Review: Willowman Festival
By Robert Nichols on July 9, 2012 in Music
North east bands scored a massive hit on an awayday slightly further south down the A19 at Willowman Festival. While the Isle of Wight was awash and Jodrell Bank was almost swept away, the likes of B>E>A>K, Hyde and Beast, The White Negroes, Andy Jones and the Norton Rockets and The Lake Poets took north eastern sunshine and entertainment to North Yorkshire and everyone was a winner.
This June, Willowman Festival moved a few miles down the A19 to a new home between the charming North Yorkshire villages of Borrowby and Knayton. With a host of big names playing and plenty of dry, well drained land to spread out on this festival has the potential to grow and grow in future. Oh, in case you don’t know, those villages are 5 miles north of Thirsk, with a mainline station, so this site has real potential.
It was a bleak, wet and windy Friday when I arrived with photographer Tracy at the site. But I was amazed to see there was already a tented village and plenty of people braving it to be entertained by Andy Jones and his Norton Rockets combo. Andy used to be known for his flamenco guitar brilliance and high wire vocals, he then stepped back to flowing keyboard but now likes to lead from the drums like a modern day Ringo or Micky Dolenz (ask your grandparents).
Hyde and Beast soon drew everyone out of their tented homes to the main stage. Like Andy Jones there are plenty of 60s references. And once again I am thinking of The Monkees with some of those bite sized guitar hooks.
The White Negroes are afforded the protection of canvas when they turn the Willow Wobbly stage into an outpost of Hartlepool. Rockin good time we all had as they thunder out those big riffs. Mighty atom vocalist Ish and the guys version of “You’ve Got the Love,” absolutely wipes the floor with Florence and the Machine.
Natasha Haws charmed the early birds from the trees by kicking off the main stage on Sunday. She is a singer-songwriter that connects with people. A rare teenage talent blossoming before our very eyes.
Later in the tented venue, two Sunderland bands make a real name for themselves. The Lake Poets marry the almost heart-rending contemporary folk takes of Martin Longstaff with a bigger band sound. For me his songs contain the very essence of what it is to live, work, battle and breathe in the north east today. Judging by the audience reaction I am not alone in feeling this.
Then flying from the wings come the bird masked characters of B>E>A>K. It is out and out in yer face exuberance as the feathered musicians launch themselves across the stage, bounce off the speakers and cascade into the audience. Drums to the left, right and flying trumpets and saxophone. Audience beware! Following on the same stage 3 Foot Ninja have one foot in North Yorkshire but always a second bouncing across the north east. They play with all the energy of B>E>A>K, a 3 piece that blast out a sound fit for an orchestra on manoeuvres. They almost destroy their instruments in an explosive finale.
As the dust settled a little lad wandered sheepishly and over to the drummer and asked “did you break your drums?” It is a family affair, Willowman Festival 2012 and a great north eastern away day success.
- Feature: A Guide To North-East Bands At National Festivals