It was both exciting and intriguing to walk through Newcastle town centre on Friday 29th April at lunchtime. Near The Roebuck Centre, a white gazebo was in the process of being erected whilst various different people ran backwards and forwards, between a large stage and a transit van. Watching it all from the window of the perfectly positioned Hippy Hippy Shake Company, was the man behind it all – Mr Richard Buxton.
It was of course the beginnings of Lymelight Festival, a three and a bit day music extravaganza featuring an abundance of local bands, soloists, duos and choirs from every kind of genre and every kind of style. This year was set to be the greatest Lymelight yet, with three stages packed full of some of the greatest local musical acts around.
And it all began on that very same night, with Poliptik taking to the stage as the very first band to play at Lymelight 2016. The Gurus and Dirty Rotten Souls followed swiftly behind, playing strong sets with more than enough for the crowd to get their teeth into, with headliners Sherry Counsellors having a similar effect.
So as Friday night turned into Saturday morning, the weather remained relatively grey and everyone held their breath for a sighting of the sunshine.
I entered Newcastle via the Roebuck Centre and instantly felt the Lymelight atmosphere gliding around the shopping centre, bouncing off the walls and mirrored on strangers faces. The muffled sound of a kick drum, baseline and what sounded like the vocals of a man enticed listeners to stand and observe the Rebel Bear Main Stage in all its glory. And glory it was, as two huge banners attached to the crowd railings proudly displayed the iconic bear logo, that’s fast becoming as well-know as some of the acts it was displaying.
Samantha Lloyd was cold, something many of the passers by reciprocated. The sun had made its glorious entrance and then vanished as quickly as it had appeared. But she seemed in good spirits as she played through ‘Heartbreak at 22’, ‘Now That You’re Gone’ and the emotional ‘Everybody Can’t Be Wrong’. Later she would tell me that the low temperatures made her more nervous than usual, but her set remained strong and her vocals faultless. As was young soloist Callum Jackson, who drew in a fair number of listeners with his acoustic-pop sound, complete with backing track, drum pad and adoring fan girls.
At this point, it appeared as though the weather was on Richard Buxton’s side as cracks of blue appeared in the otherwise murky skies. A brief walk through the festival site led you to the “secret” location of the Lyme Lounge, where acts from the festival played a mini-set that was live streamed on the Rebel Bear website. Lee Barber, the father of RBP, could be found at either location or somewhere in between. This was a big moment for RBP but an even bigger one, for the man who pours so much time and energy into the local music scene.
The heavens had opened onto Lymelight Festival and everyone had gotten pretty damn wet. The music continued to flow on the main stage however, with the likes of Megan Dixon-Hood, John Dhali and Arcadia all delivering astounding performances of the highest standard. Not one act seemed phased by the damp conditions- even John Dhali, whose dedicated listeners braved the rain to catch the soloist do his thing.
The Signal 1 Acoustic Stage seemed slightly over shadowed by the bellowing sounds of the main stage, but it didn’t seem to affect any of the acts, least of all Chris Reale. Minutes before taking to the stage, he’d borrowed my pen to quickly scribble down his set list on the back of a train ticket. “It’s in my head, I just haven’t written it down yet” he told me. His set was well received by the relatively small audience, that stood huddled in front of a run down restaurant, sheltering from the rain.
Back at the RBP stage, In The Cards were ripping through the loudest set of the day. Vocalist Amy Colclough appeared entirely submerged in the music, with the entire band relishing the opportunity to be back on a stage once again.
As the night drew closer, it appeared as though the volume was gradually increased as each band took to the stage. By the time 10oclockchemical had their chance to show Lymelight what they were made of, the beer in the hands of the crowd seemed to dance right out of their plastic cups. It was undeniably a loud night of music of the highest standard. The highlight of it all was witnessing Exowaves play possibly their strongest set yet. They moved about the stage with a rockstar attitude and a carefree demeanour, snatching the night from the hands of headliners Lazyeye, before they’d even had a chance to tune up. Luckily and oh so cooly, the Lazyeye boys recovered their headlining title like stealing candy from a baby. The crowd that evening would have walked away feeling extremely entertained and eager for more.
And more is exactly what they got. Lymelight continued on into the remaining two days of the bank holiday weekend. By the time it reached its final day, there seemed an air of calm from Richard Buxton and Lee Barber, although this was only ever so slightly noticeable. They were over the metaphorical music festival hill, but in order for Lymelight to be an overall success, it would have to go out with a bang.
Bank holiday Monday began with Oli Ng and his band The Vagabonds, performing tracks off Oli’s current EP ‘Into The Dark’. Although he was the opener to a disappointingly sized crowd, his set was easily one of the best the RBP stage had witnessed as his talent and confidence shone through.
The acoustic stage was in full flow once again and John MacLeod of Attack Of The Vapours, enjoyed a rare chance to play a solo set of AOTV classics. “This one’s about a guy I used to house share with” declared MacLeod, before playing a tremendous acoustic version of ‘I’ve Still Got Your Blood On My Curtains’. Shortly after, the heavens opened and remained open for the entirety of Dirty Money No. 5’s set on the main stage. Their music managed to draw out a few people who looked like they’d taken a shower fully clothed, and the band put on a memorable performance of tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on your summer playlist.
And then there was a decision to make for fans of easy-listening folk. Greg Murray and the Seven Wonders on the RBP Main Stage or Wilcox:Hulse on the acoustic stage? Both brought some of the biggest crowds of the day, with everyone clapping and singing along to a backdrop of glorious sunshine. It was long overdue and clearly both acts felt the same, with Gary Wilcox of Wilcox:Hulse excitedly observing that they had indeed brought the sun out of hiding.
The final day came to a conclusion far too quickly, but on the high that festival organisers always aim to achieve. Local favourites Six Towns wrapped up proceedings with a modest yet well rehearsed performance, which isn’t surprising from one of the longest running bands in Stoke-on-Trent. They seemed at home on the stage and even managed to sneak an extra track into their set.
And just like that, Lymelight was over. The blood, sweat, tears and many months of planning and organising had paid off. Richard Buxton looked relieved as he told me with a smile, that the hard work was about to begin. Dismantling the stage and the huge clean up that would begin in the moments after Six Towns played their final chords was a huge and slightly depressing task, but one that was imminent and unavoidable. As I walked back through Newcastle town centre at Tuesday lunchtime, there wasn’t a single sign that Lymelight Festival ever took place. Richard Buxton was back behind the counter of The Hippy Hippy Shake Company, Lee Barber was supporting the newly opened Hounds, and every act, volunteer and supporter that had witnessed the success of Lymelight Festival, was sat somewhere wishing they could go back and do it all over again. All in good time.