Monday, 24 June 2013

#127: Headlander Festival: Day 1 - 21/06/13 (Bramhall Rugby Club)

Stockport isn't a town particularly synonymous with a music scene. There's one there, that's for certain, after all, being situated as close to Manchester as it is, why it would be a cause for concern if their wasn't one. There's even a wealth of practice rooms and recording studios on offer for those bands who have graduated from the confines of their parent's attic or garage. As for venues however, apart from the likes of the Baker's Vault, there's very few musician friendly venues on offer in and around the town and even fewer that would allow a two day exhibition of some of the most up and coming bands' from the area as well as a smattering of those from further afield, not to mention a handful of names that are slightly more established and more likely to bring in a crowd. That's why when Headlander Festival was announced, there was a higher degree of anticipation than reservation about it, for those at least with a vested interested in their local scene at any rate.

Marketing itself as a family festival has it's pros and cons. Sure you're going to bring in the crowds, but is allowing a festival to feel more like a glorified school fête going attract the kind of crowds that would make it a success? Thankfully however, school fêtes don't often have live music, and thankfully again, if they did, it probably wouldn't be as solid as some of the performances of some of today.

The first band of the day are Cove, a three piece who kick of the proceedings with the weekends Battle of the Bands. Unfortunately for them, the judges of the competition were running late and a lack of communication between officials meant the set had to be repeated, thus forcing the organisers itinerary back and back. Musically however, Cove are solid in their performance and the shared duties of guitar bass and vocal between the two front-men keep stuff fresh. Despite only a four song set, the band quickly assert themselves as having talent, particularly as far as the vocals are concerned and though the song writing came off as somewhat easy, this is something that obviously improves with time and given the band's young age ( I doubt any are over 18 ) there's a certain amount of potential there for the band to tap in to.

The second band today, this time on the main stage is Vacant Lot, again another young band with a lot of potential who uphold a distinctly 'alternative' sound. Again there young age accounts for the occasionally forced lyricism but where that lets the band down both guitarists raise it up. Their set sees a couple of covers in the form of The Black Keys 'Gold on the Ceiling' and The Strokes 'Last Night' the latter particularly impresses with the singer/guitarist doing his best Julian Casablancas impression, really quite well. You've got to feel sorry for a band like this though, all through their set the guys doing the lighting and the sound do nothing but bitch about how young and unprofessional they are, even though the nerves on their faces are obvious. Everyone's career kicks off somewhere and everyone should respect that no matter how far down that line you are as a band.

The final band of the Friday were Freedom of the City, a band I've recently discovered. Perhaps placed unjustly low down on the bill, sound problems and scheduling issues are abound and unfortunately their set gets cut short after just three songs. Thankfully they squeeze a fourth out of it much to the crowd's pleasure given their blend of reverb tinged and delay-soaked indie pop goes down better than any of the other bands on today's bill, a cheeky comment to one slightly warm member of a media team seems to fall on deaf ears and was a slight hint at what the set could have been if it wasn't for poor planning. Whether it's down to the bands or to the event organisers, when a band travels to a venue that they've had to pay to play, and gets their set cut after only four songs, there's something seriously not right, and despite it being the highlight of Friday, a band like Freedom of the City deserve to be placed higher up the bill and deserve not to have the plug pulled on them.

And so the day's proceedings are rounded off in an almost bittersweet fashion. The music was on point, the kids entertainment was on point and there was almost-enough side-stalls there to allow a festival buzz to rear it's ugly head at times. Unfortunately though poor organisation across both tents seem to impact on both bands and sound engineers leaving a nasty taste in the mouths of those so inclined to notice it. For a first festival experience for some of the younger children though it's certainly something worth bearing in mind, especially for the low ticket prices and camping availability. Let's just hope that the Sunday fares somewhat better.