For its second year, the burgeoning Handmade Festival, situated in a number of venues across the inner-city landscape of Leicester, brought in a diverse range of acts once again.
Headliners for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday amounted to Irish experimentalists And So I Watch You From Afar, Japanese pop-rock girl-band Shonen Knife and the rousing acoustics of Dry the River, a pretty eclectic mixture, I’m sure you’ll agree! Throw in some top comedic acts interspersed throughout local talent and smaller acts, aswell as photography and art installations at some interesting venues, a great combination of entertainment all for just £30.
Irish band And So I Watch You From Afar were undoubtedly the biggest draw for the first night of the festival. Having listened to some of their work beforehand, I was anticipating their arrival greatly, and I wasn’t left disappointed. The three-pronged guitars were backed up brilliantly by their drummer and some choice cuts from last year’s ‘All Hail Bright Future’s’ LP went down a storm, ‘Big Things Do Remarkable’ and ‘Eunoia’ amongst them.
Their second record has progressed them higher up the musical spectrum, so it was great to see them in such an intimate environment, where they filled the room brilliantly with their sound. What was great about the band was that they controlled the room with very little vocalisation, but when that did kick in, you felt the effect fully. It was a great ending to the first evening of fun, as the band told their ecstatic audience just how much they loved playing in Leicester, a city that has been great to them.
The exciting thing about this festival is the sheer variety, for this you just have to go for Shonen Knife. A band who toured with Nirvana and taken influences from the likes of the Ramones and the Beach Boys are never going to be boring! They followed on from ASIWYFA the previous evening to take on the headline status at Hansome Hall, and they lived up to the high standards set on Friday night, with their range of tunes that delighted a passionate crowd. After seeing a lot of up-and-comers it was refreshing to see band who’d toured the world over and still had such love for the art, most bands should look at Shonen Knife as a great template to follow.
Possibly the most famous act at the minute on the entire bill came last, Dry the River, were an act a lot of people had been waiting for and a little bit later than advertised, the moment they took to the Firebug stage was a great one. The bar was slowly filling up throughout the evening and was almost to capacity when the foursome came on. Every song was greeted with rapturous applause, as songs from 2012’s ‘Shallow Bed’ LP were sung from the rafters with some new material cheekily thrown in for good measure. They played for just under an hour, but it was a great experience, seeing such a hot band in such tight circumstances, made for memorable moments, such as ‘Shield Your Eyes’ and ‘Weights & Measures’ a rousing tune. The band themselves appeared to be loving every moment too, thanking the crowd for their patience and support throughout.
Handmade is a pretty distant spot on the festival horizon in the grand scheme of things.It’s a festival in its infancy situated in a culturally-diverse city that when I talked to several people around and about, didn’t know what the festival was. However, with even more diversity in the line-up for next year, more promotions and partnerships around the city, Handmade Festival could be a festival that the city can be proud of. As it is, it is a hidden gem for those who know about it, but it deserves that bit more success, it truly does.