Festival Review: This Is Tomorrow 2019

This Is Tomorrow

Exhibition Park, Newcastle, 24 – 26 May 2019

Words: Sammy Sadler
Photography: Callum Robinson and Sammy Sadler

Photography by Callum Robinson

As I type this review, my head is still buzzing and my body is still aching from what was a fantastic weekend. Festival season has finally arrived (wooo!) and what a better way to get things kicked off than a three-day music showcase at Exhibition Park,Newcastle in the form of This Is Tomorrow festival.

I actually went to This Is Tomorrow last year and it was great (if you read my preview for this year you’ll have seen that I got on stage with Jared Leto) but this year was excellent. Everything from the location to the organisation showed vast improvements from 2018. Yes Foals’ set was cut short which was disappointing but that was an unavoidable health and safety issue – these things do happen folks!

As soon as I arrived at Exhibition Park on the Friday evening I was excited. Three stages of awesome music and a ‘proper’ festival set-up complete with branded bars and multiple stages, I was in my element! Cramming in as much as I possibly could over the three days, I managed to see the majority of my favourite artists and some new bands that I’m definitely going to be paying more attention to.

So, let’s get into the review shall we?

Rocking up after work on the Friday, I’d unfortunately missed my favourites The Pale White, Old Pink House and Callum Pitt which was a shame but I wasted no time in heading straight over to the Richard Hamilton stage to catch Southern outfit KAWALA who I’ve been hearing lots of good things about. Similar to my favourites Indigo Velvet, KAWALA are a lot of fun and the dance moves from lead vocalist Jim Higson are infectious. Lush summery melodies, plenty of banter and some absolute bangers in the form of tracks such as Runaway, I challenge you to listen to these guys and not be addicted. I need to see them again immediately, I’m in love.

Feeling suitably in the festival spirit following KAWALA, it was time to mooch over to the press tent for a refreshment and I was lucky enough to catch a short acoustic set with the fantastic Callum Pitt playing his new single Here If You Need. I’ve been raving about Callum for a little while now and was so pleased that his live performance lived up to what I’ve been hearing recorded. A gorgeous track based around mental health and showcasing his stunning vocal ability, Callum looked a little nervous but he needn’t have been. With a new EP round the corner that he’ll be launching at Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle on 14th June, this young singer-songwriter is one to definitely watch out for.

Next on the agenda was the main stage for You Me At Six and predictably it was full of all those nostalgic feels. I remember the first time I caught Josh Franceschi and co supporting Thirty Seconds to Mars and it resulted in a hefty time of fangirling and screaming the lyrics to Stay With Me into my hairbrush, naturally I was gutted that they didn’t play that one, so it was good to see them live again after a good few years.

Photography by Callum Robinson

You can’t go wrong with a band like YMAS, you’ve got an energetic frontman in Josh, you’ve got anthemic tunes and you’re guaranteed an awesome show. Prompting everyone to get crowd surfing, diving into the crowd and carrying on with the set despite being plagued by fans, Josh was ever the showman that regularly gets the girls and guys swooning. Naturally Underdog and Lived A Lie received huge whoops of delight and a sea of fans shouting back each lyric. A ‘proper’ rock band with huge tracks packed with hardcore riffs and raucous percussions, I’ll always love seeing this band live.

Soon enough, it was time for the mighty Foals to take to their headline slot and as they are easily one of my favourite bands, I struggled to even contain my excitement as I felt my voice slip away from me. With a stage set up that included fake black trees which looked fantastic, the Oxford five-piece launched into the delightful soundscapes of On The Luna with its twinkling synths and catchy chorus.

The epitome of perfection, frontman Yannis Philippakis belted out the lyrics to each track with such passion as the rest of the band continued to construct their intricate instrumentals, which have a notably heavier slant on new album In Degrees than that of the band’s previous work.

As soon as the opening chords for Mountain At My Gates filled the air, the atmosphere was incredible and following with the powerful Snake Oil, it was no surprise that everyone was bouncing around. My Number was naturally also a hit with its catchy instrumental and everything was going so well until the final chords of the beautiful Spanish Sahara were played and Yannis announced they had to take a break due to an issue with the front barrier.

Following a brief break and returning to the stage for In Degrees, festival organisers deemed it too unsafe to continue and Foals looked genuinely heartbroken to reveal the news. Despite us missing the rest of the set, safety should always be a priority anyway, it was an amazing set and Foals further demonstrated their deserving of headline slots such as that. Come back soon guys!

Photography by Sammy Sadler

Moving into Saturday the sun was shining and it was set to be a full day packed with some of the biggest names in music, including headliner Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Although the sun didn’t last as long as I’d have liked, the rain certainly didn’t dampen spirits and my voice was suitably hoarse by the end of the day.

Opening up the main stage to mark their first ever appearance at a festival of its kind, my Toon heroes FEVA sauntered on ready to put on a high-energy set. I’ve been urging people to catch FEVA live for ages and now really is the time as they just keep on getting better and better. Launching into Undone, piercing riffs and pounding melodies commanded the early birds to have a bit of a dance. Forever the entertainer, frontman Sam Reynolds prowled the stage before having a wander to clamber on some speakers for closing track You. There’s a noticeable progression into a heavier side of rock since the band’s earlier singles such as Waiting Room and it sounds so good that it’ll blow your mind. Huge congratulations guys on a successful festival slot.

Next up on the main stage was Sheffield indie outfit RedFaces who brought in upbeat melodies and an array of lush synths that get your feet tapping. Their track Take It Or Leave It sounded great with its almost psychedelic synths and melodious chorus.

Scottish indie-rock veterans Glasvegas were next on the bill and they really did sound fantastic. The crowds had started to form by this point and the band looked completely at ease as they launched into fan favourites Geraldine and Daddy’s Gone which were both met with intense chanting. A special shout-out to the outfit’s cover of Be My Baby, it sounded exceptional.

Rushing over to the Richard Hamilton stage was next on the agenda to see The Snuts and what was promised to be a chaotic set and it really. Easily attracting the rowdiest crowd of the weekend, people were thrown in the air to crowdsurf and mini moshpits popped up over each available space. Reminiscent of the likes of The Pigeon Detectives, there’s a real admirable rawness with The Snuts that is captivating and they literally held each member of the audience in the palm of their hand. Single Glasgow sounded awesome as vocalist Jack Cochrane’s gritty Scottish accent crooned over euphoric indie beats. Noted as ‘anthemic indie’ on their Facebook page – that’s exactly the words I’d use to describe their sound and I’m looking forward to the next time I catch them live.

Photography by Sammy Sadler

A personal highlight of the whole weekend for me came in the form of the next band on the main stage, the Editors. I’ve made it no secret that this band are an all-time favourite of mine and the excitement to see them live again had me feeling sick all day. Those butterflies remained until Tom Smith and the rest of the band left the stage and I was grinning from ear to ear. He’s one of my favourite frontmen to watch live, his vocal ability and dance moves are so quirky that you literally can’t take your eyes off the stage.

Playing through a packed set including newer tracks Magazine and Violence alongside the incredibly popular Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, An End Has A Start and Racing Rats, I didn’t care that it was raining, all I cared about was screeching each word to the sky with tears in my eyes. Too intense? Possibly. But who cares – these guys are easily up there with the best bands you can see live at the minute.

Following Editors was another favourite of mine, can you tell that I had an absolute blast on Saturday?!, The Vaccines.

I’ve been going to watch The Vaccines for years now, since they were packing out tiny venues actually, and to see them so high up the bill at festivals now is brilliant. Leaving my favourite All In White to close on, the indie rockers kept the energy levels sky-high in the riff-tastic Teenage Icon, the fast-paced Norgaard, the anthemic Wreckin’ Bar and their newer singles too, it was a set for both fans old and new.

Photography by Sammy Sadler

Saturday’s headliner was one half of the ultimate duo of British indie-rock, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. I’ve seen Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds twice previously, both at festivals, but this was by far the best time I’ve ever seen them. Sauntering onto the stage with all his swagger, fans were packed as close to the stage as they could to catch a glimpse of the Mancunian legend.

I was surprised by how many Oasis tracks that he actually played and although his current band is incredible, you can’t deny that hearing Oasis tracks live is still special. Alongside singles If I Had A Gun… and AKA… What A Life! which were released on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ first album back in 2011, and Holy Mountain from their 2017 release, Little By Little, Half The World Away, Wonderwall, Stop Crying Your Heart Out and Don’t Look Back In Anger all made an appearance, prompting an emotional response from the audience.

Closing on an exquisite cover of All You Need Is Love by The Beatles, if you looked around you could see everyone hugging each other and the atmosphere was electric. A set of pure perfection, there’s a reason that this man is loved by millions across the world. Telling his audience “we’ll be fucking back to this festival, it’s fucking amazing” proved that he knew how much he was appreciated. Epic.

Photography by Callum Robinson

Moving into Sunday there may have been a slight lingering hangover but nothing that another day of music wouldn’t cure. First on my list was YONAKA due to a tip from our editor Elena. Any hazy heads were instantly cleared as soon as this chaotic Brighton quartet took to the stage. Dark pop with rock influences peppered throughout were served up as frontwoman Theresa Jarvis stormed around both the main stage and the B-stage that had been added for headliners Stereophonics on the evening. A ferocious stage presence from all of the band, high-octane riffs and poppier melodies blared out to create an energetic performance that I couldn’t keep my eyes off.

Back to the Richard Hamilton stage for Sick Joy was a must as everyone had been whispering about them all morning. Due to timing issues on their stage, there unfortunately wasn’t as many people as I was expecting there but I still thought it was a cracking set as I relaxed on the grass to appreciate their heavier undertones embellished with gritty notes. Slightly reminiscent of Nothing But Thieves, their attitude-fuelled alt rock was a dream to listen to earlier on in the day.

I also finally got the chance to jump on over to the BBC Introducing Stage properly and caught the sweet-sounding Para Alta with their soaring soundscapes and the funky Dylan Cartlidge with his twist on hip-hop to offer something just that bit different for the weekend.

Photography by Callum Robinson

One guy who I was super excited to see was singer turned apparent comedian Lewis Capaldi due to his recent hilarious videos that are flying about everywhere. The singing voice of an absolute angel, Capaldi’s vocals live were flawless to the point you could have easily been listening to the recording. His delicate, tragic love songs were sandwiched with masses of banter packed with F-bombs and young female fans throwing bras onto his stage. Declaring that he’d had “a smashing fucking time”, I hope it means that Lewis Capaldi will grace a stage in the Toon again sometime soon. With a phenomenal voice like that and more jokes than a standup comedian, what else could you possibly want?

I hung around at the main stage next for the ultimate king of swarve, the legend Johnny Marr. I’m a big fan of The Smiths and I’ve actually seen Johnny before but just as it was with Noel Gallagher, this was my favourite set I’ve seen him play. Strutting on the stage and making the most of the B-stage set up, solo single Hi Hello was a definite highlight before the indie king launched into The Smiths’ classics. For me, to hear This Charming Man and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is always going to be special. His crowd interaction was great, the 80s loops, synths and riffs were there – it was everything you need to kick off your own indie disco. And I loved every second of it as I half danced, half shovelled pizza down.

Photography by Callum Robinson

Headlining the Richard Hamilton stage for the evening were Leeds huns Marsicans and despite seeing them live a crazy amount over the past weeks, I was naturally there to sing my heart out. Whenever I’ve seen Marsicans play it’s always so much fun and as Rob continued to give shout outs to the toilet queues, the bangers kept on coming. Throw Ourselves In, Friends and Pop-ups (Sunny at the Weekend) were all on the setlist and new track Little Things (which may or may not be their new single) is quickly becoming one of my favourites. I urge everyone to go and see these guys live when you get the opportunity, I promise you’ll be dancing and singing from the first track they play.

With the weekend drawing to a close, I could feel the post-festival blues on the horizon. I had one band left and that was of course, superstars Stereophonics.

Photography by Callum Robinson

Despite not knowing much of their newer tracks, I loved standing amongst all of the superfans screaming each lyric and watching the Welsh outfit put on arguably the most extravagant show of the weekend with their B-stage utilised to its full potential as the band headed down to the front to play “like they used to in the pub.” An epic drum solo from drummer Jamie Morrison, the gorgeous Handbags and Gladrags played on the intimate stage set-up, popular hits Have A Nice Day and Maybe Tomorrow filling the skies with soaring melodies and Kelly Jones’ impeccable ability to perform to a crowd of thousands, Stereophonics blew me away in the best possible way.

I may not have been able to screech every lyric at the top of my lungs but I didn’t care – this was a headliner worthy of the crowd it got and it was the perfect way to end what was an amazing festival.

Thank you This Is Tomorrow – see you next year?

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