Sunday starts mellow, becomes dramatic
The final day of a festival always contains a mixture of feelings. There’s a genuine whiff of melancholy in the air, knowing tomorrow means back to reality, while also feeling slightly relieved that the prospect of a shower is one day closer. And on top of that, you feel a befuddled kind of bliss that comes from listening to music for days on end with little or no sleep.
An antidote for all three of these conditions comes early doors with Bradly Miller, aka south London saxophonist cktrl, who takes to the Lovell Stage in the early afternoon. He’s greeted by a mellow and largely horizontal audience, who lie splayed across the dry wood chipped ground. It’s an ideal place to listen from, as Miller blows stirring melodies over a backing track of field recordings, emotive piano loops, and choral singing. It’s a blissfully minimalist, romantic and meditative 40 minutes that’s the closest thing to an ambient set we’ve seen on the Lovell stage all weekend.
A real jolt in the other direction comes shortly after thanks to Jessica Winter, whose experimental pop replaces romance with steamy lyrics and big beats. “Come on, baby, funk this up, I know you want it,” she croons on ‘Funk This Up’. With an extravagant stage persona, she brings a sound which is confrontational enough to make the audience shuffles around, unsure if it’s safer to move closer in, or further back.
Later in the day, we find ourselves camped inside the Nebula awaiting Holodrum, an up-and-coming Leeds outfit who earned much praise for their self-titled debut EP from last year. Boasting a confident mix of post-punk and disco infused synthpop, which at one moment recalls Maximum Joy, the next Lounge Lizards, their set lives up to all the expectations, performing with two drummers facing each other who add a thumping beat to each explosive track. ‘Low Light’ hits like a disco-fied Grimes, while other cuts incorporate the saxophone of Christopher Duffin brilliantly, who reaches serious heights with his instrument. If there was any doubt, Holodrum are most definitely one to keep your eye on.
Young Fathers are on the Lovell next and anticipation is high. Not only are they performing before the inimitable Grace Jones, but there’s a certain folklore around the intensity of the live shows of this Edinburgh trio who won the 2014 Mercury Prize and have since seen their stock grow even more in recent years, particularly after their recent lauded album ‘Heavy Heavy’. And given that the mud beneath our shoes has formed into a mousse-like texture, they will need to do something fairly special to unstick these wellies from the turf. Joined by two additional singers, a standing drummer banging huge tom toms, and the Scottish musician Callum Easter on guitar and synth, Young Fathers lurch into a high-octane set of songs old and new.
Throughout, drama is in no short supply. And drama is perhaps a good lens through which to understand Young Fathers. They want to you give the impression that their stunts – eyes rolling back into sockets, wrestling with each other, hanging onto microphones like they’re the only thing keeping them erect, etc – are spontaneous. But you can’t help but see the characters behind them. Kayus Bankole? The hyperactive one, jumping around and on top of speakers with his shirt off. Graham Hastings? The moody swooner who will only give us what we want if he really has to. And the tall Alloysious Massaquoi, meanwhile, cuts a captivating figure on stage as the gentle one, who momentarily erupts into a fit of powerful vulnerability. Is this an alt-boy band?
Arguably, shining a light on the different shades of masculinity is what Young Fathers communicate best in their hour-long set. A stupendous rendition of ‘Geronimo’ navigates the many relationships expected of a man, while ‘I Heard’, which came out over a decade ago, delves unrelentingly into deep-seated feelings of shame. ‘Wow’ is an sardonic attack on the role of ego in modern culture, while ‘In My View’, the standout of the set, is an anthemic sonic tapestry of choral harmonies and glittering synths that come together to deliver a message for complicated responsibilities: “I wanna be king until I am”, moans Hastings.
By the end, our wellies have churned the mousse into a thick curd – a rather prosaic testament to Young Fathers’ moving alchemy.