Festival Review: Dark Arts // Leeds // 30.10.21

With a jam-packed lineup of bands that have reached the lofty heights of post-punk royalty since tickets went on sale over a year ago, this Saturday saw Leeds’ very own Belgrave Music Hall host the 2021 ‘Mullet & Moustache Convention’, AKA Dark Arts Festival.

The 300 capacity hall stands on the second floor of the Belgrave Music hall, with the ground floor hosting quite the selection of craft ale, as well as some of the best vegan food this writer has ever tasted. Dark Arts scores very highly when it comes to venue and lineup. Rodeo kick-off 2021’s Dark Arts, taking their place in the high-ceilinged room and playing out their short set to the DA early birds.

Welsh punks Panic Shack followed, with a set of pure punk bangers. The four piece not only play balls to the wall, in-your-face punk rock, but they had a number of fully choreographed dance routines. For my money more punk bands should be working out dances to their own tracks, so nothing but respect to Panic Shack, who were one of the day’s standout acts.

Folly Group bought the synthesizer and the electronic drums to create some Squid-esque soundscapes of rock, post rock and electronica, which went down a treat with the early afternoon crowd, as did Blanketman’s set of pure indie bangers. Blanketman seem like a band on the verge of breaking through to the next level, so catching them in a room this size is a real treat.

Fresh from a sweaty basement show in Manchester’s Yes, TV Priest bound onto the stage as a band full of confidence. Their short set rattles through banger after banger, with huge, filthy riffs blowing the roof off the beautiful old building. Eagle eyed Dark Arts attendees will have noticed an unassuming golden Rover parked up outside the front door – this old Rover was the scene for a Yard Act meet and greet, album playback party and car boot sale. The band invited fans to sit in Graham’s Rover, take pictures, buy merch and the as-yet unreleased debut record was booming out over the motor’s speakers. A genuinely bizarre way to meet the band, but fans of the Leeds lads lapped it up. Just because YA have a Rover doesn’t mean they’ve lost touch with the people; frontman James Smith assured me he had driven it over himself this morning, and the car is legally his.

We returned from the impromptu Yard Act meeting to catch Liverpool band Courting finish their set, joined by half of Leeds legends English Teacher. Courting played manfully, despite having announced the departure of their bassist less than 24 hours beforehand. They rattled through tracks at 100mph, which bent them out of shape somewhat, but Courting plowed on – cat ears and all. PVA were next to take to the stage and their enticing mixture of electronica, rock and trance music had the venue in raptures. PVA’s sound may be better suited to a 2am slot rather than 7pm, but the crowd lapped up the diverse set and PVA finished in triumph.

You may think that Violin, bass and drums sound like an odd combo – and you would be right. Pozi’s unique sound bordered on intriguing at best and unlistenable at worst, but much of the crowd were fully into it, so what do I know.

Dark Arts kicked up a notch upon the arrival of hometown heroes, Yard Act. Fresh from flogging wares from the boot of their Rover, Smith and co had the Leeds crowd in the palm of their hand. Jumping from cult hits like ‘Fixer Upper’ to latest single ‘Land of The Blind’, the Dark Arts revellers kicked into life. The sweat was seriously flowing now and by the time YA reached the part of the show where James ‘disappears’ a 50 pence piece he had amassed about £35 in cash from the baying crowd, as well as jewellery, loose change and even someone’s debit card. Highlight of the evening, for sure.

East-anglian duo, Sink Ya Teeth had the job of following this rabble-rousery, and they did one hell of a job. Blasting their funk-punk to a room full of sweaty Yorkshirepeople was a welcome treat. Dark Arts 2021 was seen out in supreme style by legends of the scene, Do Nothing. The Nottingham band are on the up and up, having released two stellar EPs in as many years. They thundered through their set, bringing the roof down with them.

Dark Arts was a total triumph: a stunning line up of quality bands, performing at one of the city’s, nay the country’s best, venues made the whole day an experience to remember.

Author avatar
Charlie Brock

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