We arrived too early, way, way too early. As a consequence, we had to sit in a pub for 5 hours and somehow avoid getting (too) drunk! Somehow we actually managed this, a feat of willpower that I hope you all appreciate?
Things finally kicked off with the intricate looped collages of Peter Wyeth. We'd been aware of Peter for a few years but this was the first time we'd seen him live & to say it was impressive is an understatement indeed. Set in the glorious surroundings of Leicester's Guildhall he played a set of heartbreaking intensity and emotional depth, finishing with a poem about a cat.
Next up in the same venue was Her Name Is Calla doing a semi-improvised re-scoring of Häxan, but also the first of the evening's clashes. We hung around for the first 10-15 most enjoyable minutes of Calla but then hot footed it up the road to Hansom Hall & Three Trapped Tigers.
Phrases like 'unique' and 'genre defying' get bandied about a lot on this scene but they do truly apply to 3TT. I honestly don't think there's another band quite like them they make music that can only be described as 'challenging' but that didn't stop the assembled crowd losing their shit in the best possible way.
And then came the evening's, and perhaps the weekend's, main event (although also one of our saddest clashes as we would have loved to have seen Grace Petrie). What can you say about And So I Watch You From Afar that hasn't been said? Very little I suppose but all of the plaudits that come their way are fully deserved, a truly incredible band that have taken math rock to a level and an audience that I don't think anyone could have expected a few years ago. What really stands out is that whether they are playing to 5,000 at a festival or 200 in a small room in Leicester they never give less than everything. They obviously love what they do and that passion pours down from the stage to the transfixed crowd, who reflect it back at them tenfold. What a band.
The second day started with a pretty grievous hangover & the quest for breakfast. Once these issues had been seen to we headed to Duffy's Bar to see a 'secret' solo set by Stephen Davidson from Tellison. Unfortunately, just as he was about to kick off the bar was briefly descended upon by a group of very dunk Leicester fans, one of whom requested Stephen to 'play a song for the champions, you cunt' and his response of 'this is exactly how I hoped this was going to go'. This pretty much set the tone for the next half hour as Davidson worked his way through a set of gloriously miserable songs (including a Casiotone For The Painfully Alone cover) interspersed with some hilariously dry, self deprecating banter.
We headed back up the road to Firebug in time to catch the end of Juniors' set of highly entertaining noise and then were treated to one of the unexpected highlights of the weekend in Brawlers. Like a shot of pure adrenaline to the face they certainly jolted us to full wakefulness as singer Harry Johns prowled the sadly underpopulated venue. A lot of people might look back & kick themselves for missing this one, Brawlers are a new band but they have members culled from Dinosaur Pile-Up, Leftover Crack, Castrovalva and Martyr Defiled and that pedigree shows. Outstanding.
Sadly at this point our survival instinct kicked in so he had to eat & missed &U&I and Weikie, both of whom we'd have loved to have seen and arrived at the Methodist church in time to see Tom Morris and then Katie Malco in the most beautiful surrounds. I've seen Tom play many, many times now but I will never get over the wondrous nature of his voice or the aching pathos he injects in to his songs. By contrast this was our first time catching Katie Malco and we weren't disappointed. Stunning, beautiful & sad.
Bringing down the curtain on another another great day were Tellison, a magnificent choice to close. Euphoric gritty, shouty indie with big nods to Weezer; they rocked the Firebug to its core and ensured everyone made their way back to the bar downstairs sweaty and smiling.
The third day of a festival, particularly an urban one where you can't just spend the morning lying in a field, is always what sorts the wheat from the chaff and there's no doubt by now we were both feeling the pace. Proceedings for Sunday had been moved to downstairs in Firebug and we settled ourselves in to a sofa in a quiet corner, only to very quickly realise why no one was already sat there. It was next to the PA & Dry The River were about to embark on their soundcheck! It's a measure of what state we were in by that point that it was easier to sit there and endure it than work up the necessary brain function to move.
Chimes kicked us off with a distinctly hangover unfriendly set of experimental electronics and trombone driven drone. In a better state of mind we would have loved it, even as we were it was enough for us to sit up and take notice.
Speaking in Italics followed them with a highly energetic set of angular post hardcore whcih set us up nicely for one of the bands that we'd had marked on the timetable in bold since we'd arrived; Waking Aida. These boys are on a roll right now, new album Eschaton is out in a few weeks and their live show has been honed to a fine point as they tour to support the record. They absolutely nailed it with their euphoric mathy post rock.
At this point it was time to move once again and we trooped off back to The Guildhall for Verse Chorus Verse. Now, we'd been hearing glowing reports about Tony Wright's solo shows for quite some time now but this was our first opportunity to see him ourselves. We'd like to state for the record now that all reports of his brilliance were grossly understated, what a performer, what a voice, what songs. Much wow.
We stopped at The Guildhall to catch the beginning of iLikeTrains, a band that have always puzzled me. On paper their combination of gothy vocals over a post rock bed is something I should love, as many people whose musical taste I admire do, but for some reason they just don't quite click for me. After staying just long enough to have this once again confirmed we mooched back up to Firebug for the final band of the weekend. If you're looking for a big event closer then the huge, anthemic songs of Dry The River with their soaring harmonies and driving power are pretty much a perfect choice. For the best part of an hour they held the capacity crowd in the palms of their hands and lifted us up to a place of glory. Magnificent.
And with that it was over.
A wonderful event, so many of the bands gave heartfelt thanks to the organisers at the end of their set and seemed genuinely humbled to be invited to play and that anyone had come to see them. Properly heartwarming.