FESTIVAL REVIEW: LEOPALLOOZA 2017

For years I’ve openly mocked certain festival goers for their mud-congested wellies and waterlogged tents. Idiots, I’ve mouthed to myself, whilst nestled up in the snug confinements of my bed, curling my toes in satisfaction. I mean, who would voluntarily choose to be an unwashed, shivering wreck for days on end, willingly battling with the precarious English weather?

Well, this year I was set to eat my words, and with an unsightly set of waterproofs in tow, I drove to Leopallooza for a dose of Cornish rain and quality live music.

Day One

The heavens soon opened, and so did the bars. Mud was mounting; hypothermia was becoming a potential outcome; but we were all in it together, and smiles were carved into every visible face.

Opening the event, for me at least, were the vivacious two-piece, WAXX, and in their usual fashion they kick-started my weekend with excess amounts of indie grunge dynamism. A festival highpoint undoubtedly, this Cornish duo were the lively, spirited act that we all needed to measure the tone for the festival. The bar was set, and it was set unattainably high.

The remainder of the afternoon however, was slow. Acts like The Kings Parade, and Flamingods mounted the Main Stage and performed well, but still lacked in terms of passion and memorability. This seemed a touch disappointing given the explosive start, but fortunately, the lull was short-lived.

Spring King, an alt-rock group with more than enough hype, were a sight for sore eyes as they appeared on the Main Stage. Despite their records lacking in soul, this foursome were a formidable live spectacle, actively consuming every square inch of the stage. In return for this display, the audience responded by losing their lucidity and dancing manically in the rain. This was a perfect festival moment.

This exultation should have continued, as headlining the day were The Cribs, a group who I’d been repeatedly advised to watch. This experience, however, left me eager to berate those at the forefront of this erroneous advice. The set was sloppy, unimaginative, and their energy consisted of them mincing around the stage aimlessly. There was none of the vigour and firepower that I’d anticipated, and the drastically poor vocals did nothing to simmer my disenchantment. Frankly, it was a write off.

Seething, I soon found myself at the Mono Stage, bearing witness to Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind, and my enthusiasm was rebirthed. This gruff set was an injection of much-needed energy, oozing primordial rock & roll and delivering a lesson in both intensity and dynamics. I could think of no better way to end my evening.

Day Two

With the rain not easing for a second, it would have been understandable to see a few deflated faces milling around on day two. But it wasn’t the case, for Saturday’s line-up outweighed mother nature’s cruel sense of humour. Festival goers used inflatable lilos to ride around in the mud; they painted their faces in enough glitter to cause skin damage; and everyone was contributing to the exultant atmosphere that literally flooded the festival. It was set to be a grand day.

My first moment of appreciation came early on, and with local act Honey came a familiar sense of excitement. This three-piece, Hole-esque in their resonance, have carved a name for themselves within our music scene, and their set demonstrated just why. Energetic, passionate, and deeply convivial, the group were a reminder of how music can be intimate and extroverted all at once. My only qualm: they should have been on a bigger stage.

Saturday also played host to a variety of mainstream alt-rock bands who had the potential to disappoint, but thankfully failed to do so. Sunset Sons – one such group – were led to victory solely on the basis of their passionate frontman, Rory Williams. Their summery, Mumford and Sons vibe may have been misplaced given the weather, but the tone still shone due to his hunger for his craft.

Similarly, VANT were a surprising highlight during the afternoon, blaring out single after single, demonstrating just why their notoriety has aggrandised recently. Frontman Mattie Vant’s communication with the audience was amiable, and the whole band certainly weren’t afraid to lose themselves in their music. I saw this four-piece last year and was vastly disillusioned by their lack of stage authority, but they’ve certainly evolved into a force to be reckoned with.

It wasn’t all about the mainstream alt-rock though, as Krrum demonstrated. An 80s, Avant-pop sound was on the cards for their set, and audience members were enticed and stimulated by the change in genre. Soon, no one was hesitant about dancing in the foot-deep mud. Soon, it was merely part of the experience.

Mud-dancing soon became mud-moshing though, as my festival highlight emerged upon the stage. Pulled Apart By Horses, undoubtedly one of the heaviest bands to play, were destructive precision personified, validating just how raucously fierce an indie grunge band should be. Throat-straining screams, and flying beverages were among the audience’s activities during the set, and getting caked in mud was a small price to pay to experience the glory. “This song is called Fuck the Rain” frontman Tom Hudson shouted before launching into Lizard Baby, and the crowd morphed into something primeval. Their set was everything good about our current alternative music scene, and this band were a dose of manic, unruly zest.

Following on, and headlining the Main Stage were Maximo Park, and frontman Paul Smith was a vision of theatrical proportions. Admittedly, the group’s songs tend to merge into one gelatinous reverberation, but when a frontman is so engaging, does it really matter?

Day Three

With the sun making a rare and welcome appearance, Sunday was mainly about the BBC Introducing Stage, which saw an amalgamation of quality acts take residence.

One such group were The Velvet Hands who resiliently demonstrated just how engaging the garage rock genre can sound when it’s done right. With tasty riffs, commanding vocals, and an adept poise, this four-piece were faultlessly rehearsed and displayed a fierce confidence. This Cornish group not only sounded impeccable however, but their stage-presence encapsulated a sassy bravado that was moreish in its appeal.

On the other end of the spectrum however, were the intensely valiant Patrons, who performed with an intimate, yet earth-shattering force. As is their custom, the alt-rock group gifted a level of intensity that was almost too emotional to bear, conveying consignments of heart-stopping crescendos, and countless moments of faultless chaos. This emotional turbulence was a worthy addition to the festival, and one of the finest moments of the entire weekend.

Similarly gracing the BBC Introducing Stage were Moriaty, a disorderly indie duo with a penchant for experimental devastation. This group, unsurprisingly attracting a large crowd, put other two-pieces to shame with their defiant sound and innately robust showmanship. Clearly influenced by an array of genres (blues included), they had a fresh sound and an even more refreshing attitude. This duo were a sharp punch to the senses.

Naturally however, there were a few low points over the weekend and the main one had a name: Josh Curnow. If taking the soul and complexity out of music were an Olympic sport, then he’d win the gold. Covers and lazy song writing have a place in the world of music, but the main stage is not it, and this convention was a kick in the face to every decent band who warranted his place. Performers like this have a purpose: to act as distractions for those who don’t love music. His very presence was an offence to my wellbeing, and if I never see him again then it will be too soon.

As the evening wore down, the acts followed suit and slowed down with it. Seafret, a two-piece often hailed as “the next big thing”, suitably charmed the audience with their folky alternative resonance. Likewise, powerful Amber Run achieved a notably emotional set, despite suffering with technical issues. To listen to the five-piece on record you know to expect melodious harmonies and jaw-dropping vocals, but to witness it first hand was a marvel indeed. Something beautiful manifested itself upon that stage, and Amber Run were the architects.

Closing the event was folky Gabrielle Aplin, who mentioned that she too had been camping in the sopping wet weather – though to gaze upon her perfectly presented visage, you’d never know. Opening with Sweet Nothing the set warmed into a suitably unadulterated Sunday evening closure, and her sweetly amiable persona only affirmed this point further. Her performance wasn’t mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination, but it was certainly a beautiful way to bid farewell to the festival.

Leopallooza is a multi award-winning, independent festival, with ethical morals and honourable intentions. Camping was free, food and drink were reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was electrically positive regardless of whether you were sober or dangerously inebriated. From experiences at other festivals, I have no qualms when dubbing it as the greatest music festival that Cornwall has to offer – even with the world’s most irritating curator.

Words by Keira Trethowan
Photography by Craig Taylor-Broad