Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Festival Review: KAZOOPA, Leeds ~ 26.11.16

Festivals are generally associated with the Summer months, but Leeds' brand new inner city music festival Kazoopa came to us for the first time on a blustery November day, to break the mold and act as one last hurrah before we wave goodbye to 2016. With Double Denim Lives' Mick Dolman and Chantel Littlewood at the helm, a line up boasting over 50 of the best up and coming bands from across the country, and a handful of Leeds' best and most intimate music venues involved... it was always going to be a roaring success.

Not only did it end up being one of the best days I've ever had, it was also an opportunity to catch up and spend time with some of the best people I know; festivals always create a real sense of togetherness as people celebrate a mutual love of all things music, but I can safely say that I've met so many lifelong friends through attending gigs in and around the Leeds area and it was great to see so many of them out in force at Kazoopa.

Local lads LUNABLIND opened the Oporto stage, and were my first band of the day. Having seen them live a number of times this year, they impress me more and more each time. You can always rely on these guys to give a spirited and euphonious performace, packed full of melodic and charming indie-pop tracks that are surefire future hits.

Opening the main stage over at Headrow House were York based quartet Faux Pas, who for such a young band, perform with a real confidence and complete fluency. Frontman Ru Cowl's vocals are clangorously gritty and instrumentally, everything is nigh pitch perfect. I'm quite sure that in the years to come as they grow and develop with time and experience, they'll become a serious force to be reckoned with.

Faux Pas
Though I unfortunately didn't see their full set I couldn't not mention Mint, who over the course of the Summer have made me fall completely and utterly in love with their mellifluous and exceedingly charming blend of delightful pop-rock. The festival environment suits them perfectly, and Verve Bar was at capacity before they even begun to play. This is an act who are 100% destined for the big time, and it's always a real pleasure to watch them play.

For me, one of the most prolific musical discoveries of the year has undoubtedly been Paves who once again performed with such authentic and stunning vehemence, the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen before. Their suspenseful bluesy rock sound is effortlessly smooth, and I always find myself completely lost in their music. Perhaps the only negative here is that they weren't playing to a much bigger audience, for this is a band who so deserve to be heard; saying that, this performance was every inch as vibrant and atmospheric, and with just as much stage presence and vigour as if they were playing to a sold out Wembley Stadium.

I've been a fan of Tusk and their extraordinary psyche-rock sound since day one; with a fiery and tenacious execution of instrumentation, backed up by vivace and silky smooth vocals, they're an extremely impressive live band. The highlight for me is always their eclectic and infectious debut release 'I'm So Vanilla', but I think this is but the tip of the iceberg as far as they're concerned. Tusk are an exciting and underrated young band with a great deal of talent and potential. Definitely one to be watched.

It's difficult to know where to begin when talking about Cabezudos; back in October, I unexpectedly saw them live for the first time and since then they've become somewhat embedded in my heart and soul. To go from raving about them almost constantly to Mick and Chantel, to seeing them perform to a packed-to-the-rafters Verve Bar at Kazoopa was an incredibly proud moment. As always, they gave their all, and their usual creative flair and obvious passion and zest for music shone through. Their opening track, which is as of yet unnamed and known simply as 'N.O.S.E' is, for me, the strongest in their set; it's edgy, anthemic and feisty... undoubtedly the best possible introduction for the audience, many of whom were experiencing their music for the very first time. Though the Verve stage is small, they most definitely made good use of it, spending the majority of their set thrashing about as if their lives depended on it. Particular mention must go to frontman Jack Hughes, who performs with such theatricality and velocity that it's impossible not to be transfixed. Cabezudos are an authentic and truly debonair act, full of zeal and drive and with an apt ability to create music which is so unexampled and expressive that they cannot possibly be tied to any one genre... and it is that unique and endearing individuality that makes them so very special.

The Barmines, as always, brought the noise at Kazoopa; it was a triumphant return to Headrow House for the band, after having enjoyed two successful headline shows there earlier in the year. Their live performances are always delightfully raucous and their substancial and loyal fanbase, who were once again out in force, always add to the already electric atmosphere. Tracks such as 'These Days & Nights', 'Skys The Limit' and most recent release 'Reliance' have been catapulted to all but legendary status, with almost every member of the crowd singing every single word the entire time... THAT'S how brilliant and influential this band are. I've seen them live more than any other band this year, and they still manage to blow me away each time.

The Barmines
When writing a festival preview, I chose Kassassin Street as my top pick for Kazoopa 2016... and suffice to say, they did not disappoint. They're almost hypnotic to watch and put on a resolute and electrifying show, to say the least. Frontman Rowan Bastable is mesmerizing to watch, and his dulcet vocals are nothing short of stunning. Their set is quite varied, and whilst 'Talk In Riddles' and new single 'Do Or Die' are fast paced and a real full-bodied impetus... at the other end of the spectrum is the somewhat haunting 'Love With No Borders', which was the standout moment for me.

Kassassin Street
I'd been looking forward to seeing headliners Young Kato for the first time, as I've had their album on repeat for quite some time now. I was introduced to them by way of one of their most well known tracks, 'Drink, Dance, Play' and so it was a joy to finally see that performed live. There's something extraordinarily atmospheric and absorbing about their composure on stage, and both musically and in term of lyrics there are impressive levels of intensity and profundity.

Young Kato
I think Kazoopa left us all wanting more; it was the perfect culmination to an astoundingly brilliant year of music, and a day I'm sure none of us will be forgetting anytime soon. All I can say is roll on Kazoopa 2017, so we can do it all again!

The heroes of Kazoopa... three cheers for Mick & Chantel!

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