With few winter month music festivals, grass roots indie Kazoopa Festival in Leeds in late November is particularly eagerly anticipated. It was thus a frustrated Halfway 2 Nowhere reviewer arriving at the Lending Rooms two hours later than anticipated (a better than expected gig by veterans The Undertones and having “too much fun” the evening before was a principle reason).
With over 70 bands playing at a host of venues there will be plenty of individual favourites and of the nine bands I caught a slice of, personal gongs have to go to two bands in particular.
I was looking forward to Sheffield band SHEAFS and I wasn’t disappointed. I looked at the stage and thought the space was cramped for 5 grown men with instruments; they clearly did too with each band member taking a turn in the mosh pit with the heaving, thrusting and melting pool of humanity down there.
From the start SHEAFS showed pace and style in spades; ratcheting up the tempo with their lively nihilistic songs. Like the Sex Pistols these lads have a healthy distrust of the established order and aren’t afraid to say it. Mind Pollution is a class SHEAFS song about not being corrupted by the outside world and ignoring the rubbish in it. I like to imagine this band is named after their local Sheffield Wetherspoons Sheaf Island for added irony.
Lead vocalist Lawrence Feenstra strode the stage, crowd surfed the audience and marched across the bar top. During this latter manoeuvre I couldn’t resist slipping my eyes over for a sly peep at my missus, a specialist in hospital infection control. Would the thought of dog muck on boot bottoms transferring to serving surfaces faze her? No, like everyone else in the room she was just hung on the beat. To close, came SHEAFS current release This is Not a Protest, which ended with a wild chanting storming of the stage by the audience; memorable.
Earlier in the afternoon we wandered over to The Packhorse to catch young Essex band BREED. From the off, BREED were on a mission to tame and charm their audience with hard and bouncing tunes like current track Gimmie More and with its catchy chorus and belting riffs they succeeded with space to spare. BREED are a good tight unit with class and cool. If you like SHEAFS types, your music heavy and muscular, BREED are well worth hunting down live. There’s certainly far more in the tank with BREED and I expect to see much more of them in 2018. It was good to catch a few words later with guitarist Max to tell him how much I had enjoyed their performance; I just wish the room was more rammed for their set.
Blackpool’s The Slumdogs also played a lively set at The Packhorse, and I’m afraid to say I was one of those who didn’t believe the band when they asked the audience to “stand up and come closer because we won’t hurt you”. The Slumdogs songs are either belters or deep dark complex poems of northern swagger, but which rather reminded me of the complex style of The Gun Club or Jim Morrison (and how welcome is it that more current bands seem to be taking some inspiration from the lizard king?). I want to see much more of this band; they are building up an impressive catalogue of songs.
My beloved’s top band from the evening came with Scotland’s Vida, who impressed with a melodic Britpop set, and that constant gigging (most recently support to The View) certainly tells with a polished and consistent set. Bexley’s Glass Peaks also offered a difference to the standard indie sound with a complex mix of electronic control and guitar. The result is a nice bit of dark indie disco going on which somewhat reminds me of a meaty Depeche Mode.
Finally, I must pass a shout out to Avalanche Party who had the audience feeding out of the palm of their hands. It’s difficult to think that these guys could have played with a greater intensity or put any more effort into their performance. There’s a feel of the Fat White Family, Shame, Magazine or my beloved Iggy and the Stooges for that feel of complete abandon for anything else while on stage. Then I think I’d need release too if I had been brought up in a quiet town in North Yorkshire.
I was thinking that lead man Jordan Bell might regret that shirtless look on that rather chilly November evening, but he soon built up a sheen on that hard torso; in any case if you put effort into getting a chiselled chest it feels a crime not to flash it about a bit. Avalanche Party are a band that anyone currently into indie live music has to catch live to feed off their passion and energy.
All in all, twelve quid well spent and much kudos to promoters Double Denim for organising the event; here’s hoping 2018 will see round 3 of this excellent late year festival.