Live at Leeds Festival 2010 on Sunday, 29th August 2010
Halifax-bred musical primates Wot Gorilla? have a sound animal name, thrive in a West Yorkshire habitat, and seem to have inherited a Minus The Bear tendency from Wintermute. Their sound is exciting, well executed and perfect for opening Sunday's session on the BBC Introducing Stage. The five-piece band build their sound on chunks of detailed guitar loveliness. The songs shift rather than develop - but they sounded good to me and the loss of terminal drama is more than made up for by thrills and spills along the way. Vocals (Mat Haigh and Jonny Hey) have fresh and rasping tones at full tilt and pleasant emotional fuzziness in gentler moments. Good vocals are always welcome in a guitar band. The crowd magnet rating was high. Well done Wot Gorilla?! And thanks too for the arcane punctuation opportunity.
Our Fold are a Classic Ugly Foursome from near Bolton, with the distinction of having Aziz Ibrahim on lead guitar. The set opened with a double ebow guitar break and was liberally sprinkled with solos and show off bits that seemed both lacking in musical interest and misplaced inside the environment of crude laddish vocals and four square drum battering. For those who hate what they call "guitar widdling" or "fret wankery" this set would have provided a perfect example. For those who still love original guitar outbursts that excite and amaze, this was not a good time to be in the crowd. I was embarrassed to see Ibrahim lift the guitar to his face so that "playing with his teeth" could find a line in my notebook.
Cheese despatched, chalk arrived, costumed for an Edwardian Masquerade. Amy's Ghost, from Reading, gave out a strong visual identity. If you have a big stage and plenty of lights, why on earth would you do otherwise? Too many bands have traipsed these boards looking like the remnants of an impromptu camping trip with no laundry. Amy's Ghost are a sextet with Amy Barton's voice, a cello, keyboards, some electro-gubbins and a rhythm section. Figurehead and vocalist Amy was the most decorated, but all carried stencilled motifs and period costumery. The sound was dreamy, with trip hop whispers (I heard Florence and The Machine mentioned in the crowd, but I couldn't detect it myself). Goody bags were distributed by costumed helpers too - all very grand. On balance the songs were a bit mechanical, with a lack of real melody and a touch of harshness in the voice that kept me away from getting involved.
In advance of their set there had been a lot of noise coming from Hull and elsewhere about The Gang (aka The G.A.N.G - it stands for Growth And Not Glory). Their appearance on stage at its most populous period in the early afternoon augured well for them. The front trio of Chima "Kizzle" Etekochay (singer/songwriter), Anthony "Nero" Iluobe (rapper/songwriter) and Trea "Heatrock" Barber (producer) with bass and drums locked in behind looked very strong, refreshing eyeballs and demanding attention. The crowd was HUGE and got sucked straight in for the hip hop opening. "Make Some Noise" and the like. The moves, the smiles, the demands to "Dare To Be Different!" were so pumped that no one could, or would want to, escape. As the set flowed seamlessly on each of the three frontmen offend a distinct character. The sweet soul singing voice of Kizzle Etekochay took centre stage. Nero Iluobe did star-quality encouragement and continuity from stage left and Heatrock Barber kept it level with a hint of menace over on Stage right. "System Overload" was the big populist tune - with a chorus to get everyone howling along. "Shadow Of The Night" (the current single) showed off the quality of the production and performance standard - fruits of three years of collaboration since the three got started. The 25 minutes ration seemed far too short. This was both the most fun and the biggest crowd of the weekend on the BBC Introducing Stage.
The Gang's killer threesome were also visible round at the front a little later watching Glasgow-based indie scratchers We're Only Afraid Of NYC. It has to be said, the timid Scots needed all the support they could get. Their fear seemed to extend to worrying about the audience. Singer Kenny Finnigan had a faltering anxious voice and the lightly employed bass player spent the 25 minutes of fame staring at his fretboard. Drummer Peter Onneby remained expressionless throughout.
Oh joy, though. Sketches came on next and confirmed all the good things I had already been told about them. The fresh faced fellows played and sang with clarity and confidence. Their glittering indie style transcended the format by having fine songs and the courage to let them fly. Their outstanding single "Bleed Victoria" sent a thrill across the park and confirmed the "similar artist" association with Wild Beasts on the BBC website. Tingling guitar lines were a pleasure and some sparingly-used two part harmonies worked very well. The explosive finale left me thinking they could end up being very popular if they're not careful.
The Mighty Stef possibly won't be popular beyond his native Dublin, but he does have a rare gift for melody and storytelling. With his band on stage the sound was a kind of country punk that would have been cutting edge and magnificent in 1977. Today it showed off the sheer love of a big noise and the celebration of a big personality with a body to match. Jesus got a look in at each end of the set ("Black Jesus" and "Thanks Christ For The Kids"). In some ways Stefan Murphy is a soul mate to Jonny Black of LaFaro - working class Irishmen with stories to tell and the tunes to do them justice.
Stagecoach (normally a quintet I think) had seven in bed today, including a fiddle, the ever-welcome mandolin and the usual indie equipment. Their crazy fun approach to folk/punk/rock is a long way short of Gogol Bordello, but the strong representation for gay nuttiness was refreshing. "Anyone get a handjob this weekend?" yells Tom. "No? Anyone give a handjob?" The mandolin and tennis outfit with orange headband was fine to look at and the mandolin was played with surprising deftness. "Headbangers Ball" revealed a perverse interest in heavy metal played in a Stephen Malkmus style. Every festival needs an oddball turn or two.
Mr Fogg, who is not unknown in Leeds is billed as Reading's own. He brought a careful greyscale livery to stage, with a fair number of slimline electronic instruments on stands. The M-AUDIO logo appeared on the cutest looking examples. A partly-eaten apple in silhouette graced one of the others. This restrained and subtle set-up might have threatened dullness. What we got was a set of really good songs with consummate use of the equipment that made great sounds without intruding. Mr Fogg's voice is not spectacular, but it commanded attention through force of character. A magnificent finale with a drum majorette and marching band was heroically good. This Sunday at Leeds Festival was turning into a very special experience - full of surprises and of artists MAKING AN EFFORT. Gaggle, a 12 piece female choir with banners, short skirts, drummer and conductor, had cast the first stone at 11.30 on the Festival Republic Stage and plenty of others seemed to be following suit.
End Of Level Baddie carried the dressed-up torch for Hull's dance scene, and The Gang came back mob handed for some of that. Hiding behind two laptops and a shiny sci-fi mask was producer/DJ Scott Langthorpe. His beats breaks and samples gave the happy crowd a great opportunity to shake their loose parts in the open air. By the end everyone was there for the party. He's a canny producer, and anyone concentrating on the detail would have been delighted with the stuttering breakdowns and well chosen vocal samples. Music for body and mind. And huge fun.
Sail up the coast a bit from Hull and Hartlepool shows on the radar. Hartlepool is home to Arcs & Trauma, who gave us more of the Minus The Bear stuff with rippling guitar and rumbling bass lines. And a dash of Appleseed Cast. It was good, very very good - even if we had heard the styles before. The fluency and intelligence was clear. Individual distinctiveness would be what we would demand next. They certainly lifted us out of dance mode and enticed us into listening mode. Sunday just carried on being good.
Little Fish at the "top" of the bill kept things going very well. By no means the best band of the day, they still added something of their own and sustained the general sense of high quality music that we enjoyed on this, the most consistent of the three days on the BBC Introducing Stage. Julia Sophie Heslop is the main attraction, wielding rock guitar moves and a husky voice. She's neither as original as Katie Harkin nor as bland as Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable, but I'd be mad not to award her ten out of ten for character. "Innuendo" was a fine crowd pleasing shout-along finale. Warm keyboard sounds were a secret treat. It was a good way to close.