Tom Vek, Jamie xx, Willy Nelson, Jamie Woon, Summer Camp. Artists that were billed for the debut of Yorkshire Dales four-dayer, Beacons Festival. Originally set to take place on Heslaker Farm, Skipton, the event had to be called off last minute due to weather-related safety concerns, as a nearby river burst its banks and the site and surrounding roads were flooded.
In an immensely admirable gesture of promoter solidarity, the Brudenell Social Club hosts a last minute bill, taking the place of - and raising funds for - the tragically submerged Beacons. As a Brudenell regular of several years, I have never seen the venue busier.
Multi-instrumental magician Juffage clatters out his impressive juggling act with characteristic flusteredness - perhaps a little too flustered tonight, owing no doubt to the briefest of sound checks afforded when part of such condensed festival billings. The entertaining slapdashery of his performances is absent on his debut LP, Semicircle - rendering his live performances and recorded sound very different affairs - but the intense, distinctly Chicago-sung songs remain in tact, despite the meandering live structures. The chorus of ‘My Weakness’ has burrowed into my brain and attempts to sing its way out.
Reasonably buzzed Manchester DIY outfit Mazes hit the stage, the drummer sporting a The Clean shirt. The band's music is almost an elaboration on that statement of influence. The new wave colourings are varnished with an accessibility by way of nods to ‘70s power pop. The spirits of garage bands like The Real Kids and The Boys are channelled through Mazes, knowingly or through second-hand referential means, in their quickly hummable riffs and highly Americanised vocals.
Hookworms engulf the room in transcendental drone. The uncompromising repetition of motorik bass hooks - catchy and hypnotic - recalls Neu! and other krautrock staples, but Hookworms' music is soaked in waves and waves of 'gazey, abrasive guitar noise, placing their funkiness in a much more baron context. The cavernous, delay-drenched, and downright distressed-sounding yelps of Matthew Johnson also contribute heavily to this darker, ultimately more distinctive feel.
The city's Deerhoof-flavoured bread and butter Cowtown take the Saturday late shift, post-1am, and as always the power trio’s effortless, helium-hearted funcore turns many a frown upside down. ‘Animals’ in particular has a bombastic yet childlike main riff, and any band who brings up South Park in their stage-yapping (“Darsh”), I am a fan of by default.
The Sunday is of similar standard.
Comprised principally of Leeds University Music graduates, Pengilly's is the baby of Ric Hollingbery. The band is a six-piece tonight, missing a few of the extra wind and string players that have accompanied them in past shows, and, altough the arrangements still work harmonically and melodically, the textures at times feel unbalanced or insubstantial. A fuller orchestration would have been brilliant, but the songs are awfully compelling regardless. Tracks like 'Stillness Is Digging For Worms' and first single 'Ode VIII' (from their Toby's Hill EP) are subtly melancholic, musically and lyrically, and demonstrate a great maturing since early Euro-folk-pop demos like 'Doris Is Dead'. Hollingbery's voice still has Zach Condon at heart, but seems infinitely more intimate with the emotions reached for musically. Despite the emerging serious side, however, the band carry a certain youthful tone, exemplified by a cover of R. Kelly's 'Ignition' - a bizarre move which, although jarring in the arc of the original set, is received well by the Brudenell audience.
Seasoned Lightning-Bolt-Lite Leedscore duo That Fucking Tank hoist on us riffs bigger than their gorilla-demeanoured guitar half. Though less substantial and intense than aforementioned overshadowers, there is a humour to TFT that is lacking in other bands of this ilk (song titles: 'Bruce Springstonehenge', 'Stephen Hawkwind'). The concision present in the guitar parts - frequently two or three notes, hammered into your face - is also very impressive; most acts would fall heavily flat in this much repitition, but risk of boredom during a Tank set is minimal if any.
Jonathan Nash of Cowtown returns for another late one on the Brudenell stage, at the drum-throne in Runners. Again with the repetition, again pulled off well. Not a guitar in sight, the three synths that stand in front of Nash pump out extremely minimal sci-fi ostinati, resemblences ranging from Vangelis, to Kraftwerk, to The Knife, back to Kraftwerk. Over this, naive, often crude melodies buzz out over and over, sometimes fantastic, sometimes very irritating. The strutting vocals of Dominic Clare occasionally come into play, treated with pitch-shifting and automatic harmonising. Clare sounds appropriately robotic, and along with the stylings beneath, The Knife is more than an obvious influence.
To see Leeds promoters and bands support the surrounding scenes, in facilitating and performing at this Beacons replacement weekend, is somewhat inspiring. Let's wish the organisers luck for next year's event and pray Beacons has not been drowned at birth.