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Freedom Festival 2017

Freedom Festival: the three-day weekend where chaos reigns in Hull’s city centre.

I didn’t attend for full days like I have done in previous years, but in the eight or so hours, stretched over two days, that I did attend, I was captivated by so much that it is difficult to say which one aspect stood out me. I watched acrobatics like no other, sipped soup with a stranger, was attacked by prehistoric creatures and witnessed a bodiless lady drink wine through a straw.

 

I’ll start with the music, because when I plan any festival weekend this tends to be key features on the list. And I actually only saw one band for any length of time. Having missed Mighty and the Moon at Humber Street Sesh, I made sure to attend their set in the Speak Out Stage, as part of the Three Minute Heroes campaign run through The Warren Youth Project.

I was running late to everything that I planned, so found myself at the rear of a very busy Speak Out tent. Rushing down Queen Street I could hear Emma Fee’s sweet tones and it drew me into the tent, and I was so excited that I didn’t mind that I couldn’t see the stage. However, for the first few songs I was agitated by those small crowds of people who loitered at the opening chatting and just simply not focusing on the music, which should have been why they were there.

As difficult as it was to focus entirely on the music, I was still blown away with how fab the band are. I’ve always enjoyed Emma Fee’s sets at gigs and festivals, whether doing her solo work or performing with her band Happy Endings. When I heard that she was joining Mighty and the Moon I was so excited (I’ve said that already) because I could picture the beautiful harmony of her voice alongside Martin Clappison’s. In fact, I’d built such an aural image in my mind, that my biggest fear was that it wouldn’t sound as good in reality as in my head. But it was everything I had hoped, adding both to the Mighty and the Moon’s emotional tracks and their more uplifting, dance along sounds. Musically and lyrically, they’re just a beautiful band and you should definitely go and see them – I should go and see them more often.

I had planned to see other musicians but got caught up in a chat with a wonderful woman named Elaine. This wasn’t quite random, although for those who didn’t know that While Having Soup was happening it may have felt that way. Along Princes Dock Street, a stone’s throw from Ask, chairs sat in pairs and people chatted while eating soup. The soup was lentil soup made at Kardomah94 and was very yummy, but the menu had bites of conversation rather than food orders. The idea behind it was simple: to get people talking. You start by giving your name and being paired off with a stranger. My stranger conversationalist was a woman named Elaine who was wonderfully positive and easy to talk to. The menu is tailored to the city and we were asked to discuss whether or not a new narrative was needed when discussing Hull. We were given 15 minutes to discuss the topic, and I’m sure we went over that, never pausing, never feeling uncomfortable discussing personal opinions based on personal experiences.

FreedomFestival - While Having Soup picture with Elaine
Our morsel of wisdom

For dessert, we were asked to leave a morsel of our discussion which would then be written up onto a photograph taken of us both. These photographs of strange pairings with their offerings of wisdom were then displayed on a screen in the centre of the al fresco café.

 

What I loved about this the most was that as someone who often attends things on their own, I was made incredibly comfortable in volunteering myself. Elaine’s daughter joined in as well, but they were separated so that each had a different perspective. And both pairings continued conversation afterwards, introducing the others and bringing people together who wouldn’t necessarily ever speak to each other. In an age when you can sit on your phone while having a coffee alone in a café, people don’t spark random conversations, but they were forced to in this environment. And it was incredibly positive: the waitresses told us how inspiring and interesting the two days’ worth of conversations had been.

Elaine and I didn’t swap numbers or anything like that, but maybe our morsel of wisdom will help people see Hull in a different way, discuss Hull in a more positive manner.

The front page of the guide for Freedom Festival showed The Bullzini Family, famous highwire-walkers who have performed at a variety of festivals. They told a simple story of man meets woman, man and woman fall in love. But metres in the sky, far above the onlookers below, and a rope being their only means of reaching each other.

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The Bullzini Family 

The acrobatics were amazing. The entire performance was terrifyingly fascinating. Not only were they walking along the tightrope, but they hung from it, twirled on it and cycled across it. There were fireworks and confetti and an overall good time was had by every person watching. The crowd was a mixture of suspense-filled intakes of breath and loud clapping in support of their amazing skills.

It’s difficult to describe in words because it was watching something which on paper sounds somewhat basic but in reality is incredible. Everyone who asked, I suggested they catch this performance simply because explaining it wasn’t enough – you had to see it.

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Sky-high cycling 

And, looking up at even the grey sky, I caught a bit of sun during the whole thing.

I caught a few performances, mostly dance performances. And I enjoyed them all.

I was quite excited by the blurb in the programme for Compagnie Dyptik performing D-Construction. Again, I was little late so four deep into the crowd, which made this difficult to see much of what was performed at ground-level. However, the performance involved them scaling a fence, which I could watch and was incorporated brilliantly into the dance. The blurb described the setting as a playground but that playground could have been anywhere in your imagination: with Arab hues in the music it could have reflected Syria, Afghanistan, or Palestine. With audience participation, it brought all of that to Hull. Even the choreography left your imagination to fill in the story: aggressive movements which could have been intended as playful or violent. The performance ended with the dancers on the opposite of the fence, seated amongst the Hull crowd and looking back at where they’d started, either longing for home or free from what was home or both.

The story of D-Construction inspired me, but the performance which amazed me was Joli Vyann and L’Eolienne performing Lance Moi En L’Air. Translated this means Thrown Into The Air. And that’s basically what happened. The entire dance told a violent love story and both male and female dancer pushed and threw the other around. It was a series of lifts and throws and every time they finished one terrifying lift, you assumed they’d done everything that they could, only to watch on as they performed more.

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One of the many lifts 

There’s only one negative that I can consider with regards to the weekend’s events. The moaners. Every time I found myself moaning, it was about the moaners and the people who just weren’t embracing or giving their full energy to the festival and the acts that work hard to perform as wonderfully as they did. Struggling to listen to an amazing band is annoying; I understand it happens, but the conversations were unnecessarily loud and could have moved elsewhere. And those who joined the back of a crowd only to complain that they couldn’t see because of the crowd, really should have moved on. Last year I joined the back of a crowd, realised that I was missing something wonderful and made sure that I came back in time to see the entire performance when repeated. Because the majority of performances are repeated at Freedom, so that the majority of people can see and experience them. There are no excuses for moaning about not being able to see a repeated performance. And if it is a one-off performance and you’re not interested, make way for those who are.

The weekend was exceptionally chaotic and it was wonderful. The positives massively outweigh any negative. And reliving it by writing a review or looking over the photographs, you feel like you’re experiencing the joy and excitement all over again.

This has been a long one, but there is so much I’ve  not told you about. My advice? Get yourself to Freedom Festival 2018, experience it for yourself. And if you can’t do that, invite a stranger for a cup of soup and a chat.

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Humber Street Sesh – The Unorganised Chaos Formula

So, tomorrow is the first day of August and I’ve realised two things. One, I haven’t been successful at keeping the blog busy this year. City of Culture, I have struggled to balance you with work. And two, Humber Street Sesh is this weekend!

As with every year, my best friend is moving herself North for the weekend of Sesh. We literally only plan that one day. But so busy have we both been that this year we haven’t really found the time for even that. So, instead of my usual organised band-by-band what you should see preview, here’s my plan on ‘winging it’.

I’m usually one of those people who can write up a plan months before an event, especially something like HSS which I look forward to for most of the year (I bought my tickets on October). But when you overly plan things, it is more likely that something won’t happen. Last year, what happened was standing in front of the main stage waiting for one of my favourite bands, only for them not to go on. I could see the lead singer, I watched the lead singer waiting, waiting, waiting…

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan
Festival Faves, Streaming Lights

The band subsequently announced that they were no longer a band the following month.

The moral: winging it means no heartbreak. I don’t plan to see much, so I can’t be upset if I don’t see certain elements. I can simply blame the Unorganised Chaos Formula.

So, this is how it works. We turn up on the day with three acts on the Must See List. THREE. One headliner and two other acts.

Disclaimer: I will miss out on amazing acts that I would love to see. I will feel disappointed at this. I will bump into a bandmember I am friendly with and feel devastated that we missed their act. But I will simply say, “We’re winging it this year” and all will be fine.

To decide on my Must See List of three, I have to consider the bands which a) we both love and adore, and b) will ensure we are not disappointed.

So, start with the headliner. This is a lot harder than it sounds, because this year there are four headliners that I love and adore. They are The Quicksilver Kings (Speak Easy stage), Fire (The Unstoppable Force) (Strummerville Stage – many brackets), LIFE (Main Stage – and totally deserving, because they’ve had an epic year), and finally, Counting Coins (Fruit 2 stage). Thankfully, my lovely bestie helps with this decision. If I ask her which Hull band she wishes to see, especially at 10pm when we’ve spent twelve hours watching bands, she will say two words: Counting Coins.

Counting Coins
Counting Coins from a previous HSS (when I didn’t have a great camera)

We will be at the Fruit 2 stage at about 9:45pm and we will dance our tired feet off, doing a little salsa when necessary, and singing to our broken throats content. Because that is what the lady wants, and it’s actually been a whole year since either of us have seen them live.

That leave two Must See acts for my list.

First on the list, performing at 3pm on the Fringe Stage, I’ve selected Loudhailer Electric Company. I’ve seen them perform a few times at Kardomah94 but never on an outdoor stage, so it’d be fantastic to see them in that different setting. They’re loud, they’re funky, they’re amazing performers and songwriters. And the bestie hasn’t seen this band perform, so it’ll be good to introduce her to something new.

Loudhailer Electric Company Paul Newbon
Loudhailer performing at K94 (photo credit to Paul Newbon)

The last of my Must See is a little tricky. I had two bands in mind for the last slot. The Mighty and Moon are fantastic and now perform with the addition of the amazing Emma Fee. I haven’t seen them perform with this line-up of musicians, and I’ve just built up this beautiful image in my mind of how they’ll sound. But there’s one band that’s always on my Must See List, and they’re playing at the same time. Mighty and the Moon are on the Main Stage at 1:55pm, and Streaming Lights are on the Fruit 2 stage at 2pm. It’s no argument: Streaming Lights are my festival favourite, they’ve not played for ages due to various reasons, and I just know that it’ll be a set which either meets my expectations of wonderfully blows them out of the water.

So, my Must See List is 2pm Streaming Lights, 3pm Loudhailer Electric Company, and my headliner is Counting Coins.

Aside from that, we’re planning to wander relatively aimlessly around the 14 stages.

hss app

And to help with the Unorganised Chaos Formula, there’s the addition of a Humber Street Sesh app this year! It’s got an hour-by-hour guide to the line-up across all stages. There’s a map so you can see where everything is (including the Caffe Gelato stand!). And it’s going to be the most up-to-date way of finding out what’s on.

You can download the app onto the usual platforms – just search for Humber Street Sesh in whichever app store you use.

In fact, with the app in my pocket, all I really need to plan is my festival outfit.

 

If you haven’t been organised enough to sort out tickets yet then you can pick them up at a range of stores across Hull. Go to the festival’s website for a full list: http://www.humberstreetsesh.co.uk/tickets/

Freedom Festival 2015 – in summary

The things which made my weekend:

It won’t strike you with much surprise that my highlight of the weekend was Streaming Lights.

When the initial programme came out, I was convinced that I would be camped outside the Yellow Bus Stage for the headline slot. And at 9:45pm I was stood clutching the barrier at the front of this stage, with thousands stood behind me watching the amazing Public Service Broadcasting.

At 10pm, however, I was twisting my way out from this crowd and into the one which had already formed in front of the Fruit Trade Music Stage.

And boy was I glad to have made this decision. Everyone I’ve spoken to said how amazing Public Service Broadcasting were, and I have no doubt in this, but anyone who saw Streaming Lights was saying the same thing. Every time I see these guys, they grow stronger. Their music is utterly fun, their energy unrelenting, making for a fast-paced and humorous set. Between Ryan’s intoxicated fist pumps to the guy in the audience who took control of the audience in chants and calls, this was a set which didn’t pause even for a breath. My chest hurt from laughing so hard, but the night ended on a high.

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan Streaming Lights - fist pump

I caught the end of Urban Astronaut on the Saturday as I headed down to the Marina. Performed by members of Highly Sprung as part of “Gone in 20 Minutes”, they told the story of the planet destroyed. The crowd was so dense however, that I could only see so much, though watching the Astronaut spinning in the air was quite fascinating.

Spotting the set up for this performance on Sunday, I parked myself on the floor and joined the front row for the entire set. With a two year old on my knee, we watched and took photographs as the story unfolded in full. In short: the atmosphere has turned toxic, leaving the ground barren and the air dangerous to breathe. A girl wearing a dress which reflected the summer sky set the stage, forming a circle with dirt and ‘planting’ flowers around. “Look after this for me,” she asked my toddler friend, engaging with key members of her audience. From up King Edward Street, four masked figures rolled a contraption which held the Astronaut in place. He bounced up and down, launching into the air above spectators’ heads. This brought more and more people. Their dance continued as a diet, the Astronaut fearing the girl who tried to comfort him and show him that life can survive once again on Earth.

It was amazing to watch as the Astronaut launched into the air, sailing above the audience who watched in awe. Children and adults alike seemed to watch with the same intrigue.

There was the chance to vote for your favourite of the “Gone in 20 Minutes” performances. However, I was watching so intently that I didn’t note the code and number down to text my vote. And the crowd dispersed so quickly that I couldn’t catch someone to ensure this was done. I’m not even sure how I check which performance won, but if it wasn’t this one then those I missed must have been extraordinary!

Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015 Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015

Taking kids to one of the days meant that I got to experience those attractions where a single lass may not be overly appreciated. “Mums and dads” were welcomed to join in with their offspring in Tangle, and so I joined two friends and their toddlers. And in doing so, I saw how this was both a wonderful idea for kids and also something… well, not. One of the little ones was just tired enough to be overwhelmed by the whole thing; surrounded by people in an environment she wasn’t used to, a tantrum ensued. Her little friend, however, enjoyed it so much that I was literally dragged back into the queue so that we could have a second go.

Such a simple idea, this was great fun and produced a colourful piece of art when complete. Absolutely loved it, and so did most of the children who joined in.

Tangle - Freedom Festival 2015 Tangle 3

Things which didn’t work for me:

The World Village Market didn’t really seem all that worldly. I saw a range of food stalls which offered cuisine from around the world – Turkish kebabs, French crepes, Chinese noodles and some delicious hot and spicy Indian curry – but little by the way of worldly goods. Considering the theme is Freedom, I would have expected more Fairtrade stalls. There didn’t even seem to be the usual extent of local stallholders as usual. Perhaps simply worded incorrectly, but I just didn’t agree that this aspect of the festival was achieved.

More of a niggle than a criticism, there were often huge crowds for events which were quite obviously going to be popular. I missed out on seeing Faust because the crowd was already six-deep when they started. I’ll accept some of the blame, as I’d not kept track of time as well as I should have to get myself to the front of the queue, but a larger space or some seating at the front of the crowd would have solved this. The Yellow Bus Stage were no longer using their deckchairs: could these have been put to use here?

I think this is something the festival-goers need to consider next year. But also something which the organisers could give some more thought to. Many of the attractions were repeated over the weekend, but sadly Faust was not one of these.

New acts I now follow:

I caught two new acts performing on the Bridge Stage on the opening night of the festival, catching the end of their sets as I wandered over to enjoy local bands I have seen many times.

Scarlet Riot - Freedom Festival 2015

The first was Skarlett Riot, a Scunthorpe-based rock group. Frontwoman Skarlett was wearing a rather impressive outfit. Their sound is reminiscent of the wonderfully heavy nu-metal and punk rock of the 2000s, guitar-fuelled and aggressive while still rhythmic enough to move to. It was a sound I could easily get caught up in, and I would love to see them perform again.

Spring King - Freedom Festival 2015

Spring King, fresh from Reading and Leeds festival stages and about to embark on a tour supporting Slaves, instantly got my attention as their guitarist threw himself and his instrument around. Whereas two of the band seemed pretty static, this guy and lead vocalist/drummer Tarek Musa seemed to exude endless energy. It was great to see a drummer fronting a band, though he was situated quite deep into the recesses of the stage.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The idea of Freedom was everywhere, with people being given the chance to voice their opinions as well as listening to the ideas of others. The variety of music and theatrical performances, spread over the weekend for thousands to attend. And all for free!

Here’s to Freedom 2016.

Highlights of the Humber Street Sesh

Humber Street Sesh is a moment of joy, written into my diary before the new year has even started. It is where my blog began – the moment, last year, when I decided to start writing again.

And so I decided to treat the festival like one giant Sesh.

I try to attend as many Tuesday Sesh nights as possible, which is difficult when you work a Monday-Friday day-job (and also want to attend gigs on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday). My rule for Sesh is simple: either I have to be entirely free (a school holiday with no plans to catch up with friends or other work business involving Browse) or I have to be enticed by one of the bands. This meant that I didn’t use Street Sesh as a means of finding those bands I haven’t seen before. If I stumbled past one, great, but if I didn’t, no worries. There’s plenty of time for this at other Hull festivals – we’ve got Folk Festival, Freedom Festival and Trinity Festival in the coming weeks.

So, instead of reviewing everything here (after all, you can read my reviews of the festival on other platforms), I’m going to give my highlights of the day, in no particular order.

BABIES

Ryan Smith, Babies
Ryan Smith, Babies

It’s been long enough since they announced their split for me to cool down about it. I had expressed my upset to lead vocalist Ryan, but assured him that I would support them until the end. Performing on the Newcomers Stage, it seemed haunting that this was their last performance together.

I stood before the stage minutes before they were due to start, and noticed that there was some issue with a gizmo in Ryan’s hands. This issue seemed to be fixed, but it did lead to technical difficulties throughout their set. Fortunately, Babies have become used to this misfortune (at their EP launch it was Joe’s lead which lead to us not hearing his bass at all) and performed to their best ability.

Full of energy, full of smiles, Babies performed their last set with passion. The scattered crowd – their stage placed on Victoria Pier, they seemed to tower over us – congratulated them loudly as they concluded, and I spotted a couple of faces wash with momentary sadness.

All the best to the boys of Babies and their future endeavours. I doubt this is the last we’ve heard from them; music lovers tend to get drawn back in at some point.

LIFE

Mez Green, Life
Mez Green, Life

It was this time last year when I was first introduced to Life, before embarking on my first press conference with these boys. So, I just had to see them perform Street Sesh again.

The Main Stage had the largest gap between performers and audience, with quite a drop were a member of the band to jump down and try to physically engage with the audience. And that’s a typical part of Life’s performance; Mez hurling himself at the crowd in a fit of energy.

I hadn’t needed to worry. Their set was as wonderful as ever. Mez moved around the entire stage, he and his brother Mick stepping over the monitors onto a platform just before the stage, conversing with the audience. Stewart Baxter, stepping in for Rich on drums, was all energy – it’s often such a shame the drummer gets hidden at the back of the stage.

The band had also been in the crowd for Babies, with Mez taking a moment of their set to comment on the band and wish them all well. Before launching – literally – back into the music, taking that dive off the stage to meet the crowd and circle the grass before the barrier during ‘Take Off With You’.

STREAMING LIGHTS

Another band who are all energy is Streaming Lights, who have been a highlight in the music scene for the last twelve months for me. I don’t think I’ve missed one of their gigs so far this year, and they never disappoint.

Performing on the Dead Bod stage, they were sandwiched between two equally popular acts – Folk royalty Hillbilly Troupe and the fantastic Danny Landau Band. Lead vocalist Steve Minns stated at the start of the set that their sound was quite different to that of the others which fit more comfortably into the Folk genre, though it worked to introduce the more rock sound Danny Landau offers.

Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.
Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.

Still, it didn’t matter whether or not they fit into the genre of the stage – that’s one of the joys of the Sesh, that all genres are represented and get their chance to perform to a diverse audience. The crowd remained, shifting slightly as some moved backwards to the Minerva bar and others moved forward to embrace the music.

Streaming Lights have adapted their set recently, taking on more instrumentals and with a range of new songs in addition to bringing back some of their older rockier tunes. A thoroughly positive performance, the crowd reacted with equal vitality; at one point what appeared to be an item of clothing being thrown onto the stage, to which Ryan Gibbins retaliated by hurling toilet roll into the audience.

They even teased the audience with my favourite song – possibly their only slow one – ‘Slipper Song’, Steve singing the first word before announcing “it’s not the night for it”, and instead launching into their latest single, ‘Box Room Boy’.

Fantastic stuff, keeping the energy at a high and ensuring that the cold of the darkening sky didn’t get a chance to seep in.

BABY TOOTH

This was the first time I had seen Baby Tooth perform. I only caught the very end of their set on the Green Bricks Stage, and I was impressed that their live sound is pretty much what you hear on their recorded tracks.

What captivated me even further was what happened when they realised there was another ten minutes in which they were entitled to perform. Instead of launching into an original song or a cover of a popular grunge track, which would match their look, lead singer Nanny McGee unhooked the microphone from the stand and launched into a rather psychedelic version of ‘The Real Slim Shady’. It was totally unexpected and hilariously different to their look, but executed perfectly. I was amazing, grinning throughout the performance.

COAVES

I’d expressed the difficulty in which I had in selecting a headliner when such a wonderful selection was on offer. My decision to see Coaves was based on a number of things: the Newcomers Stage was in close proximity to the Dead Bod stage where I was seconds before; it was drummer Conor’s birthday, and I’d started the day with him supporting Mark Rowland in the Acoustic Marquee; and, simply, they are bloody brilliant.

The crowd was scattered. There were ten other amazing acts on, so this wasn’t a surprise. But for Coaves, this was fine because you need space to move. Their set is fuelled entirely by high octane energy, and this is mirrored in the reaction from the crowd.

They concluded with ‘Change Your Mind’, Jonny inviting everyone to have “a really good dance”. And with the addition of a new outro, all four members huddled around the drumkit, and two confetti cannons to just clinch that loud, frantic ending which you just don’t forget easily.

I’ve heard amazing things about the all of the headliners, but as someone who’s also been a part of the local music scene for around a year the Newcomers Stage felt appropriate. An amazing day for everyone, with eleven amazing headline acts sending the crowds away from the marina with smiles on their faces and all the adrenalin to fuel whatever they planned for the rest of the night, whether that be at the official After Party or not.

Artwork on Victoria Pier
Part of the Photography Exhibition on Victoria Pier

On top of all this, I was proud to see just how involved members of Browse were in the festival. Our Arts Editor Lucy Howson was painting live alongside other artists. Three of our photographers, including my good friend Paul Newbon, featured in the Photography exhibition which spread across Humber Street and Victoria Pier. And our Editor-in-chief Mike White was a headliner himself, DJing inside the Silent Disco.

A festival for the people by the people of Hull – everyone involved, in whatever role, should be very feeling very positive right now.

Humber Street Sesh – Decisions to be made…

Next weekend, on the first day of August, Hull Marina will be taken over by Humber Street Sesh. And with over 180 acts across twelve stages, how are you possibly going to plan your day and get to see everything?

If you’re me, and you’ve worked with several of these artists, you’re in a losing situation: there’s going to be a clash somewhere. But if you don’t have that issue, and you’re just out to soak up as many acts as possible, you may still consider planning your day beforehand.

I’m not saying that to make the most of HSS, you have to plan. No way! By all means, wandering rather aimlessly is a fantastic way to come across a diverse range of bands, solo singers and artists of all shades. By all means, discard the map, let your feet make the decisions. I’ve stumbled across some amazing bands this way: Streaming Lights, King No-One, LIFE

But, if you’re a little bit like me, then you’ll want to plan out at least some of the day.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

So, my first suggestion is that you pick a genre. Let’s say you just want to see guitar-fuelled indie rock. It’s a popular genre for festivals. And Hull has loads of such performers. You’re going to want to start at the Hull College Group Newcomers Stage, with The Magdalenes kicking things off at 11:40. Stick around for a couple more acts – maybe have a picnic in front of the stage – because The Shed Club and Office Party are well worth your time. They’ll be the perfect indie warm up. Next, I’d advise the Alternative Main Stage: to be honest, to cover the sub-genres of indie, you want this to be your comfort zone of the festival. At 3pm, you’ve got BREEZE followed by Audio Subscene and Affairs. For the evening selection, head over to the Green Bricks Stage, where Rebel Sell perform at 5:30, followed by Magic Carpet Factory; two fantastic bands, who I certainly aim to see. You want to settle yourself here, or end up back at the Alternative Main Stage for the duration of the evening, taking in either headliners Age of Atlas or Black Delta Movement.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

My second suggestion is pot luck. Pre-prepared pot luck. The danger here is that you could end up running from each stage throughout the day, therefore tiring your feet out more than needed and being unable to dance as much you may want to. However, if you take out the stages which really don’t interest you – genre-wise – then at least you know that each selection is likely to please. Pick a time and then pull a stage out of a hat. You could start off with a Break Dance Workshop at the Sesh Urban Quarter, taking in the fringe options at Corn Exchange with Mr Sneaks, and ending up at the Newcomers Stage with Coaves.

Third option: build the noise. Start off mellow, and meander the stages until you’re fuelled with a heavy, loud sound. Test all genres, and see a full range of acts. You could start at the Acoustic Marquee with Mark Rowland and The Dyr Sister, two fabulous storytellers. Then try out the Speak Easy Stage, with the charming Neil Thomas and Will and Holly (Little Weather) who are on at 3:40. Then check out the Newcomers Stage with the last performance from Babies followed by Fronteers. You’ll want to head off at this point, as Cannibal Animal follow – too loud and energetic for just yet – over to the Dead Bod Stage for the full band Crooked Weather and Quicksilver Kings. By this point, it’ll be turning to night-time and you’ll be up for a dance. You could stick around here, because the next few bands are a lot of fun, but for more noise you want to be heading over to the Alternative Main Stage for La Bête Blooms. You can pick a genre for the end of the night, deciding on the one which best suits your mood: Ska at the University of Hull Main Stage with The Talks, featuring Neville Staple; the Fruit Stage for some hairy punk sounds from Ming City Rockers; or popular local metal artists at the Rock & Metal Warehouse with The Colour Line.

Silent Disco HSS2015
Silent Disco (click to enlarge)

You could plan your day based on the artists you know and love. As I say, this would cause major issues for me; mainly at 10pm when I’m ready to park myself in front of my chosen headliner. Coaves, a band I’ve done loads of work with and who have the perfect summer sound, are taking over the Newcomers Stage. The Finest Hour, hailing from over the bridge, are at Corn Exchange. Danny Landau Band, another funky summer sound, are on the Dead Bod Stage. I might even decide to support my editor at Browse in the Silent Disco tent. But then there’d be the Black Delta Movement versus The Talks argument I’ve been having since I first saw the line-up, as they take to the Main and Alternative Main Stages.

Fact is, there is no perfect plan. Because on top of the music, there’s art, there’s activities for the kids, there’s generally just bumping into friends and socialising. So perhaps the wandering aimlessly option is perfectly valid.

That, or you select no more than five acts – allowing both an element of organisation and the freedom to find new and wonderful acts unseen at previous festivals. If you do this, I can highly suggest stopping at the Youth Stage, where you’ll find Yasmin Coe headlining at 8:30pm (an early night for the young performers) who is launching her single ‘Nothing Better’, collaborated with Endoflevelbaddie, at the festival.

Whatever your plan of action, the day aims to be fantastic. A family festival for the people by the people of Hull.

See you there.

Just in case you want to plan - a map of the area.
Just in case you want to plan – a map of the area. (click to enlarge)

The Big Gig – a small person’s perspective

Adka (a small person)
Adka (a small person)

I went to my second festival of the year today. The Big Gig festival: a new festival to come to Hull, aimed at integrating those who often feel socially marginalised. I went with a small group of friends, one of which was the toddler from whose perspective I have decided to write this review.

Meet Adka: she’s just turned two and she loves to bounce, run and generally get under people’s feet. She’s been brought up with local music having me around. This was her second Hull festival.


Aunty Chidders (that’s me by the way) had told me there would be pirates. She hadn’t told me that there would be a big musical bird. It was so big. And it made good sounds when I hit it with a foam stick. The lady let me have as many sticks as I wanted, and we were all allowed to try and make as many noises as we could. This was fun.

With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience
With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience

But then I saw the pirates and I wanted to see their show. It was a Senses show, and we were allowed to join in. We went into a dark tent, where we were given musical instruments. I had two: a weird thing with beads and a maraca. We played the instruments loudly while a pirate sang a song about being out at sea. I was also given a glowing fan, which was cool and had lights which flashed and made the tent look really nice. Then, we met a mermaid who sang to us all. Then, there was a fight, which scared me a little bit. The pirates were fighting about gold bars, which the adults found funny.

I was quite tired though, as I usually have a snooze at this time of the day. So after this, the adults had something to eat while I slept.

Joining in with the Sunshine music
Joining in with the Sunshine music

When I woke up, we were inside again. There were more instruments, so I wasn’t even grumpy! We were asked to sit in a big circle  and then a Sunshine Music lady gave us all an instrument. I had some bells and Aunty Chidders gave me a drumstick which was really good at poking people. I tried as many of the drums out as people would let me – most were happy to share – and then I sat with mama while we made loud and quiet noises. I enjoyed this, but it did get too loud.

That was the only problem with the day. I like the bands – one of my favourite songs is ‘Modern Disco’ by Streaming Lights – but it was very loud in the main stage area. Aunty Chidders was going to introduce me to them, but that Nineties Boy was rapping too loudly and I got scared. There was a good crowd in that room, and other children were happy to dance near the stage, but I wasn’t sure about it.

Sorry that I didn't get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?
Sorry that I didn’t get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?

That was okay, because there was still plenty to do outside. I went to the big musical bird again, and then there were games on the lawn. I especially liked playing Connect Four (well tidying up the Connect Four and making it somewhat more difficult for the others to play when she found how to release the counters) with a couple of other children, who were very friendly.

Everyone was friendly. They let me into the Pirate Experience a second time and let me out again before the shouting pirates came on.

Aunty Chidders stayed a little longer to watch some of her favourite bands, but five hours was enough for me and my parents. I really enjoyed the Big Gig. Can I come back next year?

I did like the big musical bird.
I did like the big musical bird.

It was a day for everyone. Aimed at those with learning disabilities, there was so much thought into ensuring everyone had access. There were areas designed for wheelchair users to ensure that they could see the music stages and spaces made for them to join in all of the activities.

Though we didn’t have anyone in our group with a learning disability, toddlers and their parents can often feel there is not a proper place for them at a music festival. This was not the case here. Adka, her parents, and my other friends all declared that they had a really enjoyable day. Many festivals claim they are family-friendly; not all of them succeed in this. Big Gig did.

I, too, look forward to returning next year.

Festival Fever – New to Hull 2015

On Saturday 11th July, you will be able to enjoy live music and family fun in two locations. In one corner, there is West Park Party. And in the other, The Big Gig, held at the University Union. Naturally, there are pros and cons with both, but which one best suits you?

West Park Party poster

Let’s start with the first one to be announced, back in November. Organised by Auxilium Events Ltd, West Park Party declares itself as “a music festival for all the family”. There is going to be one main stage, with a range of acts considered Heritage, Current and Local. Current Acts which have so far been announced are Labrinth, Union J (who were at the Launch Party in Princes Quay in February) and Ella Eyre: a rather diverse collection on offer. Heritage Acts currently announced include Sinitta (who is also helping organise the festival), Toploader (who headlined at Trinity Festival 2014), and Aswad. Local artists Emma King, Chiedu Oraka, Emmie Craft and Nineties Boy are also on the bill. A true mixture of genres. However, there are still acts to be announced.

Front page of flyer

The Big Gig, the first festival from local events organiser Hull Red, have given a line-up of eleven local acts, including headliner Endoflevelbaddie and the ever-popular Young Jack. The aim of this stage is to get your feet dancing, but there will also be an acoustic stage with a range of folk acts, well known and new to the scene, offering a full variety of genres.

Also pegged as “family friendly”, The Big Gig has a focus on those with learning disabilities. Red have been putting on disability friendly events for some time, on a smaller scale, and are now confident that they can produce a festival designed with these specific needs in mind. The aim is to get people together; making the area both accessible and comfortable for people with learning disabilities, while providing a fun day out for families and fans of the local music industry.

Big Gig - line up

West Park Party is also considering those who often find festivals inaccessible. They have “a whole area” specifically designed to ensure access for disabled people. They are also linked with several local charities, including Cash4Kids and Dove House Hospice, who are working with the organisers.

Families can enjoy themselves at both festivals.

At West Park Party there is a Familyzone, defined as “an area where kids can play and adults can relax” in earshot of the bands, so as not to miss anything. In this zone there will be the usual festival fun, including a marine life zone, shows from local drama groups and an arts and crafts area. The young ones will have no reason to say they are bored.

So, too, at The Big Gig, who will also have children’s entertainers and arts and crafts, alongside story tellers, dance workshops, graffiti art and bubble shows. Something for everyone and every taste.

It’s difficult for me not to be biased about this one. The family friendly activities are not at the forefront of my mind when selecting a festival, though I do attend quite a few with friends and their little ones. And, as much as I want to see international selling artists and those ‘big’ acts from around the world coming to Hull, I love the local scene. Having attended the launch party for West Park Party, I can see why people are talking about it on a grander scale than they are about The Big Gig. But, with most of this talk still seemingly hanging on Union J, I just can’t get as excited.

Give me a dose of Streaming Lights any day.

Besides, I haven’t told you about the main deciding factor for most families considering attending. Let us stereotype the two adults, two children which is often used in ticket sales. For The Big Gig, this will cost you a maximum of £20: that’s £6 per adult, and £4 per child over the age of 10 years. A family ticket for West Park Party is £70. Adults are priced at £30, with children over 5 years at £20, and “new age pensioners” at £22.50. But remember, what you are getting for that cost.

Bottom line: both festivals aim to involve everyone, offering a range of opportunities and experiences for the community. What sways your decision should be which acts you want to see. You may have seen Counting Coins and The Hubbards perform numerous times, whereas you’ve never seen Ella Eyre, who has also been announced as part of the West Park Party line-up. You may want the comfort of knowing that you will enjoy the day if you see the bands you see regularly – for many with learning disabilities, familiarity is essential, and so this is ideal. You may decide to kick off the festival season with something different.

Your reasons for attending one over the other are individual. This is a snapshot of the pros and cons of each. All I can advise is that you are there at one of them. Start the festival season as you wish.

Tickets for West Park Party are available online or over the ticket hotline on 0800 689 3016

Tickets for The Big Gig are available through Hull Box Office.

A Good Hull Brew

This weekend I saw Black Kes perform for the first time. With only one day to enjoy Cottingham Springboard Festival, I was glad to catch these guys. And purchase their album ‘Premium Beer’.

Performing at the King Billy,  Cottingham Springboard Festival
Performing at the King Billy, Cottingham Springboard Festival

A successful Hull-based skiffle band, I first met these four characters at a Hulloween event last year. Slide-guitarist JT was dressed as Hannibal Lector, there was a vampire and the only other memorable thing was just how inebriated they all were. And so it seemed apt that their album be entitled ‘Premium Brew’.

On Sunday, they appeared to be a rather rag-tag collection of people. My friend wasn’t really sure what to make of them: excited to see a washboard would be played but a little unnerved by the clown which was placed on a desk mere centimetres from our noses (more about that in a moment.) Their set so enthralled me that I had to get my hands on a copy of the album, and haven’t stopped talking about it/them since.

It’s easy to assume that this is a band who take nothing seriously, playing merely for the joy of it and not caring too much about the reception. But this is simply not the case. Their sets, like their album, involve both an intro and a reprise, demonstrating just how serious about music they really are. A professional unit who maintain their characters of King Rat, Archie, Specky and JT, as introduced in the intro played at the opening of their sets and their album.

King Rat
King Rat

All four members have their defining roles – King Rat on guitar, Archie on bass, Specky on the washboard and JT on the slide guitar – as well as sharing vocals. Depending on the role within the song, Specky and JT seem to take on the lead, with King Rat and Archie delivering harmonies and additional bites of sound.

The songs which stand out on the album are also the ones which were extremely memorable after their live set.

Archie Lamplugh
Archie Lamplugh

‘Rape in East Yorkshire’ is a hilarious track. You’re warned in the live set not to listen to it with a filthy mind – naturally, causing you to do just this. And so the double entendre transforms this sweet song about crops in our lovely county into something much more sordid. This song demonstrates just how clever their lyrics are, with quick and snappy puns as well as the extended use of figurative language.

‘Haunted House’ is the track which stood out most to me from the live set. Before they performed it, they told us a story. Allegedly, one year ago on the very chair in which I happened to be sat an old lady died during their performance. Intense feedback from JT’s guitar caused her pacemaker to explode. And now she haunts them. The mastered track starts with whispered voices, building with the introduction of each instrument, with JT’s vocals expressing anger at this woman’s ghostly presence. The other members perform the sounds of ghosts, and the song starts off quite jolly sounding. About two thirds of the way through the song, the sound reaches a climax and then drops quite suddenly – like the sudden chill of a haunted space – before JT’s voice quietly announced that as a child he watched the movie Poltergeist. He describes the moment with the clown on the chair, building the fear in his voice as the clown moves – lyrically – from the chair to under the bed and then around the throat. Live this was even more terrifying, as JT drags a wooden clown around the stage and into the audience.

JT & clown
JT & clown

Another track I enjoy is ‘The Island’ which appears to describe a dream location for any modern man. With no “sales targets” and “blue skies”, the island is a utopia in a capitalist environment. With references to Justin Timberlake, Michael Caine, the TV show Lost and a catchy chorus, this is one song I’ll comfortably be singing along to the next time I see Black Kes perform.

Title track ‘Premium Brew’ takes centre-stage on the album. It’s a three-minute instrumental, which can really get the party started. It’s perhaps a musical analogy for a really good, really drunken night out.

I urge you to check Black Kes out. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of skiffle (or even know what skiffle is), you’re bound to enjoy these guys. Live, they are true performers, with the ever-expressive JT and the jovial personality of Specky. Listening to the album, I am able to relive Sunday’s set, and it was the first of the day. That’s just how powerful their magic is.

Humber Street Sesh 2015 – a preview

A very important announcement has been made this week. Humber Street Sesh wristbands went on sale Tuesday 21sy April.

At an advance price of £5, you’re getting a huge collection of music, art and local culture packed into the one day festival.

LIFE
LIFE

On Saturday 1st August, over 180 bands will play across ten stages. There will be over 50 DJ’s in the new Original Brew’s Art and Soul Warehouse as well as at the Resident Association Disco tent. So, musically, there is something for every taste.

Humber Street Sesh is a 12-hour showcase of the huge wealth of talent Hull has to offer. For those who engage with the weekly Sesh at The Polar Bear, you get to see your favourite local bands up on the bigger stages, mingling with even more like-minded people. For those who can’t always get down on a Tuesday night, this is your chance to support those acts. And yet there is so much more besides this.

A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.
A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.

There will also be the usual markets, street food, live street art, children’s activities, comedy and cult cinema, in addition to breakdance and rap battles, a skate park, street theatre and much more. After last year’s brief downpour, there is the aim to have more sheltered bar areas this year. Not that the rain stopped many of us from finishing our drink or heading down to see  our favourite bands who happened to perform at that point.

Under 12s go free (collect your wristband as you enter the gates), and so this truly is a festival for the people; regardless of age or taste, you’ll have a fantastic day.

Streaming Lights
Streaming Lights

 

With 40’000 attending last year, we know we can get more through those gates this time.

Tickets are available from Hull Box Office or by phoning 01482 221113, and will be sold in various locations across the city at later dates. Note, a booking fee will apply.

Humber Street Sesh info poster

All photographs are by Paul Newbon, taken at last year’s HSS. 

Yasmin Coe

Proving that you’re never too young to establish a music career is thirteen year-old Yasmin Coe. And with fans including Emma Fee, she’s making waves across the local scene.

Her natural flair for music saw her taking to any instrument on offer. She started piano lessons at six years old, as many young kids do, moving onto guitar at eight. Since then, she has also taken up violin and clarinet, as well as joining a choir. It was here that she truly found her passion for performing, singing alongside others equally enthusiastic. Even though her sound is very different to where she started, it is this which keeps her motivated. She described her belief that anyone should do what makes them happy. “If you love it … if you want to do it … “ then Yasmin says you should. Taking to the stage in 2011, she was rewarded for her singing talents at the Cottingham Music Festival. Her live debut was at Humber Street Sesh, following gigs at Freedom and Trinity Festival, where she was able to play to a wide range of people.

With broad influences, ranging from One Direction to the The Beatles, Yasmin sees her music as a release of emotions. She explained that “when something hits you hard … you can sit with your guitar for ages”. Writing her own songs from the experiences a young girl has, she treats her songwriting as a means of “[getting] the emotions out there”. New single ‘Leave and Let Go’ is about accepting the loss of those close to you, whether through death or a move to another country.  This gives her lyrics a power which draws you in, instantly identifying with the content.

On Saturday 7th March, her single launch takes place at That’s Entertainment, Prospect Centre. The first in-store promotion gig to happen in Hull since The Paddingtons performed at HMV, this offers anyone and everyone a chance to hear her perform live. Being a teenager, many of her fans are of a similar age, but her sound is something which will capture the attention of anyone wandering past on a busy weekend afternoon.

She described the store’s recent introduction of local music as “good that they’re encouraging local artists”. And though she’s a fan of current pop bands, such as One Direction, she recognises that there is often more talent in those performing for the love of it, than manufactured bands who often get more time in the spotlight. And this gig is a perfect example of what local musicians can offer their fans – intimate and friendly.

So, show your support for this talented young woman at 1pm next Saturday. Copies of her single will be available for purchase, which includes an additional track to that which will be available on ITunes.

I interviewed Yasmin as part of her cover feature in Browse Magazine: issue 024.