Live at Moor Music Festival 2008 on Friday, 8th August 2008
There are countless laudable aspects of the weekend that will have been taken away by all of the festival-goers, but arguably it's Moor Music Festival's inclusive eclecticism that deserves the biggest pat on the back. Not only is the emphasis placed on music as an art form rather than a somewhat irrelevant background to general waywardness, but there are no taboos when it comes to choice of genre: the ethos seems to be simply that if it has merit or significance then Moor Festival approves.
This clearly garners some fantastic results, and first port of call Fuse[d] in the Earl Hickey Tribute Lounge are perhaps the clearest illustration of this. The premise in itself is great - jazz/Indian classical/western pop fusion played by some abominably talented young musicians - but the execution is even better. Instrumental narcissism never takes precedence over the band dynamic or the expressive qualities, with solos and improvisation handled very judiciously. When we are not marvelling at each individual instrumentalist's chops, the attractive, memorable relative simplicity of the melodic material is more than enough to keep us entertained; an excellent start to the day.
Although arguably more of a comedic rather than musical nature, Dr Butler's Hatstand Medicine Band provide another stark contrast to monotone indie-pop festival bands. It seems to leave the audience somewhat nonplussed, made no better by the barrage of double-entendres in virtually every song and exaggeratedly pastiche vocal styles, but its novelty is undeniable.
Another unusual set comes from The Seal Cub Clubbing Club; although not epiphanic, it is intelligent pop at its very best: chock-full of telecaster chug, nimble drum grooves and garrulous vocals. The band's honed sense for fresh-sounding hooks and upbeat, blithe ethos stand them in excellent stead.
Peter Wright's forty minutes are some of the day's most welcome. The ratio of shaggy dog stories to songs today is perfect, allowing enough of his zany stage persona to come across without overshadowing his extraordinary voice or sprightly, skilful acoustic guitar accompaniment. Wright in a serious guise can be extremely poignant and yet his lighter songs are equally successful, and a charming sense of humour and sharp sense of irony is one of his best assets in dealing with both styles.
Whirling back to the Moor Live stage, Grammatics are one of the next stand-out bands. Their interpretation of indie pop is brilliantly idiosyncratic, with romantic and warm cello lines, earnest vocals and tight, adroit syncopated rhythms. Today's performance of previous single "Shadow Committee" is the clincher, combining all the set's highlights in a shining, contagious example of the band's capabilities. They are remarkably well-polished and rehearsed as a unit in addition to their core of beautifully crafted tracks. Grammatics are certainly an unstoppable musical force.
Ethereal is the key word for Winter North Atlantic, creating a captivating mood in the Earl Hickey tent. Akin to the Gotan Project in his combination of folk styles and electronica, although the set is generally much more forward-looking. Textures are equally as dark but much more metallic and less blunted, and the overall effect is magical.
And now for a hefty dose of zaniness from Pulled Apart by Horses. Fresh from a short tour, the band have obviously benefitted from the intensive burst of performance and seem even more musically assured than ever before. The addition of a few small touches - namely extended introductions and embellished guitar work - means the set has musically also come on leaps and bounds. Even the now seemingly obligatory stage invasion by other Leeds musicians is lively and has lost none of its humour.
Mention should also go to three other acts from the first day at Moor Fest: firstly Emily Levy & Rich Arthurs, whose melancholic stylings are perhaps a little overstated but are undeniably stunning, complete with elegant, glowing vocals and delicate harmonics work on nylon string guitar. Bill Lawrence's striking pianistic skill is combined admirably with excellent jazz-fusion compositions and, last but not least, Big Wave's brilliant instrumentalists and confident performance mean that the first day of Moor Festival is a hugely successful one.