Underground Festival 2017 (Festival Review)

Underground Festival has a habit of showcasing the next big thing, with bands including Pulled Apart by Horses, Peace, Bastille and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes having graced the festivals stages in previous years. It’s a good place to help you find your new favourite band. This year saw Andy Oliveri and the Mountaineers, Get Inuit, Che Lingo, Happiness, Jaws, Kamikaze Girls, Soeur, Grove Street Families, God Damn, Decade, and many more take over Gloucester Guildhall for the weekend…

Saturday

Within a picturesque cinema room full of wood and old paintings, Febueder are taking the stage. Using a combination of good stage chemistry and jagged guitars, they embraced electronic influences to create an enjoyable set.

Local heroes Andy Oliveri and the Mountaineers filled the cinema with a never ending wall of sonic fuzz. With every song the band seem to be growing in confidence, creating bigger, more technical sounds as they progress. There is an extended ending to the set, which builds and collapses in multiples creating a spine-tingling conclusion.

The indie power pop of Get Inuit is an absolutely perfect mid-afternoon pick me up. From start to finish their set is an absolute blast, which is intriguing for a band who write so openly about personal battles. Their stage presence and between song patter creates an instant bond and the energy coming from the stage is infectious.

The aptly named Happiness continue the good vibes into the early evening with a clever high tempo set list. The technical skill and musicianship on display is mesmerising to watch and just as the set really gets going they disappear from the stage like a whirlwind leaving a slightly shocked audience in their wake. I suppose that is the sign of a very good live set.

The curve ball of the evening comes in the shape of London’s own Che Lingo. Che had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand for the entire thirty minute set. With plenty of technical difficulties to contend with including losing amplification at one point, it would have been very easy to lose the room. Instead what happened was magical; the crowd obeyed his request and sat in a circle around him for some spoken word poetry. The poem was raw and heartfelt and created such a strong moment, it probably also created the festival memory for everyone sharing the floor.

Finally with technical issues solved the show kicks into a new gear, the room goes wild and within a few very active minutes the set finishes breathlessly.

Headliners Jaws closed the day and had the hard task of following Che Lingo. They played a set full of solid gold hits, with passion and presence. They had the audience responding well and left the room full of anticipation for Sunday’s festivities.

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Sunday
Day two starts strongly with Bristol’s Soeur living up to their already growing reputation with a combination of post rock and powerful pop. With a live performance that becomes more captivating with every song and an endearing between song patter, which is both humble and slightly awkward, Soeur left the stage having won the entire room over.

Birdskulls took the cinema stage and within moments created an impassioned chaotic mood, their earlier emo inspired style embracing the difference between gentle quiet tones and crushing loud blows. It’s a thrilling set with every lyrical twist and turn backed with musical surprises.

Cutting two lonely figures on the huge main stage, Kamikaze Girls create enough noise for a much larger band. With every note soaked in feedback and effects the musical trickery creates vast walls of sound which are cemented with strong assured vocals. This vocal strength is complimented perfectly with an opposing emotive crack every now and again to accentuate lyrics, creating an emotive link between band and audience. As fuzz and feedback take over Kamikaze Girls climax in a wall of shoegaze noise.

Polary have picked up a lot of hype in 2017 and within the first few notes captivate the audience. There are nods towards Alt J and Bastille with the addition of electronic elements to their indie pop sound. As they progress through the set, layered harmonies and a clear mastery of choruses and hooks create an enjoyable foreground whilst accomplished musicianship keep everything sounding interesting.

The emotive Bellevue Days are a band who are made for the switch from afternoon to evening; opening moments grip the audience and the musical development is captivating throughout. The clever switching of vocal duties mixes into some very precise harmonies to add depth whilst angular guitars build layers and intricacies.

After the move from GTA inspired hard-core to beat-down/thrash, Grove Street Families have managed to progress from their novelty beginnings. Within seconds the stage is overrun with excitement, each member is throwing themselves around the stage, although the audience remains largely flat. I guess sometimes passion and excitement are just not contagious. The rest of the set is steady and competent with hits following hits and a stage full of presence, in the closing moments guitar tones drop and the room is encased in sludgy riffs which fade out as the band leave the stage.

The main room fills in time for Decade and they begin an energetic set, from the opening note it is clear this a band ready to enjoy a Sunday evening on stage. With a set made almost entirely from their recent(ish) second release, Pleasantries, there are few complaints from the audience who sing every chorus and almost every word straight back at the bande. The performance is at a level so entertaining that the end of the set comes as a surprise, this is clearly a captivating performance.

Sunday night’s headliner, God Damn, deliver a workman like performance, although there is an element of pantomime to it all. This not helped by the depleting audience who after almost two entire days of music are beginning to show signs of weariness. With these elements combining the weekend fizzles out, which is a shame after so many incredible performances.

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In a weekend where the goal is to find your new favourite band there are plenty of options; Che Lingo, Get Inuit, Kamikaze Girls, and Souer all wowed crowds and I am sure this audience have each picked a few gems out. Now like every year there is a waiting game to see which one of these bands is soars to greatness.