Badly Drawn Boy tops a day where FOM Fest delivers most of its promises

Friends Of Mine Festival 2011 review

By Shelley Hanvey | Published: Thu 26th May 2011

Badly Drawn Boy

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd May 2011
Capesthorne Hall, Siddington, Cheshire, England MAP
£89.50 including camping
Last updated: Mon 4th Apr 2011

A former club night for new bands and singer-songwriters across Manchester; Friends of Mine quickly garnered a large cult following from 2004 onwards. Fast forward seven years and 2011 saw its inaugural green field festival, in the opulent surroundings of Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire and with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans on curating duties; the stage had been set for an eclectic weekend of new music, fresh talent as well as a healthy splash of vintage favourites.

around the festival site
FOM Fest promised its patrons three days' worth of live music, stand-up comedy, poetry and the spoken word, as well as the standard festival fare: a good choice of local food and drink outlets, licensed bars, fairground rides and various market stalls selling fancy wares and accessories. On the whole, I would say that FOM Fest delivered on around 75% of its promises, with allowances being made for first time nerves and trial and error; and here's why.

The location of the festival site couldn't have been more easily accessible or aesthetically pleasing; full marks there. Upon arriving at one of the two main campsites, my festival companion and I were greeted by a most affable steward, who quickly directed us to a parking space and told us where the ticket office had been located. The weather had been threatening scattered showers and strong winds over the skies of Macclesfield, but these were yet to be seen as the sun shone brightly over the site; negating any worries we had previously experienced as to the fate of our tent and general demeanor in such unsavoury conditions.

Ample parking spaces had been allocated and the distance of these from the campsite entrance was not significant. We carried our sensibly numbered belongings to the campsite entrance, where we had to leave them before proceeding to collect our wristbands from the ticket office. I was initially quite concerned at this prospect, having borrowed some rather expensive camping equipment and not wishing to have to explain the whereabouts of these to their charitable yet confounded owners. I made my feelings known to this effect and our swag was suitably minded by the kindly lady on the gate.

We entered the festival site after crossing the picturesque bridge over the lake, to stumble upon the Satellite Stage; one of a total of seven stages and performance spaces. This was the largest of the seven and was currently displaying a rousing set from four-piece indie rock band, Patterns. We took a pew and the crowds slowly but surely started to gather, as they heard the electro-fused sound coming from these indie upstarts from Manchester. I enjoy a healthy dose of electric and bass strings, drums and keys and this band managed to deliver something considerably more exciting than your average five-a-day musical portion; a perfect choice of band to kick off the day's proceedings. Heading over to the Bowl Stage, we caught a lively and animated performance by jazz/reggae/ska three-piece, Skamel. I could best describe this trio as Big Band meets Big Fun; both indefensible guilty pleasures. A particular highlight of their set was a spirited performance of Max Romeo's classic, 'Chase the Devil', which was very well received by the sun-basking audience. Skamel embark on a UK tour at the end of the month and in to early June 2011, I highly recommend checking them out for a slice of unadulterated merriment.

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly
I had particularly been looking forward to seeing Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and Mr Sam Duckworth certainly did not disappoint. With drum and electric guitar accompaniment, Get Cape (stage name of Duckworth) performed a string of his indie rock and electroacoustic hits to a large and appreciative crowd. Kicking off with 'Collapsing Cities' had been a wise decision, as the crowd was eased gently yet indubitably in to the feel good festival vibe of the Southend native's sound. Speaking of which; Get Cape also chose to showcase a new track to the eager crowd, named after that very same seaside town. He posed a question as to whether you could truly love two things at the same time, or whether your heart always knows where it really lies; he was referring to football teams, but being female and not sporty in the slightest inch, I chose a more literal romantic reference. Following with popular track 'Call Me Ishmael', the crowd continued to participate as they clapped along to the melodic indie pop favourite. We were then treated to 'Whitewash is Brainwash', which was dedicated to a crowd member wearing a green mask apparently. This perfect piece of punchy pop was also well received by all and was a good choice and high point on which to close the set. Get Cape's stellar set made me all the more keen to check out more of his back catalogue.

My immediate observations with regards to the make-up of the crowd had been that there was a good mix of age groups, with families and children under 12, teenage girls, 20s indie kids and 30s Mancunian indie loyalists. This ensured a vibrancy of atmosphere which must have been particularly enjoyable for the artists. The food and drink outlets, whilst being plentiful for the number in attendance, were not of the number or range that had been promised on the official website. We scoured the festival site for the advertised 'Festeraunt', promising a sit-down waiter service with foods from a wide range of top Manchester eateries; but our search had been in vein. To be fair, it probably had not been cost-effective to run such a service due to the attending numbers, so I suppose the organisers had been in a catch 22 situation; advertise it and they will comeĀ…but if they don't, be prepared for the ensuing flack for non-delivery. The capacity of the space had been set at 10,000 but I would guesstimate that around half of that actually purchased tickets across the three-day weekend.

David McAlmont
David McAlmont, of McAlmont and Butler fame drew a large crowd to the Big Top tent. A highlight of his set was a performance of an Italian song which had been translated in to English for Shirley Bassey. McAlmont said that he was a huge fan of Bassey's and he certainly did the jazzed-up sultry track with piano accompaniment justice. Another memorable highlight was a performance of a track called 'Love Song from Outer Space', where his notes were as colourful as his dress sense. I had also been looking forward to seeing folk favourite, Emmy the Great, on the Satellite Stage that day. Emmy has performed with such nu-folk artists as Johnny Flynn and Noah and the Whale and is a considerable songwriting talent in her own right. Flanked by drums, keys and strings, Emmy kicked off her set with 'Exit Night' and followed with my personal favourite, 'We Almost Had a Baby'. When I first heard the latter, I felt compelled to discover the composer of such a beautiful and haunting track; from then on I became quite the fan of Emmy's work. She has a disarming stage presence; still and serene yet clearly housing a vocal power that can reduce the crowd to mere objects, frozen and rooted to the spot till her lyrical spell has been cast. Emmy ended her set with the religiously retrospective 'First Love' and definitely left the crowd wanting more.

Cherry Ghost
Alternative rock quintet, Cherry Ghost came next to the stage and had obviously been a popular choice for many. Hailing from Bolton, the band have been together since 2005 and released their second album 'Beneath This Burning Shoreline' in 2010. Starting the set with second album track, 'A Month of Mornings', the band were enthusiastically welcomed to the stage as ever humble lead singer Simon Aldred stated that the band had not played together for a while and requested the crowd's help with some sing-along action. A performance of Ivor Novello-winning track 'People Help the People' had to be abandoned as Aldred felt the sound had not been up to scratch; ever the consummate professional it seemed. This technical glitch did nothing to dampen the spirits of the crowd however, as they reveled in a spot of classic northern rock.

Georgia Alabama natives and psychedelic rock four-piece, Black Lips followed, with a rousing set which seemed to blow its predecessors out of the water. The guitar-heavy outfit were as hilarious as they were majestic, quipping that the first track which they performed had reached number eleven in Czechoslovakia. The stage could barely contain these rip-roaring educational rejects as lead singer Cole Alexander bounded about it like a manic thing, much to the crowd's amusement and glee. The band put out their sixth studio album, 'Arabia Mountain' on June 7th, 2011 and have widely been tipped to explode over these shores after its release.

The Travelling Band
The Travelling Band, felt by many to be Manchester's finest folk pop band, delivered an impressive set on the Lakeside Stage. Their set ran at the same time as that of Buzzcocks, which by their own admission was more than a little daunting. The five-piece thrilled the crowd with tracks including 'Sunrise' and showcased their pitch perfect harmonies to full effect. This is a band that I would definitely like to see more of.

Then came the artist which for me had been the main draw of the festival - Badly Drawn Boy. I have been a devotee of Damon Gough for a number of years now and he never fails to captivate his audience with his inimitable blend of moody indie folk, which often borders on the plain miserable. He often seems to be in a particularly bad mood; be it due to the surplus crowd noise or in this case, the surplus band noise floating across from The Cribs' set. Gough is definitely not a fan of the aforementioned Wakefield rock three-piece, as he quite loudly proclaimed on more than one occasion. I was tempted to see where he had been coming from as my friend and I decided to scoot over to catch the end of their set. We were informed that no one was allowed to pass through a gate next to the stage whilst they were performing. Why you might ask; because they apparently felt that they would get ambushed by crazed fans and preferred to be escorted back to the plush VIP area by the burly guards. I didn't get the impression that any members of the crowd would be bothered enough to ambush anyone, yet I suppose to every festival there must come the drama queens.

Gough took to the stage later than billed, due to a couple of sound issues with previous artists. Performing such tracks as 'I Can't Make it Anymore', 'Is There Nothing We Could Do', 'Journey from A to B', 'The Shining' and 'You Were Right', Gough delivered a performance worthy of his headline billing and the crowd highlighted this by singing along with almost every track. Gough brought his young daughter Edie to the stage to perform 'The Time of Times' with him, which was a particularly sweet moment for all. He called time on a performance of 'A Minor Incident' which happens to be one of my favourites, so I was a little disappointed but to be fair the noise from the Satellite Stage was spoiling the heartfelt number slightly. At this point his artistic rage seemed to be in full flow; perhaps a composer of such brilliant melodies and lyrics is bound to be more than a little offbeat; look at Mozart. I did have to agree with Gough on one point; the organisation of the staging needs to be looked at in more detail for next year, either that or perhaps invest in sound-proofing. Gough performed my favourite track 'Silent Sigh' as his set drew to a close and although he had been a little like a bear with a sore head, I still thoroughly enjoyed the performance and went away happy.

Badly Drawn Boy
review by: Shelley Hanvey

photos by: Zoe Jane Lawson

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