LIVE: Handmade Festival 2016: Saturday

By Andy Leddington

Handmade Festival, although relatively young for a festival, has experienced an incredible amount of growth in the last three years. What started as a small collection of venues and shops across Leicester putting on a few bands and having a few art exhibitions over a weekend, has evolved into an entire weekend full of music, art shows, comedy, films and more, hosted now in the many rooms that make up the Leicester University Student’s Union and O2 Academy.

Opening up the day in The Scholar, Jurassic Pop’s very unique, Jurassic Park-inspired rock was more than enough to keep people entertained. Their show was an enjoyable, if slightly baffling affair, complete with a bassist wearing a velociraptor mask and the handing out of Jurassic Park trading cards. Still a heartwarmingly happy start to the day.

Upstairs in the O2 Academy2, Leicester’s own Speaking In Italics were getting things underway. Even though the large room they were playing was still noticeably filling up, Speaking In Italics genuinely cared about what they were doing, and the show they were putting on. Fans of Moose Blood would be able to draw a lot of comparisons, not just in the music but also in the way it felt like they were really playing the music they wanted to play.

Happy Accidents, and their Weezer-esque, slightly strange pop rock certainly put the spring in a lot of people’s steps. There is something wonderfully joyous about watching a good three-piece, and Happy Accidents triple vocal moments and on-stage energy packed with youthful exuberance were nothing short of energising.

Back in the Academy2, Cleft were playing for the first and last time in Leicester before their scheduled disbanding later this year. Although there were only two of them on stage, their clever use of electronics and effects pedals made it sound like there were about six people playing their instrumental Porcupine Tree-like rock. If you have a chance to catch them on their farewell tour, you’ll be unlikely to see anything like their peculiar stage banter and even more peculiar music again.

Crows’ weird, intense hard rock performance upstairs was mired by the oceans of reverb that the singer insisted on having on at all times, making almost all of the vocals sound confusing and indistinguishable rather than ethereal. Overall somewhat uninspiring from a band that took themselves altogether too seriously.

Similarly, Weirds from Leeds had a strange amount of effects put on the vocals, although they managed to pull off a marginally more entertaining show. The effects on the vocals made the heavier, shouty bits pretty much unintelligible, although the band did put on an unmistakable spectacle of a show.

By the time Lonely The Brave came on there was noticeably more people packing out the venue, and lots of people really seemed to enjoy their show. Despite singer David Jakes spending most of the set standing next to the drum kit in some kind of weird attempt to become part of the back line, Lonely The Brave performed with an energy that reached out into the crowd, instead of staying on stage.

Headlining The Scholar was Aberdeen natives The Xcerts. Despite starting a little late due to some technical difficulties, The Xcerts seemed fairly nonplussed when it came to them actually playing, and for the 45 minutes they had, put on one of the best shows of the entire weekend. Songs like closer ‘There Is Only You’ were played with what can only be described as “heart”. There was so much passion and genuine feeling in every note that came off of the stage. If there was a downside to their set, it was that not everyone in the crowd was singing along, but the smile of frontman Murray Macleod when he heard the few people join in was more than enough to make up for it.

Saturday’s headliner’s Deaf Havana had been gone for some time – Handmade Festival was their first show since November, although you wouldn’t have noticed it. Deaf Havana have been going for more than long enough to be well-practised at headlining the size of venue that they were playing, and it was clear from their performance that they may yet have more to give to the rock scene.

Singer James Veck-Gilodi has really come out of his shell as a frontman; smiling, cracking jokes, bouncing around the stage. The rest of the band match him with aplomb, putting in a really excitable performance, most noticeably when playing songs off their last album, ‘Old Souls’.

The new track that they played, which has a much more upbeat, rocky sound to it (rather than the more folky material on ‘Old Souls’) and the gleeful performance of the band may suggest we’re going to start seeing a slightly more different Deaf Havana. One that’s slightly less miserable, one that just plays great rock music straight from the heart.

The singalongs to songs like ‘Fools & Worthless Liars’ and ‘I’m A Bore, Mostly’ were undeniably massive, and the feeling that was brought out of the room after closing track ‘Anemaphobia’ more than secured Deaf Havana’s spot as rightful Handmade Festival headliners, and potentially much, much more.

See what we made of Sunday here