiece The Grand Budapest Hotel.
LTNT, an alternative heavy rock band making waves in the underground scene, played to a small crowd in the Cave, but played with energy and gusto that could have filled a much larger stage. The highlight of the set was the final track ‘Wear It Well’ which ended with front man and guitarist Liam Lever jumping onto the barrier between the stage and the audience, getting up close and personal with the patrons stood at the front. Across the hall Talons provided one of the most interesting performances of the weekend. Their symphonic metal instrumentals were intricate and atmospheric. The furious violins were matched by an equally furious light show that dazzled all present in The Scholar.
The final day of the festival also happened to be the heaviest. Metal bands Bloody Knees and God Damn provided an intense wall of sound. Those wanting to give their ear drums time to recover could enjoy the afternoon of experimental performance art at the Attenborough Centre or the international film showcase in The Cinema. Sunday headliners Slaves combined punk aggression with garage rock riffs, especially on hit single ‘The Hunter’. The music continued well into the early hours of the morning as local bar Firebug hosted a silent disco after party
Overall the festival should be considered a great success. It showcased many up and coming bands and although there were plenty that needed a fair bit of work, there were certainly several that I wouldn’t have minded paying the full festival price to see them again. I have no doubt that I’ll be hearing more of some of the bands very soon. The music and art were surprisingly diverse and engaging and the festival was well organised. It was only a small affair but it was a refreshing and entertaining weekend.
(Contribution from David Innes)