Here we are, the end of October, which spells the final festival of the year for press coverage*. Leeds’ hallowed Belgrave Music Hall remains a great venue for these Super Friendz-curated, day-long events, so Dark Arts was bound to be a belter…
The gig space upstairs saw the crowd multiplying very early on, to say it was 2pm when I rocked up on a rainy Saturday. Following Splint’s opening set, Car Boot Sale emerged with an effortlessly funky, shake-off-your-blues style that blew off the cobwebs. Through token notes from maracas, a tambourine and triangle, a playfully electric vibe was emitted from the stage. The band threw in some well-timed breaks to keep up engagement, all while the deep tones of the nimble bass kept rumbling.
I’d gladly see Car Boot Sale again, so make sure you jump at the chance if they announce a show near you.
The vibrance of that set paved the way for Humour straight after, who seemed fairly ironically named, given the seriously slick structure of their performance. The Glasgow residents had a frantic, almost jarring niche, which was so enthralling to watch. Their avant-garde quirkiness was suitably complemented by the varied-range vocals, which dynamically tended to switch from soft to coarse, to sort of muttered and stammered in places. It was quickly obvious why they’ve got such a following, and their final tune (“about horses”) was definitely a strong one to end on.
I first caught Fräulein when they supported The Mysterines in March. So, it was a real bonus that they were on the Dark Arts line-up. The two previous bands had been five-pieces but these were a duo. And when you added the fact that their drummer had been dealing with a back injury and they confessed to not having practised for three weeks, they were even more impressive than when I’d seen them a few months prior. The combination of often screeching vocals, unpredictable roars and, ultimately, sugary-sweet vocals really made their slot so captivating. And of course, the one guitar spanning all stringed parts? Just flawless. Don’t even get me started on that ultra-tight drum solo, too…
Following Fat Dog and DAMEFRISØR, it was deep tan’s turn. I’d witnessed the trio doing their thing before, but they were just as fantastic at Belgrave. Each instrument took an equally important and hypnotising role; while that might be almost obvious, the impeccably plucked guitar strings, almost popping sound of the uber-deep bass and the command of every symbol, snare and drum skin that was smashed was just immense. Every bit lent itself to the band’s jaunty sounds. What a sharp, well-rehearsed trio.
Although there had been a guitar-heavy flavour to the day, if you had a penchant for brass, the horn section of Opus Kink’s setup would’ve got your vote. The six-piece had recently done the coveted Live At Leeds: In The City but, due to clashes, Dark Arts presented the better opportunity for me to see them.
The whole room was bouncing; so much so, it wouldn’t have been too surprising if the floor had caved in. Between the trumpet, saxophone and keys, there were so many extra layers of fun to their sound, and the band shared mic responsibilities between their lone guitarist, bassist and keyboard player. As much as they had people eating out of the palm of their collective hand throughout, their newer track ‘Children’ had a distinctly instantaneous kick.
The penultimate outfit was English Teacher, who very clearly seemed to be the pick of choice for most of the crowd. There wasn’t an unattended square inch of sticky floor by 9pm.
They were experimental in their style of alternative indie-rock, which reminded me somewhat of Coach Party at points. And to the joy of faces as I glanced around, the band’s setlist comprised fan-favourite hits and some newer bops, too. They drew proceedings to a close with ‘Good Grief’, which I think I enjoyed the most of the lot from them.
The main event for me was the key draw of the event poster: Walt Disco. Even just watching the Glasgow-hailing band (who I’ve been following for some time now and interviewed via email) sound-checking in front of me was surreal. Their CV reads very, very handsomely, and 2022 has been groundbreaking for them. Not only has it included an SXSW performance, but their most recent album, ‘Unlearning’, was nominated for a SAY (Scottish Album of the Year) Award. Sensational.
I couldn’t have been much more delighted when ‘Weightless’ was first. That’s their top tune, in my opinion, and its bombastic, speaker-blowing chorus is a darkly mysterious, beguiling brainchild that begs to be played as loud as it’ll go. Not only does it combine the band’s signature, synth-led nostalgic style, but it rolls its sleeves up instrumentally and showcases those piercingly majestic vocals in their finest light.
As the seconds went by, things got even more spellbinding. Cymbals were thumped against toms, a masterfully unique Dusty Springfield cover was shared, ‘Cut Your Hair’ was the pinnacle of crowd participation, and a three-pronged vocal display stole everyone’s gaze.
Walt Disco provided a huge tick off the bucket list… and now I might just want a Jazzmaster.
*With thanks to Super Friendz for the press access