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Strange Forms Festival, Wharf Chambers, Leeds

  • Published in Live


Leeds DIY music promoters Bad Owl, are hosting a weekend of post metal, post rock and math, bringing to Leeds another mini festival, Strange Forms. The event is being held at the Cooperative Club, Wharf Chambers, a quirky, multi-use venue hidden away near the back of the Corn Exchange.Taking place over two rooms with an outdoor smoking/sitting/sun-soaking area, it’s a real intimate affair. Twinkle lights adorns the merch stands and a cold stone smell lingers in the air, I like that smell.

Leeds band Sunwølf are the first to grace the stage, an aurally amiable wash of atmospheric noise. Gentle howls of guitar sustain a constant flow of a sleepy vibration shocked into life by crashing drum beats. The turnout is surprisingly good considering this is the first act of the weekend and my expectations for the event are instantly propelled forward, helped along by all the friendly faces and of course, the fact there is a cake stand.

My insatiable and constant hankering for cake is well fed by my new favourite (admittedly unrivalled) vegan cake maker extraordinaires - That Old Chestnut. As a vegetarian and ‘constantly failing but always trying vegan’ myself, I guiltlessly take on the task of tasting several different varieties of cake, all of which taste ridiculously yum and line my stomach well for the large amount of notably fairly priced drinks they offer at Wharf Chambers. In terms of savoury treats The Grub & Grog Shop are also present with a choice of salad, stew or a sandwich so good, I have to have a couple. Sucked into the atmosphere of food, drink and people, I mosey into the live room a much merrier version of myself to watch Glasgow’s Vasa. The chorus of black guitars spin a mixture of textured post-rock and flowing, fret-tickling tunes. The set flows as the songs meld into one another, occasionally culminating into choppy breakdowns of short, heavy riffs. Envoys are next to take over the stage with their darker, heavy rock. Mostly instrumental the songs are occasionally accompanied by fittingly strained vocals, adding a catchier element to certain areas and giving them a stronger distinction to bands of the same genre.

If topless drummers turn you on, then Polymath may have been your highlight. Impressing with their tight, math magic, this fairly new Brighton trio cast their glitchy, instrumental compositions into the mass, undoubtedly fishing a few new fans in the process - me included . The good sized crowd is something that does not change throughout the whole weekend, and as day one comes to a messy close with The Fierce & The Dead, I leave knowing I will happily power into tomorrow despite the impending hangover.

Day Two. Tomorrow We Sail are a perfect accompaniment to neurofen and sooth pounding brains, easing further into the day with angelic vocals, gentle drums and smooth violin. A beautiful balance of ambient post-rock that gently pulls you in with a serenade of floating vocals and brilliantly pulled together orchestral sounds.

Alpha Male Tea Party are the only band this weekend that I have already seen live. After previously gushing over them (I am about to do it again) I know that this quite likely, will be the highlight for me. Dressed in the most fashionable and versatile disposable clothing - dust suits, they spew their angular math rock melodies into the audience. AMTP are fun, so fun. Between inventively named songs such as ‘Boris Bike Briefcase Man’ ‘You Eat Houmous, Of Course You Listen To Genesis’ and ‘I Don't Even Like Hollyoaks Anyway’ they engage in amusing bouts of onstage chit chat and in the spirit of Easter, dedicate ‘Athlete's Face’ to Jesus Christ, the festive buggers. Once again the crowd are a well-receiving, happy bunch, sponging up all the energy of the clunky riffs and enjoying every minute. I not so secretly don’t want them to end, but they do, and it’s sad.

Leeds’ weird and wonderful Monster Killed By Laser run a corker of a set as expected. Full of juicy riffs cushioned by waving, space age echoes, they keep the tempo up for the next surprise of the night, Cleft. Along with AMTP they are the stand out band of the weekend, another intricate and creative, math rock fuelled party. This Manchester duo serve up their delicious two piece pie with monstrous grooves spliced with gentler interludes that catch you off guard. They are a galvanizing, gut tingling extravaganza of animated entertainment, coming to a venue near you...if you’re lucky.

Monsters Build Mean Robots and Codes In The Clouds end the night with two equally as good slots, pulling together Strange Forms 2014. The organisers at Bad Owl have done a splendid job overall, friendly and happy they have put on a seemingly smooth running, and thoroughly enjoyable event with a distinct and welcome lack of artist snobbery. I will definitely be back next year.

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