Blackthorn Festival

Published on July 27th, 2018 | by Nigel Cartner


Blackthorn Festival 2018 – Saturday Review

It was an uncharacteristic late start for us on the Saturday. This is the issue when you’ve attended the same festival year in year out, you get to know fellow regulars and spend a lot of time chatting. Not that I’m complaining, it’s what Blackthorn does, creates friendships that goes beyond the weekend. However, this did mean that I missed The Red Shells. They were last year’s surprise sensation when two (then) twelve-year-old lads took to the stage to perform a series of classics and a couple of originals. I was disappointed to have missed them as I wanted to see how they’d progressed since and catch a further glimpse into the potential future of rock.

Ben Le Jeune – The Creature Comfort

The first band I eventually got around to seeing in full were The Creature Comfort, and after being introduced to them a few years ago supporting The Struts at Sound Control, this was a set I was itching to see. In Ben Le Jeune, they have an electric frontman, whose energetic style reminds me of so many greats rolled into one – Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, John Lydon – shades of all of them appear. He slips effortlessly into character and throughout the show he struts, bounces, and jumps around on and off stage, even kneeling and lying down at certain points whilst carrying on singing his surreal lyrics. He speaks like a stoned poet, befitting of a 60s San Francisco hippie, talking about how their show is like a journey and an experience, and he’s not wrong – this is something that needs to be seen as well as heard. You cannot take your eyes off him for one second he is that entertaining, and even an elaborate jump from the stage into the crowd that went horribly wrong, resulting in the entire barrier collapsing, didn’t deter him. The music is cracking too, rolling psych, punk, and soul into one thrilling rock ‘n’ roll fireball to suit Le Jeune’s outlandish intensity. I mentioned in Friday’s review about Bez being Manchester’s favourite lunatic. Well wait till you get a load of Le Jeune – a true dangerous rock ‘n’ roll performer onstage, but a real gent off it. They were one of the more captivating and eye-catching bands of the weekend.

Joe Flynn – Building Giants

Following The Creature Comfort, time was spent ambling between stages and picking up on snippets of performances to try and absorb as many bands as possible. The highlights began with Building Giants, who provided something a little different away from the British orientated music, being more influenced by American heavy rock. Some huge, explosive guitar riffs complete with rasping vocals fired from the Main Stage, and for a band that have only been together a year, they were hugely impressive.

Lyerr were the pick of the bunch at this point from the indie scene. Very melodious in their structure and great tempo to their guitars that hooked in the audience. Witch Fever, an all-female punk, grunge band shook the foundations of the Paddock Stage with screaming vocals and some tasty, pulverising riffs. Song titles and lyrics carried angst and anger and were wailed with such screeching force it must’ve frightened half the crowd to death. Definitely a band you do not want to cross! Manchester five-piece band, Y.O.U.N.G., drew lots of attention with a blend of multi-genres all wrapped up into one unique cocktail, which saw hip hop and alt pop rock merge to produce something original and refreshing to the scene. Although they’re a relatively new act, the members have been around the block, all boasting an impressive track record within various avenues in the industry.

Thomas Haywood – The Blinders

As the evening loomed, the bigger acts neared, beginning with The Blinders, one of the most anticipated bands of the weekend. They’d been watching bands throughout the day in normal attire, but they looked completely different as they fluently transformed into their alter egos come gig time, just looking like a band that had something special to offer. As soon as the first guitar strums were battered, every erogenous zone began to tingle. They’re emphatically loud from the off, and it’s a statement of intent as if to say, ‘we are the band of the moment.’ The performance was blistering as tracks that make up their short, but impressive, catalogue hit the mark with many of the crowd belting back the lyrics with the same purpose as the enigmatic lead singer, Thomas Haywood. Emphatic numbers like ‘ICB Blues’, ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Swine’ are the pick of the bunch from their fiery and dangerous psychedelic rock approach. I noticed that a lot of teenagers were drawn to them, and these youngsters created a mosh pit at the foot of the stage, demonstrating that there is mass appeal towards them. People asked me beforehand for recommendations on who to see, and after they saw The Blinders, they could see why they were first on my list. They are the probably the best up and coming band at the moment that I know of.

Jonny Brown – Twisted Wheel

Shortly after they finish, it was over to the final act on the Paddock Stage as another recommended, highly anticipated favourite took Blackthorn by storm. Twisted Wheel have been reinvigorated recently and were fresh off the back of a high profile support slot with Liam Gallagher. It was great to see them back in action and looking well. Lead singer/guitarist Jonny Brown means business too as he swaggered onstage, looking cool as fook with orange tinted sunglasses, looking every bit the quintessential star musician. They launch into ‘Lucy the Castle’, the opening track off their debut album, and the feverish crowd show their adulation to their unsung heroes of indie rock that many thought we wouldn’t see live again. Cries of “Wheel! Wheel! Wheel!” echoed around the tent after the song finished, and with no time to exchange pleasantries, the band throw themselves into several other fast paced, gritty beauties, including, ‘She’s a Weapon’ and ‘Oh What Have You Done’. The crowd are more revved up as hedonism manifests at the front of the stage, showing just how loved and important Twisted Wheel are to many people. A couple of songs off the new EP are well received, with ‘Jonny Guitar’ and ‘Keep it Up Boy’ following the Twisted Wheel blueprint, which consists of relatable stories from the pockets of a proper northern way of life with all its weird and wonderful tribulations – almost like the soundtrack to the show ‘Shameless’. The pounding onslaught of tracks continues to assault us, and it’s impossible not to bounce up and down to every thumping beat. The opening to ‘Strife’ begins, and such is Jonny’s confidence that his audience know his songs, he doesn’t even need to sing the opening lyric, instead allowing the crowd to belt out, “Sheila, she’s a dealer, dropped off in a blue three wheeler…” ‘Strife’ is a song that exemplifies what Twisted Wheel sing about – summed up in one lyric, “Painting pictures of life, caught in a strife.” The biggest moment comes when the spirited, ‘You Stole the Sun’, bolts from the stage, possibly the best song of the whole weekend with how it gets the crowd’s adrenaline soaring. It’s a proper British anthem that deserves to be played at stadiums around the country. This was an outstanding performance, and it’s fantastic to see Twisted Wheel back to form after problems in the past. I hope they continue to reach the heights their music deserves.  They will be back in Manchester on 20th October performing at Gorilla.

Something very different ended the Meadow Stage as teenage indie pop sensation, Daniel Burnett, successfully nailed his slot. With bags of confidence, he arrived with a full band, two dancers and backing vocalists to offer something a little more like an experience rather than just a typical solo artist show. He may be deemed as pop, but the talented band take him to a new dimension as Nile Rodgers-esque funk mixes with dance and indie pop, but it all serves to create a fun atmosphere. His charisma enables him to seamlessly interact with the audience, and his energy transfers onto them as they dance with him throughout the set. It’s not really a genre I’d usually go for, but he’s a very refreshing performer and was one of the surprise packages of the weekend, and a lesson to what modern ‘commercial pop’ can be. A bright future is in place for this kid.

Pete Doherty

Unfortunately I’d missed We Are Scientists and Findlay, who were two stalwart acts of the weekend who were on just before headliner, Pete Doherty. Whispers beforehand were rife about whether Doherty would turn up, and if he did, what state he’d be in. It’s sad that this becomes more of a talking point beforehand than the actual music due to the stories of the past. He did arrive, albeit fifteen minutes late to the stage, but his set was not really what I, or many others, were expecting, being far removed from the thrilling days of The Libertines and Babyshambles. He played a lot of recent solo stuff instead, which wasn’t familiar to many of us, and the style was slow, dreary indie folk with a darker twist aided by violins and keys. Doherty’s own vocal vulnerability sat on top to add some sort of profoundness with deep, sentimental lyrics. Whether it was an act to live up to the myths of his persona I don’t know, but he didn’t look completely with it, and didn’t get off to the best of starts by throwing a mic stand into the crowd, which obviously didn’t go down too well despite the apologies. The set was up for much debate afterwards and he certainly divided opinion, especially as he didn’t do more than fifty minutes. If nothing else, he was a talking point for the whole weekend.

Typical Blackthorn Crowd


Building Giants & 2nd Pete Doherty Photos by Labrat

Main Picture, The Creature Comfort, Twisted Wheel, The Blinders & Crowd 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

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