This year’s fourth annual Handmade Festival was a weekend full of incredible music, art, and performances of all kinds. This independent festival brought together some of the best local acts of Leicester with bands all over the UK and US. Comedians, beat boxers, banjo players, and all kinds of artists and food shared a multi-space area of artistic expression. There was never a dull moment as festival goers went from room to room around the O2 and University of Leicester Student Union. Everyone, from the festival directors, to volunteers, to artists, to the press were all super cool and welcoming. They were there for a good time, and spirits were high in every room. The acts all had nothing but wonderful things to say about Leicester and their experience with the Handmade Festival the entire weekend. I have been to many music and art festivals around the world, and I am genuinely impressed with how well organised and entertaining Handmade was. Take a look at the reviews of headliner bands throughout the weekend: 65daysfstatic, We Are Scientists, Lonely The Brave, Deaf Havana, Los Campesinos!, and Swim Deep.

65daysofstatic took the stage on Friday night with a killer set of ominous and seductive tunes. Some of their songs were gentle and beautiful, others were dark and malevolent. But all of the songs, regardless of theme, were the soundtrack to an epic adventure. Each song had me feeling like I was ready to meet hobbits, vampires, angels, and sorcery.

With motivational crescendos, euphoric pinnacles, and a soothing resolutions, no lyrics were needed for this music to have a story playing in my mind the entire show. This well-rounded band had an incredible drummer, and a tasteful use of electronics met with a ton of distortion. “Good music for killing zombies,” said one fan. They’re Deftones meets Sigur Ros.

Give a listen to 65daysofstatic’s music, especially live, and you’ll be either dancing with the devil, or saving the world, or both.

We Are Scientists never fail to melt your face off with their amazing live shows. These guys can jam! They are serious musicians, but bring humor and their quirky New York City personalities to the forefront of their shows. During their gig last Friday, bassist Chris Cain, who resembles the love child of John Oates (from Hall & Oates) and Officer Pornstache Mendez (from Orange is the New Black), gave some loving remarks about The Charlotte in Leicester, a venue they’ve played multiple times in previous years. They also congratulated LCFC fans for the great year we’re having, and praised the Handmade Festival for being an authentically independent festival. These guys are all around genuine fellas, and it was clear they loved playing in Leicester.

13116396_1018687898221294_8441686690406485059_oThey just released their fifth studio album last week entitled, Helter Seltzer. It brings together their catchy tunes and solid alt-rock riffs that has made them so popular in the indie rock world. The album was only dropped last week, but there were plenty of people in the crowd already singing along at their show on Friday. The album does not disappoint to long-time We Are Scientists fans, but is also a great album to start with if you’re just getting introduced to them for the first time. It is true to classic We Are Scientists form. The show featured quite a few songs off the new record, and also rocked the crowd with some classic tunes like, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” their number one single. Helter Seltzer is a must-have album of 2016 for any indie rock lover, and definitely catch We Are Scientists live if you can. They will not disappoint!

Lonely The Brave has been described by one long-time fan at their Saturday show as “doom pop.” This 5-piece band had a great stage presence, with all of the members jamming out and getting the crowd hyped. Lonely The Brave’s signature sound definitely qualifies as hard rock, with heavy distortion and good for people who want to get their anger out. But underneath the hardness, there’s very emotive vocals, nice harmony, and killer lyrics. Check out these guys if you’re into heavy metal or post-hardcore; they’re a match between Metallica’s heavy riffs and the vocals of Yellowcard or Dashboard Confessional, and their songs are hard and fast. Stay tuned for a new album out by these guys entitled “Things Will Matter” later this year.

Swim Deep are a five-piece band that kicked off their show with a retro sound bite of a space shuttle announcement, the launched into a super spacey and dark song, which happened to be about, you guessed it: a spaceman. Their dream pop style blended the old and the new. They looked like they were straight out of the past, and clearly have a lot of influence from the 80s synth pop and 90s shoegaze. Frontman Austin Williams had the feel of a 90s grunge version of Prince or David Bowie. It was refreshing to see the influence of two greats who were lost to us recently in a live performance. But their music was definitely unique and their own. They got the crowd moving and grooving with their songs that layered pop melodies with their darker tones. These guys are solid live; definitely see them if you can!

Los Campesinos! made their third appearance in Leicester on Sunday evening, and rocked the house. This seven-piece band uses far more than seven instruments, and layers up their songs with tambourines, shakers, cowbells, and an entire percussion set-up over the second keyboard. But even with the multitude of instruments, they’re used very tastefully and in sync. Definitely not just making noise for the sake of it; they have well orchestrated and very layered songs.

The stage presence was theatrical and entertaining, but still very natural. Los Campesinos! deserve a major stadium stage, and they’d fill it well. They’ve got the catchy melodies and straight up pop punk that kept the crowd going the entire show. I couldn’t tell what they were saying the entire time, but it didn’t matter because I’m on board for whatever they were singing about! “This song is about how each and every one of us are gonna die alone,” said the lead singer right before kicking off a super upbeat song. There were clearly a lot of fans in the crowd, and there was an awesome moment when Gareth stopped singing, and the crowd carried on for him. Catch these guys and gals live if you can – they put on a great show!

Swim Deep are a five-piece band that kicked off their show with a retro sound bite of a space shuttle announcement, the launched into a super spacey and dark song, which happened to be about, you guessed it: a spaceman. Their dream pop style blended the old and the new. They looked like they were straight out of the past, and clearly have a lot of influence from the 80s synth pop and 90s shoegaze. Frontman Austin Williams had the feel of a 90s grunge version of Prince or David Bowie. It was refreshing to see the influence of two greats who were lost to us recently in a live performance. But their music was definitely unique and their own. They got the crowd moving and grooving with their songs that layered pop melodies with their darker tones. These guys are solid live; definitely see them if you can!

Written by Sarah Byrd

Images from Handmade Festival’s Facebook Page

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