Presented by This Is Tmrw, All Years Leaving is entering its fifth year – returning to it’s Hare & Hounds birthplace as a bona fide institution of the local live scene. I’m ashamed at this point to admit I’ve never been before, but the line-up for 2017 is too good to miss. I’m there for doors on the Saturday, unsure what to expect.
People are already milling in the Stables. Terror Watts are having a pre-set Guinness outside. Upon entering the main room, the smoke clears and animations by Johnny Foreigner’s own Lewes Herriot are visible; a giant with flaming fists looks down on the proceedings from projector screens hung around the venue.
Terror Watts kick off proceedings to a healthy crowd. They deliver a pitch perfect set of fan-favourites. The stupidly catchy ‘Time Bomb’ is an ear worm if ever there was one – good luck shaking that from your head for the rest of the weekend. They close the set with newest single, ‘Tough Guy’, released this summer on PNKSLM. It’s a perfect slice of sunshine-y slacker rock.
The room is already a real who’s-who of the Birmingham music scene. Steve Hadley of Setting Son Records is ferrying gear up and down the stairs; He sports an ‘I Am A Hungry Ghost’ badge like a proud dad. Tim Mobbs of Table Scraps is snapping away as the event photographer. I step outside to take a call from Birmingham Review’s absentee editor, Ed King, who is checking I got there okay, remembered to take an exercise book, pencil case, packed lunch and the like. While on the phone I look down from the balcony onto the smoking area to see James Brown of Mutes, immaculately made up, sheltering from the drizzle and nursing a pint of Blue Moon.
Back upstairs, Her’s slowly fade in an uptempo drum loop. The Liverpudlian two-piece look at home on a stage. Bassist, Audun Laading, bops round wearing a floaty cardigan and high-hanging Rickenbacker. Fragile, sighing vocals float above lush interwoven guitars. The assembled crowd sways. The jaunty ‘Speed Racer’, complete with sequenced hand claps, snaps the room out of its dream pop reverie for a brief moment. Guitarist Steven Fitzpatrick speaks up:
“Has everyone got a good strong beer? No? That’s good, we don’t wanna be supporting beer all the time. I like Vimto.” A pause as Laading configures the next drum loop. “This one’s a slow sexy one for all the lovers in the room – and all the straight edge people.”
They launch into ‘Cool With You’, the six minute centrepiece of their 2017 Heist or Hit release, Songs of Her’s. Half way through it lapses into a bossa nova jam. Her’s closes their set on their swooning shoe-gaze waltz, ‘What Once Was’. I speak to Josh Frost of Mutes afterwards and he suggests that Her’s would have made a good roadhouse band in the new series of Twin Peaks.
Downstairs, the Stables are cosy and filled with the smell of pulled pork. The crowd floods down to watch Miles Cocker. It’s at this point I’m thankful of the lack of set time clashes – the line up is solid, and there’s not one act you’d be willing to miss.
Cocker usually supplies bass for notorious sex punks Youth Man. Today he shows his softer side, strumming on a beat up white Stratocaster. Heartfelt lyrics like, “maybe she’ll grind my bones to make her bread / or shoot an apple straight off my head” are quickly offset as Cocker comments, “yeah, you can get pretty poetic about diarrhoea”.
Back in the main room, Swampmeat Family Band are turning up the heat. A cover of the Rolling Stone’s ‘Down Home Girl’ slots neatly into the set alongside their own tracks. Classic rock ’n’ roll moves paired with numbers like, ‘Brand New Cadillac’ and ‘I’m a Fucker, Not a Fighter’ make them the perfect party band. And party they shall, as Danny C takes pleasure in announcing. “We’re back here on the 21st for a Christmas party with the Hungry Ghosts!” Fellow Hungry Ghost, Jay Dyer, is with me – we exchange excited glances and head to the bar. I run into a rather jet-lagged Bryony Williams. She fills me in on her set at The Sunflower Lounge supporting Denai Moore, and her recent adventures in New Orleans, both of which sound surreal.
West Yorkshire trio The Orielles saunter on to stage for some mellow indie pop. They sip beer from plastic bottles. They play their new single, ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’, which offsets a pleasingly sloppy riff against lilting drums. At this point my gig-going partner in crime and All Years Leaving veteran, Jo Chustecki, shows up. She is just in time to hear them close the set with the much awaited, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. The ominous bass gets the crowd moving.
I realise it’s been hours since breakfast. Jay and I head out to the chip shop over the road for sustenance, and make it back just in time for PINS.
Since first hearing their track ‘Aggrophobe’, I’ve been looking for a chance to see PINS live. They waste no time filling the room with the driving bass of ‘Hot Slick’. Bassist, Anna Donigan, begins to pogo and the others follow suit. The strutting ‘Heart Is a Machine’ starts up and vocalist, Faith Vern, grasps the mic with both hands and wails at the crowd. Kyoko Swan delivers pounding synths.
New single ‘Serve the Rich’ is anthemic, and Vern takes the opportunity to let the crowd know that, “we told everyone that this single is sold out, but we have a few copies to sell after the set. Come find us later”. A savvy move indeed and one that causes much deliberation at the merch stand later (I am unable to choose a record and on Donigan’s sound advice end up going away with a T-shirt). At the end of their set it dawns on me that they didn’t even play ‘Aggrophobe’. As great as it is, PINS are certainly no one-hit-wonders.
Back in the Stables, The Bank Accounts are popping open a magnum of prosecco. They entrust it to a friend of the band who is here on her own, and tell her to go make friends. She hands it around the crowd as they sing: “I just bought an Amazon Alexa. I don’t need it, but it’s just nice to have someone to turn the lights off for you”.
I am standing with Jo, Jay and James Brown. We all take a swig of prosecco, except for James, who is passed over for some reason. He wistfully watches the bottle drift away. Jo comments that she feels as though she’s just wandered into a rural pub, perhaps in Cornwall, and doesn’t know what’s going on.
The Bank Accounts proceed to play a tongue in cheek interpretation of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ before producing a bottle of spiced rum. They are excellent hosts. They play a song about having rum and frontman, Benjamin P D Kane, wanders into the crowd to offer it around. He is immediately accosted by local artist and writer Priscilla Baker, who envelops him in a bear hug. James gets his hands on the bottle of rum and drinks his fill.
Hurrying back up the stairs we are greeted by the growling bass of The Wytches, The dirge of ‘Who Rides’ builds to a crescendo as the room fills up. The band are solemn on stage. Doom laden riffs like ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Throned’ cement The Wytches as a much heavier band than they were in 2014 when Annabel Dream Reader was released, and the stuttering ‘C-Side’ is the star of the set.
As they’re packing down, I lean over the monitor to inspect bassist Daniel Rumsey’s pedalboard. In doing so I catch the eye of a similar die-hard fan, who narrows his eyes at me. I compliment him on his Black Angels shirt and ask if he was at their gig at the Institute last month. “Yeah”, he replies. “We met at the merch stand for A Place To Bury Strangers. You tried to convince me to shell out £200 for a Death By Audio pedal.” I maintain that this would have been a sound investment.
Sitting at the top of Saturday’s line up are Macclesfield alt-rockers Spring King. After a long day of drinking and dancing, the crowd were ready. As soon as they begin to play, the area in front of the stage is a churning mass of bodies. Their 2016 album Tell Me If You Like To is composed of wall-to-wall live winners, and they roll them out one after another without pausing for breath. Before long the crowd are up on stage dancing around the band, and Spring King revel in it. Drummer, Tarek Musa, hands a stick to someone so they can bash away at his kit.
Multiple circle pits later and it’s all over for Saturday at All Years Leaving. The audience members dissolve into the night, those with the prized black wristbands ready to do it all again tomorrow. PINS are outside chatting to Bryony Williams, smoking and planning their journey to Melkweg, Amsterdam. In a discerning booking, they will be opening for The Breeders.
Terror Watts @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
Her’s @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
For more on Her’s, visit www.thatbandofhers.com
Swampmeat Family Band @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
The Orielles @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
The Wytches @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
For more on The Wytches, visit www.thewytches.com
Spring King @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Cameron Goodyer – Birmingham Review
For more on Spring King, visit www.springkingband.com
For more on All Years Leaving Festival 2017, including online ticket sales, visit www.facebook.com/allyearsleaving