Last weekend’s new Bingley Weekender was a bit of an unknown, stepping in at short notice when Bingley Music Live was cancelled. Right from the announcement there was a good sense of anticipation as the social media team did an excellent job of building the buzz in the lead up to the festival..
Upon arrival there was a nice queue forming, however as 4pm came and went there became an air of confusion as we waited in line in the hot sun. It was around 40 minutes later that the eager and somewhat restless public were permitted access with not much by way of explanation.
We later found out it was health and safety-related around the main stage and couldn’t be avoided, minor teething problems for a four-stage /three-day festival.
The first band was a surprise change of running order – Saint Agnes were playing a day early. However, the surprise was not an unwelcome one; the band put on a great performance and went on to be one of my Friday highlights. This quickly appeased some of my, and no doubt others’ fears about the festival.
Next up was Louis Berry on the main stage. The festival was well organised in this regard; it was easy to move from stage to stage and see most acts, and definitely, see a few songs from every band. Berry treated us to a solid set of pop-rock with a harsher edge.
After that came the absolute highlight of Friday for me – Venus – is a band I can see going a long way. The all-female band dominated the New Music Stage. GK’s powerful vocals create an unforgettable impression. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the main stage next year, keep an eye out for the Leeds based band.
IDLES were mesmerising on the main stage as guitarist Mark Bowen strutted about in his boxer shorts. Delivering yet another high energy performance that turned a crowd of teens and families into a mosh pit straight out of a punk venue.
Whilst the headliners, Ocean Colour Scene are not exactly my cup of tea they delivered the hits and kept the crowd bouncing to close out the opening day in style.
Saturday began with Baltic, a Newcastle quarter that served up lively indie pop with their high energy set. Next I wandered over to the New Music Stage for Park Fires, a female duos with a keyboard and keytar. I especially enjoyed this set as it served as a pleasant break from the heavy guitar sounds that permeated the festival.
Catherine McGrath on the Main Stage was also a refreshing feelgood act. She rocked the stage with her bedroom pop style that fit the sunny weather well.
Craig Charles would have undoubtedly carried on this more upbeat feel good vibe, but somehow he ended up with no CD decks. Due to an accident on the M62 he’d managed to arrive but unfortunately his equipment didn’t make it. A backstage scramble by the organisers trying to find some for him was to no avail but I did appreciate that he came out himself to explain the situation rather than leaving it to someone else.
Marsicans were quick to make light of this, starting their set ten minutes early and announcing themselves as Craig Charles. Whilst their music wasn’t anywhere close to the same genre (Pop Punk ≠ Funk) it was equally as good. The Leeds based foursome that list The Beach Boys, Bombay Bicycle Club, Paul Simon amongst their influences gave a great performance of their upbeat indie-meets-dirty-pop sound.
After this I saw Circa Waves on the Main Stage, and whilst there was nothing wrong with either their music or performance, it was forgettable indie pop.
I also felt a compère, or maybe a bit of dance music playing on the Main Stage, may have helped create a bit more variety and kept up the energy between bands. Although, to be fair, the layout made it very easy to walk between stages of you fancied checking someone else out.
Speaking of energy, Tom Grennan has it in volumes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone be so active on stage and still give an incredible vocal performance. He stole the show for me and many others, judging by the crowd.
Another band that was new to me, and one that I’ll definitely be looking out for, was The Blinders on the Discovery stage. A three-piece alternative group from Doncaster fuse loud political punk rock with psychedelic poetry. Their ‘Punkadelic’ sound is in your face and it’s definitely worth checking out their raucous and sweaty live performances. I doubt they’ll be stuck on a secondary stage for long.
Doves, however, wasn’t exactly what I’d call headline material and following from Grennan was a little anticlimactic. They were perfectly fine but is “fine” enough for a headline act?
Having said that, the Saturday line-up and performances, together with the buzzing atmosphere in the crowd, seems to have made everyone happy and excited for the next day.
The first band I saw on Sunday was Ten Tonnes. The lead is Ethan Barnett, George Ezra’s younger, a little less safe brother, and with his blend of indie and 50s Rock n Roll deserved a larger crowd. My personal favourite was ‘Born to Lose’. A great start to my day!
Next up on the main stage was Billy Bragg. He might’ve spent more time talking politics than playing, but he managed to hold your attention, even if you disagreed – even getting a few laughs out of everyone watching. When he played it was good for an old man who’s been around the block. Especially poignant was ‘New England’ dedicating it to the late Kirsty McColl and getting a rise out of the crowd who sang along in fine voice.
The weather was up and down over the whole weekend with the heaviest showers coming on the Sunday so I stuck mostly to the Main Stage, where I could at least shelter a bit. It wouldn’t be an English festival without some rain but maybe a couple more undercover areas to seek refuge in could have helped
Miles Kane was next with his rock swagger and repertoire of festival hits, but it sometimes felt as if he was impersonating Liam Gallagher with his pouting and posturing.
I’d been looking forward to seeing Anteros on the Discovery Stage, the lead singer – Laura Hayden – was captivating and had a Lady Gaga look about her. I stayed for the full set and towards the end, in what I learned is a regular occurrence at Anteros gigs, she got several young girls up on the stage to bounce and dance along with the music. It was indie pop at its finest and they are a band I will look out for in future.
The next band, Echo & the Bunnymen, sadly lacked energy and sounded a bit worn down. Going through the motions, they were the only act of the weekend to ban photos from the pit. They played the hits, but it seemed like they’d been hit pretty hard themselves.
In comparison, James were full of energy with Tim Booth coming down the runway and standing on the barrier practically in the crowd, getting a great response. His distinctive dancing was fun to watch and they sounded brilliant, even if their set relied more on recent material than crowd pleasing hits.
I have to mention the impressive performance of the event manager, SSD Concerts. The festival had an easily navigable layout, with plenty of food vendors and even the prior mentioned delay was handled as well as could have been expected.
SSD Concerts and the rest of the team have done a great job with Bingley Weekender and I’m sure they’ve learnt loads for next year. One of the things that impressed me, even though I didn’t manage to see any of the comedy acts, was the organisers willingness to listen to feedback – they moved the comedy stage to a different location mid-festival to try and improve the experience.
The overall layout was excellent with access to a variety of food vendors and drinks tents. The stages drew crowds but weren’t so packed out that people, families in particular, did not get squashed or could stand a bit further back and still feel the atmosphere.
Get ready for next year, because it seems like Bingley Weekender is firmly on the map!