Published on July 29th, 2015 | by Nigel Cartner0
Blackthorn Music Festival Review – Friday
When I first saw the full line-up for Blackthorn Music Festival months in advance, it was one that carried instant appeal, creating a surging sense of excitement. A festival filled to the brim with some of the brightest talent around at the moment was hard to resist!
Not really being a festival goer…or a camper for that matter, it felt strange, yet right somehow that I was able to step outside my comfort zone so easily and make the decision to stay for what would be my first ever full weekend festival. A lot of this was owed to the bill itself, and the friends and colleagues also in attendance, who were attracted in a similar way as me.
Many of these acts were from the Manchester region, some I know well on a personal level, but most have featured several times on the Sonic Bandwagon Show on Pure 107.8FM, which in itself was a real incentive. I also think the idea of a fairly intimate setting, set in a picturesque hidden jewel of Stockport amongst friends and like minded people was an added lure, as well as knowing that the organisers of the weekend would do a fantastic job, and they didn’t disappoint on that notion.
Talking to people in the weeks leading up, there was a real buzz in and around the Manchester music scene, split between those that have attended before, and those looking forward to their first Blackthorn experience. It seemed that this year the festival had a real backing within the industry that surpassed expectations, evident by the fact that twenty five or so tents were pitched last year, and this year that figure must’ve hit close to four hundred…..quite a growth spurt for a festival only in its third year.
The hearts and imaginations of passionate music fans had truly been captured, and Blackthorn was billed as the regional festival to attend this summer with around a hundred or so of the best underground bands/artists showcased over three stages; The Main Stage, The Meadow Stage and The Blastbeat Rising Stage.
The Main Stage was located at the tip of a short hill and the vicinity was split into two; the stage itself and the spacious bar area within the barn that was bordered with bales of hay that provided suitable seating areas. The floor was littered with straw, proving to be a god send when the temperatures began to drop at night when naïve campers (me) only brought a thin hoody to keep them warm at night. In essence the barn served as the best place to chill, relax and soak up the festivals ambience over a variety of reasonably priced beverages.
The Meadow Stage, located at the foot of the hill, was more intimate where the crowd could huddle together under shelter, and if they arrived early enough could sit on one of the few upholstered beer barrels. Over the course of the weekend this stage was to be filled with several acts associated with Scruff of the Neck Records, and when that list was broke down, it made for a mouth watering series of musical endeavours.
The Blastbeat Rising Stage was an indoor, blue domed tent located across from The Meadow Stage, housing some of the best upcoming music. Blastbeat are a music and multimedia programme offered to young people throughout the country, and having their own stage with some promising potential on show was an ideal way to promote their philosophy. On Sunday they awarded prizes to the top three bands, who would win the opportunity to record tracks at Castle Rock Studios.
All the stages shared the spoils of hosting the best music of the festival, and with them being a short radius of each other, it wasn’t an issue to visit each of them consistently throughout the day, and that’s precisely how it unfolded throughout the weekend, starting on Friday!
We arrived in good time on Friday with spirits high. Not even the drizzle could put a dampener on the mood despite the perfect timing of rain falling whilst we were putting up our tent on the tip of the hill, but nothing was going to ruin this weekend, and it was at least warm. As mentioned above I’m not a big camper, and neither is my girlfriend, so we had to rely on two of our hill top pals to give us a hand……..enough said!
Anyway, tent up, time for a well deserved beer and a very tasty and meaty Angus beef burger, which incidentally coincided with local bands Cruel Kingdom and JELA opening up the festival at The Blastbeat Rising Stage. The former are a three piece band and played their unique brand of jazz infused funk rock music to the ardent fans that’d arrived early. They managed to finish third in the weekends competition, which was quite an achievement considering they were first on and had to contend with a further forty or so bands afterwards.
JELA were also impressive, and have had a strange journey so far originating in France, but have now landed in Manchester after two members moved here after the original band split up. Adding a third member to the ranks, JELA are now writing the sort of rock n roll music befitting of their adopted home. Single, ‘No Longer Blind’, was a great way to really thrust the festival into a more rock orientated frame of mind.
The Main Stage was kicked off by another local band. Four piece indie rock outfit Barron, who’s emotive and passionate performance proved to be the perfect way to start off a stage that was to be graced by greatness from then on. Their anthemic piano riffs made for great viewing and showed originality. All this was supported by some poignant and haunting vocals, layered with powerful basslines. For a band who only formed in 2014, they looked to have been playing together for years, with single ‘Waiting For’, being a highlight of their set. Their gig at Night n Day on the 14th August is definitely one to consider.
A rush to The Meadow Stage briefly ensued to catch Kashmere, an indie/rock band who had quite a gathering by the sets end. The musicians looked like they could’ve all been in a heavy metal band with their long hair, but lead singer, Joey, was all about the indie in his look and vocal delivery. More songs are said to be being written by the band, so this could be something that might blossom by the end of 2015 if they continue in the same vein as the song writing prowess shown here. Also, the branded ‘Kashmere’ jackets the band donned were landmark sightings all weekend…..maybe next year a few fans will be wearing the same ones.
After that it was back for another dart up to The Main Stage to catch the end of alternative funk rock n roll act Purge, yet another Mancunian band showcasing just how talented a city we are across a variety of genres. This four piece band have won a number of Battle of Bands competitions in the local area with some explosive performances, and tonight’s was no different. So, two bands in on The Main Stage and the crowd had been given a shot of adrenaline ready for the frenzy of ‘Madchester’ that would explode soon enough.
Before that though, a must see was happening at The Blastbeat Stage, which was a personal highlight in the form of Gold Jacks, a blues rock orientated band from Manchester that have created quite a stir with debut single, ‘One Kinda Woman’, featured several times on Sonic Bandwagon. The follow up single, ‘Take It Back’ is just as thunderous and is due for release with Scruff of the Neck Records at a launch party on 8th August at The Deaf Institute. This band would surely appeal to those fans of blues rock as their sound is befitting of such a modern twist on the genre, with the slightest of nods to Rival Sons thrown in for good measure. It was a little too early to be breaking out the whisky, but the temptation was there whilst soaking in a performance drenched in the stuff.
Back at The Main Stage, a short DJ set from the legendary Clint Boon kept the crowd in buoyant mood with a series of classic indie music before The Smiths Ltd arrived to begin the wave of nostalgia, where ‘Morrissey’ was remarkably similar to the real thing in vocals, look, and movement, playing a series of classics now embedded on the streets of Manchester.
Happy Mondaze followed, with the three main icons; ‘Sean Ryder’, ‘Bez’ and ‘Rowetta’ also doing superlative jobs of mimicking the outlandish behaviour of this iconic Mancunian band….in fact I think the ‘Bez’ was actually Bez, but the whole bands performance was outstanding, and felt like a real Happy Mondays gig.
The atmosphere at the Main Stage was electric with everyone buying into the reminiscence of a glorious period in music folklore, all singing and dancing like they were back in the famous Hacienda, and there was still one more tribute act to go. Clint Boon continued to do sets in between before The Clone Roses rounded off a trio of great Manchester heritage. What they lacked in looking exactly like their counterparts, they more than made up for in the renditions of Stone Roses music and in getting the crowd’s energy to an optimum level that spilled over into the early hours of the morning.
Most people had congregated to The Main Stage for the three tribute acts, which aided its pulsating atmosphere, but it may have detracted visits to the other stages where there were some great bands on at the same time. Because of being lost in nostalgia, I missed out on Shamona, Tales of Two Counties (who came 2nd in the Blastbeat competition), Our Fold, The SSS, The Jackobins, and Mercury Field to name but a few, all bands whose reputations beforehand were a big enticement. It was always going to be a struggle to see every band I desired because of stage clashes and being lost in the moment, but hopefully I can catch all of them individually in the future.
To surmise the Friday, it was a tremendous night. It was a masterstroke to have the tribute acts light up the opening night with songs that everyone knew well so they could dance and sing along too. It set the mood and served to warm up the campers for what was going to be a hectic day of music on the Saturday with the promise of glorious sunshine, but the amount of alcohol consumed on the night would make getting up on Saturday morning a real struggle………………….
Photos By Paul Husband