Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media)
YR Welcome, Die Das Der’s two day festival, has reached its third incarnation. The format works to perfection – over two days and two stages you’re treated to an onslaught of 30-minute sets from some of the best bands around, all while hanging out with the Wagon & Horses’ rather bemused regulars. The festival covers a range of different genres, but the quality level is reliably high.
Take Manchester band Sweet Deals on Surgery for example. It’s not really my thing, but I can’t deny that it’s good. They play an enjoyable set of frantically delivered pop-punk songs with entertaining lyrics. It sounds a little bit like Johnny Foreigner.
Buy my YR Welcome 3 experience begins on the Sunday afternoon with Nasty Little Lonely, a Bristol group that features three members who look like they shouldn’t be in a band together. A guy who looks like Gruff Rhys is on guitar, Toyah Wilcox is on bass and Slash is on drums. The resulting sound is heavier than you might expect – it’s industrial, grinding and pushes the band’s sleazy bass lines to the fore.
The Double Happy are the funniest band of the evening. After the end of the first song their front man confides that he has a hole in his pocket and that his phone fell through that pocket during the song. He then fishes the phone out, much to the audience’s delight. This Wolves trio mixes heavy riffs and shouty vocals, with unusual vocal harmonies providing an effective contrast.
Bristol’s Downard are initially a bit of a shock to the system. Their opening track features heavily effect-ridden vocals accompanied by drums and bass guitar that, coming through a range of octave pedals, doesn’t always sound like bass guitar. It’s a confusingly big sound to be coming from two people in boiler suits – precise, heavy, groovy and in the case of set highlight ‘Yr Box’d’, super catchy.
The Terror Watts have emerged from the ashes of legendary Birmingham group Cedar House Band to create a vibe better suited to a sunny Californian beach than Brummie brutalist concrete. Their song ‘So Alone’ is two minutes of pop perfection that should by rights be all over the radio, inducing enthusiastic dancing at indie discos up and down the country.
Broken Oak Duet only joined the YR Welcome 3 line-up when another band pulled out, but they’re the highlight of my day. Continuing the trend for bands with limited band members, Broken Oak Duet meld math rock with metal. ‘Roger the Optometrist’, from this year’s debut album Terrain, has a catchy riff that heads off in all directions before returning seamlessly to pay off at the end.
Baby faced sibling duo Cassels have songs about the NHS, family dramas and, weirdly for the youngest band at the festival, getting old. They have a certain DIY charm, but don’t quite feel like the finished article yet. And they take awkward stage banter to a new level. Example – Cassels: “This is a song about naughty priests and what they’re allowed to get away with”. Heckler: “Sexy!” Cassels: “….Uh not really…”
But Cassels could get no better lesson in banter than from the very next band on, Idles. Idles’ charismatic lead singer tells his guitarist to “shut up” when he plays his guitar between songs. The guitarist replies patiently, “I was giving you your cue Joe”.
It’s hard to review Idles without mentioning Fat White Family. They have a similar political leaning and punk ethos. Idles though, have better songs. ‘Romantic Gestures’ is a Joy Division enthused romp about pretending to care about romance in a relationship. It, like other set highlight ‘Queens’, comes from Idles’ second EP Meat, released at the end of 2015. Hurry up with the album boys.
Idles are the third brilliant band from Bristol of the day. Maybe we should all move to Bristol… Hang on a minute though, here’s Birmingham’s Dorcha. Featuring singer, composer and all-out music genius Anna Palmer, Dorcha create off-kilter, atmospheric experimental music. I’m gutted when I have to leave well before the end to catch the last train home.
YR Welcome 3 introduced me to some of my new favourite bands, all in a warm, friendly and ego-free atmosphere. But as we were told in Tony Appleby’s recent interview with Die Das Der – the ‘Birmingham-based community of like-minded musicians, artists, bloggers, photographers, film-makers and journalists’ who organise the annual band fest, YR Welcome is a labour of love rather than a profit-making enterprise. And it shows.
To check out YR Welcome 3 updates and line-up information, click here.
For more on Die Das Der, visit www.facebook.com/wearediedasder
For more from the Wagon & Horses, visit www.wagonandhorsesdigbeth.com