Handmade Festival Leicester – Day One

My festival season is certainly up and running already.  Last weekend saw me in the Forest of Dean for the Something Else season opening party.  This weekend sees me heading north with my wife for my first experience of Leicester’s Handmade festival.

The journey was a bit of a nightmare with the usual Friday of a bank holiday weekend traffic, nonetheless we arrived in decent time only to find that your truly had booked the wrong hotel.  Premiere Inn has a hotel 5 minutes walk from the venue, it also has one that isn’t!  I shall leave the rest to your imagination.

Handmade festival is interesting as it is based at Leicester’s O2 academy which itself is based on the campus of the University.  The music is spread across four stages within the venue with some fringe events elsewhere in the city centre.  As you can imagine the festival focuses on emerging talent with a few better known acts as headliners to ensure that tickets sell.

The music line-up is eclectic with 65 Days of Static and We are Scientists topping the bill.  Our day started at the main stage with indie rock outfit Ash Mammal who had attracted a decent sized crowd for so early in the day.  With a 5pm start it was always likely to be the case that the crowd will build during the evening as it most certainly did, but from the beginning of the evening there was a great atmosphere from the mostly student aged audience.  

I must confess that two of the mainstage acts for the evening really didn’t float my boat.  The experimental outfit Her Name Is Calla left me cold.  Let’s just say that they are so experimental that they were 15-minutes into their set before I realised they had actually begun.  I had assumed that they were still trying to sort out the sound and the guitarist was playing with his cellphone on stage, I hadn’t realised that this was part of the show.  Once I realised they were actually playing their set I scuttled off to find something more to my taste.

I found it at the Cave Stage with Reckless Youth.  I thought these guys were absolutely excellent but frustratingly they were 20 minutes late starting a 30 minute set.  As a result this meant they only had time to play for about four songs.  I’m sure they will have a great reason for being so late but sadly this is just unprofessional.  

The stars of the day for me played back to back on the scholar stage.  Black Honey and Pretty Vicious both turned in stunning sets with a ton of energy in front of an very enthusiastic and appreciative audience.  The Guardian identified Black Honey as one of its bands to watch this year and the band showed why.  It is great to see a female fronted band doing so well and singer Izzy Baxter showed why the Brighton four piece are so highly regarded.  

Pretty Vicious have been knocking on the door of the big time for some time now and are very highly regarded.  Having already played at Reading & Leeds Festival and Glastonbury and supported the like of Manic Street Preachers the punk tinged rock outfit are surely headed for the big time.  For this ageing punk seeing the like of Pretty Vicious, Palma Violets and AllUsOnDrugs breathing new life into this scene is a real shot in the arm.

65 Days of Static need no introduction, they have after all been around for well over a decade.  Their electronic based, instrumental post rock sound is the sort of thing you either like or don’t.  Their music is the sort of thing that it is great to chill out to through if I’m honest I like my rock a deal heavier and with more of an edge.  I was also hugely frustrated that the played their entire set without any front of stage lighting meaning that bright backlights made it totally impossible to shoot anything more than silhouettes.

Headliners We Are Scientists have also been around for pretty much the whole of this century.  The Indie 3-piece from New York have six albums under their belts and are well regarded by the UK audience.  It did the band no harm that they praised Leicester City to the high heavens something that certainly got the majority of the audience even more on-side.  Their sixty minute set went down very well with the crowd and as the first day of Handmade festival drew to a close I am pretty sure that like me the audience will be looking forward to a great day on Saturday. 


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