Take Monday Off.
Sound advice from the organisers of Lancaster Music Festival, which without a shadow of a doubt has become one of England’s most impressive events.
Under the shadow of the tragic felling of the Eric Morecambe statue, and Paul Akister’s X-Factor shenanigins, Lancaster Music Festival rocked on in a big way.
Unfortunately I didn’t take Monday off, and I’m sitting here rather shellshocked trying to collect my thoughts and write this review.
It’s 10am on Monday, but rewind three days to Friday evening and The Lumberjack Cowboy Hearbreak Trucking Company at Lancaster Castle.
We had some friends and family over for the weekend and as we all wandered up Castle Hill towards our “hidden gem’s” gaping maw, there were more than a few shivery spines in the group. My own included.
It was jaw dropping.
Music aside, the feeling inside the castle’s courtyard could quite succintly be described as ecstatic.
Everyone knew they were a part of something very special. History in the making.
Arguably, there were a few outside the castle walls who found this particular use of the building innapropriate, but try telling that to San Diego’s Lacy Younger, Jerusalem’s Shalosh, or Ghana’s Kakatsitsi, who all, among many others, had the honour of performing on the castle’s outdoor stage.
The honour was plain to see.
Talk over the weekend was that you could hear the castle shows from the Ashton Memorial, so how The Lumberjacks’ “I F*cking Love You” went down with the collection of MPs meeting at Lancaster Priory next door is anyone’s guess.
The hundreds singing, dancing, laughing and hugging inside the venue though had nothing but praise for one of our favourite and most established “local bands”.
It’s a contentious issue. But this review isn’t about politics. It’s about music. And Lancaster.
Being a local journo gave me the opportunity to speak to those people that made it happen. Francesca Lewis and Chris Selkirk at the castle, Andrew at Nice, Mark Cutter at The Robert Gillow (which stayed open for five days solid), Sue Seddon here there and everywhere, Sarah Thornton, Pete Yeandle at The Yorkshire House, Mandy Blackwell and Nick Dagger who were photographing everything, Chas Ambler at the Melodrome Stage in Sun Square. The list goes on.
Then of course there’s the man himself Ben Ruth, without whom none of this would have happened.
And indeed those people who had come to see what all the fuss was about.
Resoundingly, visitors had nothing but love for the city and its inhabitants.
I lost count of the times I heard people from out of town saying “Lancaster is lovely, the people are so nice, we’ll definitely be back.”
Back to Friday, we caught the brilliant Gibrish at The Hall, the unassuming and lighthearted Franco and The Dreadnought at The Sun, and then the piece de resistance and another of our “local heroes” The Lovely Eggs at The Yorkshire House.
I peeled myself off the bed on Saturday morning to make sandwiches, chicken legs and pasta for an extremely special event at the in laws’ house.
London’s The Portraits asked for a living room to perform in on Facebook, and we jumped at the chance to host them.
The four piece alternative folk band, led by husband and wife Jeremy and Lorraine and accompanied by two violinists from France and the US, played to a mixed crowd of Halton residents including some remarkably well behaved children.
Their sound was sweet - I caught more than a whiff of The Beautiful South, and it was a wonderful start to Saturday for all of us.
They recorded our voices for an amazing project they are working on at the moment. Check them out on Facebook.
I then whisked my son Will back into the city and we witnessed the amazing, bizarre and infectious Heidi Happy at The Dukes, before peeking in on Rat Bit Kit at Atticus in King Street who obliged our late arrival with an encore of quite remarkable and more than a little bit scary voice and digital accordian.
Great fun. We then hit the castle again for Preston funksters Templebys, before The Feud hit the stage to another massive audience.
Despite a few technical issues - the sound completely died twice - The Feud got everyone on their side with their energy and professionalism, giving us a taste of why they’ve become so in demand across Europe and the UK. They went on to do a stripped down set at the John O’ Gaunt later.
Naturally, things got a bit blurry after that, but I still had enough in me to catch a bit of Joe McCorriston at Aurora Tattoo Studio, Shalosh at The Hall, and a serious highlight for me - Third Thumb at The Bobbin. Massive drums, electronics, deep bass and instrument changes from this talented duo from Barnoldswick were more than a worthy opener for Carpe, who were stunning as usual.
The New Jave Trio were also excellent at The Robert Gillow later, creating a trance like groove that had the packed out and jovial pub on their feet throughout.
Sunday is always the best day at a festival. Everyone has “got it out of their system” and those still there tend to have a lot of resolve, an iron will, and a strong stomach.
A fun loving nature also helps too, and of course the Monday off.
I took my son Will and daughter Zoe into town again and we stared in wonder and confusion at a man playing classical violin whilst jesting with the crowd and performing what I can only describe as slapstick classical.
As a treat we had one of Juicafe’s award winning Lacuma Matata smoothies, which helped blow the cobwebs away for me.
We called in on a chilled out vibe at The Hall with The Portraits; Miniking and The Guns of Navarone at Sun Square, and then it was back up to the castle for the international programme.
I loved Kakitsitsi, a big hypnotic drum sound that reverberated around the inside of the castle walls and created a superb mood with adults and children alike.
Toronto’s Andria Simone was also a revelation, an excellent retro rock and Motown sound that was just what the doctor ordered.
Food came courtesy of Go Burrito, and Lacy Younger closed the castle stage with her raspy and admittedly not altogether note perfect American rock voice, but she was great nonetheless, although the audience was much much smaller than the two previous nights.
Some festival blues setting in perhaps.
I struggled on of course, and caught The Vibe, a tight indie four piece from Edinburgh with sounds reminiscent of both Supergrass and The Beatles, and massive sideburns to boot.
We left to see New Jersey’s Sensory Hoverload who had funk by the bucketload and brought some raw swagger and bravado to a still packed out Penny Bank Pub.
Then on to Room Full of Mirrors at The Study Room, who played a blinder as always and had everyone up on their feet for about five encores!
Throwing caution to the wind we headed down to The Yorkshire House for another hightlight of the weekend - Dohnut. Edgy, tight, rocking, rude, smooth and intelligent - there’s some adjectives to describe Dohnut’s sound. And lovely people too.
Jimi from The Lumberjacks’ appearance onstage with them gave off a great buzz in the venue too.
“It would be rude not to” was the reason given for piling back into The Robert Gillow for one last drink and some more sounds.
The Yorkshire House’s rather abrupt cutting off of the music was another one.
It was a karaoke style affair, which at first felt wrong, but gave way to plenty of laughs, and we left with Sarah Thornton’s dulcet tones ringing in our ears, and I left wearing Lancaster musician Charlie Galloway’s jumper. Don’t ask.
Lancaster Music Festival was outstanding. It’s still going on now (Monday) if you’ve a mind for some more. Lancaster shone like it’s never shone before, and the natives played a blinder in showcasing why it is they love living here.
BBC Lancashire were out and about interviewing musicians and visitors all weekend as well, which created an exciting mood.
Without meaning to sound mushy, there was a whole lot of love on display and in the air in our city this weekend, and everyone could feel it.
Without a doubt my favourite festival of the year - for the second year running.
Early night tonight for me I think. Roll on Lancaster Music Festival 2015.
By Nick Lakin.