day two of FOM Fest with The Charlatans & The Fall rounds off a friendly weekend

Friends Of Mine Festival 2011 review

By Shelley Hanvey | Published: Thu 26th May 2011

The Charlatans

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

After a somewhat blustery night we awoke to a campsite full of rather disheveled tents. The dreaded rainstorms had indeed followed through with their threats. The festival site itself seemed to be in pretty good shape however, that is until further close inspection. Due to weather damage during the night, the Big Top and the Bowl Stage had been deemed unsafe and condemned by Health and Safety officials. Information was sketchy but we managed to gather that a selection of artists which had been due to perform on these stages, were in the process of being re-housed. Which artists and where; we had no idea.

Stockport Pantonic Steel Orchestra
As the morning progressed, a number of whisperings began to circulate, followed by various flyers dotted around the site indicating that a handful of artists would be re-housed in the House Party performance tent. Feeling slightly cheerier about this prospect, we headed for a spot of brunch and managed to catch a delightful performance by the Stockport Pantonic All Stars Steel Orchestra. The orchestra consisted of a group of youngsters, aged around twelve to seventeen, who performed a collection of Madonna classics and various Jive and Big Band numbers. My favourite performance, and that of the clearly enthralled crowd, was a spectacular composition of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. The applause rang out long after these talented youngsters broke for their lunch.

We headed over to the Satellite Stage to watch Toro Y Moi; the stage name of recording artist Chazwick Bundick. Bundick hails from North Carolina and manages to fuse the genres of soul, disco, indie and funk quite effortlessly. Flanked by drums, electric and bass strings, Bundick's high-pitched tones pierced the atmosphere as he performed a selection of tracks from his two studio albums. His sound is quite original and unlike anything else around at the moment; mixing atmospheric melodies with impeccable instrumentation. His second album 'Underneath the Pine' was released in February 2011 and I highly recommend giving this a listen for something a bit different.

Howard Marks
As has historically been the case with the indie genre as a whole; the ratio of males to females in the crowd was significantly high. This was also the case with the artists performing however; I wonder why it is that the industry has seen such a decline in the number of female indie bands and vocalists? I could think of a couple which would have fitted the bill perfectly; Warpaint and Esben and the Witch, but on the whole the genre does seem to be saturated with the XY chromosome. The weather had been changeable throughout the morning, bright and sunny one minute, then heaving with rain the next, it didn't seem to be able to decide what to do for the best; much like my companion and I when deciding which hot new band to catch next. We opted for The Slow Readers Club in the Lake Bar. The indie rock four-piece delivered a spirited set in the snug performance space, which was nearly full to capacity. We then headed over to the House Party tent for Howard Marks' DJ set. The crowd was as large and colourful as the man's character, as they lapped up his ragga and dubstep beats. Spirits were most definitely high in this particular tent, amongst other things.

We then headed over to the Capesthorne Arms tent, which was a makeshift traditional English pub. Optional Wallace, a three-piece heavy guitar rock outfit had just begun their set. A particular highlight of their set was a performance of a track called 'Generation'. One thing I would say about this performance space was that the sound reverberated to such an extent that you could barely hear what the band were singing. I don't know whether the amps were set too loud or the acoustics were just not effective in that particular location, but it did prove difficult to hear many of the lyrics. This wasn't so much of a problem with this band as the instrumentation was such that it was a case of, the louder the better, but later on in the day it did pose a problem for the more delicately toned artists.

An act that I was really looking forward to seeing on the Sunday was Manchester's finest indie rock four-piece, Mutineers. Lead singer Nicholas James Mallins announced that this was to be the last ever show for the band, so to expect some high emotion. Choosing to start the set with the aptly named 'One Last Chance', Mallins sang about friends coming together and friends splitting up. I am sure that theirs weren't the only non-dry eyes in the house at this point. Mallins has a captivating stage presence and brought me very much to mind of Morrissey; a character that I don't particularly hold in any high regard, yet I can see the intrigue and enigma that surrounds the man. I had to wonder the cause of Mutineers' decision to part ways; had they simply ran their course, seemingly not if this set and the crowd reaction was anything to go by. Ending their set with 'Shadow Kisses', the band had clearly had a ball and I think we were all a little dismayed that we wouldn't get to see such an impressive display again anytime soon. Don't do it boys!

Mrs Barbara Nice
An accidental wrong-turn happened us upon something truly wonderful next; one Mrs Barbara Nice. A stand-up comedian come motivational speaker, come life guru, Barbara could be summed up in one word; hilarious. I wasn't sure at first whether someone's mother had stumbled on to the stage after a few too many Stella Artois', as she held the microphone proudly and proceeded to sing, chat to random inebriated festival-goers and generally make jokes at her helper's expense. It quickly became clear that Barbara had one MO; to make people laugh, because in her words "life is short kids, don't let the bas***** get you down and let's have a bloody good time!" In the thirty minutes that followed, we sang songs from The Jungle Book, we ballroom danced with strangers, we added up on an imaginary calculator how happy we all felt and I think we all agreed, pretty darn happy. I don't usually get star struck by celebrities but I felt compelled to rush over at the end and get a picture of myself with Barbara, as a mere token on which to remember this wondrous afternoon.

I didn't envy the next band or artist's chances of topping Barbara but Electricity In Our Homes put up a gallant fight. This heavy indie rock three-piece, consisting of drums and strings went down well with the pumped up crowd, particularly Tim Burgess who was dancing away on the front row. Their sound wasn't unlike that of The White Stripes, very frenetic, high-energy rock were you can't quite make out the lyrics but it doesn't seem to be relevant. Perhaps a little too heavy for my tastes but I don't think the majority of the crowd shared my opinion. After a DJ set by the curator of the festival, Tim Burgess, we headed over to watch The Fall on the Satellite Stage.

The Fall
The Manchester institutions drew a large crowd and it was clear that many had waited the whole day for this particular section of the billing. The Fall are a post-punk band formed in 1976 and centred around the captivating and certainly never predictable front man, Mark E. Smith. Smith is the only constant thing in the band, in fact constant wouldn't be a word that you would readily associate with this band at all. To date, they have released 28 studio albums and were widely known to be the late John Peel's favourite band. It's quite difficult to explain their sound; a heady mix of abstract poetry and musings, cutting wit and general anarchy. Soap fans amongst us may be most familiar with the band as being David Platt's favourite live gig of choice. Soap buffs will recall that David famously tried to win the hand of Tina by purchasing tickets to see the band a couple of years ago; unfortunately for David, that particular romantic union was a lot shorter in duration than that of the band's career.

I have been a fan of Scunthorpe singer-songwriter, Stephen Fretwell, for a number of years now and so was delighted to hear that he would be performing as part of his new indie rock outfit, Howls at the festival. Fretwell's solo material is much mellower and inwardly reflective than that of Howls, but no less distinctive and emphatic. The band performed 'Hammock', which is the first single to be released from their as yet unreleased and un-named album, but is definitely a sign of good things to come. New track, 'Difficult Evening with an Old Friend' followed, and then Fretwell introduced his band colleagues. I really can't praise this man enough; he is humble, seemingly completely unaware of his brilliance at his craft and yet still remains, in my opinion, to be criminally under-rated. I just hope that Howls heralds a new era of much deserved recognition.

The Charlatans
Curator, Tim Burgess finally got his chance to celebrate his own work and experience the crowds that his friends and contemporaries had been savouring for the past three days; as he performed his headline slot with The Charlatans. Running slightly late due to aforementioned venue changes, the crowd remained patient in the knowledge that the closing act would more than deliver on their promise. The crowd was largely chilled out, which reflected the general feel of the festival; laid back, like-minded individuals enjoying the best of their largely homegrown talent, with a few Burgess-selected tidbits for their delectation. Burgess asked if everyone had enjoyed the weekend and the response left him in no doubt. A lot of swaying and singing followed as the band performed a selection of their greatest hits. I think it would be fair to say that all requests were covered and even a few unexpected ones crept in which is always pleasing.

The Friends of Mine Festival felt like meeting up with an old friend: comfortable, familiar and with no need to force conversation or feign interest. You could relax and enjoy the memories of the good old days; the 90s indie revolution days to be precise and long may the effects of that revolution be felt.

around the festival site
review by: Shelley Hanvey

photos by: Zoe Jane Lawson

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