This weekend just gone, we kicked off our 2019 festival season in the mighty north. Live at Leeds is the green light on a summer packed with bands, bangers and fizzy pop, so seemed like the perfect place of Upset to open up our campaign with our very own stage. This is just some of what we saw.
Vant’s ‘Dumb Blood’ was a hyperactive blitz of politics and passion, with a lot to say and not much time to say it. After a year-long hiatus, Mattie Vant is back with a new band, a new outlook, and more to say.
While the first iteration of the band was held together with safety pins, sharpies and bloodied plasters, Vant 2.0 is more deliberate. They start today’s set with an acoustic reworking of ‘Time & Money’ just to drive that point home, while the handful of new songs are more spacious, changing colour and shape but never losing their focus. Infused with uncertainty, self-doubt and darkness, ‘Thank Lucifer’ is a wide-eyed parade at the end of the world and ‘Propaganda Machine’ twirls with hard-fought belief.
The older songs still snarl and rage. ‘Do You Know Me?’ tumbles with the excitement of change, ‘I Don’t Believe In God’ finds reason to carry on while ‘Peace & Love’ is as potent as ever. Vant may have been away, but the need for voices like theirs has only grown greater.
Self-confessed survivors of a heavy night out at Leeds Popworld, The Pearl Harts seem grateful to be performing within the dingy, low-lighting of the Hyde Park Book Club. Still, if they’re as hungover as they say, they don’t sound it – their good old fashioned rock and roll has a polish that questions the earliness of today’s billing, with a much more powerful sound than on record. Opener ‘Suck It Up’ is more than ready for rock radio, while the bratty vocal trade of ‘Lara’ demonstrates their skill for boozy sesh anthems. These are two girls you’d definitely want on your drinking team.
It’s early doors at The Key Club, with Birmingham’s Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam kicking off the Upset stage. But the crowd are feeling a little reticent to join the in the action. Even with Pete Dixon’s call to “step into the light, children”, only tiny steps are made forwards.
A few songs into their rollercoaster set full of rollicking riff-fuelled anthems, however, and things suddenly come to life. Dixon and Andrew Bullock lead the charge, supported by David Bentall and Ralph Morton. With a frenzied Junior Elvis Washington Laidley on drums, the five-piece pull the crowd closer, hypnotised by the playfully frenetic joy. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are running on 3 hours sleep; not that you could tell.
New material hits with the same force as anything released so far; dizzying riffs colliding with sweaty shouts and thrashing rhythms. SFL are clearly making no attempts to slow down their ridiculously perennial output.
With their label boss in the audience, Laidley announces that they were hoping to impress him. “It’s not about the sales, it’s about melody”, he jests. If this riotous set is anything to go by, those new records will be coming thick and fast.
May Day Bank Holiday is pretty much the perfect time to hear a bunch of celebration rock anthems that make you want to quit your job and live the easy life. In the dark caverns of The Key Club, Oslo’s Spielbergs deliver that in spades.
There’s a world-weariness to the group, having been put through the industry ringer in the ‘00s and been moulded by their lives outside of music. You can hear it in the cries of Mads Baklien, a mild-mannered librarian who here transforms into a post-rock life coach.
Drawing from their recent debut album ‘This Is Not The End’, the Spielbergs are all about death or glory. From the pummelling “Five On It” to the fuzzy catharsis of “We Are All Going To Die”, Spielbergs wear their heart on their sleeves. There’s not much in the way of stage banter, knowing that their throat-shredding yells say so much more.
After his tentative return to music in 2013, Jamie Lenman really found his feet again with the release of 2017’s ‘Devolver’. Since then, he’s fully embraced the silly, weird and wonderful. Later this year he’s releasing a covers album, tackling everyone from The Beatles to the theme tune from Popeye, and that spirit of keeping things exciting and making sure it’s always fun is at the very centre of tonight’s headline set at The Key Club.
The ferocious one-two of ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ and ‘Waterloo Teeth’ start things off, all thrashing limbs, reckless abandon and gleeful escape. “Are you having a fun time?” Jamie asks, ever the chaotic but caring ringleader. “It’s only going to get funner,” he promises. There’s a cover of Nirvana’s ‘On A Plain’ alongside choice cuts from his solo work and Reuben classics. “Imagine writing ‘when I was younger’ at the age of sixteen. What a fucking prick,” he continues with a glint in his eye before the raging thump of ‘No One Wins The War’. But he doesn’t waste time looking backwards. Why would he, when’s there’s so much fun to be had in the now. Never nostalgic, everything about his set tonight comes with jubilance and carnage in abundance. And if that’s not the perfect way to close a festival…