REVIEW: Stockton Weekender (Part 2)
By Paul Broadhead on August 15, 2012 in Music
Pony And Trap are a curious way to kick off a festival but on an eclectic bill that includes novelty tribute acts and arena filling headliners, maybe that’s the best way to kick things off. Wah-wah riffs-a-plenty back satin-panted singer Sally’s shouty vocals, all nervous yet boundless, energy. Hidden away inside a tent best suited for acoustic folk sing alongs; it shouldn’t work, but strangely does.
With fears of drowning becoming a distinct possibility, many head for the safety of the acoustic tent to find The Bluebuds. Respite from the rain, however, is brief; the majority of the band’s set sounding like discarded Noel Gallagher b-sides written by Liam. Jimmy And The Sounds sound like they wouldn’t be out of place on a poor American teen movie. Thing is, I like that kind of thing and their energetic power-pop briefly resurrects the sunshine. The lead singer’s straw hat and shades suggest dreams of other places and perhaps they deserved a bigger stage to ply their sounds. Eyes right though, and it’s soon apparent why they aren’t gracing the bigger boards.
Young Rebel Set are the first great band of the day. It’s clear immediately that they have that special something. The look, the presence and most importantly, the songs to back it up. Just Have A Little Faith and Red Bricks are immensely bold and swaggering tunes and this is the kind of music that The Verve should have gone on to make if they hadn’t imploded following the success of Urban Hymns. It’s show-stopping, it’s rain-stopping and damp hairs stand up straight on the backs of sodden necks.
The sun is shining and if people are not enjoying The Go! Team then they still have their umbrellas up and haven’t realised that the rain has stopped. Interchangeable band members and on-stage organised chaos results in children boogying and adults who should know better throwing dance moves they’ll regret in the morning. Be it the hip-hop vocals of Duracell bunny frontgirl Ninja, or the Shonen Knife-esque punk from sometimes singers Chi and Kaori, no-one really knows what’s going on; but when it’s this much fun, who cares?
We’re lucky to even have We Are Scientists, Keith’s struggling voice resulting in recently cancelled shows but if he’s in pain today, it’s hard to tell apart from the absence of on-stage banter that we’re used to from him and partner in crime, Chris Kain. Some bands use wit and humour to masquerade a lack of talent, but that’s not necessary with these Californian scientists with laboratories full of cracking punk pop experiments in drinking, romancing and nightlife. Keith’s heroics in singing into a collapsed mic-stand only further endear him to the legions of Silver Fox fans down the front, and even the slower paced and moody new songs can’t affect the mutual love-in with only the VIP corporate areas taking a Chris Kain battering from onstage.
When I first saw Shane MacGowan some twelve years ago, I thought he was on the verge of death. Someone who’d seen him five years prior to that told me they’d thought the same thing. But when headliners The Pogues take to the stage, he’s looking a little plumper and a damn sight healthier. He’s still pissed as a fart and his talking is illegible to all but those who are equally drunk – which actually represents a fair few of the rowdy mosh-pit – but once the song begins, he rarely misses a beat. Occasional vocalist Spider’s Tuesday Morning is a pleasant surprise but it’s the likes of Dirty Old Town, A Pair Of Brown Eyes and Rainy Day In Soho that are soaked up and spat out by an adoring crowd. There’s no fairytale (…In New York) ending but this is gritty realism with tales of hard-drinking and harder fighting and by the time the band announces a British gold medal following the encore, everyone’s forgotten about the Olympics and heads off to do what Shane does second best.
Coco And The Butterfields are an early Sunday / late replacement, main stage cacophony of Irish jig and US hip-hop that leaves the few rise and shiners wondering if their ears are still ringing from last night’s Pogues antics, whereas Goy Boy McIlroy’s Jim Morrison-esque vocals and extrovert ego is too small for the second stage. Whether they have the songs to back it up is open to debate, but they may well be back on the main stage next years as promised by the wannabe Lizard King. Ragman’s Jukebox start off ok enough, but soon leave you wishing you’d wasted your last song selection on somebody else. A snapped string after only one song results in a music-free interlude too long to be acceptable on a festival stage with nobody in the band willing to step up and improvise.
The Woven Project improve matters back on the second stage with their dreamy Sunday morning experimental folk leaving a nice warm fuzzy feeling. A cover of Eurhythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again does not, thankfully, foretell the weather but instead predicts a poor drowning out of the band’s delicate sounds by the soundcheck from the main stage, something that the festival organisers will have to consider for next year. That that soundcheck came from a band as off as The Milk, who frankly left me personally glad to be lactose intolerant, only curdled the bad feeling. This Plan B / Maroon 5 style nonsense is better suited to an elevator that only heads down to the bargain basement bin.
Andy Jones And The Norton Rockets are another late replacement and invoke a curious response with their opening duo of the themes from Cheers and The Littlest Hobo. It’s downhill from there though, and even their own ‘proper’ songs leave you wondering if they’re serious or not. File under novelty act. Hyde & Beast invoke the same feeling that Young Rebel Set did on Saturday; it’s the first time the crowd feel in the presence of somebody capable of big things. They have the look and the songs and enough previous successes in other guises to be capable of going about them in the right way. Back in the tent, Silver Trees are shedding some acoustic niceties with little ditties entitled things like Flower that serve as a dainty afternoon treat for those in need of rest and recuperation before tonight’s headliners.
Images courtesy of Tracy Daniel, Dean Coyle & Hannah D’Arcy-Johnson
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