One Beat Festival 2015 @ Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, Saturday 25 July 2015

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Playing host to nine upcoming bands across a sunny summer afternoon in the MAC’s glorious concrete amphitheatre, there are far worse things you can do with your Saturday than be at the One Beat Festival.

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The downside with an event such as this is that someone has to open up, usually to a mostly empty venue. That’s the case for Wolverhampton synth-pop duo Field Harmonics, who aren’t helped by a false start caused by some technical hitch. However, they’re soon under way for real and filling the MAC with their eerie melodies. While there is nothing wrong with them musically – in fact, both members can really sing – there is very little in the way of performance or stage presence about them, and they easily become endearing background music rather than a foreground attention grabber.

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Up next are Faux Palms who come with guitars but again, little about their live showing to captivate. Their jangling guitars and melancholy melodies are summery and enjoyable but their performance is a tad bland, with very little connection between he band and the audience or even between the four band members. A shame, as their heartfelt songs show great potential.

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Nottingham trio Kagoule followed and finally added some performance and energy to proceedings. With an alt rock/grungy sound based on a pounding rhythm section and some raw, gnarly guitars they easily give the best set of the festival so far. Topping off their sound are vocal harmonies that fans of Placebo would approve of and they give a fine account of themselves. With a debut album coming next month, Kagoule could well be ones to watch out for.

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Fourth up is Birmingham fourpiece Cold Ocean Lies, who’ve been making impressive progress in the short time they’ve been together. Vocally they are clearly influenced by Oasis, while musically they take on board plenty of 90s grunge stylings, and the mixture works. While they can definitely write a fair melody, their best moments are when they throw out some big fuzzy riffs and really lock into a groove, which they show a real flair for. The only real downside is that they are another band on this bill that could put on more of a show, although the way Cold Ocean Lies grew into their set they probably aren’t too far off. This set was very good; with a few more gigs under their belt and perhaps a touch more confidence in their own talent they could easily offer something great.

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For the Middle band slot you need something to keep energy levels and interest high, so booking reggae outfit  Kioko is a shrewd move. Full of groove, cool beats and great personalities, the band quickly get heads nodding and feet tapping with some great tunes. They are also the most accomplished performers on the bill so far, especially their brass section who venture into the crowd to help with those who are dancing. A fine set, made even better with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’…if you get the chance to catch Kioko, make sure you take it.

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Following Kioko was going to be tough, and so it was probably helpful for Jagaara that they offered something so very different. The chilled trio brought a completely different vibe to proceedings, with gentle harmonies and electro elements. The result was an eerie, atmospheric set that was at times reminiscent of Portishead. While it wasn’t exactly music you can dance to, it was still really rather wonderful, and they had enough about them onstage to make their performance captivating and even entrancing.

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What better way to follow such a chilled set than with some full on fury? That’s exactly what Brummie trio Youth Man, with their raucous fuzzy punk. The threesome are the first act to actually get the crowd down the front and they completely dominate the stage, expelling more energy than the previous six bands put together. There is something special and exciting about Youth Man, and with an appearance at Reading and Leeds yet to come this summer, don’t be surprised to see them going into bigger things very soon.

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Up next, the band that a sizeable bunch of teenagers is here to see – The Magic Gang. Sounding like what Weezer would sound like without distortion on their guitars, they certainly come packed with melody galore. Their fan club goes wild from start to finish, even – crazily – causing security to be called when they threaten a stage invasion. Not that there was any malice intended, it was very much an attempted invasion of love. The rest of the auditorium was nowhere near as into this Brighton four-piece as their groupies, but it didn’t detract from a fine performance of summery, pop tunes.

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Rounding things off is Wolverhampton duo God Damn, who arrive at the MAC fresh from having already played a separate festival in Sheffield earlier today. It’s turning into quite a summer for the noisy, hairy pair; we caught them last month impressing at Download Festival, just a few weeks after having opened for no less than the Foo Fighters in May. Since then they’ve been all across Europe and still have Reading and Leeds to look forward to. You don’t get those kind of gigs without having something special about you, and God Damn show us their chops right from the off tonight. They have blistering riffs and thundering rhythms, and can fill a stage better than most bands with a full compliment of members manage to do. They also can’t half make some noise!

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The duo rip through their set with passion and power, proving themselves more than worthy headliners. They are accomplished performers and genuinely exciting to watch play. What will be fascinating to see now is where they go next…as they have the talents to go an awful long way.

Photographs and review – Dave Musson

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