Handmade Festival 2017
Handmade is a Music, Photography, art, comedy and performance festival held each year in Leicester, UK. In the last couple of years the festival has moved from using various city centre venues to one location in the University student union which also houses the Leicester O2 Academy venue.
Day 1, Friday
The 5th year of Handmade saw the Friday night of the festival venture back out into the city centre and spread itself over a number of interesting venues. LCB Depot was used as the hub where we arrived late evening to collect passes/wristbands and grab some food from the selection of vans outside in the courtyard.
First venue of our night was the Bishop street church, an attractive old converted Methodist church. A perfect setting to catch ‘Haiku Salut’ from nearby Derbyshire. Lovely atmospheric post rock inspired instrumental noise from the trio.
We then headed off to another historic venue The Guildhall situation next to Leicester Cathedral. Definitely the first time I’ve watched ‘The Tuts’ in a 14th century timber framed building.
The night was finished off with a set from Leicester’s own folk singer songwriter ‘Grace Petrie’ and her band. A good sing along from the crowd, some interesting thoughtful talk, some good relatable laughs at ‘Nobody knows that I’m a fraud’ and day 1 of Handmade was over.
Day 2, Saturday
The stages moved up to the University Student Union and O2 venues which a slight change of layout and the large Academy 1 stage coming into use alongside Academy 2, the more intimate Cave stage and the ever favourite Scholar bar stage.
We started off the day with a lively performance from Bristol’s ‘Van Zeller’ in a quiet but slowly filling Academy 2. The alternating stages meant it was possible to see at least 50% of the bands and with some running up and down the stairs even more.
Still feeling very early in the afternoon AltCorner favourites ‘Puppy’ with a last minute rush to get set up slightly behind schedule got straight into their short but sweet set sounding as on point as ever. The large space of Academy 1 was feeling a little empty but a few more beers were being consumed and the crowd we’re shaking off those Friday night hangovers.
The Scholar bar was taken over by BBC Introducing for the day and we briefly caught the soothing sound of ‘Miriam Franklin’ before heading over to the Cave stage for a first watch of ‘Soeur’ confidently playing their grungy pop sound in front of a very excitable group of friends. A quick skip over to Academy 1 to catch the last bit of ‘Tigercub’ holding that larger stage well in front of an ever swelling crowd.
Main Stage then welcomed Leicester's own Ash Mammal jumping straight in with their energetic, captivating performance you didn't want to take your eyes off of. The crowd seemed well up for it and the room was filling up nicely for that time of the day. Lead singer Dan Gould's performance was a highlight of the day. Definitely a band to watch out for.
‘Peaness’ recently signed to Alcopop Records seemed a little more nervous over on the Cave stage but they were amongst a very appreciative packed room and the potential of this band really shined through. I think it was at this point I started to do a rough calculation of the % of females to males I was going to be watching during the day and came to an impressive 60%, far from the sort of numbers we are going to be seeing at much larger festivals this year and as pointed out by the organisers something which naturally occurred in curating a good selection of acts not something that needed to be forced and great to see.
Singer songwriter ‘Jacob Braithwaite’ in the Scholar bar continued the day for BBC Introducing, demonstrating some impressive vocals keeping the crowd enthused even with the distraction of the nearby bar and the wafts of Chicken tikka wraps coming in from outside the double doors.
After a food break outside behind the Scholar Bar and some fresh air we made our way back to Academy 1 for ‘Muncie Girls’ who slipped some new songs in amongst the favourites from their debut making us at AltCorner even more eager for some new releases from them.
The now full up and well fueled, slightly sweaty room then welcomed in ‘Pulled Apart By Horses’ for the liveliest set of the day. They didn’t let up for one second finishing off with some impressive playing whilst crowd surfing antics.
Headliners ‘Twin Atlantic’ came onto a packed out room and started their set with a mix of old and new. Some of the now worn out crowd drifted off towards the end once the hits had been heard but those that stayed saw an accomplished performance from last years 2000 Trees headliners and a great way to finish a day of diverse and high quality music.
Day 3, Sunday
We started the day by splitting up to see both ‘Fizzy Blood’ and ‘Orchards’. ‘Fizzy Blood’ who are out on tour supporting ‘While She Sleeps’ did a great job of waking up the sleepier sunday early afternoon crowd . ‘Orchards’ who themselves have been out on tour with ‘PWR BTTM’ for the last month or so have kept up the glitter theme and we’re as warmly received as ever in the Cave. Their math pop sound is captivating as is the ease of their stage presence. Next time you get the chance make sure you go see these guys.
The Scholar bar had turned into the Alcopop/Big Scary Monsters stage for the day showcasing some of the Alcopop greats amongst them ‘OhBoy!’ ‘Happy Accidents’ and ‘Get Inuit’ all competing to get their catchiest tunes into our heads whilst imparting some of the most relatable lyrics for those of us with a more anxious and awkward disposition.
Big Scary Monsters signing from Chicago ‘Meat Wave’ mid way through a tour with label mates and Handmade Programme 2017 cover stars ‘Cassels’ turned up the volume in the Scholar bar and produced the most enthusiastic fan of the day in the dude that screamed each and every word back at them.
Back in Academy 1 ‘Dead!’ Who seems to be a marmite band in the music press are nothing if not enthusiastic about what they do and what they want to say. They are one of those bands that develop a loyalty from their fans and they seemed to be winning over a few newer ones today as they blasted through their set, 100% for effort.
Oxford’s ‘Willie J Healey’ took us back to Academy 2 with what has been described in the past as Surfy/indie/rock/folk covering as many genres as possible but never sounding confused in what he is saying. There's a relaxing fun joyfulness to his sound which can transport you to another time and place.
‘Idles’ are on a consistent rise at the moment and one of the most talked about acts of the day both before and after their set. Killed it being the most heard. There's is a constant political theme running through the acts at the festivals some more obvious than others and ‘Idles’ are making their thought on the current situations quite clear. Their sound matches the echoed thought of singer Joe Talbot and there is an honest passion in here that similar rising young bands would do well to understand.
Returning from last years festival my find of 2016’s Handmade ‘Waking Aida’ came back to do their noisy quiet noisy mostly instrumental sound adding in some exciting new tracks. Catch them at this years ArcTangent Festival.
As the final Headliners took over a completely crammed Academy 1 we squeezed into the balcony space to watch the end of another successful year of a brilliant little (and growing) festival. Onto the next!