Handmade Festival 2019

“Thank you John”, the refrain heard on stage, behind bars, and in audiences at Handmade Festival 2019.

Leicester’s traditional May bank holiday festival has expanded to nine venues across the city, a testament to the hard-working bands, organisers, and volunteers keeping this festival running every year.

As per the whole nine venues situation (over one day,) there were of course more clashes than a Marvel movie, and my FOMB (Fear of Missing Bands) was in full swing. So I took a democratic approach to this festival using a scoring system to elect the following bands: - Kermes, Saint Agnes, Fivehead, Sweetbellechobaby, Yr Poetry, Jo Quail, Arabot, MONO, Martha, and Crows – across seven of the nine venues.

For the ramblers, this was my Walking Festival.
I’ve been here before, and I’ll be here again – but the older I get (and the pickier I become,) the less likely I’ll want to traverse New Walk on a mild May afternoon.

At the Attenborough Arts Centre, Kermes’ set, laden in their exquisite Cure-esque punk, was intensely loud for 3pm. Their sweaty and evocative set climaxed with “Yr Beast” – the sign of good things to come. It was a short walk to the O2 where Saint Agnes played some rather interesting heavy blues, then The Snuts played something a little less interesting, though entertaining none the least.

Handmade graciously put buses due to the venue distances; here’s how I think it went. 1) People successfully using buses to get around. 2) People staying at The 02 venues thus not needing the service. 3) Missing the bus because you spent too long working the schedule out when the bus is about to drive off. I found myself pathetically walking in the bus’ shadow as it left the 02, then worse… running to catch it as it stopped at nearby Attenborough Arts Centre, only to see the bum scratching driver reveal he’s actually on his break and the next bus will “be soon” (literally 20 minutes,) then even worse at Firebug… Fivehead finished earlier than expected.

The 10 minutes of Fivehead were exhilarating, a must see band in the future – though the same can’t be said about Sweetbellechobaby at the Y Theatre who unfortunately did not live up to the high expectation.

Kermes being Kermes
Feeling parched, the options on Granby Street was aplenty, but Steakhouse was the pick of the litter. The (soft) drinks were out of date, the waiter oversold the meals, and the food was lacking in sustenance. The shocking display of burgers and chips was far worse than anything at Handmade across the road. You could even see the Handmade travellers walk by on their way to the next band on their list, I kept wondering to myself: “What am I missing for this.” As I looked down at the 25 pound bill it sunk in, I probably paid more for a dodgy out of date drink and Burger King-tier grub than most did for their Handmade Festival ticket.

Luckily Yr Poetry was up next at The Soundhouse, a charismatic Birmingham duo who wouldn’t find themselves out of place on American college radio in the 90s. They were to me, the highlight of Handmade, to others, a clash with The Sherlocks, JOHN, and Rozi Plain.

Then an angelic cellist by the name of Jo Quail, though lacking the effort, drama, and energy of what came before, left the Y Theatre in awe of her talents – a surprise to say the least.

Quail then joined the makeshift three-piece Arabrot, who seemed somewhat saddened by the audience or lack thereof – most likely at LIFE or The Futureheads in what was an expected outcome of having so many venues over just one day.

MONO (a few minutes before.)
The first half of MONO followed Arabrot at The Y - begrudgingly, an opportunity to see Martha meant missing two halves of two wonderful headline sets. Walking out on the painfully beautiful MONO was a tough task because it’s not often a band with such musical significance play to an inexcusably small audience. Though attendance aside, this was a performance not to be missed - and considering the clashes at the time... you would expect this audience to be here no matter what.

Martha’s remaining short but sweet set at The Soundhouse was a nostalgic pop-punk extravaganza, smiles everywhere, awkward dancing, and tiredness. Then it was a cold walk over to The Cookie for a small but eager Crows audience. There wasn’t much to see but you certainly could hear the raw venom coming from the London punk two-piece who closed the festival with some much-needed passion.

Sadly due to this year’s arrangement we’ve all missed out on so much, and although the big name acts are not particularly interesting (for me at least,) the fact is the trio that put this festival together have made do with what they’ve got - calling up multiple venues across the city to please the Leicester crowd who are tired of having little else to do musically speaking.

To me, this has been an ongoing problem since the death of Summer Sundae, but the problem is far greater and it shrouds the city in mediocrity. Leicester, like Handmade, is just doing enough, and that’s alright with me so long as a passionate few put on a variety of music for the musically malnourished many. With regards to Handmade, the challenge of a citywide festival is harder than ever before. With venues miles apart and attendances low, there is a stark contradiction to the illusion of growth, something that would otherwise be accepted if this was a two-day event - but in hindsight, I love being spoilt for choice... so thank you John.

Edward Gibson

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Discovery: Handmade Festival 2019
Handmade Festival 2019
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