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It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we stood in the rain in Warrington’s Queens Gardens watching the best local musical talent strum their stuff but here we are again. The format has changed considerably, the stage has been moved to the covered market area in Warrington Town centre and the event runs over two days 1-5pm “acoustic pop and chilled out sounds”, 6-11pm the “volume is turned up for live bands”. 

The Roughneck Riot were the opening [evening] act for this festival and they tore into Warrington's complacent mood, shaking the foundations of Golden Square with the opening bars of their first track 'Gamblin' Days'. A mixture of Irish, punk and rock n' roll makes a wildly entertaining bunch. Each player moving and thrusting away with their individual instrument, I must add impressive banjo and accordion playing - always good to see women involved in music (Jade and Caitlin) – plus they were the only two women amongst all the bands of the evening, they even had the balls to tackle both the mighty Clash number ' I Fought the Law' and 'Folsom Prison Blues' by Johnny Cash; indeed they won us over. A thoroughly watchable, danceable, and highly photographical, 20 minute display of energy and fun. Upon reflection whilst they opened a great festival and showed Warrington the way forward they really should of been placed towards the headlining act. It was certainly a hard act to follow in my opinion. I'd love to see their full set and I'm sure I will be doing in the future.

Think early 90’s Madchester enter The Kingsway, whose sound leaves you in no doubt about where they draw inspiration from. They perform a set smattered with jangly guitars and echoey vocals which entertains us for the duration. Singer Wez interacts well with the crowd well but also has an irritating array of ‘stop’ type hand movements which is quite distracting, never the less overall quite listenable and a tad nostalgic.

I’m not in front of the stage as Bill Davro takes to it but from a nearby hostelry it sounds like a thunderous start. I soon catch up and am transported further back in time to the 80’s sound of Lloyd Cole / Elvis Costello. Kieran Gillimore has a distinctive vocal style and the Warrington three piece rip through a funky uplifting set of crowd pleasing tunes.

An instrumental metal / reggae / funk hybrid into leads us to Dropscience who soon reveal themselves as the first and only Ska band of the day. It’s immediately obvious that the stage won’t be big enough as not only are they a six piece they all like to move around rather a lot.  The bare chested antics of a pierced /tattooed guitarist is entertainment enough and with songs entitled ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Gangsters Daughter’ they deliver a provocative energy riddled set. Forget ‘This is England’, this is ‘Dropscience’.

Their latest blog entitled ‘This is it’ announces they’re disbanding after tonight’s gig and the melancholy mood is palpable as Bony Ghosts take to the stage.  They’ve decided to fill their set with a smorgasbord of their best tunes simply named ‘The Fear.’  It’s incomprehensible to think that the keyboards of anthemic songs such as ‘Mona Lisa’ will never have us on our feet again, so I’ll stop thinking as I am sure that one way or the other, sometime in the future, we’ll hear the unmistakable sound that is BonyGhosts/Vandahls/Black Dogs and they’ll be back. Grab their tunes while you can at

The Stocks open with the now familiar slide guitar riff and thumping backline of ‘Bring the Light’ which they released as an EP earlier in the year. They interject their set with a crowd favourite cover of ‘What is Love’ and bravely plough into their newly penned ‘She’s lost the mystery’, which although in need of some backing vocals has more grit added to their distinctive psych / indie/ blues sound. Ending with ‘Line of Sight’ the assembled masses sing/dance along and there’s even a festival style flag being enthusiastically thrashed about.

Red Mojo are introduced as ‘NME’s best unsigned band 2009’ they kick off with a soulful delivery of ‘The Return’ with gently fading keyboards into the more upbeat tempo of ‘Way up in the Clouds’. Ending with the bouncy ‘Outstanding Bill’ I’m wondering how I’ve not come across this band before as they have the maturity and accomplished sound of a band that have been around for ages, a bit like The Doves, they’re there just under the radar.  The whole set is an eclectic mix of vibrant rhythmic indie-rock.

Following their recent success in China Exile Parade return to WMF with a new sound and two face painted joker/bouncers, whose statue like presence is bewildering. Singer Lomax adopts his familiar Daltry-esque stance and rips through an, as yet, untitled new song and into the upbeat rock vibe of ‘Man is Sick’. ‘Movie Maker’ is heavy, dark and screechy, and is followed by the slow and meandering ‘Astronaut’. Experimental electronic sounds, smoke and plenty of strobing add to the atmospheric set, which is a definite departure from their early sound. Ending with ‘Mach Schau’ [Make Show] the jokers scatter handfuls of glitter and the crowd are somewhat divided in their appraisal, some preferring the old sound, some liking the new.

Headlining are The 66 who appear on stage through a huge cloud of blue lit smoke, with a distinct retro style and an attitude akin to that of Tom Meighan/Ian Brown, they kick off with the psych infused ‘Bordello’. “Let me hear your beautiful tones Warrington” requests front man Daniel Rimmer and we collectively chant back ‘The Hidden Glove’. By the time they strike into ‘City of Culture even the litter pickers have stopped to take note. Arrogantly confident the band end the set in a euphoric yellow smoke cloud of hand clapping and thundering drums with the utterly tremendous ‘Firefly’   Their performance is enthralling, and definitely worthy of a much bigger stage, we’ll be watching them with much interest.

Much credit is due to all those involved in the organisation at the new venue which in my view is a definite improvement, despite the persistent ringing of a shop intruder alarm throughout most of the sets there was little else to spoil the enjoyment. One thing remains constant is that this fantastic event in massively under publicised. Aside from a handful of posters in the immediate vicinity of the stage there’s little other advertising and it’s a comment that many people make to me as they see me scribbling notes. I only made it to the evening session on Saturday, and have no idea how Sunday went, but in excess of 20 hours of music over two days I suspect may well be too just too ambitious.

Review by Jo Poole
Photos by Mel - more photos being added to my flickr account here
Videos by Vanessa