2nd, 3rd & 4th May 2014. ∏
by Keith Jobey
After a successful first festival in 2013, Handmade Festival returned in 2014. Spread across venues surrounding its hub at the Firebug, there were more bands this year and hence more choice. With a policy of using ‘underused’ venues, we had stages in the Guildhall and Bishop Street Methodist Church again and new addition Hansom Hall. The Firebug and the Cookie were also used for bands, while St Martins Coffee Shop hosts a comedy stage and art installations are presented around the venues.
Keen to see new venue Hansom Hall we begin our festival with C***Rag, a duo of drums and pedal laden guitar sporting suits and wrestling masks playing songs with no vocals that last about a minute. The drummer soon removes the suit and shirt revealing a leotard. A short break mid set sees them dispense fig rolls and free CDs. Top entertainment and a great opener.
Next we are off to the Guildhall for Her Name Is Calla, catching the tail end of Peter Wyeth in the process. The festival is not just about music, it’s a celebration of music, comedy, art, poetry. And Her Name Is Calla embraces this with a re-soundtracking of 1922 silent movie Haxan. The projection is not great on the black and white timbered walls and approaching two hours long it means missing a few other acts but it’s a unique experience and a one that I felt was worthwhile.
After the Guildhall we dash down to the Cookie to catch the tail end of Sivu who seems good and then it’s a back up to the Firebug for the remainder of Grace Petrie and the Benefits Culture who has the audience firmly in her control.
Saturday is a pain. The busiest day also means clashes galore and some bands I’d like to see are going to be missed. Feedback Voice has no competition though so we start the day off upstairs at the Firebug watching the youngsters from Hinckley. They play a math rock/indie style and give out a free copy of House Things EP. Nice start. From there it’s a quick dash to Hansom Hall next to see Echolocation. With added Brassick Bears they play a solid set. Second time seeing them and their songs are beginning to stick.
Brandy Thieves sadly lose out so after a brief stop at Bishop Street Methodist Church for a couple of Fallers tunes we return to the Firebug to see the Leeds Alcopop artists Brawlers. These are the most energetic band I’ve seen for ages. The singer spends the whole set on the main floor running back and forward along the room. Looking at the stage it’s probably a wise choice since it’s a whirl of guitar necks and kicking legs. The songs are good too.
In need of a rest I head to see Elizabeth Cornish. Playing solo in the wonderful Bishop Street Methodist Church suits her style just fine. I stay put for Weikie, hoping that we’ll get a rendition of Rope using the church piano and we do.
I then head to the Firebug for the Woahnows. A guitar band is needed and these fit the bill. Opting to stick with the guitar bands Sisterland at Hansom Hall gets selected over Katie Malco (a difficult choice). It’s a year since Sisterland last played a gig and it’s good to see the Leicester indie band again. Bishop Street Methodist Church is thankfully running a little late so after Sisterland I score with 10 minutes of Katie Malco, including the superb September on piano.
Staying put in my front row pew for Derbyshire’s talented Haiku Salut sadly means missing We Three And The Death Rattle (which may have been their last gig). A tough decision but the chance to see Haiku Salut in a venue that does their musical style justice decides the matter.
There is only one place to be at the end of the evening and that is Hansom Hall to watch the legendary Shonen Knife. They may be a commercial product but they haven’t survived this long without also being an excellent band and the floor is bouncing with happy fans.
After Saturdays exploits Sunday is a little more relaxed. In fact it starts for me by catching some Meri Everitt, Becky Edwards and Kevin Hewick playing acoustically at Westival I the Braunstone Gate sunshine.
Not particularly liking the downstairs stage of the Firebug because of the bar noise, I opt to spend most of the evening holed up in the Cookie. It begins with Murmur, who I’m impressed by, one to keep an eye on. Still young but showing some good indications of things to come. Next are London based Whales In Cubicles, who are arguably the ‘biggest’ band on the bill tonight. They’re followed by Lovepark but after a few songs my attention has waned and I decide to nip to the Firebug to see what Forest are like. They’re better but I only catch a few songs. My friends are all heading to the Guildhall for ILikeTrains but I decide to end my evening back in the Cookie.
I’d seen Oxford band Pixel Fix supporting Little Night Terrors some time ago and they’ve matured nicely since then. However, it’s my first time seeing headline band Clubs and I see why they’re getting a lot of press, even outside their native Leicester. Songs from their Velvet EP quickly get into your head. Watching them live I’m pleased with my choice and look forward to seeing more of them soon.
So I count 21 acts seen over three days in five venues for about £30. You can’t argue with that. And knowing the amount of time and effort given by volunteers to help create this festival, a big thank you is warranted to all involved.