Rifffest Hypnotises the Lending Room, 26.01.19

What a fantastic night.

The atmosphere was electric, the crowd was smiling the whole time.

And why? Because Bloodhound is the best opening band one could possibly ask for. They took the heavy psychedelia of the later bands and they made it heavier, trippier, and nastier. They played a cover of ‘Lie’ by Brooders, the act hosting the show. They did so many things that no one else would think of. They were great, they are great, and I don’t think it would be controversial to say they’ll be even better in the future.

Adore//Repel were pretty good, and toward the end even became a little transcendent. I’ll admit, they didn’t have many riffs, but they more than made up for it in atmosphere, artistry, and a fashion sense notably missing from the other acts. Unfortunately, I felt they suffered from a poor sound, and was left with the impression that I’d have to see them again to properly understand what they were going for.

And then came the Household Dogs. Like their namesake animals, their music was approachable, and instantly likeable, though ultimately a little on the safe side. These aren’t dogs that are going to go straight for your throat any time soon. But their show was a great experience and provided the most memorable moment of the night with their vocalist jumping from the stage and performing the finale from the top of the bar’s counter. Still, there was a feeling of going through the motions; a general anxiety happening on-stage that expressed itself a little too clearly in the body language of the musicians.

If Household Dogs were a bit on the lighter side of things, Faux Pas were not. Clearly inspired by the more artistic side of alternative rock, they were bringing the riffs, the emotion, the everything, but they were doing so with a masterful sense of subtlety and sophistication. Despite having one of the shortest sets, they managed to have the most variety of any act, even including time for a soft moment of reprieve in which the frontman performed an honest-to-God love song. Although they are just as accessible as, and perhaps even more innovative than, the next three bands, Faux Pas will likely be unfairly relegated to the forever-underground status that so many other bands of their ilk have fallen into. The phrase “too weird to live, too rare to die” comes to mind.

Brooders, though, were definitely the highlight of the evening. From the creepy opening notes of ‘Breathe’ (which, for my money, was the best riff of Rifffest) to the chaos of ‘Melancholy,’ Brooders were a barrage of in-your-face noise that paired itself surprisingly well with their unique, punkish vocals. The effect that the music has does not dissipate quickly, and for hours, even days afterwards, one is left with the memory of a bizarre, claustrophobic atmosphere where classic grunge and punk riffs seemed to warp into something new and twisted, like bodies in funhouse mirrors. The most exciting band in Leeds.

Still, sometimes taking notes from the classic playbook is really what one needs. Sometimes it’s all in the execution. And that’s exactly what the first headliner proved. Though heavily indebted to the heroes of ‘90s grunge and alternative, Hands Off Gretel provided one of the most refreshing sets of the evening. The playing was a tight, incredibly satisfying series of riffs that just kept on getting better. But the real star was the singer, Lauren Tate. One could make all of the L7 and Hole comparisons one wants; the fact is, she’s a better vocalist than anyone else in the scene right now, and quite easily one of the best grunge vocalists in general. And the vibe that radiated from the stage was no less varied, no less confident, no less hypnotic. A fantastic, no-frills band.

The evening ended with False Advertising. They sucked and I don’t want to waste time writing about shit bands.

Overall, Rifffest didn’t bring quite as many riffs as I was expecting, but what it did do was properly introduce me to many of the best bands in England right now. Every band, even the ones that didn’t have the greatest sets, had fantastic music, and it was oftentimes better than the bands they were all so obviously influenced by. If you like your music to be innovative, hypnotic, and totally original, then check them all out; they have more than earned your attention. It was brilliant.

In fact, one might even say it was teRIFFic.

But that would be weird. Five stars.

Zack Moore