Words by Emily Doyle / Pics by Denise Wilson
I’m disappointed to get there minutes late for Mutes’ set in the Stables. The boys are still packing down, and there is a gaggle assembled to ogle their pedal boards. I’m assured that the set was “atmospheric and moody”, and I fear I missed out.
There’s no time to worry about that though, as Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are just getting started in the Main Room. On entering, the bass hits you square in the chest. It’s sure to shake off a few hangovers this morning. Their pop-punk energy certainly garners some appreciative head nods from the already large crowd.
“This song is one of two Halloween songs we’re doing this year.” ‘Halloween 6 (He’s Still Gonna Get You)’ is heavy, angular, and accompanied by swirling red lighting. Is this what can be expected from Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam’s Halloween Party with Table Scraps at the Dark Horse on Friday? Time will tell. They follow it up with ‘Too Far From Real’, a song about, “being a real shitty dad. Not my dad! But like how I would be if I were a dad”. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam have delivered a triumphant set on home turf. The bar is already out of Red Stripe.
Downtown Boys are next, hailing from Providence, Rhode Island (“the smallest state!”). Vocalist, Victoria Ruiz, is clad in a flower crown and dungarees, and has a stage presence that manages to be both primal and authorative. The cutting riff of ‘It Can’t Wait’, supplied by Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, perfectly underlines Ruiz’s sincere delivery. ‘Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)’ is buzzing with hardcore punk energy. The set ends with ‘A Wall’, the contemporaneous opener to Downtown Boys’ 2017 LP Cost Of Living. I catch Ruiz in the Stables later, where I pester her to sign my newly purchased copy of that LP. She is charming and signs it ‘XOXO 4 ever chulas – Victoria’.
My gig-going accomplice, Jo Chustecki, arrives, excited to watch Diet Cig. Guitarist Alex Luciano briefs the crowd: “Our shows are safe spaces. Be kind to each other.”
Their playful ode to teenage romance, ‘Sixteen’, sees Luciano pirouetting across the stage. She leans into the mic and asks, “ready?” – before Noah Bowman kicks in with the drums. This is sugary pop-punk at its finest – not one song outstays its welcome. Luciano is a high-kicking Care Bear. “We’ve been on tour for seven weeks and I’m sick of eating Cheetos from the gas station. But, being here in a room full of punk-ass festival people reminds us why we love it.”
Luciano performs the second drum kit dive of the day (Downtown Boys beat her to it) and it’s not even dark yet. She preaches the true meaning of punk, “Inclusivity for everyone and troubleshooting with your friends because your shit is always broken”, and climbs atop a speaker to kick Bowman’s cymbals while she belts out ‘Scene Sick’ from their 2015 EP Over Easy.
Luciano introduces the newer ‘Apricots’, telling the crowd, “this one’s tender if you have your crush and want to kiss them now”. Closing the set, ‘Barf Day’ is dedicated to “the feeling when you had your favourite food for lunch and you can’t get it out of your head”. For Diet Cig, that favourite food is apparently Toby Carvery.
Repeat of Last Week are downstairs filling the Stables with melodic, interlaced guitars backed with cajón beats. Apparently this was supposed to be an acoustic set, but it got out of hand. I sit outside and listen while eating the packed lunch I brought. It’s a welcome respite from the chaos upstairs, and a recharge is necessary before what’s to come.
The Main Room is the fullest it’s been so far, when Priests take the stage. Vocalist, Katie Alice Greer, is centre stage in a ballet costume and white combat boots. The shambolic bass of 2014’s ‘Doctor’ is the perfect counterpoint to her snarling vocal delivery. In ‘Suck’, Greer achieves a banshee woop to rival Patti Smith.
Daniele Daniele makes the drums shiver beneath the dissonant guitar. Greer is now thrusting at the crowd as her tutu sways back and fourth. They close the set on the stuttering, atonal post-punk freak out ‘And Breeding’. Priests are touring partners with Downtown Boys, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect pairing.
TRAAMS frontman, Stu Hopkins, urges the crowd to move forward and fill the dreaded semi-circle before they begin their set. Fellow Hungry Ghost Jay Dyer turns to me ominously, still exhausted from yesterday, and declares “It’s either bed or pit. I choose pit.” He disappears into the fray.
Squeals of feedback mark the beginning of TRAAMS’ set, only to stop abruptly so Hopkins can switch out guitars. They kick back in with renewed vigour, all flailing guitar and percussive bass. After the chaos of Priests, TRAAMS’ brand of krautrock is precise and meditative, thanks in part to their driving rhythm section.
Hopkins pauses to wish the crowd a happy Sunday. He says little else. The sinewy alt rock of tracks like ‘A House on Fire’ and ‘Costner’ says it all. Hopkin’s freeform lead guitar balances their spartan performance style perfectly.
After TRAAMS are over, a woman behind me in the toilet queue overhears the other patrons raving about their set, and tells me she regrets her decision to sit in the bar downstairs eating pizza. She’s here for Idles and hasn’t seen any of the other bands this weekend, because she “didn’t know they’d be so good”. I have a feeling she is still going to get her money’s worth.
Idles are the most anticipated band of the weekend. The Main Room is packed before the stage, and there is a jostle for room at the front. They march on and carry out line checks, and are greeted with a jarring chorus of Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. Welcome to Birmingham, Idles. Rattling drums and a single note on bass herald the start of their set with brand new track, ‘Colossus’. Frontman, Joe Talbot, growls into the mic about the building noise: “I am my father’s son, His shadow weighs a ton”.
The room erupts. Bodies surge forward. Table Scraps bassist, Tim Mobbs, can be seen thinking better of his decision to bring his camera into the pit and scrambling over the barrier. Without a break, the driving bass of ‘Mother’ cuts above the cheering. Talbot, who wrote the album Brutalism while grieving for his mother, gives a visceral performance. He spews raw emotion into the microphone. The masses scream along to the refrain, asserting that “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”. The first stage invader of the night takes out the mic stand with a clumsy dive. Hands scramble to pass it back. Fan favourites and brand new tracks sit side-by-side in the unrelenting set.
Idles have the frenzied audience in the palm of their hand. ‘Alcohol’ devolves into primal screams before Talbot announces that, “this next one’s called ‘White Privilege. If you don’t like it, go listen to the fucking 1975”. Guitarist Mark Bowen climbs onto Talbot’s back and proudly strums away. The familiar riff of ‘Well Done’ cuts through the room and the crowd are delirious.
By this point there is an almost constant stream of stage divers, both band members and punters, making their way across the room. In a bold move, they close the set with a brand new song. Relentless, rapid fire drums and thrashing guitar ensure the electric ‘Rottweiler’ is an immediate hit at All Years Leaving. Idles are the white hot punk cherry on top of an unbelievable festival.
Stumbling out into the cold, I see Tim Mobbs and Table Scraps’ drummer Poppy Twist embracing Talbot. I approach him and mumble something about how good their set was. He notices my brand new PINS shirt with approval before disappearing upstairs somewhere. Josh Frost of Mutes and Jay Dyer emerge, covered in glitter that seems to have spread around the audience during the headline set. We try to gather ourselves, shivering in the October cold, before heading home.
Matters @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Mutes @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Downtown Boys @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Diet Cig @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Priests @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
For more on Priests, visit www.666priests666.com
TRAAMS @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
Idles @ All Year Leaving 21.10.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review
For more on Idles, visit www.idlesband.com
For more on All Years Leaving Festival, visit www.facebook.com/allyearsleaving