Published on July 29th, 2016 | by Nigel Cartner0
Blackthorn Festival 2016 – Saturday
Saturday morning duly arrives at Blackthorn and I awake from a decent night’s sleep (thank you camp bed) having not needed to wrap myself up in an abundance of spare clothing like last year’s freeze fest. I’m up at 8am and I hear several voices in the surrounding area. Are these early risers or have they just not been to sleep yet?
We have a few hours to kill before the first act arrives, and the sun continues its relentless pursuit in burning us whilst we sit outside our tent, on our camping chairs, eating bacon and egg butties.
A full day of brilliant music beckons, which is going to require countless stage hopping throughout the day to catch as many acts as possible. 12:45 at The Main Stage is my first port of call for Manchester band, Shadow Palace. If you were still nursing a hangover at this juncture, then you’d better get over it quickly, as their loud and overpowering brand of alternative rock shudders through the barn. It’s easy to see why they are influenced by the likes of punk bands and alternative 80s bands as they merge the two genres to create something a little unique. ‘Tribe’ is one song that exemplifies this great sound, serving as a wake up call that Saturday has well and truly begun to those still in a slumbered state.
It was then off to Mr Peeps’, Paddock Stage for one of the unearthed gems of the whole festival, Good Foxy, a Clitheroe based psychedelic band that I’d only heard of an hour earlier from Nidge (Trust A Fox Photography). Dressed in cool psychedelic shirts and hats, they look and sound like they’ve surfed their way here on a time wave in a Magic Bus that transformed into a puff of smoke once the doors opened. Their mind-expanding ballads were a real welcomed trip as they brought us on board to take us on their magical and mystical sonic journey. Their rendition of Tame Impala’s, ‘Heart Full Glass of Wine’ was superb, sounding like they’d written it themselves. Their self titled debut album heavily featured in the set and was so hypnotic that I felt obliged to buy it straight after (it has not left my car stereo since). ‘Hip Noesis’ is dreamy and Pink Floyd-esque, while ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ is a fun song to play that captures the sound of the original ‘summer of love’. ‘Tastes Like Sugar’ and ‘Gone West’ were other stand out tracks that ventured on the bluesier side that had some real classy and striking guitar work, but all the tracks they performed were audience grabbers. The fact that Good Foxy are boyhood friends is evident as the tightness and chemistry of the band added to the whole experience of their dynamic offerings. Someone please get this band touring America – they’ll smash it to little hallucinogenic smithereens.
ist ist were one of my tips to see beforehand, and they didn’t disappoint with their post punk new wave shreddings cutting up The Paddock Stage. There’s a sinister underbelly sitting precariously under every track that’s played at full throttle. There’s a similarity with the likes of Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and a darker Franz Ferdinand in parts, with a certain ‘Factory’ style quality in their ranks. They opened with recent single release, ‘White Swan’, and immediately people stood to attention. New track, ‘Heaven’, carries a sinister tone throughout its unnerving guitar melody, which spills over to its monotonous, repetitive vocal delivery of, “It feel like heaven to me.” It’s almost like a mentally disturbed person is constantly churning the lyric through random acts of violence, but its 100% fuckin outstanding! This is a band, along with another seen on Sunday that shall remain nameless for now, that could ignite the music scene once again, bringing some much needed raw and dangerous ingredients to get people excitable again. If the late, great Tony Wilson was still alive he’d be all over this band.
The Cornelius Crane were at their usual best and it’s always a pleasure to see the band perform. Singer Stephen Wilson opens up with two solo numbers before the Americana music washes over Blackthorn, momentarily transforming the greenery to a dusty desert orange with a single whimsical breeze. ‘Hedonlea’ is their new track which they open with, followed by the likes of ‘Sail Like They Never Heard a Song’ and personal favourite, ‘Needle & The Gun’ which is arguably one of the best chilled out songs of all time, nevermind the modern underground scene. The Cornelius Crane are very much suited to the festival vibe, especially in a setting of such scenic beauty. With new album, ‘The Difference’, recently released, much of the set mirrored the songs on the album in what was yet again another exceptional delivery of folk/Americana. As a side note, it’s always great to see Dan and Mark Adams onstage too, with Dan being the organiser of the great music that blessed The Meadow Stage this year.
Leeds band, The Barmines, were up next on my shortlist, a band I’ve grown to become captivated with in such a short space of time having only checked them out in the weeks leading up to the festival, but boy what an impression they made. It was the explosive nature of their indie rock anthems that hooked me in, with ‘Skies The Limit’ and future single release, ‘Reliance’, being enough to put the band on my watch list. Their pulsating indie rock is something that’s on a trend at the moment, with a couple of bands, like The Hunna and Delamere reaping success in the genre. It’s definitely festival style music as it gets the adrenaline going, which is precisely what The Barmines did when they exploded into life from the off, never relenting in their pursuit to rock the adorning fans. They were all dressed in black t-shirts and black jeans, a simple and effective look that did look quite cool. Parts of their set reminded me of the pacey tracks Stereophonics have written, the likes of ‘Dakota’ springs to mind, so you can imagine the potential The Barmines have. The same could be said of the New York Tourists, who graced The Main Stage a little later. That pacey and energetic, explosive indie rock was again in full flow and got the blood pumping once again. It’s not gone unnoticed with New York Tourists too, who have had some high profile support acts in the form of The Subways, The View, The Sunshine Underground, Buzzcocks, and headlining the Alternative Stage at Blackburn Festival. With an EP recently released that has garnered rave reviews, expect to see more of these, along with The Barmines at key venues in your area.
The good thing about the layout this year was that you could catch snippets of certain bands as you’re walking through to other stages, so you can gauge whether or not to check out a band further when returning home if there’s no time to see them at that point. Special mentions go to Plastic House, The Larkins, and a band I saw last year, No Hot Ashes, who all made a quick impression and seemed to pull many fans to their respective stages. A special mention goes to Gary Quinn aswell who rocked the country stage from where I was lurking in the distance. He was exceptional last year and it seemed as though he was just as good this time with another round of compelling country style musings sang straight from the soul.
The penultimate act on The Main Stage were Barron, who have come far since last year’s earlier slot on the Sunday. The song writing prowess of lead singer, Alex Barron, is a revelation, and with the piano led melodies texturing the themes it really added to the whole dynamic of the sound. Passion runs through his veins and he bares his soul onstage for all to see in a blaze of emotive and big melodic songs that capture the hearts of the audience. Well known track, ‘Waiting For’, was well received, but a beautifully delivered solo rendition of David Bowie’s, ‘Life on Mars’, got the biggest cheer.
The Meadow Stage ended with two acts that have been around since the 80s in one form or other: Stella Grundy and Dub Sex. Both acts sit on the alternative side of the fence but there was some serious intrigue and fan base at Blackthorn who gathered for both their sets. Those that saw both acts raved about them, with one person citing Dub Sex as being the band of the day. Unfortunately, I was elsewhere at the time so missed both, but they played a large part in the festival so should be noted for their contribution in making the Saturday evening a diverse and successful night.
Stereo MC’s were promoted from The Meadow Stage to top of the bill on The Main Stage due to the unfortunate news that The View had to pull out, but they didn’t disappoint. The people were dispersed throughout the festival grounds all day, but for Stereo MC’s most had found their over to The Main Stage for the main event. Most of the younger crowd only knew a couple of their more famous songs, but it didn’t matter because the manner of their cool, strutting electro-dance music kept everyone entertained in what turned out to be a welcomed chilled out end to the night. In many ways, having seen several indie rock bands throughout the day it was refreshing to have the headline act be a little different. The atmosphere was a little more reserved than if an explosive indie band would’ve played, but in their own right, Stereo MCs were a worthier final act to Saturday night so people could relax more. It was made all the better by the fantastic sound and lighting Blackthorn had set up. It really enhanced the whole experience of the Main Stage in general.
Rob Birch is in fine form and sounds exactly like he did in the 90s, certainly having the stage presence of a seasoned pro. Songs like, ‘Connected’ and ‘Step It Up’ are the more famous tracks that everyone instantly knew and sang along too. The constant dancing on the stage from band member, Cath Coffey, inspired the crowd as they emulated the vibe, with some smooth moves being shaped in and around the barn. It was a wave of nostalgia for those who saw them in their heyday, and a welcomed glimpse into the past for those a little younger.
Saturday was a great success and the array of music available was mind blowing from all stages. It was constantly thrown at you from all angles and there was always an act playing that appealed to someone. Looking at the schedule for Sunday it seemed that it was going to be more of the same, but after the marathon like treks of walking from stage to stage, I was in need of a rest before then.
Main Picture and Stereo MCs Pictures by Richard McCann – Labrat Photography
ist ist & Good Foxy Pictures by Nidge Sanders Trust A Fox Photography
Scenic shot, The Cornelius Crane and Stella Grundy Pictures by Paul Husband Photography
Please ask the photographers permission before use on any of the photos.