Review – Handmade Festival, Sunday 30th April 2023

Maybeshewill. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Reviewed by Kenny Cassells

After a decade (give or take a few years for Covid) Handmade festival has reached it’s final year and aims to bow out with grace and style. Split across 3 stages, Firebug upstairs and downstairs and Duffy’s bar, a plethora of the best upcoming and local bands were set to perform.

Handmade Festival sign outside Firebug

Downstairs at Firebug

I arrived in time to catch the fantastic Other Half, a tight three-piece from Norwich whose noisy, catchy, Pixieesque sound also featured shades of At the Drive-in.

Songs The Tiny Gap and Jollies With The Boys were standout songs in an energy-driven set which was a great introduction to Handmade.

Other Half downstairs in Firebug. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Next up was The Bronze Age whose sound featured some very interesting dark brooding riffs, interspersed with melody, harmony and screamo vocals split between 3 vocalists. I was impressed by their clever guitar interplay which weaved throughout each song whilst bass and drums kept the rhythm steady.

Bronze Age. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Ambient rock band Eyre Llew, who hail from Nottingham, are an incredible 3-piece band who create luscious ethereal sounds.

The Explosions in the sky style set opener built to a mesmeric crescendo which set the tone for the rest of their set. Beautiful lush melodies and guitar interplay, bathed in swathes of delay whilst violin bows are drawn over guitar strings adding even more dynamics to the atmospheric soundscape.

Even the drummer joined in on piano at times to add the ambient sound over which luscious melodies were added.

Standout song was their track which vocalist Sam advised he had written in Korean.

The band have been incredibly busy since their inception having a slew of releases since 2014 which can be found on their bandcamp page, however we are told today that this is their first gig since 2022. On this showing, you would never have guessed.

Eyre Llew. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Shoegaze alt rock band October Drift really impressed in front of a packed room.

The Energetic 4-piece pack a big sound and opener Lost without you went down well. Their sound features strong vocals, big singalong choruses, powerful drums and distortion laden guitars.

Songs Airborne Panic Attack and the fantastic Lost Without You and Losing My Touch were standout tracks.

October Drift. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Local Leicester band Maybeshewill closed the festival on the downstairs stage of Firebug. Described as post-rock, the group who are an all-instrumental act reminiscent of bands such as Mogwai and God is an Astronaut, mesmerised the crowd for an hour with their blend of heavy instrumentation.

Maybeshewill. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Having been together since 2005 the band are clearly tight and each musician works well together to produce a blend of programmed and sampled electronic elements, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. Their sound was a perfect soundtrack for the end of the event with music that hooks you in and doesn’t let you go.

This is made even more impressive given there are no vocals or the usual tropes most bands utilise.

If you have not had the pleasure of losing yourself to them, this reviewer would highly recommend doing so at some point in your life.

Upstairs at Firebug

Mouse Teeth was a solo performer who created dreamlike soundscapes over which heartfelt lyrics and poetry were delivered with a beautiful and powerful vocal. Reminiscent of Jeff Buckleys take on Lilac Wine.

Mouse Teeth. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Soft Lad (aka Sophie Galpin) is a Singer-songwriter who is no stranger to the music scene. Her set showcased her great voice, varied range and use of backing tracks which rounded out the sound to great effect.

Standout track was Singapore which blended beautiful subtle verses which gave way to great singalong choruses.

Soft Lad. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Grace Petrie is a local lass and self-proclaimed leftwing lesbian folk act. Grace lit up the stage with her brand of folk/punk protest songs aided by Ben on violin and various other instruments.

Like a female Billy Bragg for the modern generation. Stand out track was Storm here to Weather.

Grace Petrie. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Duffy’s Bar

I arrived at Duffy’s just in time to catch the end of ST Manville’s set. He was ruminating with a captivated audience about the highlights of life in Leicester which has been his home for over a decade.

The Solo performer is reminiscent of Elliott Smith or City and Colour with soft acoustic engaging songs that were beautifully delivered.

S T Manville. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

There was a heavy excitement in the air for the next band on at Duffy’s, taking to the stage to rapturous applause were Jools who exude rock and roll cool and delivered an energetic set featuring the dual vocals of frontman Mitchell Gordon and Chelsea Wrones.

Jools. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Roaring guitars were supported by phat basslines and thrashing drums, crafting a signature Leicester sound which manages to combine post-punk and heavy rock, sounding like the result of a mash-up between Idles, Kasabian and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Jools. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

The band had the venue jumping and standout track Be my Guest went down well with the fervent crowd.

Prima Queen were one of the standout performers of the festival for me. An all-female band fronted by the songwriting duo of Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden.

Their sound included fantastic 3-part harmonies and jangling guitars which was very reminiscent of the Laurel Canyon sound and is the perfect chilled summer sound. Stand-out tracks Eclipse and I don’t believe in the American dream Left the crowd wanting more.

These ladies are headed for bigger things and it was special to see them at such a small venue.

Prima Queen. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

The Wytches are an English rock band formed in Peterborough but have been based more recently in Brighton. Their blend of post-punk/noise rock entertained a packed Duffy’s Bar and had the crowd fired up with their Infectious grooves and hypnotic Vibes.

A Kyuss meets Horror sound which has been honed over years of playing, certainly left an impression and was a joy to behold.

The Wytches. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

This definitely was a handmade festival, it was well-crafted, thoughtfully and lovingly put together by people who like what they do and know what they like. Other festivals should take note.

Sadly, however, this was the last one. But what a great way to end the run.

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