110 Above offers a chance to see some of tomorrow's biggest things

110 Above Festival 2016 review

published: Tue 28th Jun 2016

around the festival site

Friday 17th to Sunday 19th June 2016
Gopsall Hall Farm, Atherstone, Leicestershire, CV9 3QJ, England MAP
£69 for weekend including camping + booking fee
daily capacity: 999
last updated: Wed 4th May 2016

110 Above Festival is a small festival festival based on the grounds of Gopsall Hall Farm in North Warwickshire, populated by a three-figure attendance for a weekend of new bands from across the country.

Despite its small size, it also has claim to being possibly the UK's biggest musical birthday party, created originally as such for Michael Lain and marketed under his surname as Lainfest. The rebrand suggests an attempt at more general appeal, and refers to how far the land is above sea level.

Serene for most of the weekend, it is one of the quietest festivals around, only getting noisy when the bands play and never especially busy in front of the stage. Rarely would more than one-hundred people be visible in your line of sight, and despite a cap of 1,000, the event didn't feel like even that many were present.

This intimate, exclusive feel is both 110 Above's strength and weakness. On one hand, it means there's very little to do, and nothing like the festival crowds you would get being elsewhere. On the other hand, it's an outdoor camping festival for those that don't like the hectic bustle of the majors, and a place to catch tomorrow's massive bands, often before they've even boarded the hype machine.

The music at 110 Above is spread across two stages: A sheltered main stage, and an indoor stage in a circus-style tent decorated by painted caravans outside. Both are very close to each other, and alternated all weekend, a good system as it meant there was never a clash and no need to miss any of the bands.

Headlined by Vaults on the shorter opening day and then D.I.D, and Hudson Taylor on the weekend, with Sundara Karma, and Clean Cut Kid topping the bill on the second stage, 110 Above doesn't feature the biggest names, but they're familiar to anyone keeping tabs on the potential stars of tomorrow, and many of the acts have had substantial BBC and music press backing in 2016.

Further down the bill, the acts were a bit smaller, although all were producing their own original music. This bucks the trend for tribute acts and cover bands at small festivals, a triumph in itself given their tendency to alienate the sorts of aficionados that would be likely to get excited about a 110 Above line-up.

Away from the music, 110 Above leaves festival-goers with precious little to do. There's food stalls, typically of much higher quality than those found at other events, and a bar for alcoholic and soft drinks. But no other entertainment is offered at all; The pop-up performers and activities you would find elsewhere are absent entirely.

This can, sometimes, leave you a little bit bored by proceedings, and if the band that aren't playing don't interest you there's no alternatives to occupy your time. It's very much for attendees to make their own fun, and 110 Above is definitely best attended with a group of friends for whom the music is part of the experience but not the whole reason for going.

 

The age range of 110 Above's attendance is varied, with families - including small children - welcome on-site. It's well-behaved enough for this to be advisable, with no issues at all across the weekend. Groups of young people are less common, but they were there somewhere, often appearing to populate the area right in front of the stage when the hottest bands were on.

Getting to 110 Above Festival can be tricky, in light of its remote location. It's best to drive, and although festival-goers were warned satellite navigation systems would send people the wrong way, in practice this was not an issue. Also, as it's a small festival, the usual tail-backs weren't present on the roads at all - this is such a quiet event that even the locals weren't entirely clued up about it.

110 Above is trickier to access via public transport, but it can be done. The closest train station is Atherstone, which is something of a remote stop, although still well-served by trains. Tamworth and Nuneaton are slightly larger options in the vicinity of the site. Taxis from these stations cost between £15 and £25. A shuttle bus option was also available.

A ticket for the entire of 110 Above is just £69, a remarkable price for a two-and-a-half day camping event with a strong line-up of bands, even when off-set against the relative lack of other things to do. Pricing on-site wasn't too bad, perhaps a little steep, although the requirement to purchase an expensive 110 Above branded cup to buy anything from the bar was a shocking measure.

Although the first day of 110 Above opened on Friday morning, it wasn't until the afternoon that proceedings truly got going, with Anteros the first performer on-stage - only the main stage was used for the bands on day one - at around 3PM.

The gently-tipped Habitats were second up with a decent enough set, both 2016 festival regulars Luke May made their appearance. Remaining a curious mixture of indie aesthetic and pop sound, this was a reasonable set, although the first day's line-up seemed unlikely to really ignite.

Estrons were fourth up on the day. They're one of the hotter rock bands of the moment, but they almost missed their slot entirely, only arriving less than an hour before they played. Singer Taliesyn - who often glams it up a bit on-stage - performed in day clothes, suggesting they'd not really had time to get themselves ready for the set. But it didn't really show in how they sounded, and the band will continue to be hyped and perhaps be one of 2017's big break-outs.

The crowd for Estrons was quite slow, but the next two bands were clearly the audience favourites on the day. First up was Youth Club, a "tropical pop" band invited to play 110 Above again, that love the event and what it stands for. They have a lot about them, although they sound like quite a number of other bands.

Young Kato were next, their considerable contingent of fans - by 110 Above standards - bouncing around at the front of the stage. This was a popular set, and one of the best of the weekend, up until its premature termination as it ran out of time before their final song Drink, Dance, Play. It's their most popular track, and unhappy fans were singing the chorus for a couple of minutes after they suddenly left.

The whole situation with Young Kato was the real story of the day, and a messy situation for the festival. It would have made sense to give them the extra minutes, especially as they proved far more popular than Vaults, a pleasant enough band but not a group you'd really call a festival headliner, even at an event like this.

After Vaults had finished, Draig Cavid - featuring members of Youth Club - took up DJ duties on the second stage with an electronic set.

The opening day had been quiet, with the expectation that the crowds would pick up on the Saturday. Highlights were tough to pick out, although Youth Club and Young Kato inspired the sparse crowds most.

The second day of 110 Above was packed with live music, with a very early start for the bands at twenty-past eleven in the morning. With the late night DJs running into the early hours, it meant very little quiet time was available for sleep.

The break of morning did at least mean it was possible to by a breakfast calzone from one of the festival's undoubted stars, food seller Shmoo's, whose queues were substantial on the final day after word got around about the quality of their grub.


A couple of cancellations had hit the second day by the time that the first bands played, with north-east band Lisbon, and Pixel Fix both pulling out. Their spots were filled by musicians that just happened to be on-site, while two bands - Marsicans, and Skies - were upgraded to the main stage.

The day itself opened as planned with French Leaves, while one of the replacements - Sam Martin - opened the second stage. The first band to particularly impress were Victoria, their indie sounds still in their infancy, but all of the signs that they could go further already there. Passport to Stockholm were another band to play early in the day. Their booking was the result of a campaign by a couple of super fans, who noisily supported them from the front row. It was a campaign worth running, as - with a photogenic frontman and a knack for a tune - they proved to be one of the afternoon's main highlights.

The standard was quite good throughout the day. Leeds band Marsicans, who had stayed at the festival all weekend, were another to impress the week before their appearance at Glastonbury, although the slightly angsty Skies did less to take advantage of the lucky upgrade.

An impressive run of five bands would populate the business end of the schedule, with Fatherson, and Barns Courtney names to watch and well-received by the 110 Above crowd. The audience, by this point, had peaked and it still felt quiet, although at least the fans seemed to be buzzing around the stage area.

The penultimate band to take to the main stage on day two was Theme Park. They're occasionally chilled, yet managed one of the weekend's best festival sets.

It was Sundara Karma, however, they were day two's biggest name, topping the second stage's bill and bringing the tent to capacity for the first time. Songs like A Young Understanding and Loveblood have resonated with fans of alternative rock, and it's only going to get bigger and better for them in the coming years. They're ready-made for headline spots, and were the band of the day.

D.I.D on the main stage had a lot to live up to, although they're almost royalty to this festival, and a throwback to its beginnings as a birthday event. Their set was solid, complete with an encore, and a fitting way to end the day. DJs would then take over, this time with a more conventional set of indie and pop hits.

Day two of 110 Above was the main event of the weekend, and delivered on the music. It still felt quiet on-site, but it was more chilled than sparse. With the weather holding up and bands like Sundara Karma and Marsicans impressive in their performances, this will be the day that most festival-goers remember.

By the third day it almost felt like the festival was waiting to pack up and go home, even though - on paper - it was the strongest bill of the week. Hudson Taylor would be the biggest band to appear at 110 Above, while Clean Cut Kid and the red-hot Black Honey, would add gloss to the bill.

The weather had held up for most of the weekend, but downpours were clearly looming on the third day. It was still dry when Native People opened the main stage, a quite strong opener, while Deco took to the second stage with their indie-pop and a new single to entertain the early risers.

But it was Get Inuit that were the stars of the afternoon. They're just starting to be spoken of more frequently as a band to watch, and in a live setting they prove to be brilliant. Frontman Jamie Glass is aggressive and lively, while their indie sounds are catchy and memorable.

The high of Get Inuit was followed by some less spectacular showings for the rest of the afternoon, with bands like Seafret who - while popular enough to appear here - don't really seem like festival bands.

But the evening bill had some star power to make up for it, with Pretty Vicious and Native People on the main stage. The poppy Clean Cut Kid headlined the second stage, with duo Hudson Taylor - emerging after a break due to injury - on the main.

It was a batch of more familiar names to close the event, although Saturday had truly been 110 Above's zenith, and by the third day everything - from the weather to the crowds - felt a little bit weary. Perhaps three days is too long for this event, especially with so little to do to take a break from the sounds.

110 Above is a good place to check out new bands in a quiet, more relaxed atmosphere than other events. It's surprisingly cheap for a camping festival, at just £69 for the weekend, and serene enough to be family friendly too.

There is - admittedly - very little to do beyond the music, and with two alternating stages there's never any choice of bands to watch. The lack of pop-up performers, activities, fairground rides and other festival staples can make it a little bit dull at times, and you should really love up-and-coming bands to attend. If you're looking for the rowdy festival experience you'd get at a major event but on a budget, you will probably be disappointed.

On the plus side, the food offerings - especially from Shmoo's - were well above the standard you'd usually get at a festival, although it still lacked healthy options. Pricing at the bar was fairly standard, but by being so quiet there was at least never queues.

110 Above is, all-in-all, a place to go camping with bands thrown in - some of which will be tomorrow's biggest things. For this, it is a valuable festival, intimate but intriguing. It's expected to return in June 2017.


review by: Katy Blackwood

photos by: Katy Blackwood

Friday 17th to Sunday 19th June 2016
Gopsall Hall Farm, Atherstone, Leicestershire, CV9 3QJ, England MAP
£69 for weekend including camping + booking fee
daily capacity: 999
last updated: Wed 4th May 2016


latest on this festival

110 Above Festival 2021
festival details
last updated: Wed 17th Mar 2021
110 Above Festival 2021
line-ups & rumours
last updated: Wed 20th Jan 2021
110 Above Festival
festival home page
last updated: Mon 21st Sep 2020