This past weekend, a horde of people with a penchant for music of the alternative variety – math-rock, post-rock, post-metal, electronica, crud-rock – squeezed themselves into Wharf Chambers in Leeds for a weekend of mathmetical mayhem and Birthday Cake For Breakfast was on hand to soak it all in!
Here’s our top five from one of our favourite inner-city festivals.
Brutal AF wake-ups
There’s nothing quite worse than that dreadful sense of feeling sorry for yourself as you shuffle into the second day of an inner-city festival. You’ve been up all night, chatting people’s ears off, drinking everything in sight and making frequent trips to have a look in the mirror. It’s a right bloody laugh, no question, but what you need the next day is a pick-me-up – some sort of revitalising tonic. At the 2017 edition of StrangeForms, both days kicked off in fierce, fierce style with kick-up-the-arse intentions high!
Local Leeds lads Classically Handsome Brutes and Irk were given the task of opening up both days (the former opening up the whole darn thing) and they did it with face-melting aplomb. Both bands have been on our radar for a while now and it was good to see them shine at Wharf Chambers. Shaking the cobwebs off never felt so good – You can stick your morning coffee up your arris (though I’ll still go for a cup if there’s any going…)
You’ve got to hand it to Bad Owl Presents – they know how to put a line-up together. Boasting 18 bands this year (two more on top of last year’s outing) with some real heavy hitters lined up throughout the weekend. At the top of the heap were the likes of Axes and Poly-Math, whilst littered throughout the weekend were favourites such as Body Hound (a.k.a. Kasabian), and the always wonderful VASA and Dialects.
Poly-Math have been definite highlights two years running (for me at least – they’re said to be the unofficial ‘house band’ of the festival!), and the arrival of Axes was more than welcome. I sometimes forget just how bloody good this quartet are, with an oeuvre of super hits and unbelievable tight playing. 100% fun.
Body Hound too were an absolute barrel of laughs, with the interactions between the four whilst playing never failing to raise a smile. Disgusting riffs aplenty.
A 21st Century one man band, Steve Strong is the all singing (he didn’t sing), all dancing (he didn’t dance) beau of the ball. I can’t believe I’ve slept on this guy for so long – his performance over the weekend was an absolute highlight. Intricately crafting multi-layered songs using every bit of kit he can get his hands on, he is unsurprisingly pretty mesmerising on the quiet.
As well as Steve Strong there was Gallops – Another highly favoured band of the scene who have just completely passed me by. The Saturday night headliners experienced some unfortunate heavy delays, but once they kicked into gear it was pretty mind-blowing. Featuring cuts from their latest album ‘Bronze Mystic’ (reviewed here), it was the perfect Saturday night dance-athon in Wharf Chambers. Belting.
There was also the joys of the weekend’s supergroups, with A-Tota-So (Alright The Captain/Cheap Jazz) providing the straight-up math-rock jams and GUG (Bad Grammar/Cleft/Alpha Male Tea Party) making the gnarliest of Leeds debuts (literally their third or fourth show!)
Leeds Leeds Leeds
There’s something in the air, I tells ya. Leeds has fast become a favourite destination as of late for all of us at Birthday Cake For Breakfast HQ (some of our writers even live/lived there!) and the sense of community in the music scene is wonderful. From Wharf Chambers to the Brudenell, the vibes are great throughout the Northern city. Now that the sun has (finally) got his hat on, we expect to be hitting up Leeds a lot more over the coming months!
Stewart & Kerry
The unsung heroes of the festival… or not quite. Every single band across the weekend made an effort to sing the praises of the Bad Owl Presents dream team, and with good cause. All the hard work behind the scenes doesn’t go unnoticed (mainly because Wharf Chambers is rather intimate size wise) and the love and attention shown by the pair of them brings a real tear to the eye!
The first page of this year’s programme concludes “…and we look forward to seeing you again in 2018!” – Wouldn’t miss it for the world.