Festival Review: Bingley Weekender

Bingley Weekender 2019

Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club, Bingley, 30 August – 1 September 2019

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

The world of football has seen clubs rise from the ashes of other sadly defunct clubs, Bingley Weekender was the first time that I have been to such a “phoenix” festival. Previously Bingley Music Live had been a cracker of an event to mark the end of summer, but unfortunately the local council decided that they could not afford the event any more – which is wholly understandable considering we are all still suffering with the oppressive conditions of Austerity Politics. When there has to be decisions made, you have to cut the big party for one weekend if it keeps some people in jobs all year round. Fortunately someone stepped up to the plate and Bingley Weekender was conceived and came into the world at Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club.

It is a stereotype of the Yorkshire populace that they don’t like to spend money freely, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone put up such a vehement request for a refund as one guy in the queue on Friday afternoon when the gates didn’t open on time at 4pm as the site was still being prepared. It did not fill me with hope that when Saint Agnes opened the Discovery Stage, the main arena was not yet available due to the fact that they were still putting together the Viewing Platform for disabled fans.

Saint Agnes are one of the most voracious live acts on the scene right now, and opening up the second stage in front of a diminished Friday afternoon audience did nothing to dampen their abilities. The quartet were vicious as they took us from the Pennines and welcomed us to Silvertown. Lead singer, Kitty Austen, prowled the stage looking like a zombie-witch-bride filled with threat and danger, whilst the guitar blues from Jon James Tufnell make you feel ecstasy from darkness. It was going to be a hard act for the rest of the festival to follow, but straight away up stepped Leeds-based Venus (or Venus Grrls if you’re looking for them on Spotify).

Hands up, the key factor in me choosing to wander over to watch Venus was that I felt hungry and decided to grab a pizza, but whilst I was there I heard this wonderful rumble from the very small new music stage. The five-piece were young, angry and loud. It was everything I love in bands, and they were confident enough to show off their own personalities on stage. The band were hypnotic and are a must see when they come to your town.

Although Kawala are from North London, Jim and Dan, who lead the band sharing vocal duties, met whilst at university in Leeds so they were very happy to be playing a gig so close to that city. With a jangle-pop sound that encapsulates youthful summer times, you could not help but enjoy the set, and the reaction of the fans to them was uplifting too.

Each evening on the Main Stage they worked on the combination of exciting modern act, followed by ticket-selling Britpop (ish) nostalgia act. For me, this could be the summer where the Britpop acts (barring a few who are currently not with us) have to give up their place with the big letters on the posters. There have been several events across the summer where the excitement has been cranked up for acts in the late afternoon, and then the evening’s headline slot feels a bit of a damp squib afterwards. Yes, they might give big singalong moments, but the festivals feel out of kilter. You shouldn’t see so many people leaving festivals as the headliner performs due to apathy rather than any protest against a bad performance. If your headliner generates a shrug from the average music fan, they are no longer a headliner.

And if you spend your day seeing hundreds of people at a festival with a capacity of 5,000 (approximate) wearing Idles t-shirts, then really Idles should be at the top of the bill. And after watching this performance there is no doubt that they have it in them to take on the responsibility at the end of the night. I think we need a bit of openness here, I’m not a fan of Idles. I love loud, arty, punky, awkward, aggressive, left-wing music, so Idles hit the smallest section in my Venn diagram of taste, but musically they just do not do it for me. When they start off their set by making the sign language interpreter have to think on his feet with a shout of “Fuck Boris”, it works perfectly for me. When they talk about modern life, it works perfectly for me. When they play, I feel like I’ve been set up on a perfect blind date, but we have nothing to talk about. I feel awkward. But I’m in the minority strongly. It seemed like everybody in the field was wild for Idles, and Idles threw every sinew of their collective into the performance – which to be fair seems like standard for Idles. By the time they finished, the energy coming from everybody from the drummer at the back of the stage to the person sat in front of me at the back of the field was crazy. It was celebratory, riotous and beautiful.

And then came Ocean Colour Scene. There was nothing wrong with the performance of Ocean Colour Scene. They sounded good, they played the hits, people sung along, but it was so sedate and still that it felt like a soundcheck. And I don’t put much emphasis on image in a live performance, but if you’re going to wear a suit on stage, tuck your shirt in. It doesn’t look cool, it looks like you really can’t be bothered and are going through the motions. And if you aren’t bothered and are going through the motions, get yourself a slot lower down the bill and then you can be home before it gets dark.

The first full length day of Bingley Weekender started for me with Newcastle band Baltic. The Geordie four-piece sounded inspired by Arctic Monkeys’ early releases as they played things sharp, tight and allowed Charlie Barrow’s witty northern accent to push through to grab the audience. There is simplicity to their sound, but it’s fun, and if they continue to rise we could see North Shields become another buzz location given the success of one S. Fender. Their tales may be Bleak, yet the future is anything but.

Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam proved that as well as a dream of a name, they’ve got so many great tunes that it could well be that a lot more people get to know them. They are the kind of band that you can forget what you’re doing (or meant to be doing) and just get wrapped up into watching them play. Zuzu is also one of those acts who draws you in and then your hers until the end of the show. Her show is a wonderful mix of guitar pop and personality which each track showcases. Her scouse attitude makes you smile, her songs make you move whilst also making you think that you know her. She’s the girl you chat to in the queue for the loo or who tells you her life story whilst in the smoking area of a club, all of which is set to magnificently bouncy tunes.

The award for the luckiest band of the weekend had to go to Leeds’ hopefuls Apollo Junction. Scheduled to be in the middle of Craig Charles’ much anticipated return to the town of Bingley, the Yorkshire skies looked favourably on their sons and sent such a dramatic downpour on to the M62 that Craig reached site but his decks didn’t. This meant that hundreds of people who were meant to be watching the Funk and Soul Roadshow decided to wander across to the New Bands stage. Apollo Junction were not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and came out with a storming set. When the band’s frontman went wandering through the crowds later on to confidently sing in the middle of the audience, you felt like you were watching something special. To be fair, all of the members of the local press had mentioned the band beforehand so it wasn’t a huge surprise. Note: fair play to Craig Charles too for going out on stage and apologising to the audience himself rather than leave it to the big screens or PA system to explain what had happened.

One of the favourite bands at Popped Music Towers over the last few years has been Marsicans, and on the Main Stage at Bingley Weekender they showed exactly why with a set that was full of passion and pleasure. It can be strange seeing bands that you have watched perform in front of 100 people play on big stages, they can look tiny at times like toddlers wearing their parents’ clothes. Marsicans looked born to play on the big stage, so comfortably at home they seemed.

Circa Waves are a perfect festival band. No offence to them, but I don’t see them headlining the biggest stages, but they will always be able to command late afternoon party slots similar to bands like Supergrass and Feeder have over the last couple of decades. With some instantly familiar tracks like T-Shirt Weather and Movies, and the constant smile and bonhomie of Kieran Shudall, they make festivals enjoyable. They commanded a hefty crowd too, and sitting on the grass at the back of the field reminded me of so many similar days across the country over the last two decades. Festivals really are the best.

Following on from Circa Waves was one of the best talents in the country, Tom Grennan. I’ve had difficulties with Tom Grennan sets recently in that he’s still basically playing the same songs as he has done for quite some time, but it was heartening to hear him several times mention the lack of new material and encourage the fans to stay with him as something good is coming. Tom Grennan is a habitually good performer who you can trust to lift an audience, to take them on a journey with him, and to get everybody singing along. Tom seemed more mature on stage too. Every movement, wander down the stage extension towards the crowd, and jump is designed to engage and encourage the fans watching him.

Doves headlined the main stage, but my focus was on the band I often declare as the best in the world, Doncaster’s The Blinders. Once again, the three piece were devastatingly good. From the first whirring of the air raid sirens that signal their arrival, you get the feeling that you are watching something special. The Blinders create a sound that feels so thick that you could grab it. With the red lights and smoke that accompany them they create a sense of riotous danger. Enhanced by the face make up on their frontman Thomas Haywood, The Blinders feel like they have come from the pages of a gritty Batman comic designed to create uprisings and social conflict.

Sunday at Bingley Weekender was a harder day for me as the delights of a chest infection took their toll, so if anybody had to put up with my wheezing, moaning, coughing and stomping around, I will gladly apologise. I’m not the best patient.

King No-One were very much at home on the big stage, not just because the gig was taking place in their home county of Yorkshire. Frontman Zach Lount uses every inch of the stage to strut and entertain, and then takes advantage of the time between tracks to explain their politics and views on life. When all of this is provided alongside brilliant tracks such as Toxic Love and set closer Antichrist, I get sucked in to being the oldest fanboy with the teenagers jumping around at the front of the field. King No-One are a band who I believe in and I expect big things from soon enough.

Another act carrying big expectations is Ten Tonnes. If you have ever met Ethan, you’ll know that he is one of the nicest people you could have the fortune to cross paths with; but if you’ve only got to listen and watch him, you’ll know that he has an incredible ability to create pop songs that even a heavy metal photographer I was sat next to in the clubhouse-turned-press-office thought were brilliant. If I could temper my love of watching Ten Tonnes it would be with the hope that he gets a bit more arrogant and rock star on stage. I want to see him dominate crowds as well as being thankful that they have come to see him play. I want to see thousands of people sing Cracks Between and hang on his every word.

I have not watched Billy Bragg in about twenty years since one of my first trips to Glastonbury, but it was impressive to hear that he still has his voice intact. When he sings The Milkman of Human Kindness with feeling and delicacy you would not believe that it is over thirty five years since that song was first recorded and released. There is no hint of nostalgia or yearning for the young man who penned the track. And helpfully for those younger members of the audience who might not be aware of the man who fronted the Red Wedge collective, Billy now looks like Jeremy Corbyn so they know exactly what to expect.

Expectations are high whenever Anteros are on stage, but Bingley Weekender was the best I have seen them as a band. Laura Hayden is a superior frontwoman, but the band seem to have grown as a unit so that now they offer more than just backing for her disco-catwoman persona and the experience of watching Anteros has grown as a result. Don’t get me wrong, Laura is one of those natural stars who you struggle to take your eyes off on stage, but the band feel more of a confident unit. I love the fact that they have an eponymous track to go along with Drunk (my favourite song of the last however many days it is since it was released), Breakfast and Fool Moon; I love that Laura gets females of all ages up on stage with her for Bonnie – and they love it too; but most of all I love Anteros‘ ability to make me feel that shortness of breath, sobriety, and having a load of camera gear on my shoulders is not a reason to not spin around dancing. Anteros was the Greek God of Returned Love, and I would say that if they love performing, then Anteros is everywhere they perform.

The Snuts were the closing band on the Discovery Stage and they drew in a hefty crowd for their Oasis-inspired rock. Now I know from discussions I have had with people that The Snuts are a Marmite act, and I can understand how people find them uninspiring, but for me The Snuts do what they do so well that I cannot help being drawn in by them, and there were hundreds of people like me but were jumping around on a Sunday evening. I wasn’t jumping around, I didn’t have the energy for that, but The Snuts made me feel that I was getting ready for a Saturday night out.

I want to say now that James, in my opinion, are not a nostalgia act. Yes, you want to hear the old songs, but James have constantly and consistently released new music to such an extent that they are as timeless as the Pennines that surrounded us. If ever there is an example in music of looking after your body to look after everything else, it is Tim Booth. He is constantly on the go whether it is on stage or in the crowd, and he sounds fantastic still. James were the perfect band to finish off Bingley Weekender with passionate love.

I just hope the neighbours didn’t complain about the noises above as I hope to be down at the rugby club once more next summer.

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