It was bank holiday weekend, so I should have known better than to expect anything other than rain. Looking back at previous events held on bank holiday weekends this year, it was quite obvious that whatever you did and wherever you went, you were probably going to get a little bit wet.
This was definitely the case for all those attending the first ever Ashcombury Music Festival in Ashcombe Park, Cheddleton. It was already looking good for the festival, as they announced that they’d sold out of tickets for the event a couple of weeks before.
The festival site itself was a good size for a first-time festival. At the front of the park stood the main stage; a small, raised platform covered by a green gazebo, with a large “Ashcombury Music Festival” sign raised high above the front. At the opposite end, there was a large children’s inflatable slide and bouncy castle, with an ice-cream van, food stalls and bar situated around the outside. Inside one of the buildings was the acoustic stage, where later in the evening, four acoustic acts would step up to the mic.
After a few alterations to the line up (the brilliant Dom ‘Chuck Berry’ Band having to pull out last minute due to illness), the festival was underway and the people were flocking in. Metal band 5 Point 0 were the first band of the day, performing a heavy set of originals from their brand new self titled EP. They weren’t the kind of band I’d have chosen to perform so early in the festival’s line-up, but the growing audience appeared to enjoy their set and they began proceedings as loud as they could.
Next up was Umbrellabird, the new name for Staffordshire based electronica band In View Of Humans. Having never come across their sound before, I was immediately struck by their powerful instrumental tracks, which combined jazz rhythms and nostalgic piano melodies so beautifully. Umbrellabird produced the kind of music you’d listen to whilst enjoying the sunshine and although this wasn’t present in their set at Ashcombury, they certainly brought it with them through their truly magical setlist.
In stark contrast to them was Release, a band who I’ve watched grow and develop over their time in the local music scene. Having recently released their brand new single ‘The Inevitable’, Release seem to be onto something amazing. Performing tracks such as ‘Neat Seat’ and others from their two EP’s, Release seemed completely at one with the music. This was most appropriate for front man Caleb Allport, who spent a lot of his time off the stage – both standing and lying on the soggy ground at the front. Immersing himself entirely in everything, Allport and the rest of the band gave 110% and remained a real highlight of the day.
Another highlight was seeing Dirty Rotten Souls live for the third time this year. Looking sleep deprived but sounding killer, DRS pretty much blew the plastic sheeting off the speakers and made many want to dance in the rain. At this point, the rain was hammering down on the people of Cheddleton, with vocalist and guitarist Mark Bailey observing that it was “perfect weather for ducks”. It seems that the three piece are always on top of their game, even if sometimes they definitely don’t feel it. Playing a setlist that included ‘Galley Of Skull & Bone’, ‘Cocaine Submarine’, ‘Jaguar Blood’ and ‘I Bet She’s Filthy’, Bailey, drummer Danny Nicholson and bassist Mike Williams gave their all and managed to hold a sizeable crowd, despite the damp conditions. This was something they seemed extremely grateful for, thanking listeners on several occasions for sticking it out for their set. Ending with their current single ‘You’d Look Better With A Bullet In You’, DRS could leave Ashcombury Music Festival safe with the knowledge that they will always be a crowd favourite wherever they go.
It’s hard to follow a band like that, but somebody had to do it. Fears Chella took their places behind their instruments and microphones, looking ready for anything. The four piece only reared their heads in May of this year, but are already tipped to be the next best thing since sliced bread. They opened their set with their current debut single ‘Cool’, a track that has gone down extremely well with radio stations and music fans alike. It was a great way to open their set, which only seemed to grow in quality and confidence as each track progressed. It’s hard to believe that we were Fears Chella-less this time last year, but I think it’s easy to see where this band will be this time next year. Performing a range of originals that can only be heard in their live sets, Fears Chella gave their all and became yet another highlight of the day.
At this point, the rain had begun to soak through my many layers of supposedly “waterproof” protection and after water began trickling down my leg and into my Doc Marten boots like a babbling brook, I decided to call it a day and head home. As I left Ashcombury, Leeds based band Citrus Heights could be heard entertaining the crowds, with more people arriving as the night drew closer. And later in the evening, The Manalishi, Moitessier and headliners Delamere would play their sets and the audience would obviously go wild.
And why wouldn’t they? Ashcombury Music Festival had pulled together a bunch of the local area’s most talented bands and performers, for a day of quality live music. Organisers could sit back and observe the success for what it truly was. Not only had they managed to pull off a festival in some of the heaviest rain we’d seen this month, but they’d also brought together a community. Music: 1. Rain: 0.
You can check out E Major’s interviews with James Fitchford of Delamere, Caleb Allport of Release and rising grunge pop band Fears Chella, by clicking the links below.