Lancaster Music Festival - review

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I’m just going to come right out and say it. Lancaster rocks.

There, sounds good doesn’t it? Well it’s true, so we better start getting used to it.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Festival goers Andy Duncan, Danny Wright and Dave Walsh dressed up for the occassion.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Festival goers Andy Duncan, Danny Wright and Dave Walsh dressed up for the occassion.

Without a doubt if you’re interested in musical expression then Lancaster is the place to be, to quote one of music’s most prolific magpies, “Right here, right now”.

I’ll hazard a guess and say the city has never rocked as hard as it did at the weekend, and I think it took a lot of people by surprise.

There were musicians everywhere, hundreds of them.

Many of them native Lancastrians, but just as many from out of town, returning home hopefully to spread the word about how good Lancaster’s music scene is.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Lancaster Batala drummers performing in Market Square.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Lancaster Batala drummers performing in Market Square.

It would have been nice to see a bit more going on in the streets between venues, but there was never that far to walk anyway.

It was like going to lots of little parties instead of one big one.

It’s unusual, but it works.

My festival ended where I least expected it to, in The Three Mariners late on Sunday night, listening to landlord Dominic Leighton sing Nirvana covers with Dan Heywood playing rhythm.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Jazz sounds from Austria from Marina Zettl playing in 1725.

Lancaster Music Festival.'Jazz sounds from Austria from Marina Zettl playing in 1725.

It was as impromptu as it was un-rehearsed and therefore summed up in many ways the vibe of this unique celebration of music, and the spaces in which it is performed.

Dominic wasn’t the first landlord I saw taking to his own stage that weekend, Jerry from The Stonewell threw out a few numbers as well. It was great fun.

As I thought about how I was going to review this event, what struck me most was how many options there were. It’s quite probable that two people attending the festival separately saw 30 bands each, but none of them were the same. They attended the same festival, but had two completely different experiences. And that, for me, is a measure of its success.

For what it’s worth I saw this lot: The Templebys, The Reggiemental Band, The Lovely Eggs, Room Full of Mirrors, Batala drummers, The Ragamuffins, Molly Warburton and The Shady Days, Paula i Karol, Fables, The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co, Jerry, The Balkanics, Danny Howells, Lake Como, Thunder Jackson’s Contraband, Carpe, The Bootstraps, Dominic Leighton and Dan Heywood. Pretty much in that order.

Lancaster Music Festival.'The Raggamuffins under the arches in The Merchants.

Lancaster Music Festival.'The Raggamuffins under the arches in The Merchants.

And that was only a fraction of what was on offer. It’s remarkable really.

But what’s even more exciting is that there’s plenty of room for more.

This, the festival’s fifth year, was a benchmark event.

It was co-ordinated well, it felt like a joined up event for the first time, and the vibe, or as the Irish say, the “craic”, was spot on.

All told this has been my festival of the year, and a badge of honour for the city.

When people ask me what kind of music I’m listening to at the moment, more and more often I’m saying it’s the sound of Lancaster.

By Nick Lakin