Perhaps it was the intimacy of the performances or the fact that all of the musicians seemed to be old friends, but this inaugural afternoon of music from underground promoters LUME felt as much like a family get together as it did a festival. There was a handmade charm about the whole event and the lineup was refreshing too, with left-field bands from across the UK and some overseas cousins stopping by.
First up were our hosts, LUME founders Dee Byrne (alto) and Cath Roberts (bari) and their four-piece Word of Moth whose rough-and-tumble grooves and tectonic unison sax lines made for a gutsy start. Leeds-based trio Hot Beef Three explored a similar sound-palette, but ramped up the anarchy, mixing baritone screams and pecked alto with agro snare-drum tattoos and feral guitar swipes; while a set from Austrian visitors Blueblut was a wonderfully eccentric jumble of genres that turned up drone music, circus music, psych rock and country, along with crashing waves of drums and operatic Theremin that sounded disconcertingly like Edith Piaf.
Two wholly improvised sets changed the pace. Manchester duo Ant Traditions, featuring guitarist Dave Birchall and Adam Fairhall, hunched over a series of miniature upright pianos, created jangling metallic soundscapes full of ostinati that span like merry go rounds in a surrealist amusement park. A trio performance from Julie Kjær (alto), Rachel Musson (tenor) and Hannah Marshall (cello) was sparser, all shifting moods and luxuriant stretches of silence.
The two larger ensembles on the bill cleaved closest to jazz tradition. Little Church, led by Birmingham keys-player David Austin Grey, drew inspiration from electric Miles and shuffled jazz rock covers with hazy melodies and looping grooves of their own; while guitarist Anton Hunter’s Article XI ensured the festival ended on a high with originals that smashed blazing horn-lines into passages of chaotic group improvisation.
Like all the best family get togethers LUME should be an annual event. This debut was outstanding.
— Thomas Rees
This article was originally published in Jazzwise Magazine September 2016 issue