REVIEW: Lancaster Music Festival

After five days of non-stop partying Lancaster has finally started coming down from its high.

It’s safe to say that Lancaster Music Festival is now the city’s biggest event by a country mile, involving the most amount of people, and covering the most amount of space.

The Feud headlined the castle stage on Saturday night. Photo by Nick Dagger Photography.

The Feud headlined the castle stage on Saturday night. Photo by Nick Dagger Photography.

Landlords and restauranteurs have again highlighted a record weekend of sales, and musicians from across the world have heaped praise on the event itself and the people in attendance.

The festival kicked off at 3pm on Thursday, October 8 and ran until the early hours of Tuesday morning, October 12, at the Robert Gillow, which remained open for the entire time and provided a late night hub for the hundreds of musicians staying in the city.

My festival started at Lancaster Castle, the event’s main stage, at 3pm on Friday.

And what a main stage it is.

Two Men On A Bike On A Dray - Graham Mumford and Ben Ruth. Image by Nick Dagger Photography.

Two Men On A Bike On A Dray - Graham Mumford and Ben Ruth. Image by Nick Dagger Photography.

There was already a palpable buzz in the courtyard as I caught the end of Brazilian duo Estrela Leminski and Teo Ruiz.

The couple, both 34, from Curitiba, had several gigs over the weekend.

Teo described Lancaster an an “awesome place, very beautiful”.

London based duo The Portraits, fronted by Jeremy and Lorraine Millington, performed at the music festival last year, and were invited back to play five shows this year.

Jeremy and Lorraine, Portraits

Jeremy and Lorraine, Portraits

Jeremy studied music at Lancaster University, and lamented the closure of the university’s music department, quipping the music festival could be a fair trade off. They performed at 3pm on Friday on the castle stage.

Jeremy said: “The music festival seems to have changed the whole nature of the town. The whole feeling has been rejigged.”

Lorraine said: “What’s so good about this festival is it’s free and allows people from all walks of life to hear live music, and the musicians are treated so well.”

Ben Ruth, the festival’s organiser, said it was “an honour” to perform with James Mackie and his Hammond organ on the castle stage as Get Carter and The Convulsions, with Ben and some of the Lancaster Funk Club daringly heading up onto the castle walls to play their instruments up there.

Lancaster Castle on Saturday. Image by Nick Dagger Photography.

Lancaster Castle on Saturday. Image by Nick Dagger Photography.

They lost their timing a bit but it was well worth it.

The castle stage was headlined on Friday night by the indomitable Sensory Hoverload, from New Jersey.

The striking three piece played a heavy dose of funk, reminding me of early Red Hot Chilli Peppers (when they were good).

For me, the band worked better in a smaller, more intimate environment, and they received a 3am standing ovation at The Apothecary on Sunday morning.

Drummer Andrew Ho said: “I can not thank the people of this city enough for this amazing weekend. It’s not everyday you get to headline at the Queen’s Castle.”

Man About A Dog were also very impressive, bringing a taste of the excellent alternative Leeds music scene to Lancaster, with some funk, dub and electronic grooves.

They even covered Beats International Dub Be Good To Me and Mr Scruff’s Get A Move On.

My Saturday started at Sun Square, where the Melodrome stage was located for the weekend.

Rob Bee got things started, and then local duo Tactical Toxins took to the stage a little nervously but they soon warmed up the crowd with a lively MC verses DJ set.

We popped in to 1725 to catch some of The Bootstraps. It was already packed in there with lots of smiling faces, and then on to the castle for Lancaster’s Dead Man’s Hand who reminded me of The Dropkick Murphys and had a big stage presence.

Ghanaian drummers Kakatsitsi again built up a set that had the huge audience in the castle bopping away to their hypnotic sound.

Our group took a “break” to go to the Bottle Shop in Sun Street for a beer tasting session with proprietor Mark Cutter.

The 10 of us put £6 in each and had an educational couple of hours with Mark, tasting some of his more unusual bottled beers and taking a journey through everything beer related. Thoroughly recommended!

Suitably loose, it was back up to the castle for the excellent Soul Circle, and then Saturday night headliners and local lads The Feud.

You could tell everyone in the huge crowd was having a great time, feeding off the band’s energy and appreciation of playing a “home gig” on such a stage.

It didn’t get more ridiculous, or brilliant, than the medieaval hip-hop at Nice Bar.

Boom Bike Bouree featured hurdy gurdys, brass instruments...and beatboxing in what was a fun and entertaining danceable sound.

Philip James Turner and The Crow Mandala were as cool as they usually are at The Bobbin, Night Palms hypnotised The Hall, Greenheart did the same in Squires and Jeremiah Ferrari unleashed their reggae rock in The Bobbin.

One of the great things about Lancaster Music Festival is nipping in and out of venues to catch snippets of sound.

It’s the only way to do it if there’s a lot you want to see.

Sunday was much like that for me, following Sunday lunch at The Wagon and Horses, I managed to get into Barclays Bank, Sun Square, Market Square, Dalton Square, Lancaster Castle, The Tap House, John O’ Gaunt, The Merchants, The Robert Gillow, back to the Wagon and Horses, Squires, and then The Dalton Rooms for 3D Tanx.

If I could have got to more I would have done.

The Groove Cutters were a particular highlight in Sun Square, lifting up the crowd with a superb cover of Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher.

The festival continued on Monday, and Sensory Hoverload play a final impromptu gig at The Robert Gillow, today, Tuesday, October 13, at 3pm followed by Michael Taylor, Sue Parish and Jon Moore.

Leading me to question, will this music festival ever actually end?

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend, both with and without our children, meeting friends, family...and what is now definitely one big musical family which is defining Lancaster as one of the most friendly, accessible, and talked about emerging musical cities in the north of England.

Organisers, volunteers, residents, musicians and businesses should be rightly proud.

More pictures to follow, courtesy of Nick Dagger Photography.