REVIEW: Cult Festival
By Hannah D'Arcy on July 30, 2012 in Music
When you hear the word “festival”, you may think of large, green, open spaces, packed with tents. You may think of partially naked hippies, sliding, open-mouthed through the mud. You might think of exploding portaloos. The organisers behind this year’s Cult Festival thought “industrial yard”.
Hoults Yard is no stranger to live music lately and some of the performances last weekend were phenomenal.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon just as Sunderland band The Generals were going onstage. Unfortunately for them, the warehouse that the main stage was in was disappointingly empty and not many people witnessed what was a fairly solid set. Oasis-types will enjoy the catchy tunes but their real strength lies with the rhythm department.
Next up were another Sunderland band and one of the highlights of the day for me – B>E>A>K. The avian artistes performed to a near-enough full house and held nothing back. In an energetic performance that almost made me tired to watch, they climbed P.A.s, jumped wildly around the stage, ran through the crowd and, much to my delight, invited Newcastle’s Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister onstage for the last track, Culture Vulture, the aforementioned having their own, far more disturbing feathery getup. I always like to chance a look at the crowd at a B>E>A>K gig and there hasn’t been one yet where everyone wasn’t grinning like idiots. Saturday was no exception. Fantastic stuff.
Over on Stage Two, The Watchers had to cut their set short due to some unfortunate technical difficulties. This didn’t stop them showcasing their brand new track, Round n’ Round, an aggressive, snarling little fucker that got a great response from a large crowd.
Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister. Their name alone should give you a clue that they’re going to be a disturbing act. I love this band on CD, I adore them live. Having ditched their cut up tights for irritatingly perfect Bardot-style eyeliner (or in Angus’ case, eyes on his nipples), the lads played an unfathomably loud set that’s left my ears ringing even now. Highlight for me was Just Below The Ribs, even when the start was interrupted by a photographer falling off the monitors into the drum kit. Perversely, it just added to it! B>E>AK’s brass contingent returned the earlier favour, by scaling the P.A (again) and playing on Regards, Bison. If you’ve never seen this band and you’re happy to be partially deaf for a week, go see them at Cluny 2 for NARC. Fest, July 21st.
Headlining Saturday’s shenanigans were aging punk band, The Fall. As predicted, these guys really did play to a packed venue, to the point that I had to stand just outside the door! It’s always quite impressive when a band can still pull in a cult fan base after nearly 40 years – even when the singer is reading his lyrics! – and the hour-long set seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by all who could actually get in.
I walked in on Sunday to be greeted by the sight of Athletes in Paris in their undies, playing outside of Stage Two in an effort to get people in. It worked. I assume at least one member was impressive. Pun intended. AiP have a Friendly Fires vibe about them, which is in no way a bad thing and was positively glorious in the short-lived sunshine.
Following them on Stage Two, with a dramatic increase in clothing, was The Jar Family, a 62-piece (slightly exaggerated) folk band from Teesside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band look more at home in a venue than The Jar Family. Not only was it mobbed, but in their waistcoats and hats, with their foot-stomping mini-anthems, they had a barn-dance feel about them that really suited the cold, barren brickwork of Stage Two. If you hate Mumford & Sons, you probably won’t like this band, but if you just hate Marcus Mumford’s voice, you may well enjoy them.
More folky goodness could be heard opposite on the main stage, in the form of Leeds’ Fossil Collective. If The Jar Family were Cult Festival’s Mumford & Sons, Fossil Collective were the weekend’s Fleet Foxes. Haunting melodies backed up by glorious, flowing harmonies, Fossil Collective played a beautiful selection of songs that would have been so much more wonderful outdoors in the sun, instead of inside a dark warehouse.
In a slight change of schedule, Amy Holford played the main stage after Fossil Collective. This was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this young songstress play and was absolutely blown away by the soulfulness of her voice. It’s like someone took the musicality, sweetness and lyrical ability of Joni Mitchell, stuck them in a pot with the voice of Etta James, popped it in the oven and cooked an Amy Holford.
Continuing Sunday’s more folky theme, second on the bill was 18-year-old Jake Bugg. There’s a strong, undeniable streak of Dylan-goes-electric through Bugg’s music, the main difference being that he can actually sing, very well. Trouble Town is the track most people will recognise and it is his stand-out track. This is irresistibly foot-tapping stuff, reminiscent of Roy Harper and bits of Led Zeppelin III but with modern and very English feel to it.
The Sunshine Underground were the climax to Cult Fest 2012, playing an hour-long (who knew they had an hour’s worth of material?) solid but uneventful set.
One of the ultimate highlights of the weekend, for me, did not come in musical form. The Safari van was there, selling their exotic meat burgers and wraps. From 19:00-20:00 on Saturday, they had ‘Mad Meat Hour’. MAD MEAT HOUR. Instantly sold. Not only was the food delicious (I tried zebra which was ridiculously nice and mouflon. Google it.) but the staff were lovely. They’re travelling around, so if you’re off to a festival this summer, keep your eye out for them.
Cult Festival was a thoroughly enjoyable and reasonably priced weekend and it was clear that a lot of planning had gone into making it an event to remember. The crowd for Sunday was less than half of Saturday’s. It’s a shame. There were some acts that, I felt, could have been billed more appropriately. For instance, The Watchers and Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister could have more than half-filled the main stage and bands that played to a sparse crowd, like The Generals and Fossil Collective, perhaps would have been better suited to Stage Two or the Pistonhead stage outside. Instead of having a ‘heavy’ day and a ‘folky’ day, it may have been more prudent to have Stage Two as the venue for the more acoustic acts, therefore creating two varied days with something for everyone all weekend. Still, for its debut it was excellent and I hope to be back next summer.
- Natley’s National Tour Hits The North East Twice