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As far as festivals go Cloud 9 is about as intimate as you can get, but even though the area was only about the size of a football pitch; there was an incredibly high spirited atmosphere, succeeding in the aim of bringing a sense of community amongst its followers. In only the third year since its inception, 5000 festival goers descended upon the luscious Cheshire countryside to take part in the one day event. This is a festival quite different from the gruelling mud baths taking place over the course of a few days, a concept that is expected up and down the country. There wasn’t even a need for me to be wearing my newly bought wellies, but with the unpredictability of British weather, I still obliged. With fifteen hours of music crammed into the day, over 40 bands performing in six locations, and quite a range of music genres on offer, it was sure to be an interesting day, attracting all sorts of people, as well as being open to all ages, bringing an alternative sense of family orientated attraction to the table. The layout itself saw the main stage and the various tents located around the edges, creating a vacuum in the centre for people to walk around and sit freely without the place ever being cramped, creating an element of relaxation throughout the day. However, despite the spacious open outsides, the individual tents did seem to be overcrowded at times and unable to cater for the masses of people congregating upon them, causing a struggle to get a glimpse of the act they wanted to watch.

Apart from the main stage, there were five other venues that hosted different music. These were The Dome, The C.A.L.M stage, The Eskimo Mojito tent, Euphonic Fusion Tent and The Headculture tent. Headculture and C.A.L.M. were the main sponsors this year and both work to raise awareness about depression and suicide in young men in order to reduce that risk. With the amount of work going into this at the festival, I’m sure that many more people are a little wiser and educated about how serious this condition is and how it needs eradicating. Great work by both organisations. As the night progressed, the tents became livelier and allowed the youth culture to let off steam to the heavy dance tunes in effect, but the C.A.L.M. tent chose a different method by playing more chilled music like motown, at least that’s what was played for an hour or so slot that I observed late in the night.

The main stage kicked off with Wolverhampton indie band ‘Shatter Effect’ who won the right to play at Cloud 9 via a battle of the bands poll. They are a five piece band with a female vocalist and they gave an impressive display of an alternative indie sound, with some good individual performances and lead singer Rebecca Davies having a highly competent voice complimenting the bands mood. Shortly after, ‘The Minx’ from Manchester, an unsigned band that has been raved about locally were next to liven up the audience with their punk sounding anthems, taking us back to a sound that blends ‘Madness’, ‘The Stranglers’ and ‘The Specials’ but with a modern northern slant on matters, yet still enjoying themselves on stage in much the same way. Following that was the fast paced more modern indie style that’s adopted these days of ‘Rotating Leslie’, whose music would appeal more towards the student bar scene. This band has already had widespread appeal having being picked up on XFM and Radio One, playing on the famous Sunset Strip in Los Angeles as well as The Isle of White, Reading and Leeds Festivals. They have an album out and are currently touring to aid promotion.

Another Manchester band duly followed and this was the band of the day. ‘The Paris Riots’ provided the type of music that gets the blood pumping in the same vain as the predecessors of rock n roll that could potentially last forever. Excellent voice, pace, energy, catchy head bobbing and lip puckering riffs and a great voice to go with it, whether the songs are at a rock pace or slowed down, displaying the sort of variety that distinguishes a band and launches them from average Joe’s to masters. This is a band that is hotly tipped to hit it big and they certainly get my backing. ‘Black Daniel’ were up next. Predominately hailing from London with a tint of New York embedded in the band, they kept the momentum going with their garage/pop/ rock vibe as the crowds grew larger within the gates. ‘Too Young to Love’ changed the scene completely with their trance like sound, diversifying from the what had been a build up of rock and indie up until that point.

Then came an artist that probably drew many festival goers as gig addict ‘Ed Sheeran’ came on, fresh from smashing James Morrison’s record of number of gigs in one year. His popularity was evident as soars of people assembled to the main stage in their hundreds. Looking very casual, relaxed and confident with his acoustic guitar, he serenaded the audience with a list of famous hits as the younger girls screamed in delight. His influences are the likes of Damien Rice and Eminem and this was evident as he sang in the style of a typical heartbreak and confusion like manner but with a hint of rap in the melodies keeping the songs fresh, alive and interesting. It was time to explore the other tents that had been more of a dance and techno theme up until that point, which didn’t exactly draw me in.

However, one of the heroes of the “Madchester” scene was up next and having never previously seen him, I wasn’t going to let the chance slide. ‘Bez’ from ‘The Happy Mondays’ performed next and as stated in the ‘Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches’ album, Bez is simply credited as Bez. His set was no different to that statement as he danced his way around the stage like back in the day, to a series of indie and classic Manchester tunes, shouting out random comments to keep the crowd buzzing, trying to reach his own plateau, which very few have probably ever achieved. The film 24 Hour Party People portrays Bez as being dropped out of the sky by aliens from another planet and I can see why as there has never been or never will be anyone like him that has graced the music industry – a true Manchester legend!!

Another Manchester legend followed on the main stage this time as former ‘Inspiral Carpets’ keyboardist turned famous radio DJ ‘Clint Boon’ entered the realms as dusk began to fall. His set was similar to that he plays in ‘South’ on a Saturday night in Manchester as the majority of classic Manchester anthems and modern classics rocked around the main stage area, reminding us of an unforgettable age in the history of music, with tunes such as ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ that kept the audiences energy up with this nostalgic trip down memory lane to the constant chants of “Boon Army”.

The festivities was nearing its closure with only three more acts left to grace the main stage, which attracted the majority of people’s attention. ‘Sunshine Underground’ were up next, a band now residing in Leeds, originally from Shropshire. This was a band that was very much modern indie rock and they forced the audience into submission with their perfectly played and slightly aggressive approach, full of life and energy to keep the show on course to its climax. This was certainly one of the larger acts who performed within that indie rock genre, and their popularity has rocketed recently and I expect much more from them in the future, despite avoiding the mainstream so far.

XFM DJ ‘Gareth Brookes’ followed before the headline act of ‘The Futureheads’ took to the stage, an act that many people had been waiting for. This quartet from Sunderland have been around for several years, releasing four studio albums and they didn’t disappoint as they brought the festival to a close with a frantic collection of their famous alternative indie style tracks, before ending on their most famous song, a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ that brought the main stage to a close with rapturous applause.

After ‘The Futureheads’ finished, it was time for many of the older generation to disperse, including myself and James, but the party didn’t stop as the more energetic individuals stayed for the silent disco, carrying on the festivity well into the night.

All in all, Cloud 9 was a well organised little festival, which can only grow as the years roll by, possibly attracting bigger and more acts. I liked the intimacy and mellowness that was fashioned and the fact that there was no trouble (as far as I could tell), just a relaxed attitude to it all. There was a friendly vibe, evident by the number of people we chatted to. The idea that it appeals to families offers a different incentive and highlights that community and charitable feel to the day. It was certainly a successful day and I hope to be back the following year to see how it has changed and progressed again, with hopefully more festival goers opting for a less hectic weekend by choosing a more relaxed event to satisfy the cravings of experiencing a summer music fest.

Review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by James Butterworth


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