It’s been a long time since I went to a music festival. 18 years, in fact. Reading 1994, I was there. Soundgarden, Jeff Buckley, They Might Be Giants, the Chilli Peppers. (To be honest, I spent most of my time in the comedy tent watching the likes of Dave Spikey and Sean Hughes; I wasn’t really that in to music back then.)
But today I had a press pass for the Corbridge Festival, so I armed myself with my waterproofs and my size 9 wellies and headed out to the Tynedale Park in Northumberland. Thankfully the forecast downpour didn’t come, and the huge crowd of all ages were treated to a perfect festival experience.
Kids are well catered for here, with activities, rides, and street theatre. (Two moustachioed British explorers were causing much hilarity amongst the relaxing campers.) There were plenty of stalls too, selling all sorts of fair trade goods natural hemp products, and bubble guns and water pistols for the kids. I got shot within two minutes of being there – right in the gut. That kid’s got a hell of a future in the army if he wants it! (Mind you, it was my own fault; I had my camera in one hand and a pint of beer in the other – I left myself wide open!)
Corbridge Festival is, as it’s website states, all about the music, and there were two stages to choose from. I arrived early in the afternoon, just in time to catch the end of a set by Lyrical Whiskey – a group of young lads who, my program informed me, were students from Prudhoe High School. They were either sickeningly young to be that talented, or vice versa, but talented they were. The depth and resonance of the singer’s voice belied his young age, and put me in mind of Paulo Nutini. From what I saw of them they are a covers band, and they finished their set with a rendition of Twist and Shout which had the audience doing both!
The line-up on both stages was great, and included rock and roll band The Quireboys, an accoustic set from The Soviets, and Simon & Oscar from Ocean Colour Scene. Paul Liddell (“say it ‘Lid-dell. If you say it like the crap supermarket I get angry”) played a great gig on Stage 2, using his trademark of looping sounds made just by him and his one guitar to build each song into a mini orchestral masterpiece. If there weren’t many people in the tent at the start of his set, there certainly were by the end.
On the main stage, 19 year old singer-songwriter Rae Morris sat behind a red keyboard with just a microphone and a can of carbonated cola flavoured beverage, and beguiled the crowd with her beautiful and at times haunting voice. She was that rarest of artists: an utterly unassuming, even shy, person who just lets the pure talent she possesses do her talking for her.
The best band of the day for me, though, was 7 piece ska/reggae band Pikey Beatz.
They say on their website that they have “their own individual take on the music” and “like to think of themselves as a fun and energetic band that’ll get a crowd moving and put a smile on their face at the same time.”
Well, they certainly did that! Helped by the fact that they had wireless microphones (something which they weren’t used to, apparently) singers Wilf and Kyle leapt barefoot around the stage with unbound energy and little regard for their own safety, as they rattled through their brilliant set of high octane up-tempo songs. I genuinely felt the kind of raw excitement that must have been generated at early Madness gigs, as the band danced and high-kicked their way around the stage and had the crowd eating out of their hands.
At the end of their set, the crowd went all Procul Harum and called out for more, so, with scant regard for the schedule, the Beatz came back and did one more. As you can see from the video, they had everybody dancing – they even had me tapping my foot at one point, and I just don’t do dancing!
Oh, and yes, I bought a CD. If you want to listen to them and see if you’d like to buy their music too, go here. Other things I bought today: two pints of ale and one 99 with monkey’s blood.
Oh yeah, baby, I am SO rock and roll!