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HAIGH MUSIC FESTIVAL @ HAIGH HALL COUNTRY PARK, WIGAN 03/07/11  REVIEW BY DANIEL RYDINGS

The glorious early morning sun was beating down on Haigh Fest as we wound our way down the picturesque country lanes towards the site. We had arrived a few hours before the gates opened to the public in an attempt to get a feel for the event as this was my first time attending. I had to retreat and take the time to shade myself under the vast stage which had been erected at the bottom of a natural bowl-shape in the lay of the land. Whilst escaping from the heat, I chatted with staff who had told me that the previous day’s performances by The Courteeners and Jedward would take some beating. Yes, you read that correctly, Jedward! During the conversation I also had to make sure that we were both talking about the same teenage incubuses brought to us by whining impresario Louis Walsh and, unfortunately, we were. But today was all about local acts and giving them the support they need to make it in an extremely cut-throat industry.

Second Son: The group handed the slightly daunting task of kicking off Sunday’s leg at Haigh Hall were heavy Metal outfit, Second Son. The public had barely made their way down the incline towards the stage before the band launched into their first track. Yet the few who had made it opted to sit in groups and laze on the grass. Second Son now had their work cut out to get the crowd on their feet, but if any type of music can make your ears prick up and demand your attention, it's Metal. The response so far from the crowd had been more like centre court at Wimbledon than a rock n' roll concert. However, the group continued to persevere in what was becoming a losing battle against the blazing sunshine as they entered their fourth track, 'Innocence'. As the rockers finished their set, the response became more upbeat - their work had payed off. A few crowd members even screaming for an “encore” and the band were only too happy to oblige. The group are a heavy Metal/Rock act with chugging guitars and chest thudding kick drums. Give them a listen over at: www.myspace.com/secondsonuk

Last Chance: Although a few teenage girls had chosen to stand on the barrier directly in front of the stage, the rest were now sprawled out on the grass in front of the mixing desk in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the blistering sunshine. "How's everyone doing?" lead singer, Phil Ansted, asked as he took to the stage receiving a more upbeat response from the sun-kissed crowd. The lads are currently penning material for their 6th EP, so the group had an extensive back catalogue to choose from for their set. LC’s first offering was way back in 2005 when they released 'Stage Fright'. Yet the group didn't seem to be suffering anything of the kind as they rip-roared through a set packed with jumping, indie tracks such as 'Northwestern' and finishing up with ‘Romeo’, much to the delight of the starry-eyed teenage girls glued to the barrier. The group have some extremely catchy songs and a typical indie upbeat vibe.Check the guys out over at: www.myspace.com/lastchancemusic

Glassheads: Glassheads new single, ’Man In The Street', is gaining air time on radio stations such as BBC Manchester, Canada’s only British radio station and NME.com. [Video was produced by Brian Canon]. The groups singer, Ian McClusky, stated that he wouldn't be moving around much due to breaking his toe three weeks ago as the band began their set - but that didn’t stop the crowd. By now a few crowd members had risen from their strung out state on the grass and were on their feet, the Ska undertones littered throughout the bands set made for an upbeat performance everyone could move to. Before they began their third track, the group introduced a trio of trumpet players that would be joining them for the remainder of their set. The horn section added a pleasing soulful vibe and everybody soon got into the spirit; even the trumpet players waving their instruments from left to right and bobbing their heads in unison. It was the kind of kick-start the day really needed, the crowd were now being more receptive towards the groups and Glassheads had finally got the ball rolling. Check them out at: www.glassheadsmusic.com

 

Smitten Kitten: Dry ice machines bellowing smoke from the stage, a white Les Paul, waist length wavy hair and 80's style stadium rock riffs. Spinal Tap? No, this was Smitten Kitten! The group performed their opening track 'Skin Deep' which had the classic rock vibe plastered all over it. Lead singer, Sam Millar, asked if any of the crowd were "feeling crazy" to which they responded "yeahhh!”. Or maybe it could have just been the sunstroke setting in? Either way, Millar was determined to win the crowd over with his showmanship and he did exactly that. Prancing on his tip toes round the stage while soloing - very Justin Hawkins! These throwback rockers had definitely impressed with this tongue-in-cheek performance. So if you dig a feel good classic rock vibe then check them out: www.myspace.com/smittenkittenuk
 
Sly Digs: These lads are heading straight for the top! Well... of parliament for the time being at least. With government officials trying to block the Indie group’s artwork on their upcoming EP 'Electric Love' for being “too explicit”, the lads are causing a fair bit of controversy. The artwork has been designed by veteran Brian Canon who is perhaps best known for his artwork on the seminal Oasis album 'Definitely Maybe'. They took to the stage as an extremely confident bunch, smartly turned out in flowery shirts, sunglasses and suit jackets. Before they began their first track, they asked the crowd to "go easy on them" as they were the only none local band to be performing that afternoon. The insanely catchy 'She's My Rattlesnake' was just out and out rock n' roll that pulled no punches. Digs flew through their performance and it was clear these guys are obviously seasoned professionals on the circuit. By the time they had left the stage, I think the crowd were wishing the band had taken it easier on them after the brutal onslaught of no nonsense rock n’ roll! Catch the guys over at: www.slydigs.co.uk
 
 

The Lottery Winners: The unsuspecting audience were about to have whatever energy the sun hadn't managed to sap from them stolen by the next band, The Lottery Winners. Prior to the band performing the first track of their rapid 25 minute set, they set a steady kick drum rolling and saw lead singer, Thomas Rylance, ask the crowd to join him in a quick rendition of Dizzy Rascals hit 'Bonkers'. After the group had the crowd where they wanted them, they then flew into the track 'Paper Plate Faces' - cue the mayhem. A moshpit of flailing limbs, beach balls being volleyed from the stage and singular crowd members pogoing up and down on the spot. The group also treated the crowd to another partial sing-a-long midway through the set, this time the crowd belting out the chorus to 'You Got The Love'. Ironically, one over exuberant teenager was not feeling it and was collared for trouble causing by the eagle eyed security who were scouting the crowd for trouble. The band gave a tremendous performance filled with fun, professionalism and a clear understanding of the aesthetics of pleasing a crowd. The bands first two singles, 'Paper Plate Faces' and 'Lovers Lane' are available for download on iTunes and Amazon. Catch the group over at: www.myspace.com/thelotterywinnersmusic


Facing Paige: After the bouncing performance given by the previous group, Facing Paige had a hard set ahead of them if they were to rouse the crowd. The young Indie-rockers swaggered onstage and wasted no time in getting the set underway - storming into their first track. The bluesy underlying tones mixed with indie and elements psychedelic guitar made for a great blend that really worked. The crowd managed to raise their game slightly for the group, although it was clear too much sun and more than enough alcohol was beginning to take its toll. Although the group were giving a great performance filled with attitude, the sound slightly let them down. The vocals were failing to cut through the wall of noise the rest of the group were producing. However, that was more of a technical fault rather than the band itself. The lads then stunned the crowd with what was the most rock n’ roll antic of the day - smashing their instruments to pieces. The guitarist chose to wield his guitar aloft and smash it down onto the stage repeatedly until it broke in half. The singer then also decided he didn't like the look of that pesky drum kit either, piercing the skins with his feet as he hammered down onto them. The group departed the stage in a haze of anger and head splitting feedback, only for a quick return to distribute the broken pieces of instruments, which every member of the crowd were more than willing to grapple for. Visit the bands page for more information at: www.facingpaige.co.uk

Faith In Fools: Although an extremely talented group of musicians with experience of ten years between them, Faith In Fools were only recently formed in 2011. Fusing a mix of rock, rap and elements of reggae, the group were without question the most diverse of the day. The male vocals of rapper Joycey supplied an aggressive edge which was then countered with the melodic vocals of female singer Natalie Jenkins. There were a few raised eyebrows here and there but, overall, the crowd seemed to be onboard. Admittedly, it was slightly unusual to hear this combination of genres being performed by one group, but it seemed to work. A mixture of reggae bass lines, spacey echoey guitars, melodic female vocals and aggressive rapping made for a strange, but enjoyable performance. Check Faith In Fools out at: http://unsigned.com/faithinfools
 

Finding Emo: While scouring the front row, I had noticed an extremely large contingent of screaming teenage girls gathering all along the barrier. Finding Emo entered the fray to these girls emptying their lungs of every last ounce of air they had in them, it was more like the height of Beatlemania than an unsigned local act! Singer, Scott Parry, decided to tell us in between tracks how the band came to be formed: "Only two years ago we were there sat in the crowd. We thought to ourselves, you know, we should make a band...and we did, and now here we are". I thought it was a great story to be telling, given the number of youngsters in the crowd who will have been aspiring to form their own group. The message was simple, put down your X-box pad, get outside and do it for yourself - a very punk aesthetic and ideology. The band had brought a tremendous amount of fun with their performance, even covering the Disney classic 'Under The Sea' to rapturous applause. They had the crowd in stitches telling jokes in between tracks in an obvious attempt to hide their nerves, but these lads were great. It was all very Mcfly-esque, but everybody loved it. They had catchy upbeat pop-punk tracks, attitude, comedy and good musicianship. Check out the baby faced pop punkers at: www.facebook.com/finding3mo

Signal Aurora: The anthemic sound of 'This Day' is something that immediately impressed me after hearing the track on the groups upcoming EP, 'A Flickering Of Light'. It's evident the Indie group are musicians that have spent time and effort crafting their sound. Their songs are well structured, well thought out pieces of music. The melancholic vibe the bands songs emit were perfect given the setting as the sun just began to dip beyond the rolling green hills behind the stage, whilst also giving the crowd a well needed break from the unrelenting songs of previous acts to a more sombre performance.The group’s EP is released on July 4th, so if you want to grab yourself a copy head over to ITunes. Or alternatively, check them out at: www.signalaurora.co.uk

Jeramiah Ferrari: With their influences listed as Toots & The Maytals and Nirvana, it was extremely intriguing to hear what kind of sound Jeramiah Ferrari were going to give the Sunday evening audience. I'd also heard prior to the festival that the demand from fans for the act to be billed at this years Haigh Fest was so huge, it caused the events website to crash! So with that in mind, it was safe to say the group were certainly one of the days most anticipated acts. Ferrari hit the stage with energy in abundance and also a   shirtless front man, Ryan Barton, who resembled a young Zach de la rocha. From the get go the band hit the crowd with a onslaught of skanking reggae tracks that had everyone shaking, bopping and even a huge conga line snaking it's way through the crowd! The band played some rousing renditions of tracks from their EP, 'Cactus Killer', including fan favourite 'The Mighty Sparrow'. Jaramiah Ferrari were unrelenting in their performance and had without doubt stolen the show. More information available about the group here: www.myspace.com/jeramiahFerrari

Merry Hell: So the day was slowly drawing to a close, but there was one more act left to take to the stage - it was time to raise some Merry Hell. Formed from the remnants of 90's act The Tansads, the group are vastly experienced and talented musicians. The female vocalist, Virginia Kettle, brought the perfect accompaniment to the groups folk sound and complimented lead male vocalist Andrew Kettle perfectly. The track 'Drunken Serenade' seemed quite apt as they played to a crowd who were looking slightly downhearted that the festival was almost drawing to a close. The group finished their set with 'One More Day', and it looked as if the band and fans alike wished it could last exactly that. The headliners had brought a feel good vibe and a performance of consummate professionalism. Go check out the folk rockers at: http://www.merryhell.co.uk

The sun had finally set on what was another successful year at Haigh Fest. Looking at the expressions on the faces slowly trudging back up the hill, it was evident they were reluctant to leave after such a wonderful afternoon of music, booze and blistering sunshine - and all for the criminally low price of £2:00! Hats off to the organisers for giving these groups the opportunity to play on such a grand scale; it also shows great support and highlights the importance of having a healthy local music scene. It was also nice to see the other acts standing out-front in support of their peers. It was a particularly nice touch - the acts were united in a common goal of pleasing their hometown crowd. The event had been a phenomenal success and there is no doubt it will only continue to grow and go from strength to strength.

Thanks to Daniel & Haydn for the superb review and photos.

Review by Daniel Rydings
Photos by Haydn Rydings- website: http://www.haydnrydings.co.uk