We waited patiently, for a whole 12 months. We attended gigs, we played our music loud and we counted down the days until we’d be back in front of that stage once more. We watched with excitement, as the lineup, the headliners and the last minute acts were announced. We planned our May Day bank holiday weekend accordingly and then we headed for Newcastle town centre, cagoule in hand and hopes high.
The fifth annual Lymelight Festival ran from the evening of Friday 28th April through until late afternoon on Monday 1st May and by all accounts, it was spectacular. Opening with sets from Captain Stingray’s Groove Machine, Vidorra, 10o’clock Chemical and Akahum, it seemed that from the get go, this would be more than just your usual local festival.
S A T U R D A Y
It was dry and sunny on the morning of the 29th of April and in Newcastle town centre, crowds were gathering for the beginning of the first full day of music. Acoustic singer/songwriter and winner of Signal Radio’s Star Search 2017, Callum Mountford, performed a selection of popular covers including ‘Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by Johnny Cash, as well as some of his own original material including ‘Warn Out Clock’. Mountford seemed at ease on the stage, occasionally engaging in light on-stage conversation with his parents, who stood looking on in pride, making the entire set feel extremely intimate.
Next up was four-piece rock outfit Don’t Call Me Ishmael, with their set of supercharged originals taken from both their debut album and their brand new second album ‘I’m broken, but I’m fine’. They pulled in a crowd to be proud of, entertaining passersby with songs ‘King and Queen of America’, ‘The Provincial Athlete Throws A Race’ and ‘Sum Of My Parts’, with one young member of the audience promptly bursting into an improvised breakdance mid-set. DCMI were exactly what was needed for the lunch time bustle in the town, kicking the festival up a gear and causing quite the stir. Following them in a much more reserved format, was Emily Kate. A young, floaty, feathery light vocalist and guitarist with a combination of covers and original material, Emily Kate ensured that the sunshine remained throughout her set, thanks to an elegant cover of Katrina & The Waves popular hit ‘Walking On Sunshine’.
Over on the acoustic stage, situated in the wonderfully reverberated York Place, dark folk rock duo Bluebyrd could be found performing their haunting debut single ‘Uneven Ground’. Their beautiful acoustic surroundings lended themselves perfectly to the pairs’ sound, which completely filled the space in and around them. Back at the main stage, Jay Johnson was entertaining those who had gathered before him to hear his set of acoustic music. Playing through songs from his current EP ‘Summer Morning’, Johnson’s noticeable vocals echoed through the streets, enticing those close by to stand and listen. By the time The King’s Pistol took to the stage, the number of listeners had increased significantly. Maybe it was because it was hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind that was Lymelight Festival 2017, or maybe it was because word of just how good The King’s Pistol are live, is spreading fast. Whatever the case, revellers came from all around the town to catch their set, which featured KP classics ‘Paperback Road’ and ‘Host Of Bones’. Rounding off their set with ‘Black Jesus’, a brand new power ball of a track, The King’s Pistol walked away with a firm place in everyone’s hearts.
Due to a last minute cancellation and a quick switch around with stage positions, everyone’s favourite electronic artist, Macious, bagged himself an impromptu set on the main stage. Watching him perform is visually engaging for various reasons; not only does he skilfully switch between tracks with ease, but he also visibly enjoys what he does and that enjoyment is extremely contagious. Smiling at the audience as he left the stage, he thanked his crowd for lending their ears to his music. Stepping up to fill the Macious shaped hole were Divenire, an alternative/indie four piece fronted by former acoustic soloist Dom Morgan. The band really seem to have developed their own original sound, which can be heard in their recent singles ‘Arcade’ and ‘Caravan’. Divenire kept the Lymelight momentum flowing, making those around want to hear more.
One of John MacLeod’s aspirations after his performance on the acoustic stage at last year’s festival, was to bring Attack Of The Vapours to the main stage – with a full band. On Saturday evening, that is exactly what he got to do. With an interchangeable list of members and a popular debut EP under their belts, Attack Of The Vapours are very much an interesting and unique outfit. With John MacLeod fronting the entire thing and a successful, albeit hilarious, performance on the acoustic stage earlier in the day, AOTV main stage set was by all means a success. MacLeod’s confidence was noticeable, as was his enjoyment, as he performed a strong set of originals including newer tracks ‘Sierra Bravo’ and ‘Forty Eight’. In his final number, MacLeod even managed to gain audience participation from the crowd, ensuring that the band left the stage with smiles all round.
As the evening crept on, it was the turn of one of Stoke’s most popular duos to do their thing. Elliot Wilcox and Jim Windsor were on top form as they demolished their set, right in front of their heavy crowd. Playing through older tracks as well as their upcoming single ‘Power Of The Sea’, Indigo seemed unstoppable. Harnessing a sound that is so colossal, you sometimes forget that you’re listening to a local band, Wilcox and Windsor are an exciting rising bubble of loud, screeching, foot stomping riffs and rhythms that you can’t help but get caught up in.
In a similar vain, King Kula (formerly known as Lost Soul Experiment) and Thieves Asylum caused quite a scene that evening too. King Kula’s slithering bass lines snaked through their tracks, as they gave one of the strongest performances of the weekend. Their current single ‘Strange Love’, stood out of their set like a blinding beacon of light, piercing the evening’s atmosphere and bringing everything up a notch for the final few acts to compete with. The same could be said for Thieves Asylum, who played one of the best sets I’ve ever witnessed them perform. They’re the band that you’ll hear a lot of people talking about, if you spend enough time in the Stoke music scene at the moment and it’s quite obvious why. Tracks ‘IKYKIK’ and most recent single ‘Reflections’ put Thieves Asylum up there with the best of them, as a truly mesmerizing and mind-blowing local band.
Wrapping up the Saturday night of Lymelight Festival 2017 were Moscow, a band who are rarely seen out of hibernation. Vocalist and local music figurehead Nic Andrews, was (as he always is) on full frontal frontman form. He’s a real showman with the entire package required to front a rock band, including underrated and, frankly, some of the best cow bell skills I’ve seen in a long time. Performing a set which included tracks from their ‘Pack Animals’ EP, Moscow had everyone’s eyes and ears firmly fixed on them, bringing the second night of the festival to an outstanding close.
S U N D A Y
Three days into Lymelight and we were yet to witness any signs of the traditional bank holiday downpour. This was something that acoustic singer/songwriter John Dhali was delighted about, after his performance at last years festival caused his audience to dwindle and his stage to dampen. Dhali is a awe-inspiring musician to behold. His happy-go-lucky, affectionate and loveable nature, along with his talents as a lyricist and guitarist, make for a wonderful live music experience like no other. With his trusty stomp box lying beside his feet, Dhali performed tracks from his brand new EP, due for release later this year, including ‘Straight Talking’, current single ‘Here’ and the Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire “Best Music Video” winner ‘Only One’, which gained a tremendous amount of audience participation.
Taking to the stage after Dhali was Ingrid Schwartz and her band. Although originally Stafford-born, Schwartz had traveled from Leeds to perform her set of alternative floaty folky originals. Her track ‘Give It all’, a highly emotional and extremely personal song dedicated to her mother, captured the attention of everyone stood in front of the stage, as her lyrics struck hearts and souls. Schwartz provided the perfect easy listening sunshine set, for The Taskers to step up and trample all over. Their confidence was evident as they took their places, turned up their amps and gave their greatest performance yet. Their set consisted of a range of songs from their five year life as a band, including opener ‘The Wolf’, ‘Trials’ and last minute on-stage addition to the set list (thanks to a surprise crowd appearance from “rock royalty” Nixon Tate) ‘Pleasure Point’. The four piece even performed a brand new track titled ‘Heart That Bleeds’, which is set to be released later this year. The Taskers are very much on top of their game, creating some of the best sounds they have done, to date.
Umbrellabird were given the challenge of following The Taskers. An instrumental three-piece, with almighty thought-provoking pieces, Umbrellabird were most definitely the best band for the job. Wherever you go at the moment, whichever circles you mingle in, you’ll almost certainly hear the name ‘Umbrellabird’ and ‘great band’ in the same sentence. They’re an incredibly tight, well rehearsed group of musicians, who seem to be growing in popularity and musical strength with every gig they play. They drew a large audience at Lymelight Festival, performing their own original music as another of the strongest acts of the weekend.
It feels as though it’s been a very long time since we saw Megan Dixon-Hood accompanied by her incredible force of a band. Although still a huge talent as a solo performer, Megan Dixon-Hood’s music takes on a whole new form when backed up by her trio of musical comrades. As some audience members chose to sway and dance to Megan’s mournful music, she smiled with excitement and quickly encouraged her audience to dance to ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ – “it’s the only upbeat song we have, so if you want to dance, now’s your chance!”. They concluded their set with ‘With Time’, making listeners wish they could play her set over and over again.
A little later into the afternoon saw the turn of Shakedown Stockholm, a popular rising band from Winsford. Complete with a heavy seven-piece line-up (including two female lead vocalists), Shakedown Stockholm were nothing like any of the acts that had taken to the stage before them. Their tracks ‘Forgive, Forget’ and ‘Who Says I?’ rang out across the town, ensuring that they could be heard from miles around. They’re a band worthy of your attention and even more worthy of the Hippy Hippy Shake Company, naming a Lymelight Festival milkshake special after them (which is still available, by the way).
Local rockers The Manalishi were up next, with their usual blend of high energy material including ‘Outta The Blue’ and ‘Scream’, both taken from their current album, along with newer tracks ‘A Little Less violence’ and ‘History’. Their crowd, made up of fans old and new, sung along loudly and proudly to ‘Tell Tale Signs’ as vocalist and guitarist Josh Alcock resisted the urge to sing out their sweary accompanying chant. With a new album in the pipeline and the band’s popularity growing in Manchester, it appears as though the next few months will be extremely important for The Manalishi and their career as a band.
A little later into the evening saw We Few play their last set with current drummer Chris Williams, who took the time to acknowledge the band that will forever have a piece of his heart. Their sound was immense, the onstage chemistry visible, as they breezed through their set which included the popular track ‘Push’. It was the perfect way to see off Williams who quite clearly didn’t want the night to end, as he hung around on stage long after they’d finished their set, soaking up what was left of the atmosphere they’d created.
Stepping through the lingering smoke of We Few’s set were Dirty Rotten Souls. Now appearing as a duo, with new songs frequently arriving for our listening pleasure, Dirty Rotten Souls are in a very good place indeed. Performing an entirely new set of songs, including recent releases ‘Pure Bliss’ and ‘I Smell A Rat’, Mark Bailey and Danny Nicholson were louder and heavier than ever before. It’s hard to imagine how this is possible, from a band made up of a drummer and a guitarist, but watching them is a real spectacle and something that I encourage you to do at your next available opportunity.
The penultimate act of the day were The Gurus, performing songs both from their current EP ‘A Good Idea, At The Time’ a long with some of their popular back catalogue, including ‘Dogmatic’ and previous single ‘I Don’t Mind’. As frontman Jimmy Hackley’s vocals rang out into the night, the festival’s first drops of rain began to fall, soaking the crowds that had gathered at the front of the stage that night. Some ran for cover under nearby balconies but many stayed put, choosing to be damp all for the sake of local music. Thankfully the down pour lasted all of five minutes and by the time Psyence clambered up the steps and onto the stage, it was hard to believe we’d even experienced it. Psyence were the perfect headliners for the third day of Lymelight Festival. Stephen Pye’s reverberated vocals oozed out over the crowd, covering everything in sight, as they played through tracks such as ‘Cold Blooded Killer’ and ‘You Will Never Know’. Pye, visibly taken aback by the sizeable audience in front of him, addressed the crowd directly, commenting “this is a great turn out for a Sunday” and he wasn’t wrong. Energy levels were sky high until the very end of their set, when the five piece bowed out of the festival with the earth shatteringly good ‘Falling In Love Again’.
M O N D A Y
It was hard to believe that we’d witnessed two full days of local talent, by the time the final day of Lymelight Festival 2017 rolled around. We were exhausted; our bodies ached from standing all day long, but we were entertained and we were far from beat.
The skies were overcast, but there wasn’t a single drop of rain in sight. Acoustic soloist Kez Liddle opened the final day of proceedings, with her usual blissful bundle of songs taken from her self-released collection of demos titled ‘Rain Songs’. Her crowd, although relatively small, were welcoming and appreciative and Kez Liddle performed her songs as effortlessly as ever, her guitar resonating all around.
Crowds grew throughout the day, with the repositioning of the stage for this year’s festival attracting more people than ever before. This was definitely the case for The Red Kites, who performed their psychedelic infused set inside warm rays of spring sunshine. Now with a fresh lineup including Jim Richards on bass and the aptly named Djembe Alan on (you guessed it) djembe, The Red Kites are producing the best live sound they ever have done. And to top it off, their brand new single ‘Set Me Free (Killer Groove)’ is chocolatey guitar goodness. Their set at Lymelight attracted a strong crowd, with tracks from their ‘Gamechanger’ EP (‘Monkeyback’ and ‘Don’t It Make You Sad’) causing the best reaction. Samantha Lloyd ensued, performing her popular single ‘Now That You’re Gone’, along with newer personal tracks ‘Without You’ and ‘Trouble’. Lloyd has a country-pop acoustic sound, that is simplistic and instantly likeable making her the perfect addition to the Lymelight lineup. Throwing in covers from Adele, John Legend and James Arthur, that had various audience members singing along, Samantha Lloyd provided a fun filled acoustic performance to the day.
As the hours ticked by, the talent kept on coming. Taking to the main stage a little after 2pm were young rockabilly’s The Runawayz, a talented high energy three piece who completely stole the show. Popular amongst the rockabilly scene and with a rising following to go with it, The Runawayz performed a combination of classic covers from The Clash, The Rhythm Hawks and The Stray Cats, making the large crowd that stood before them bop, sway and toe tap in time to the music. They were note perfect, swapping instruments and engaging with their audience like professionals and yet another highlight of the weekend.
Greg Murray and The Seven Wonders (although there were actually eight of them), in complete contrast, were a warm dusting of folk bliss. Their collection of original tracks are the perfect soundtrack to a summers day and the Lymelight crowds couldn’t help but adore the Irish frontman. The band filled out across the stage, as did their very full and well-rehearsed sound, which spread outwards from the audience in a mist of colour and vibrancy. ‘I’ve Never Been So Lonely’ and ‘I Wish I Was In Love With You’, with their hooky choruses and upbeat rhythms, as well as ‘Mystery Machine’ complete with hand actions from the audience, created a wonderful on-stage atmosphere that could be felt all around the stage. Greg Murray and The Seven Wonders may have nearly caused a heart attack for organiser Lee Barber, thanks to their ever-growing lineup of musicians, but they were truly magical and “wonder”-ful to observe.
As the final act, Nixon Tate & The Honey Club were the perfect choice. With usual drummer Tom Bishop about to become a father at any moment, the band enlisted the help of Peter Richards (brother of guitarist Joe Richards) who quickly became an honorary member of the band. If you weren’t aware of the swap beforehand, you’d certainly have never have guessed the difference, as Richards gave his all in an attempt to fill Bishop’s boots. The band performed all of the tracks off their current EP, as well as currently unreleased songs ‘Porch Light’ and ‘Never Be A Boy’, to which the audience lapped up. The four piece were as tight as ever, with onstage rapport noticeable and enjoyable to watch. As they reached their final song, a wave emotion flowed through me and, for the briefest of moments, I was frozen on the spot. Three full days and one evening of local music was about to come to a close and everyone who’d seen it through, knew that they’d be wishing to be back in this moment, when they returned to their mundane lives the following day. As the final notes of ‘Honeytrap’ punched through the speakers and NT, Tom Ray, Joe and Peter Richards concluded their set, a noticeable feeling of accomplishment hung like the elephant in the room.
When Lymelight Festival 2016 concluded, we were left longing for more. I still remember the way I felt, as I walked away from the stage on that sunny Monday afternoon. I thought nothing would ever top it; that what I’d witnessed, was the best the festival would ever be. Walking away from the festival site this year, I was filled with much of the same feeling. Lymelight 2017 had blown 2016 out of the water, sending it spiralling into the air, before landing far away from the bar raised by this year’s event. Richard Buxton, along with the hardworking team of individuals who’d organised the weekend, had done it again. As the stage crews took over the site to dismantle the stage, moving the remaining Lymelight stragglers away from the area, my soul was sad but my heart was proud. For three days, I’d been entertained. My feet may have ached, my eyes may have been heavy and it might have taken me nearly a whole week to truly recover, but if I could relive Lymelight Festival 2017, I’d do so in a heartbeat.