Saturday, 31 May 2014

Gold Sounds 2014 - Review (26/05/2014)

Named after a Pavement song, it should be no surprise that the Brudenell Social Club’s inaugural Gold Sounds Festival is chock full of craft ale swilling, plaid clad young men and women, all eager to immerse themselves in ‘sweet, sweet noise.’ Boasting a 'who’s who' line up of Alt-Rock with a strong emphasis on local talent, all for the lowly ticket price of £12 advance, it’s a prospect almost too good to be true. Urban festival may be on the rise, but can an all-dayer within one solitary venue really keep the crowds?

Menace Beach  with thanks to Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
When SIS arrives at 4pm, the place is looking busy; fans spill between two rooms and the bar area, which boasts and excellent magazine stall from Colours May Vary, who appear to be selling copies of The Pitchfork Review faster than people can cram them in their tote bags. The atmosphere is affable, with a definite air of 'job well done' lingering on the faces of those involved. Our first musical act of the day is Theo Verney, who’s Wavves-meets-Drenge tumbling slack-rock sounds crystal clear in the modestly full room, and excites us for what is to come from his debut record. Whilst it becomes so easy for bands of this ilk to simply meld into one, Verney is definitely a man of his own, seemingly comfortable upon the stage of one of Leeds most esteemed venues.

Leeds supergroup Menace Beach fare even better: aside from a secret slot from Hookworms earlier in the day, they’re definitely one of Gold Sounds bigger talking points. The slogan daubed across singer Liza Violet’s guitar sums them up perfectly: ‘Ghoul Power’ is the name of their game as witchy synths darken a sound otherwise quite 90s Britpop. It's a clever trick that makes it clear why the mainstream press are falling for them. Despite Ryan Needham's struggles to keep his guitar strap hooked up to his new, very glittery guitar, they’re incredibly tight, with closing track ‘Fortune Teller’ reminiscent of a creepy dream that you secretly feel disappointed to wake up from.

Joanna Gruesome with thanks to Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Fresh off the back of a brilliantly succinct Facebook retort about gender equality in music, Joanna Gruesome mean business, and once the sound levels are sorted out, they are something of a revelation. Clad all in black like they’re about to skip off to deliver Milk Tray, they deliver a ‘Los Campesinos! having a temper tantrum’ cacophony that could surely fill venues much larger than the Brudenell. That their set seems to pass by in a flash is testament to how immersive they are – expect to hear big things from them soon.

Although White Lung are greeted by one incredibly eager fan who proceeds to howl every word of their Riot Grrrl rock back at them, the Vancouver quartet fail to sustain Joanna Gruesome’s energy, with Miss Way confessing that she is struggling to get comfortable on stage. It’s a shame, because she is a witty wordsmith, introducing the band’s drummer as ‘Ice Queen Anne-Marie’, an apt description for the stickswoman who is frankly brilliant but never sways from her Daria-like look of calm. Their 100 mile an hour rock is safe and likeable enough, although isn’t overwhelming exciting; if you’re after something more provocative, we’d instead refer you to Way’s altogether more vibrant journalism career, notably as women’s correspondent for Vice.

White Lung with thanks to Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Bringing the speedometer of the day down a little, Leeds very own Sky Larkin are a slightly more straight forward guitar led affair, but they hold their own amongst the rowdier outfits and come out of the other side a lot more memorable for it. Opening with SIS favourite ‘Still Windmills’, Katie Harkin doesn’t stand still, moving with the peaks and troughs of their off kilter indie, whilst drummer Nestor knocks seven bells out of his drumkit despite the fact it’s his second set of the day (he also drums with Menace Beach). Displaying an intelligence above that of your standard radio rock fodder, their sense of awareness seeps into Harkin’s stage banter too, telling the audience in the wake of a UKIP victory in the West Yorkshire ward of European elections that ‘the news today didn’t make me proud to be from Leeds, but this festival does.’ Nothing like a bit of northern passion.
Sky Larkin with thanks to Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)

With the pattern of mass exodus to the smoking area after every band beginning to grate, crowds are visibly depleting – too much booze with no catering to soak it up perhaps? It doesn't bode well for Ohio’s Cloud Nothings, who undoubtedly deserve their headline status, but take to the stage in front of a undernourished audience. Kicking into ‘Quieter Today’ from their new record ‘Here And Nowhere Else’, the moshpit swirls half-heartedly and Dylan Baldi’s vocals are lost under a sea of fuzz. Whilst this is remedied quickly, there is something still not quite right – normally inciting frenzied screamalongs, they’re greeted with enthusiasm that has one eye on it’s smartphone, checking to see when the last train home is. And at the end of 45 minutes that sees them talk little and smile even less, they make their thankyous and leave the stage. Having left out two of their biggest songs, an encore seems obvious, but as the tired crowd drift away and the house lights go up, it seems the plan has been mooted.

Cloud Nothings with thanks to Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Whilst (through no real fault of their own, I hasten to add) Cloud Nothings may have been a disappointing anticlimax at the end of a great bill, Gold Sounds was an undisputed success for an event in its first year. However, maybe the hipsters aren’t quite as hardy as the organisers had hoped – maybe in future years, a slightly shorter day (this years ran from 12pm to 12am) or a venue slightly closer to town’s plentiful food facilities might be the best way to keep numbers up. Nonetheless, all left proud to be part of the Leeds music scene. Now, if only we could have a European election revote…



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