Octernal Music Festival Preview
I’m trying to remember the last time there wasn’t something new and exciting in the Leeds musical calendar happening. First the Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen opened up in spectacular style, and now we’ve got a fantastic all-dayer in the very immediate future. A week this very Saturday on the 19th October, Octernal Music Festival kicks off for the first time. A brand new all-dayer taking place in both the Main Room and Games Room of Brudenell Social Club as well as at Left Bank Church, what we’ve got is over 30 bands strutting the stage for your entertainment ranging from up-and-comers to the already established, local and international.
The roster of promoters behind this extravaganza is impressive enough without even looking to the fine feast of bands they’re serving up for our aural pleasure. The people behind Octernal are a Who’s Who of renowned and respected organisers. You’ve got the architect behind that festival of noise British Wildlife Adam ‘Super Luxury‘ Nodwell, DIY denizens Dirty Otter and Fancy Claps Promotions, local label and Quidrophenia curators Dead Young Records, as well as (relatively) young upstarts Big Spaceship and Gig Barons (each of these two also manned by Super Luxuryans Tom and Chris respectively, with Chris aided and abetted by Ant Bedford). And naturally, given the venue is a key part of proceedings, nevermind that he’s a major figure in the Leeds scene, we’ve got Nathan Clarke of Brudenell Social Club with a guiding hand in things. With people like this pulling the strings behind the scenes, you know this is going to be quality.
There’s an eclectic range of genres that each of the above specialise, resulting in a potentially mind-melting dissonance from one act to the next. Which is of course brilliant. Taking in sounds from “caveman battle doom to slacker indie” and every imaginable style inbetween, when they say “Every earhole’s a goal!” they mean it wholeheartedly.
Starting at the softer end of things we have critical darlings Veronica Falls with their twee yet lyrically dark indiepop, with their deceptively simple sounding songcraft a pretty veneer over emotionally rich and complex words. Bleached have been making waves with their female-fronted 60s- and 70s-inflected punk rock (think the Ramones and The Kinks over the Sex Pistols) and after going down a treat last time they played Brudenell with Mac DeMarco we can expect similarly fun things this time around. Local folks Finnmark! (who some of you may remember from here) will also be gracing us with their deadpan delivery and intensely catchy C86-inspired tunes, along with Cottonwoolf, the latest project of the powerfully voiced Grant Fennell of Elijah At Sea fame moving beyond his previous folk stylings for more psychedilic pastures.
Octernal also marks the Leeds debut of Poltergeist, a trio consisting of two former (Echo and the) Bunnymen. Composing instrumental music for dark goings on and dimly lit evenings, expect expansive songs with dashings of post-punk guitar stabs and krautrock-style walls of noise, all with a serious groove to it. The similarly experimental and refreshingly original Big Joan are also high on my “Bands To See” list, with the stirring PJ Harvey-esque banshee vocals of singer Annette Berlin supported by agitated, unsettling instrumentation that gets under your skin. Think Siouxsie Sioux fronting Public Image Ltd. East Londoners Fever Dream bring us lush shoegaze, their brooding melancholy boiling over into immense walls of guitar swell and unleashed energy. Music to immerse yourself in.
And now for the earsplitters. To have a name like Holy Mountain you have to be massive. Otherwise what’s the point? Luckily for them, Holy Mountain are just that. Grinding low end riffage with driving, unrelenting drums propels you forward. Imagine Josh Homme turning the treble all the way down on his guitar amp in his Kyuss days and giving it hell for leather. That heavy. Heads will bang. Moshers will mosh. Circle pits will… circle. They will rock. And then of course there’s the aforementioned caveman battle doom. Conan have been whipping audiences up into frenzies with their doom-laden subterraneanly bassy rock for quite some time now. You’ll never have heard anything like this. Pounding primeval guitar dirge with drums to match, if it doesn’t get your hackles up then you’re possibly dead. Music that hits you right in the gut, like the dying rumbling of the bowels of the earth. This may read like bullshit, but the live experience bears this intensity of feeling out.
This isn’t even half of the lineup (the full thing can be found right here). But just in case the above hasn’t given this away already, this promises to be an absolute cracker of a day whatever your tastes. The clever staggering of the timetable (available here) means you could see 16-18 bands for a mere £12. Is that not amazing value? Do yourself and your earholes a favour and get on down. I know I’ll be there.