Saturday at LeeFest started in a typically slow manner as the revellers awoke to heavy showers. Luckily the clouds parted at midday just as the live music started to kick into action.
The blurry crowd were in for a treat as the main stage Bangarland kicked off early with a surprise opening act. She Drew the Gun represented the Liverpudlian massive with their incredible lyrics, shoegazey harmonies and passionate playing. Their sultry tunes are backed up with trip-hop-like rhythms, dubby undertones and rushes of white noise. ‘Pit Pony’ provided driving synth waves and saw the band run a gammit of styles from goth to pop. Lead singer Louisa Roach invoked tones of Patty Smith with her atonal diatribe. Their music is often politically charged, focusing on issues such as gentrification and housing. They certainly got everyone listening as they woke up from the grey morning.
GIGsoup took a brief respite from the main area to catch a bijou set at Wendy’s House deep in The Neverwoods. Singer-songwriter Hannah Trigwell lulled us with her beautiful love songs in this intimate setting.
But GIGsoup can’t resist a main act, so back to Bangarland we went to catch Miamigo, channelling 80s pop groups such as Duran Duran, they proved popular. The lead singer has a suitably expressive face and convincingly chest-thumped and gestured with feeling.
Bigging up the solo female singer-songwriter trend that seemed to be a feature of Saturday, Hannah Lou Clark was up next. With her brand of drifty grungy rock, she soothed our aching ears with tales of love lost and gained. ‘Kids in Heat’ was a strong number. She stopped briefly to invite us all to imagine a beautiful vintage drum machine which unfortunately wasn’t present, however her iPod did the trick and added drive to the guitarist’s floaty vocals. ‘Silent Type’ included evocative lyrics such as “like a snake party in the grass” as she regaled us with a tale of not speaking up in a relationship.
The next act Nimmo really shook things up with their chirpy 90s rave derived pop. They immediately invited the crowd to get up on their feet and dance and the crowd duly followed. This band is full of enthusiasm and energy. The lead singer bounced around in a red tracksuit whilst the keyboard player made the instrument look more dynamic than could be imagined. The bass reverberated through the ground backed with piano spikes and a four to the floor rhythm that could not be ignored. Nimmo are a party band with style and definitely worth seeing- and with an upcoming October tour of the UK on the cards, there is no excuse to miss them.
GIGsoup briefly adjourned to Tootle’s Circus for a second helping of She Drew the Gun. A highlight of their set is an achingly soulful rendition of Girl’s Aloud’s ‘Sound of the Underground’ the lead singer reminds us that ‘at least one of their many members is from Liverpool’.
The supreme punnage of Belgian based Robbing Millions drew us towards the small but perfectly formed Hooks Rock stage. With a guitar that resembles the Delorian from Back to the Future, these boys from the Low Country rocked out. There is more to them than just a funny name.
We then headed back to the main stage to sample Submotion Orchestra’s dubby grooves. The intense slow-mo sound proved to be just what the festival was demanding. Deep bassy worms of sound worked their way out from the stage coupled with harmonised horns and delicious vocals.
Next up were We Are Scientists who brought a flavour of New York to this mostly European festival. The snappily dressed boys from the East Coast entertained with their brand of straight up indie punk- the crowd were baying for more by the time GIGsoup decided to check out something a lot more niche in Skull Ridge.
brought something truly unique to proceedings. The lead singer was truly terrifying as she rode the crash barrier, menacingly whispering about ‘Cold Daggers’. The diminutive proportions of this venue were exploited to the full extent as she took the opportunity to wander the crowd, popping up between mini-black outs right in the crowd’s face, grimacing and yelling. Queen Kwong and reminiscent perhaps of noise-thrashters Melt Banana, but to simply align them with other bands does them a disservice. This is a unique experience. It was also great to see further representation from across the pond from this LA based trio. The set closed with lead singer Carré standing on a pair of wah-wah pedals like an angel about to take flight. Seriously impressive live, this band is endorsed by the likes of Nine-Inch Nails and The Cure. Sadly it doesn’t look like a UK tour is in the pipeline for now, so if you get the chance to catch them absolutely do.
After that sweaty interlude GIGsoup took a much needed meal break. Finally it was time to catch the end of the live music at LeeFest. The strains of headliner Lianne La Havvas filled the air with shifting clouds of soul felt, bass backed tones as we headed to Tootle’s to catch poppy political punkers VANT. Now, there was some kind of vuvuzela breakout in the closing hours of the festival and one such instrument was present in VANT’s crowd. The band grew cheekily, but obviously irritated by the deep boomings of one of these horns, finally bringing the lead singer to announce that it would be confiscated- the horn was handed over- “you can have it at the end of the set!” came the teacher-like directive. “Bwurrmmm”- the naughty reveller had already produced a back-up. Rather than detract, this moved the crowd to bop, mosh and bounce even more as the impressive VANT closed the stage.
The party was far from over though – there was a closing fire ceremony to be viewed in The Goldmine, which was duly filled with transfixed punters enjoying fire twirling, juggling and eating as the festivities drew to a crescendo. There was yet more fun to be supplied though by mash-up breakbeat mister, A.Skillz who duly worked the crowd through ridiculous combinations of tunes.
As the festival wound down, we allowed ourselves to be gently entertained by some strictly adult burlesque in Gentleman Starky’s Wild West themed bar. A suitably silly range of magic, skits, stripping and gaming took us into the small hours before we wandered back already planning next year’s visit.
LeeFest manages to draw some of the best up and coming acts from around the country whilst maintaining a true village atmosphere. By the end of the weekend it truly feels like you’ve partied with every single person there- and got to see an amazing range of names and names of the future. An added bonus is the impeccable feeling- the secret location leant itself to packing in stages and seemingly secret locations into a small site. The festival has grown up from a Lee’s teenage garden festival and there is definitely still a feeling of rebellion, ingenuity and a programme devised between friends.
This Leefest article was written by Fraisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor. Images by Lisa Furness.