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LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 5th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

When you think of Neverland, you consider the following synonymous: timelessness, youthful vigour and a certain transcendence. In the middle of a forest in Kent, near Edenbridge, Neverland became a reality through the help of Lee and his homegrown festival Leefest 2016. Though the weather was not quite ideal upon first landing, it was far from an issue. The moment you wandered into the main arena, it was clear the only thing that would stop a good time being had would be those adult thoughts that should’ve been, at this point, relegated to the outside world. Neverland’s sole purpose over these 3 days was to be a vehicle for your removal from society and instead to provide you a good time.

Split into three main sections, The Neverwoods (main arena), Mermaids Lagoon (rave central) and Skull Ridge (rock city), you were never far from some form of entertainment. The introductory day, Thursday, saw the smallest of the lineup but definitely the strongest. With only Tootles Circus, your average festival tent, operating as a stage, all four acts were nice and accessible. Peluche and Loyle Carner eased the gaining crowd in, but it was the main attractions of Everything Everything and Ghostpoet (pictured at top) who garnered in the big numbers. With Everything Everything, they perfectly stoked the crowd’s fire and brought their unique blend of rapturous choruses and genre bending music. Conversely, Ghostpoet gave the tent a dark atmosphere with his blend of hip-hop-cum-rock-assault.

Friday brought forth the first full day affair, with Peluche once again kicking proceedings off, but this time on the main stage, aka the ‘Bangerang’ stage. The overall setup of the main arena was easily navigated but with the two stages being centrally located, sound spill was inevitable. Fortunately this didn’t happen frequently, though it’s a dangerous game to play. Highlights from the second day included Corey Fox-Fardell and his brand of songwriter electro melding, which was a particularly pleasant listen whilst grazing in front of the Bangerang stage. Little Simz proved why she is one to watch in the UK hip-hop game, leading the enthusiastic crowd through numerous chants as she dominated the beats surrounding her. In a similar fashion, Roots Manuva brought domineering and commanding beats that just reinforced the entire notion behind LeeFest: you can be who you want, and listen to what you want, as long as you have a good time. Rockers, hip-hoppers and the like were all moving and shaking to the sounds that flowed from the Bangerang stage.

Current London-based pop troubadour Oscar provided his blend of melodic darling instrumentation and baritone vocals. One thing’s for sure, you can’t not have a good time at an Oscar show, no matter the crowd size or venue. Dinosaur Pile-Up sat on top of the kingdom of chaos and noise after a headlining set at the Hook Rock stage in the Skull Ridge. It’s was a venue reminiscent of small clubs, where the noise cascades from all orifices and you’re able to lose yourself in the darkness amongst your other perspiring peers. Barrelling through their grunge/punk hybrid hits, the volume was overbearing at the front. We recommend you watch from a safe distance if you’re stupid enough to forget ear protection (a particular note to self).

The final day started off in stereotypical British style, with grey clouds and intermittent rain, but this didn’t affect the atmosphere. Hannah Lou Clark was a particular highlight: sans band, she used both her pure talents and an iPod to create a wonderfully relaxed and charming environment. Everybody’s favourite indie twosome We Are Scientists provided a particularly raucous set that included singer Keith Murray venturing deep into the crowd during ‘Textbook’, where he proceeded to enlist the help of a particularly fluorescent orange Poseidon who was amongst the crowd. Following these shenanigans was current electro-indie darling Shura, having released her debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ in July. Delivering a captivating set that never failed to both strike you emotively and melodically, the biggest draw of Shura live is the fact she is clearly there because of the sheer love and devotion for her art. She knows what she likes to dance to and fortunately, we do too.

Originally announced to take place on the Thursday, after a mishap with the programs and the cat being let out of the bag early, the not-so-secret secret set from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes Saturday evening was the perfect climax to this weekend of escapism and release. The pure fury that comes with any Frank Carter show is cathartic enough to make sure you leave with a weightlessness, one that can only be achieved by taking part in both a circle pit and storming the stage, two things this fortunate writer was seen doing.

After all is said and done, the aforementioned sole purpose of LeeFest was achieved. With pirates and lost boys running around shooting each other with water pistols and climbing aboard the decorative dens around the stages, it was impossible to not get lost in the affair. A festival that catered to both families and those of all ages looking to simply cut loose, the promise this event holds is even grander than its current fasthon. Considering this was Leefest’s largest year yet, the sky’s the limit. And with the lead lost boy at the helm, LeeFest could very well be a major player for years to come.

 

Beacons Festival 2012 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 28th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

There’s nothing quite as much that embodies the soul of festivalling than a humble handful of tents in a muddy field, preferably in a salt-of-the-Earth part of the world like North Yorkshire. Which, thank one’s lucky stars, is exactly what was offered by Beacons 2012 in Skipton. Certainly there were fringe events aplenty, and no less than three inflatable structures on which the young, or even perhaps the young at heart, could variously bounce and slide. But for those of a more musical bent, the sheer quantity and quality of angry, soulful, cerebral, and simply downright deafening music on offer was too much to resist. So, with practicalities out of the way first (food – adequate; beer – plentiful and cheap; cocktails – strong and immaculately-made; camping and toilets – well, at least there were some), let’s move onto the music.

Friday looked like belonging to the smaller Noisey/Vice stage, packed with trendy guitar-toting freaks from dawn ‘til dusk. But first up was Veronica Falls on the main Stool Pigeon stage. Their faux-naïf guitar jangle was helped by the natural reverb of the tent; the girl-boy vocals of James Hoare and Roxanne Clifford a natural, distinctive pairing, easing the crowd into the weekend. ‘Right Side Of My Brain’ features the word “beacon” in its lyrics. Neat, huh?

Pins must make all the bands who struggle around the circuit for years, never making it big, green with envy. Lucky if they’re into double figures in terms of live shows, and only the odd limited edition tape to call a release, their influence in terms of pixel inches belies their young status. And in all honesty, they deserve it. The four ladies look great, the sound is warehouse-bare and won’t win any awards for virtuosity, but there’s plenty of edge and aloof attitude – exactly as it should be.

Gross Magic are somewhat more confusing. Their release ‘Teen Jamz’, whilst noisy in places, carries a ’70s glam-rock subtlety that appears almost entirely lost in the live performance, which is a deafening electric guitar onslought overlaid by a reed-thin voice. What is clear is that single Sam McGarrigle is desperate to transport himself back to 1990 Seattle and ingratiate himself with that scene – backwards baseball cap, half-mast pyjama bottoms, shuffling gait, faux-Transatlantic accent – he should fit right in.

Roots Manuva need no introduction. Rodney Smith’s lithe, languid, baritone flow has been leading the way in thoughtful urban music for years now. Tonight he pulls out all the stops – three MCs, full band, tight as a conga skin. There’s such a concentration of ideas that you really have to know the material or pay extremely close attention to the lyrics to fully appreciate – and when a tent is as jumping as this, that’s a tall order.

If anyone was wondering, from first-hand experience the main arena closed at 3 AM…but the tiny open-mic shack was still inviting weary musicians to knock out a song or two into the wee small hours. Just the thing to ease fragile heads into action on Saturday morning were conceptual electro-folksters The Magnetic North [pictured at top and appearing to be what Erland and the Carnival get up to on their day off, plus a female singer. – Ed.] Their magnum opus is Orkney Symphony, an aural tour of the northern Scottish island. And truly magnificent it is live too, the midday timing belying the subtle beauty on offer both in the music, and in the opinion of my male companion, also their auburn-haired lead singer.

Cass McCombs brings a touch of chilled Americana to proceedings. In fact, a touch too chilled – one gets the impression there’s some serious talent up there on stage; Cass has a lovely delivery and some great material – but they play it very cool. Which is all very well in the early afternoon drizzle, but one is left with the impression that one of those vintage Telecasters just wants to let rip into a 2-minute solo.

If you like noisy Welsh socialists making a racket, Future of the Left are for you. Musically as subtle as a brick to the head, and on first listen just as enjoyable, there is commendable anger and surprising depth of ideas on offer here. At times a touch too keen to rely on tired tropes like the North-South divide and knocking capitalism and Americans to really move the game on, but at others there’s a nice touch of working-class surrealism – like The Manics covering Eric Idle.

Ghostpoet is snapping at the heels of Roots Manuva, and quite rightly so. Musically more down tempo and glitchy, vocally he’s right up there with Mr. Smith, in terms of delivery and flow. There’s more considered storytelling going on here, there’s more space for the rhymes to breathe, and he seems to be creating the lion’s share of the music right there on a few synths. Romantic, grounded in day-to-day life, this is a deeply relevant and even moving set.

Stay tuned for the second half of Martin’s review of Beacons Festival 2012 appearing on TGTF tomorrow.

 

Preview: Beacons Festival 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 at 9:30 am
 

Beacons Festival lives! After a hugely disappointing cancellation last year due to apocalyptic flooding, Beacons is back in August 2012 with, if anything, an even more exciting offer than before. With arguably one of the finest musical lineups around, a beautiful setting in the Yorkshire Dales, and plenty of peripheral activities for drinkers (real ale! cider! craft beers!), thrill-seekers (vintage fairground rides!) and families (bedtime stories!) alike, there’s something for just about everyone.

Musically, the headliners are very different, but all superb. Friday is headlined by Roots Manuva, the ever-present bard of urban culture. Now onto his fifth LP, ‘4everevolution’, if there is a modern counterpoint to Toots’ Jamaican vibes, then it’s Rodney Smith’s uncomfortable flow of consciousness, documenting the trials of modern life one rhyme at a time.

Saturday’s Wild Beasts (pictured at top) should need no introduction to readers of this blog. With superb material drawn from their companion albums ‘Two Dancers’ and ‘Smother’, the band are at the top of their live game right now. Having just given a breathtaking performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, there is every expectation that their visit to Beacons will be just as exemplary. A great opportunity to see the best British live act of the moment at the height of their powers.

Quite different, but just as wonderful, is the prospect of Jamaican Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals wrapping up the festival in tropical style on Sunday evening. Part of the musical firmament since the glory days of reggae in the 1960s, they remain just as relevant today. With a long and influential history, not to mention an astonishing 31 Jamaican number one hits, they helped change popular music forever (The Clash’s cover of Toots track ‘Pressure Drop’ predated the seminal reggae influences revealed in London Calling), have a list of famous collaborators as long as a rasta’s dreads (Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, er… Shaggy) and contributed the brilliant cover of ‘Let Down’ to the Radiodread album. In this jubilee year, Toots and the Maytals are reggae royalty.

The undercard is no less impressive. Let’s pick a few highlights… representing the North East are ornithological experinstrumentalists B>E>A>K, flamboyant indie-popsters Frankie and the Heartstrings, and the beautiful, yearning sounds of Lanterns on the Lake. And to pick a number of personal favourites, The Wave Pictures, Peaking Lights, Clock Opera, Admiral Fallow, Outfit, Japandroids… a veritable feast of fabness.

One not to be missed, then. See you there.

Beacons Festival takes place at Funkirk Estate, Skipton, in the stunning Yorkshire Dales, 17th-19th August. Weekend tickets are priced at £84.50 or a £44.50 deposit can be put down now. For more ticket options and to buy your tickets, visit the official Beacons Festival Web site.

 
 
 

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