In traditional manner, the opening act a local outfit selected via a Battle of the Bands contest, Moose Patrol the victors, rewarded the first, mid-afternoon slot. A number of the assembled audience are resplendent in band t-shirts, suggesting a healthy turn-out of family and friends as the three piece take the stage. The opening song suggests a leaning towards Nirvana style grunge, which a subsequent Nirvana cover and additional original material further supplement. At the point I’m hoping the lads will mix things up slightly, a cover of “Dead Souls” by Joy Division is announced….. only to be played in the style of Nirvana. Moose Patrol played a solid enough set with plenty of enthusiasm and vigour, just lacking a touch of individuality. www.facebook.com/MoosePatrolBand
Next up, Manchester quartet Shinies who also lean across the Atlantic for inspiration, volume cranked up, a very Sonic Youthesque squall emanates like a sonic tsunami across Rochdale. Not only with their sound, Shinies also exude the attitude, intensely serious and dry sense of humour, little in the way of joviality, apart from the bass player, who genuinely appears to be enjoying himself, happily singing along off mike. Generally, it’s a bit samey, bit droney, bit slacker, not the best vocals in the world…… I predict a bright indie future and an NME cover within the next twelve months. http://shinies.bandcamp.com/
The initial disappointment, discovering The Heartbreaks originally scheduled to play today, having cancelled due to illness is tempered by a late substitution with The Tapestry, credit to both organisers plus band for arranging and appearing at such short notice. Again, like Shinies hailing from Manchester although maintaining a more traditionally North West indie rock sound, big and boisterous, designed to start those mosh pits a bouncing, “Rode Your Luck” the perfect example. Indeed, we witnessed the first real crowd interaction, an over enthusiastic punter climbing the barrier to dance, more enthusiastically than gracefully immediately in front of the stage before gently removed by security. Such his eagerness to revel in The Tapestry’s lad rockness, (even taking into account the female bass player) appearing a second time, only to be hauled away slightly less ceremoniously on this occasion. Rochdale enjoyed The Tapestry and The Tapestry appeared to enjoy Rochdale, their bounteous vigour definitely winning over the crowd. www.facebook.com/pages/The-Tapestry/118675874820563
If The Tapestry more typical of the areas relatively recent musical heritage, Jesca Hoop exactly the opposite. A Californian, now living in the Manchester area at the behest of celebrity fan, Guy Garvey, I don’t think the majority of the audience knew quite what to make of her, or her of them, remarking on one occasion, “people don’t usually bop to my music” although “Hospital” certainly retains a danceable groove around the electronic, programmed beats. In many ways, Jesca Hoop really didn’t fit The Feel Good Festival, her quirky, off kilter folk and more progressive rock aspects around the lead guitar work, sitting uncomfortably between the Tapestry and The Beat, although variety is, as we all know, the spice of life, Jesca producing the set of the day so far. I do feel the need to see her in intimate surroundings however, more suited to the obvious talents.
By the close, a number around me began feeling the groove, whether lost in music or the Becks Vier tent for the previous couple of hours debatable, either way, Hoop receiving a much deserved response upon leaving the stage. www.jescahoop.com
As the light begins to fail, a larger crowd gathers anticipating the arrival of celebrated 80’s Ska band The Beat, immediately obvious, the original rude boys and rude girls out to play, looking to enjoy themselves tonight, assembled in band merchandise at the front. There’s always an element of doubt when a respected band appears without a crucial member, in this case, vocalist Dave Wakeling. Instead, we find rapper / M.C, Ranking Roger adopting the position of lead singer, joined on co-vocals by his son, Murphy “Ranking” Junior. Although from the outside, the disaster potential of this arrangement appears high, ultimately Roger, the band leader and spokesman looking exceptionally fit and dapper in long great coat, has everything under control and from the words “Hands Off She’s Mine” the audience transfixed and the skanking begins. As you would hope between Father and Son, on stage chemistry is good, Roger not allowing himself to be over shadowed in the fitness stakes, obviously a man who works out, able to act as pacemaker for Junior and their on stage movement. The band sound brilliant, soaring Sax, intricate drum rhythms, pulsing bass lines and choppy reggae guitar playing a crowd pleaser of a set, “The Doors of Your Heart,” “Too Nice to Talk to,” “Get a Job” and “Stand Down Margaret” all aired early on, the latter emphasising The Beat very much a political band back in the day, not immediately apparent in the atmosphere tonight. A tribute also paid to another band never shy of the political arena and in particular an old friend of Ranking Roger’s, Joe Strummer, a ska version of “Rock the Casbah” filling the air, crowd in fine voice, reciprocating the chorus on cue.
Ranking Junior adopts vocal centre stage for his own composition “How Will You Do” hinting towards more dub reggae influence, before back to the hits “Big Shot,” the inevitable closing “Mirror in the Bathroom” and an encore of “Jackpot.” It’s fair to say, a slightly overall muted response had met the previous bands, certainly not the case for The Beat, revelling in the atmosphere, taking The Feel Good factor of today’s festival to another level. www.thebeatofficial.com/band.html
Unfortunately, a previous engagement meant missing headliners, the Motown / Soul legend, Martha Reeves and her Vandellas, although I can only assume after the reception afforded The Beat, only a complete loss of voice would stop the dancing in the street. Mel took over the Mudkiss baton, kept busy in the photo pit the next day she reported that the roar of the crowd and the dynamic atmosphere filled the town square when the 70 + year old legend Martha Reeves arrived onstage, I can only assume she went down an absolute storm. Martha and her Vandellas were a full piece band complete with trumpets, and a crimson duo of female backing vocalists. They sang many of their classic tracks from Jimmy Mack, Dancing In The Street, and Nowhere To Run ...amongst others. IT would appear Motown and Northern Soul are still alive and kicking in Rochdale. www.missmarthareeves.com
So once again, Rochdale provided a fantastic day and night’s entertainment in the town centre, whilst perhaps not all to everyone’s taste, giving the opportunity for local and new bands to perform before audiences who generally wouldn’t be exposed to their music alongside more familiar performers can only be welcomed and surely roundly supported. Here’s to Feel Good Festival 2013.