Blackthorn Festival

Published on July 29th, 2018 | by Nigel Cartner

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Blackthorn Festival 2018 – Sunday Review

Beginning Sunday’s festivities on the Main Stage were two indie driven band, both of who sounded a little different from the norm with a captivating sound. First was Grimsby band, Mint, and their elaborate plan to play five festivals in three days over the weekend was testament to how sought after they are. This was the fourth show, and with a gig at Tramlines later in the evening, it suited them to open up the day. It was a shame they were on so early, as they dazzled the early birds with a series of tracks that had some fine, sonic driven guitar sounds. ‘St Oxford’ was a track to epitomise this, which also had a gripping bass line and screeching, sinister melodies.

The Panamas were up next, five young kids from Stockport whose youthful look shouldn’t be underestimated as they sounded well beyond their years. They are an indie band but with a touch of psych, especially in debut single, ‘Cassanova’ and ‘She Makes the Weather Change’, where much like Mint, the reverb on the guitar gives it an original, cool sound. Both the opening indie bands have enough in their locker to kick on.

Sadly, I missed the next artist, Jade Helliwell, who caused quite a stir last year with an amazing performance, but fortunately for Sonic Bandwagon, a fellow writer caught her and kindly wrote a short piece about her performance. Thanks to Sharon Matthew for the below.

“I was really pleased to see that Jade Helliwell was back after last year’s intimate acoustic performance on the Buckle and Boots stage at Blackthorn, this time she returned to the Main Stage with a full band. In contrast to last year, her set consisted of more up-tempo sounding numbers all taken from her new EP, ‘Infatuation’, and a cover of ‘Leave (Get out)’ by Jojo, all sung with that great Country/Nashville sound which livened up the Sunday afternoon crowd. The set ended with the cover of Leonard Cohen’s, ‘Hallelujah’, that went viral on YouTube with over 206K views. As she sang it everyone in the crowd fell completely still and silent. Like all great Country singers, Jade’s vocals have the ability to make you feel vulnerable but soothe you at the same time. It was an enjoyable and emotional set and it showed that she can fill a big stage. On the back of the success of TV shows like Nashville, if anyone can make Country music more accessible to a mainstream audience it will be her. Definitely one to watch. The ‘Infatuation’ EP is available to buy on all of the usual platforms. You can also keep up to date with her latest gigs and news at jadehelliwell.com.”

The Sugarhill Gang

So as mid afternoon approached, more people gathered, and for the first time all weekend, the sun put its hat on and came out to play. I noticed a lot of Joy Division related t-shirts, demonstrating that one of the main draws to Sunday was the fact that Manchester legend, Peter Hook was ending the evening and festival, complete with his band The Light. Before then, there was still plenty of music to get our teeth into, beginning with another legendary global act, which was a real coup for Blackthorn as The Sugarhill Gang came over from the States to not just perform, but to entertain. They were tremendous value and so slick and cool in their delivery and dress sense. You’d expect nothing less from one of the pioneers of hip hop music. They initially came on in pairs to do various sets and engaged the crowd by taking us on a journey through the origins of hip hop, but by the end all members were firing on all cylinders. The crowd clapped, swayed their arms, and sang back the “Hey’s and the Ho’s” when requested, and it made for such an entertaining afternoon. A series of medleys from past hip hop tracks kept the atmosphere electric, but it was the two famous originals that had the crowd melting as ‘Apache (Jump On It)’ and ‘Rapper’s Delight’, which are impossible not to groove to, turned Blackthorn into the streets of Engelwood, New Jersey. I even noticed a three year old dancing when these songs were played such was their funky impact. They ended by stating they don’t sing about guns, just peace and everyone raised their hand in solidarity to give the peace sign – “One Love” is how they described it. It was an exhilarating show from a bunch of true professionals and they probably would’ve suited being the main headliners on Saturday to leave the audience high spirited to dance the night away. Even if you’re not a fan of hip hop, it’d be difficult not to appreciate what The Sugarhill Gang do – it was a show that had to be seen, and the fact no other stage had live music on while they played was indicative of giving everyone the opportunity to see them.

Back at the Paddock Stage shortly afterwards, two more indie orientated rock bands impressed. The K’s were solid with a series of foot stomping riffs and harmonious vocals filed with poignancy and passion by lead singer, Jamie Boyle. ‘Sarajevo’ was a tune that epitomised this sound and has had enough airplay to capture the hearts and imaginations of indie lovers in the North West. Things are looking good for The K’s, and after a sold out gig at Gorilla followed by a slot at Kendal, expect to hear more from this band formed only last year in Earlstown.

Young, Brighton based band, The RPM’s followed The K’s, and the sparse crowd was unwarranted for another indie based band. Creative synths keep their feel good sound fresh and interesting, yet the upbeat nature of the track somehow weaves a tinge of heart rendering emotion into the mix, like in ‘Your Ghost’ and ‘Let Things Happen’. Contrary, they had the ability to switch it up with songs brimming with buoyancy that were expressional crowd pleasers, like, ‘Gotta Let it Go’ and ‘I Don’t Like It’. Similar to The K’s, not a band we’ve heard the last of.

Liam Croker – The Winachi Tribe

Next up on the Main Stage, The Winachi Tribe, a band no stranger to the limelight, and one at the top end of the recommendation list. Things appear to be progressively moving along for the guys on the back of a UK tour, and their connections and inroads made in the Los Angeles scene. Headed by Liam Croker on lead vocals and Antony Egerton on keys, they are surrounded by a multitude of talent on guitars, bass and drums, who provide the supporting cast that make up the tribe. They are a proper northern orientated band that successfully merge and experiment with many styles such as electro, rock, soul, funk, hip hop, and dance to create something original, refreshing, and more importantly interesting and exciting that appeals to a wider audience beyond our part of the world. Full of confidence and commanding stage presence, the crowd devoured the foot tapping, body shaking grooves the band emits. Songs like, ‘Time For Love’, which has been around for a few years, never fails to hit the mark, and new single, ‘Transition’ is equally as compelling and true to what constitutes as a typical Winachi sound. They are an extension to the Hacienda type music, had it still been around today, but with a modernised approach for today’s audience. They do however carry the same cool, swaggering attitude befitting of that time and place, and that only adds to their appeal.

William McCarthy

William McCarthy of New York based band, Augustines, rounded off the festival at The Paddock Stage, and this was a huge surprise and treat. I knew of Augustines beforehand as being an upcoming band on the verge of something special, but they sadly split before realising that potential. McCarthy continues to play as a solo artist, and a friend of mine strongly recommended that I see him. With the sun beaming down to create an unbearable heat inside the Paddock Stage, McCarthy chose to try something a little different. He brought a pallet to the tent’s opening and decided to play outside in the open as the crowd circulated around him sat on the grass and sofas. It proved to be a masterstroke as we were treated to a real experience. McCarthy’s vocal is superlative – so much soul baring passion and emotion, you can feel his pain in every note. There’s such power and range, and every song was met with rapturous applause. It wasn’t just his songwriting and performance that was impressive, but he came across as a class act of a guy nursing a bottle of rum – humbled by being asked to play at the festival, funny with his shorts quips, and engaging as he told stories – the story of Madonna was best, but in order to hear it you’ll have to see him in the same enclosed, intimate setting. He played for well over an hour and a half, and by the end of the set he was sat on the sofa amongst his fans, playing as if Blackthorn was his own personal living room. This was a real treat to the weekend and epitomised what festivals in general should be about. A singer/songwriter worth every penny – get him on again next year!

Peter Hook

After the William McCarthy-athon, it wasn’t long before the festival closed out, and it was only fitting that it was one of the heroes and pioneers of Manchester music, Peter Hook & The Light to draw a curtain to another fantastic weekend. He gave us a musical journey of his own hits, starting with a series of Joy Division tracks (the first track I believe was a Warsaw tune though), progressing into New Order territory. The first half of the set consisted of the darker numbers from the mindset of the late, Ian Curtis, with ‘Isolation’, ‘Disorder’, ‘She’s Lost Control’, ‘Shadowplay’, ‘Transmission’ reminding us just how good Joy Division were and why they are my personal favourite Manchester band. Once the more upbeat New Order tracks started, the dancing at the front of the stage became a little more apparent. It did make me wonder whether or not Joy Division tracks have been lost in time amongst the younger generations, or is it the fact they carried a much more sombre tone than New Order? With songs like, ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Regret’, ‘Ceremony’ (an original Joy Division track adopted more for New Order), ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, ‘True Faith’, and ‘Temptation’ being played, it does provide a compelling argument as to which of the two were the better. It’ll be a debate that rages on in Manchester for a long time yet, but what cannot be denied is the impact the final song had on the world. It may have started with Joy Division and ended with New Order in the main, but ‘Hooky’ could only finish with one song, and that was the timeless, Joy Division belter, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, which was perfectly delivered. It was an incredible show, and with ‘Hooky’ not being a natural singer, I was a little apprehensive beforehand, but he did a superb job, and there was no doubting his talents, and the bands talents, as musicians to create a show that was a real trip down memory lane for most, a reminder for others, and maybe inspiring new territory for some. A fitting finale to another class weekend of music.

William McCarthy shows what Blackthorn is all about

Blackthorn once again delivered, and you still feel there’s scope to make it even better in years to come – the potential is there. A huge thank you to all the Blackthorn team – Karl, Jan, Laura, Dan, Mr Peeps, I’m Made Up, and all the crew working tirelessly over the weekend. Their hard work is what makes the festival such a successful, family friendly one. Roll on 2019!

The Sugarhill Gang & The Winachi Tribe Photos by Labrat

Main Picture, Peter Hook, William McCarthy Photos by Trust-a-Fox Photography

Please ask permission before use of all photos!


About the Author

Nigel is a huge fan of music from the 60s and 70s with an emphasis on rock, psych, blues and indie. This spreads to music of the same genre into the modern era. Being a Manchester lad he also has an affiliation with local music past and present. He has also recently released his debut novel, 'Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas' which is available on amazon or njcartner.com



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