Bingley Music Live has been around for almost a decade. Having photographed and reviewed since 2011 it always provides a late summer highlight to the festival season. Usually, the main stage offers a mix of current indie, pop and dance with a bed rock of bands who’s heyday was in the nineties and noughties, while a second stage supports up and coming performers. 2017 clearly brought a change in booking policy which saw a much less eclectic main stage line up and a more homogeneous procession of guitar bands. This brought criticism from some regular attendees but financially, the policy clearly worked with the 16,000 capacity event selling out well in advance.
Cabbage, Friday’s openers on the main stage, really failed to engage with the audience so it was left to Twin Atlantic to bring the festival to life. They delivered a powerful set of guitar driven rock with some big choruses featuring several tracks from their current more hard edged album, GLA. Maximo Park followed and brought sunshine, torrential rain, rainbows and ever exuberant front man Paul Smith. It was a good upbeat set although this reviewer would have preferred to hear more earlier material and less from their poppier, keyboard driven current album.
Bingley’s second, aptly named Discovery Stage, set in its own pleasant area surrounded by trees, has always provided an opportunity to sample the up and coming. 2017 seemed to have even more on offer than usual and the first two days more than lived up to expectations. Playing early on Friday, Pale White’s indie guitar sounds impressed with both their music and stage presence. Later, Tom Grennan with his soulful voice and infectious songs like "Found what I’ve been looking for" is surely a star in the making.
Friday’s Main Stage Headliners Manic Street Preachers have a wealth of material to choose from. Opening with "Motorcycle Emptiness" and "Everything must go", the crowd were immediately won over. Hit followed hit in a masterful hour before the pace slowed for an acoustic "Masses against the Classes" and old Burt Bacharach favourite, "Raindrops keep falling on my Head". From there the pace quickened as they built toward a climax with "A Design for Life". A great set to end a really good first day.
Saturday brought great weather and the crowds flocked in early; local teenagers filling the area stage front while those of more mature years and families brought their deckchairs and claimed their spaces further back. It’s one of the recurring features of Bingley that the crowd comprises significant numbers of local 14 – 18 year olds while the majority of the audience are in their late 20’s and upward, some with children. The 18 to mid-20’s demographic is almost completely absent.
As is often the case, inexperienced bands playing early on the main stage seemed lost in the space and failed to really impress. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon and the arrival of British Sea Power who played a career spanning set, that anyone really engaged the audience. Theirs was a professional and really enjoyable performance. Having seen them numerous times previously, it has to be said that their penchant for greenery seemed to have overdosed. Some local woodland must have taken a significant hit!
Sundara Karma followed and for the first time in my experience, really impressed with a much more energised performance than I’d seen in previous encounters. Seemingly I was not alone in my thoughts as they received a really positive audience response.
Milburn came and went without leaving any real impression which can’t be said for what followed. Pete Doherty was a shambles. Unkempt and filthy, he wandered and staggered around the stage, leaning on bandmates, kissing them and struggling to coordinate hands to control his mic and stand. Yet for all this he managed to sing and for those close enough to witness, the performance was somehow mesmerising – probably more for wondering whether he would survive until the end of the set than for anything else.
Headliners Kaiser Chiefs are always lively and in Ricky Wilson they have a hyperactive, consummate front man who loves to entertain. Having said this, Saturday’s performance was really special. This was the ultimate homecoming gig. Often cited as a Leeds band, Ricky Wilson actually grew up less than 3 miles from Bingley and to say he was excited about playing so close to home would be an understatement. Rolling out hit after hit with enthusiasm to match, this was a great performance.
Saturday on the Discovery stage provided an overdose of riches in terms of potential with some standout performances. Playing early in the afternoon The Shimmer Band offered swagger, big tunes and choruses in abundance – clearly for fans of Kasabian. A little later we were treated to the lively guitar pop of Anteros; reminiscent of Blondie and in Laura Hayden a vocalist with similar photogenic impact and charisma to Debbie Harry. Mercury Music Prize nominated, The Big Moon headlined. This was the second time I’d seen them in a week and after just two listens I was struck by how infectious both their songs and live presence are; a real feel good treat.
Away from the main stages Bingley offered a range of stalls selling festival fair and food. Alcohol was reasonably priced with lager selling for £4.50. Queues at bars grew a little too long during Friday evening but the problem didn’t seem to re-occur. Elsewhere, a more relaxed environment could be found around the Discovery Stage with tented Gin and Cocktail bars offering acoustic music during the afternoons. Close by there was an activity area for children where on Sunday there appeared to be bush craft lessons in making dens and tipis; it occurred that they were perhaps re-cycling the greenery from British Sea Power’s stage set.
I guess you can’t always guarantee good weather and Sunday dawned dull and cold with a feeling that it was just a matter of time before rain began. It may have been the weather or lack of household names but although sold out like previous days, crowds were slow to gather at the main stage. The first to draw any kind of audience were Little Comets but their breezy, sometimes African tinged rhythms somehow seemed out of place in the dull damp surroundings. I’ve never been a fan of Badly Drawn Boy’s albums which seem too over produced for my taste but playing solo; just Damon, his hat, a guitar or keyboard, the voice and lyrics shine. His performance couldn’t be called enjoyable, it was too downbeat for that but personally it proved a real highlight and a pleasing change from the succession of full band performances.
After two days of quality, Sunday at the Discovery stage proved a little frustrating. Bingley has always been well organised in terms of keeping to stage times but sound problems during the afternoon meant that for several hours, timings were significantly out resulting in some fruitless treks up the hill which at times found bands finishing or between sets. From brief snatches that I caught, the guitar sounds of Marsicans were quite appealing while Tom Walker, a singer songwriter in the Ed Sheeran mould was also enjoyable if a little one dimensional. Highlight of the day were Get Inuit. There was nothing original in their pop punk sounds but it was delivered with real panache and at time a sense of humour. Headliners The Orielles were really intriguing, mixing the at times serene vocals and presence of Esmé Dee Hand-Halford with the frenetic and frenzied cavorting of guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade. They seemed to leave many in the audience perplexed but personally I really enjoyed what I saw.
Soul II Soul who followed Badly Drawn Boy on the main stage brought some real class to proceedings. We were treated to a great performance of hits with Jazzie B on decks and excellent soulful vocals from Caron Wheeler supported by Emma Louise. Their irresistible grooves finally got the crowd moving and they received the best crowd response of the day to that point.
Penultimate band on the main stage were Feeder. While lacking the live energy that they possessed 20 years ago, there is no doubting the quality of their material or their musicianship. This was a performance of familiarity and enjoyment for the audience who really responded to the set. What’s more, they played and played and played . . . Their hour long set was still going after 90 minutes. The Wombats should have taken the stage but no one was complaining. The choice of Wombats as headliners had raised some eyebrows, partly in terms of their stature but also because their obvious fan base came from the demographic of 20 somethings that is noticeably absent from the festival – maybe their inclusion was an attempt to attract this age group.
When Feeder finally completed their set a stage announcement informed us that The Wombat’s equipment had been lost at Heathrow Airport but Feeder had offered to lend them theirs. So, beginning about 40 minutes later than billed they rattled through a forty five minute set comprising mostly their first album as bassist Tord Overland Knudsen frantically ran back and forth across the dimly lit stage. They were well received but 45 minutes was about enough; the firework display that followed was more impressive.
So, another successful Bingley Music Live came to an end. We had been treated to two great headline performances and loads of other high quality music on the main stage while whoever was responsible for programming the Discovery Stage had excelled in booking so many performers with obvious quality and potential. At £70 for a weekend ticket, this had been a highly enjoyable bargain!
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