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After a summer off last year, Gold Sounds festival made its return to the Brudenell Social Club, albeit
with a slightly condensed schedule. Normally running over a full weekend, the 2021 iteration instead
squeezed eight bands into one evening. The bands billed also marked somewhat of a change from
recent years: Gold Sounds normally fills its roster with the latest unwashed and vitriolic post-punk
acts emerging across Europe and North America, but this year there was a much more mellowed
indie theme across the line-up. The last Gold Sounds in 2019 saw the degenerate double-header of
Viagra Boys and Fat White Family spearheading the weekend, but this year changed out the lairy for
the lovely with indie dreamboats Gengahr and The Magic Gang.

Still, the festival managed to do the thing I love so much about it, giving you some of old favourites
for a dirt-cheap price whilst exposing you to some of your new. In 2018 you went for the Phoebe
Bridgers and discovered the Bodega; the year after you went for the Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs,
Pigs and discovered the Pip Blom. If you don’t try and see every band on the bill you’re missing out
on discovering something or someone big in waiting.

The day kicked off with one of those bands that really are a force ready to blow up into the national
conscious. A last-minute addition to the line-up, Low Hummer proved why they’re so highly rated by
those in their homeland of Hull. With a recent string of singles gaining play across radio and
garnering increasing press attention, their September debut album can’t come soon enough. Martha
Hill followed across in the main room. Without her band and alone on stage with an acoustic, it
initially seemed like a mistake to have the dip in pace straight after Low Hummer, but slowly
throughout her set she won over the Leeds audience, throwing in lovely stripped back versions of
Change and Grilled Cheese to close on a high. Fifteen minutes later, Bristol’s The Pleasure Dome
introduced themselves to the community room. To start on a negative, their guitarist did that thing
that some have started doing and really annoys me where they go absolutely bloody mental when a
song slightly picks up, yanking their guitar around and embodying Flea circa 1988 wearing nothing
but his cock sock. After a few bars he calmed down and revealed a pretty decent band, driven and
energetic, with some solid hooks and a singer with some sexy sideburns.

The pleasantly-surprising-surprise act of the day award went to Baba Ali. I knew absolutely nothing
about them before walking back into the main room, and was greeted by a confident and eclectic
performance. It’s hard to really describe with too much accuracy: at times one heard the east coast
dance music of the US-artist’s home, at others the electro-funk of their current base in London.
There was central European synthwave, all combined with occasional bursts of industrial guitar
you’d expect out of Ireland. Overall, an intriguing performance and an artist to check out with their
debut album released on the 27th August. Chappaqua Wrestling followed, a band that clearly fit into
this year’s much more indie feel. They remind me of the groups that were around a few years ago,
the likes of Vant or Inheaven, that take indie and add a few fuzzy guitars without adding too much
distinction. It’s been done before but Chappaqua Wrestling do it well if that’s your sort of thing.

Now we move into the big hitters of the day, those that have graced these stages before and you
know what they’re brining. I said at the start that this year had moved away from the likes of Viagra
Boys , but I put forward the motion that Pins are the female counterpart to the Swedish wildmen.
Both create these enticing thick guitar grooves like a post-punk disco, both have discographies
challenging gender roles, and both know how to dominate the main room at Brude. A group I’d been
waiting to see live for a long time, and worth the wait.

At this point, it’s useless trying to pass this off as an independent, unbiased review. As I walked out
of Pins, passed through the bar and entered the community room, I transformed from a 24-year-old
man with a pint of water and a sore back to a teenage fanboy, because waiting for me next was
Gengahr. I love Gengahr. They just make me really happy. It’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen them,
and without fail I can just lean back into the songs and float. Ask someone else who was there for
unprejudiced review, for me there are few other bands I’d rather see live.

Finishing off the day were The Magic Gang. One of my guilty indie pleasures and one I’d seen only
once way back in the day supporting Spring King on a tour. I was half expecting just the standard
playthrough of the songs that a band can pull off with a crowd of buzzing teenagers, but the
Brighton four-piece really brought a punch right from the word go. One song bled into two, then
three, before allowing the audience a chance to breath. It was a well-rehearsed set and a fierce
statement on how a band can elevate their music to new heights when playing it live, something we
all needed reminding of after far too long away from it.

Written by Leo Joslin

Features Festival Reviews