Festival Review: Bingley Music Live

Bingley Music Live

bingley music live logoWords and Photos: Gary Lambert

There is a stretch of England through the Pennines where Lancashire and Yorkshire are almost indecipherable from each other; where ITV can fit more Sunday night drama into a 60 minutes than happens in a year in reality; and where places can be further north, but nowhere can be ever more Northern. It is in this stretch of land and communities that the small town of Bingley is to be found. Usually the most famous thing in Bingley is the spectacular piece of industry which is Bingley Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, but for one weekend each summer the Locks take their place in the shadows as bands and fans are invited in to the glorious surroundings of Myrtle Park for three days of dancing and merriment.

This year the bill was less risky than previous years with organisers going with an almost-safety first line up heavily influenced by the British indie scene of the mid to late nineties but with the odd splash of pop music to keep all the families attending entertained. Despite rumours of disagreements between rival schools (a handful of kids rather than the band), I would go as far as to claim Bingley Music Live as the most pleasant and friendly festival I have ever had the fortune to attend. From performers to security, from crowds to staff, everybody seemed to be in a cheery mood and spread that feeling around. I am loathe to say this as it sounds so condescending but Bingley Music Live felt like the largest village fete ever as everything felt soaked in the essence of community from the Lord Mayor’s Raffle tickets being sold at regular intervals to the teenage girls I overheard exclaim “what the f**k is the priest doing here?”.

The site was set up with two stages in fairly close proximity to each other, but the abundance of trees in the vicinity meant that there was little to no sound bleed. That meant people could watch whoever they wanted really and only miss five minutes here and there. As you would expect there were food stalls, a mini-market and two bars – one massive by the main stage, the other small and serving cask ales and half pints by the Discovery Stage.

It was not for the beers that Popped Music’s Bingley adventure started at the Discovery Stage but to see if the talent of Brighton’s Fickle Friends matched up with the hype. Despite a six plus hour journey north and somewhat chilly temperatures for an early evening slot at a festival, the band performed admirably with their jangly, contemporary guitar pop hitting all the right notes with the audience who took to them considerably. If you haven’t heard any of their work so far, I would say check out debut single Swim which represents the band’s sound and energy excellently. Prior to this set I was also able to catch up with the band for an interview, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the next week too.

After that a wander took me to the main stage and the first of the Britpop big hitters, Cast. Lead vocalist John Power was using his chance in front of the crowd to espouse his left wing viewpoints in between blasting out tunes which were far greater than my memory suggested they would be. In a field with all eyes on them Cast thrived and the Yorkshire audience loved it. Guiding Star, always the highlight of their career, sounded fantastic in the sunshine. Everybody started to feel they were in for a good weekend.

rae morris bingleyBetween Cast and headliner James, a visit was made to watch Rae Morris soon after her performance at LIMF. With the more intimate surroundings of the Discovery Stage and a crowd there just for music it was obvious she felt more at home. The theatrical flourishes in her between song patter had far more confidence in them. Obviously her voice was not affected such is her quality, but she seemed a much happier singer.

Someone who would never be intimidated by a huge crowd is Tim Booth, lead singer of James. Madchester’s answer to Black Sabbath are on another break from being split up and fired out a mix of hits and new tracks and were adored and roared on by the crowd. Truly one of the great singles bands in British pop history, it was a pleasure and a treat to be there to see this. The version of Johnny Yen with reference to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain was especially outstanding for a less well known track. For any wannabe singers, you would do worse than watch the consummate professionalism from Tim Booth. Looking like a super villain or at least a henchman (10 nerd points for those who get the reference), he made sure that he grabbed everybody’s attention and kept it throughout. Despite the close association with Manchester, Tim Booth was born in Bradford and the Old stager knew to get it in early to cement the crowd on his side. When James play there is something for everybody and I think everybody finished the night pretty happy.

Saturday was started in the same place as Friday, up at the top of the hill at the Discovery Stage. First up on our list of ones to watch were Clubs. Generally early day indie means plinky plink guitars and nervous teenagers, so I was happily shocked with the soaring sound of Clubs. They really blew the cobwebs away and grabbed attention. Probably some people would have found them “a bit too stadium” but there’s a reason why stadiums are full when Coldplay or Kings of Leon roll into town. There was definitely appreciation in the crowd from those you wouldn’t expect to see at Spit and Sawdust New Bands’ Night.

Following after them came Nuneaton’s own hopefuls April. Once again they played music that is going to get them a lifetime of criticism, but this time their inspiration was 1994-95 Oasis b-sides I reckon. And if you think that is a negative wash your ears out with soap. They were fantastic. I will admit that the boys from Burnage are my all time favourite musical act, but generally bands inspired by them leave me feeling pretty annoyed and bored as they forget that Oasis were simple musicians playing great songs and just think being a simple musician is enough. April left me hungry instead as I had planned out a good lunch break for this time slot as soon as they had ticked my prejudices. Instead I found a band who were young, exciting, loud and proud, so I settled down for the entire set completely sucked in. I found out afterwards that it was only the tenth live gig of their career, so I was even more impressed. These are without doubt the band I am going to keep the closest eye on from afar over the next year or so. Hopefully a tweet here and there will give them their own sound rather than be overly inspired by Oasis.

No pressure lads, but you will be in trouble with me if you don’t.

The next aural treat was The Black Delta Movement. After Clubs and April as well as Friday’s selection I had a sneaky suspicion that the bookers at this stage were trying to suck up to me as it was another great choice. Loud and swirling psych guitars with crunching vocals were heavily reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but that was not a bad thing. They could easily make a career with their current sound which might not provide global fame, but will easily win them fans and respect. They would have been even better in the darkness with a simple light show.

carl barat bingleyOver on the main stage in a feat of brilliant timing by the bookers, Carl Barat and The Jackals were playing whilst the rest of the country’s music world was gearing up for the first album in eleven years by The Libertines. Carl proved himself once again to be a natural performer and sounded fantastic. It is strange how real success has stayed a fingertip away from him without his brother-in-arms despite him having a great voice and a wonderful way with a song and, whenever I have seen him perform, a great attitude. Yet somehow he doesn’t capture the attention and imagination of the audience to the level that he should. It is perplexing to me, so it must be infuriating for him.

A band with a similar reliability and likeability are Ash. Whilst they are considered traditionally an indie band, it seems nobody over the years has ever bothered to tell Tim, Rick and The Tall Fella as they are still a rock band. An honest to goodness, turn it up to eleven rock band who will turn up at any festival you want and take on all comers. And do it loudly. Ash were plugging new album Kablamo, but the raucous set included plenty of old favourites such as Kung Fu, Jack Names The Planets and the still-exceptional-but-not-that-well-known Life Less Ordinary.

As Popped Music had already taken in the wonderful singing talents of Labrinth a week earlier at LIMF, I was able to take in the best band you’ve probably never heard of (unless your parents were into arty Liverpool bands in the 1970’s). Deaf School are one of the coolest live acts to watch even know as frontman Enrico Cadillac and his singing partner Bette Bright tell tales of sympathy dates, cocktails at eight, suicides and taxi rides set to the rhythms of Eastern European gypsy folk music – in fact imagine Michael Buble being drunk and fun fronting Gogol Bordello. If blogging was around when they made Hawaiian shirts de rigeur for Liverpool music fans Popped Music would be full of references to them, but instead I think this may be the first. I will admit to a previous admiration and enjoyment of Deaf School, but away from their regular audience of overgrown teenagers they pulsed and buzzed and put in a performance that had nobody leaving the Discovery Stage even though only about five of us knew the words.

Sunday meant more sunshine and further happy times with everybody having that laconic, last day of the festival feel. The Carnabys took to the sunshine and gave us the chance to dance and clap early doors. It was a vibrant set which got people off their bums and picnic blankets and on to their feet. I thought it was a pleasure to watch them.

There is a lot of hype surrounding Nothing But Thieves and after a set of tuneful, bluesy rock I am overjoyed to report back that there is definitely a good reason for the hype. Sounding like a gang who have spent the last three years trapped in a room with musical instruments and only Physical Graffiti and Exile on Main Street to listen to. They were vibrant, rocking and sounded sharp and brilliant. Nothing But Thieves could easily be a band who excite a lot of people. I am looking forward to the next time I get to see them.

peter hook bingleyAfter some young hopefuls, we were treated to an old stager in Peter Hook and The Light. Given that Hooky was never the lead singer, I was apprehensive beforehand, but he showed how he had learned a thing or two from Ian and Bernie with an imposing performance with filled with fantastic songs. When you can open up with a song as daunting as Shadowplay, you really show people who is boss. It was a breathtaking, angry performance and I loved it.

The stars of Sunday were unsurprisingly the returning local heroes, Embrace. Whilst a lot of people were surprised by Tim Booth’s reference to being born in Bradford, the cries of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” which heralded the arrival of the five piece led by The Brothers McNamara showed everybody knew exactly where these guys are from. Embrace, like Ash the day before, are one of those bands who will never let you down. Even with new songs to treat the audience to, you are still going to get your expected hits and there is no shame in playing old favourites and everybody loved singing along. One Big Family, Save Me, All You Good Good People, Ashes and Gravity are songs that stand up against anybody’s biggest hits at a festival.

Unfortunately following that on the Main Stage was Idlewild who sounded beautiful but killed the mood completely with their dark moody Highland rock. I was a bit frustrated by the lack of musical foresight in scheduling these bands this way around, so I took a final wander up to the Discovery Stage and caught Kimberley Anne playing some lovely sweet tunes which fit the mood perfectly. I had never heard her before, but I was very taken by the confidence and brightness on show.

The final act of the weekend was those wonderful Welsh scene stealers, Super Furry Animals. With their usual mix of music, mirth and weirdness it was an excellent end to a fantastic weekend.

Bingley Music Live is such a lovely festival to attend and going forward I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for a first festival to go to, a festival to take young children to or generally like the idea of a festival but don’t like the idea of having to put up a tent etc. I stayed in Bradford and it took me twenty minutes to get from field to duvet. I enjoyed my weekend tremendously. It’s brill oop North!!

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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