Kazoopa Festival, Leeds, 25.11.17

After the success of last year’s event, Double Denim Live brought their inner city, multi-venue Kazoopa Festival back to Leeds, but bigger and even better than last year’s offering. Once again, organisers Mick Dolman and Chantel Littlewood make it abundantly clear that you don’t have to head to the bigger budget festivals to catch some amazing live music. Their DIY ethos still shines through, and I must commend the enormous amount of effort they put into this event.

Our day begins as we trudge up to the headline venue The Lending Room to collect our wristbands. On the one hand, this is an incredible venue, but the location was a little disappointing (a 1.2-mile hike from the train station – very hard going on my little legs!) But nevertheless, I’d never visited that area of Leeds, so it was nice to get the chance to explore.

We decided to check out some of the smaller venues to begin with, planning to head back to The Lending Room later in the evening. The first set we caught was indie lads Stealing Signs at Oporto. They play to a quiet audience, but it is only 1.30pm in the afternoon. This in no way affects their effort and confidence, as they play through their own original material with ease. A couple of fans sing along with every word, clearly a sign that this group have a devoted following and could possibly go on to improved things in years to come.

The Brazen. Credit to irontuskphotography.

Wanting to catch a glimpse of every venue, we then move to Milo Bar for The Brazen. Walking in we find some sort of jam session occurring, which we assumed was the beginning of the set, until vocalist Ryan Hobbs ended the ruckus by announcing, “well, that’s soundcheck done!”. There are literally five people in the room watching, but they could easily be headlining Wembley with the amount of bravado oozing from every member. Their sound is indie, but it has a slight classic rock edge which brings something completely different to the plate. They interact with members of the curious public peering in from the street, eventually finding themselves running outside and literally playing on the street. This band are honestly not to be missed live, with the amount of energy and effort they put in to this tiny set. Hats off!

The Courtyards. Credit to Martin Clark.

We managed to catch hometown boys Courtyards at Verve bar. Hailing from our very own town of Huddersfield, they bring a new twist to indie-rock which is super interesting to listen to. A highlight of the set is their cover of Where Is My Mind originally by Pixies, which is switched up to the point that it’s slightly unnerving, and you have to keep reminding yourself what the original sounds like; it was nice to see someone do something innovative and cover a popular song and change it up to make it into their own version.

Next up is Reed at Santiago bar. I’d discovered this venue for the first time during my visit to Kazoopa festival last year, and despite a slight facelift, the plastic-y chandelier and palm trees still remain. Nevertheless, the band absolutely brighten up the room. Ushering the crowd forward for intimacy, they play as if their lives depend on it. The intricate rhythms in their songs sounded so tricky, but the whole group had impeccable timing playing together, making it another thoroughly enjoyable set.

We headed briefly back to Verve for Wakefield trio The Hyde. It’s wonderful that such a young, up and coming band have been given a slot at the festival, kudos to Double Denim for their inclusivity! Their fun, indie-pop sound is pleasant to bob along to; they could maybe benefit from a bit more audience interaction, but it was a great set nevertheless.

Stillia. Credit to @rhoanamurphy.

We then decided to make the long walk up to The Lending Room to catch the last few bands of the evening. First up was Stillia from St Helens, who absolutely ooze professionalism. Vocalist Jack Bennett announces their song Let Me In by explaining that Jonny Vegas directed and starred in the accompanying music video, which was certainly enough to catch my attention. Their indie-rock sound has a slight Jake Bugg vibe, (clearly indie is kind of the theme of this festival) and they pull a pretty decent crowd to say they’ve come from Merseyside. This band could quite easily be playing bigger festivals, they’re definitely ones to watch in the future.

Next onstage are Sheffield rockers Sheafs, who spiked my curiosity as they handed me a business card just before they played. They’re easily the heaviest band of the day, and they also draw the biggest crowd so far. “If any of you haven’t heard of us, we’re Sheafs,” the lead singer shouts halfway through the set; they’re incredibly cocky, but they have the hard-rock riffs to back up the bravado, a heavy sound adorned with Oasis-style attitude. The audience are manic during this set; mosh pits, sing-alongs, the lot! Especially during their standout track This Is Not a Protest, which culminates in a mass stage invasion.

Avalanche Party. Credit to Conor Palliser.

Straight on afterwards are Avalanche Party, for a festival slot I will not be forgetting for a long time. My first impression was slightly tainted; as I was patiently waiting for them to come onstage, I was greeted by a cup of (what I hope was) water to the face, thrown by vocalist Jordan Bell. Rock and roll, eh? This was one of the most uncomfortable sets I think I’ve ever witnessed. Bell’s intense gaze fixating on members of the crowd was completely unnerving – and yet, this was easily the most unique, incredible set I saw over the entire day. Their psychedelic, garage-punk sound was completely infectious, and I will be watching out for this band on line-ups in the future, as they were utterly fantastic.

A last-minute decision took us for a brief visit to The Packhorse across the road for Manchester punk-indie outfit Proletariat. Their setup is understated, but their sound certainly isn’t. Drummer Luke O’Reilly stands out, and is incredible to watch. Having played many festivals over this summer (Tramlines, Y Not) after scarcely being together a year, it’s clear that this group are going to be making waves in the music industry for the foreseeable future.

The Wholls. Credit to Apertune Photography.

Headliners The Wholls finally take the stage, and they are absolutely worth the wait. Their alt-rock swagger is an absolute sight to behold, and a sound to adore. The one overriding thought that ran through my mind was that I cannot really think of anyone to compare them to who’s out there right now, which to me is a complete win. Vocalist Tordy Cocchiarella boasts an incredibly unique and impressive vocal style, and the rap verses littered across their repertoire gives them the edge that other groups in this genre are lacking. Kazoopa truly picked the perfect headliner to close this epic fiesta of a day.

Attending Kazoopa Festival 2017 has truly given me hope for local, up-and-coming bands; the wide variety of genres on offer, and the sheer talent on display absolutely blew me away. I concluded last year’s review stating that I was awaiting Kazoopa 2017 with excitement, and that’s exactly how I feel once again about 2018. Bring on what Double Denim have to offer this time next year!

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