Bingley Music Live is an intriguing prospect; a three day festival without camping, (available a couple of miles away) with a 9.30 evening curfew and a £50 price tag. Offering an eclectic line up it tries to cater for an audience ranging from middle age to middle teens, mixing established performers from past decades with current successes and a range of up and coming artists.
Friday’s weather was dull and damp. Fortunately the music on offer provided much brighter fare. Main stage proceedings opened with the unbilled but upbeat The Struts; vocalist Luke Spiller strutting (and looking) like a C21 Freddie Mercury. It was a good start, such a pity that much of the audience were yet to arrive. As the evening progressed Womans Hour, and Eliza and The Bear acquitted themselves well on the second stage while the main stage highlighted the eclectic nature of the event. The audience were presented with acoustic, inebriated ex members of The Coral and The Zutons, Dave McCabe, and Ian Skelly, quickly followed by late 70’s ska from the evergreen The Selecter. MnekGaz Coombes chose to play plenty of newer material rather than rely on Supergrass hits; an approach that seemed to yield mixed results.
I was puzzled by the choice of Shed Seven as headliners but was repeatedly told, “but they’re from Yorkshire.” Clearly this was a home gig and both band and audience rose to the occasion. The chants of, “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire” that preceded their set and continued throughout the weekend endorsing the current trend for nationalism and regionalism. If Scotland gains independence, The Peoples Republic of Yorkshire may follow closely behind.
A good first day was followed by an equally pleasing and eclectic Saturday, but with added sunshine. London band The Mispers made a positive early impression on the second stage while the main stage drew enthusiastic crowds and very different, but equally pleasing performances from The Strypes, and Bipolar Sunshine. Nick Mulvey, moved from headlining stage Two to a mid afternoon main stage slot played well but his introverted music unfortunately failed to engage with some in the crowd.
Saturday’s only real negative came from Gorgon City, who preceded Example. Two guys who turn up with a laptop playing pop songs – one pressing play, while the other acted as cheerleader, and making no attempt to play any music, was frankly pathetic. Perhaps almost as worrying was the enthusiastic response from some members of the audience. The Gorgon’s should perhaps learn some lessons from Naughty Boy, who filled a similar slot on Sunday evening. He too stood behind his decks but brought talented and charismatic singers / rappers to perform his material, with deserved success.
Example was clearly booked to please younger elements in the audience. He delivered an energetic set with a great lightshow and was clearly pleased to be returning to Bingley, apparently the first main stage performer to make a return since the festival began about six years ago. The performance deservedly won over many of those unfamiliar with his material.
Festivals are not just about the music that is presented. In terms of the mundane, but undoubtedly important, toilets were clean and plentiful and food choices were conservative but I heard no complaints, while the children’s area seemed to be popular on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Punters didn’t seem to have such a positive view of food and drink prices which brought a succession of moans, but to this writer costs did not seem excessive when compared with other festivals.
Sunday is traditionally fancy dress day at Bingley. Last year’s Pirate theme drew plenty of participants with enthusiastic buccaneer behaviour to match it. Unfortunately, this year 'Robots' appeared to hold less appeal.
Musically, after two largely successful days, Sunday was a day of highs and lows. The second stage on Sunday afternoon had a really pleasant vibe. Close to the children’s area, it was busy with families who sat enjoying a few beers in the sun. Performers on the stage may have lacked some individual spark but the generally mellow feel worked well, creating a thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere.
It was a pity that the main stage could not match this. A succession of mediocrity and worse (Night Engine, D/C, Etta Bond, Chloe Howl) performed uninspiring and derivative sets to a largely empty arena populated by small knots of teenagers. It seemed that festival goers had know what to avoid as numbers were very low until late afternoon when large queues began growing at the entrances. The main arena filled toward its 15,000 capacity for a well received set from an acoustic Ocean Colour Scene which towards its conclusion, brought the first audience singalongs of the day. Their performance also saw an exodus from the second stage which was a real pity as The Wytches, the first band to play with any real edge, performed a great set of growling surf guitar / grunge, to a dwindling crowd.
So what of Pet Shop Boys, who brought their “Electric Tour” to close Sunday night? Playing a mixture of past hits and newer material they proved that they can still produce quality in 2014. After a slow and puzzling start, playing behind a screen for the first three numbers, the combination of great songs, lights, special effects and choreographed stagecraft easily won over the audience. They were without doubt the band with greatest universal appeal over the weekend, engaging hordes of teenagers at the front, arms aloft, together with an older generation sat singing on their deckchairs towards the back, no less enthusiastic.
Should Bingley 2014 be judged a success? The weekend brought a few lows among many highs, but realistically it’s very difficult to fault any festival that offers such musical diversity and succeeds in attracting such a wide age and all for £50.
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