Fatboy Slim or Compo? Jordan or Nora Batty? Sugar Rush or Last of the Summer Wine?
David Gedge, of The Wedding Present and Cinerama, has made a success of the At the Edge of the Sea Festival, held every year in Brighton. Already in its third year the event has proved popular with bands and fans alike. This year Mr. Gedge decided to take the bank holiday weekend format one step further by holding a sister event in Holmfirth. Could he bridge the north-south divide?
The question in many minds was whether this would prove as successful in a venue different to the Concorde 2 in Brighton with potentially a different atmosphere and less potential for casual attendees; Holmfirth not being the easiest place to get to. That’s not to say that the place and the venue are not impressive and full of character. The Picturedrome is a converted theatre and cinema, complete with circle area in addition to the main auditorium which allowed the line up to alternate between the two areas. This allowed the day to keep flowing without any interruptions for band set ups and equipment changes.
The line up of these events is a well established format now. As usual the day kicked off with a Cinerama set and ended with The Wedding Present and sandwiched in between a mixture of bands and performers covering a wide spectrum of indie and alternative music. As an added attraction each of the bands included a TWP cover in their set.
Cinerama don’t really exist as a band, at least officially, except on these occasions. In previous recent events the band membership has basically been The Wedding Present with a few instrumental changes like Graeme Ramsay on drums and Charlie Layton looking a tad awkward on the bass. This time around the line up was improved by the addition of Sev Sitki on keyboards and vocals. This brought it closer to the earlier and some would say classic Cinerama line up and made for a more authentic sound. Previous recent incarnations had sounded like The Wedding Present covering Cinerama songs, good as that was. Comedienne was a great opener and Dance Girl Dance, which guitarist Pepe Le Moko took literally, showed how different Cinerama actually were.
One main difference between Brighton and Holmfirth is that there is a requirement for a bit of aerobic activity in the Yorkshire venue due to the second stage being up in the circle. A good portion of the crowd made the trek up the stairs to be greeted by local favourites French Soul Party. Looking unbelievably young and sounding like a more tuneful Arctic Monkeys they were full of attitude and confidence. On a different occasion they may have had the opportunity to play on the main stage so that songs like THC could have been given full voice rather than being hemmed in by the low ceiling.
One of the attractions of this kind of event is the potential to mix up the styles of music and the types of bands on show. There are very few events where you could have the extremes of the mournful minimalism of Precious Few and the crazy rock of Pinky Piglets under one roof. It helps that several of the bands share band members as mentioned when Brum Live saw three of them in Leicester the previous night, but there was still a lot of logistics to overcome and a few changes of shirts, just to keep people on their toes.
The main stage was the focus for most of the event that doesn’t take anything away from The Stars Down to Earth or Summer Camp, the latter duo being much more impressive with just guitar and vocals even though they are supposed to be rising stars of electronica on the indie scene.
Dirty Fingernails played their best set of their three over the weekend, really hitting the stage hard with a much more receptive crowd than Brighton and with much better sound quality. Good sound is a feature of the Picturedrome and maybe due to the fact that its a proper auditorium.
Pinky Piglets have been a huge surprise to anyone who has seen them. Its difficult to know what people expected of them. Even if they had taken the trouble to go onto their myspace or sample some tracks on the internet prior to this event they would not have experienced even a fraction of what they are all about.
They manage to combine typical Japanese sugary pop with hard rocking to the extent that you can never be sure whether their performance is 100% serious or tongue in cheek.
The singer Asuja appeared wearing traditional kimono only to strip this off in favour of an animal print romper suit so that she could leap around the stage. Guitarist Mikko had all the moves including playing solos with the guitar behind her head!
If they are having a bit of a laugh then their great skill is to let everyone else in on the joke and to back it up with some excellent tunes and musicianship. This was the third time that I saw them in three days and on each occasion the vast majority of the crowd were left with massive grins on their faces. The Piglets version of The Wedding Present’s Kennedy was a particular favourite!
These events always have welcome surprises on the bill. In Brighton it was Badly Drawn Boy but here in Holmfirth it was Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern. Darren Hayman is one of these artists who is too easily categorised by their past, in his case as “the ex-Hefner front-man Darren Hayman”. This does two things firstly it ignores how prolific the bloke is in terms of his musical output and secondly how good his material has been since the demise of Hefner.
The guitar, bass ,violin, drums line up has a folky kind of feel to it but Hayman’s lyrics still show real sharp observation and a sardonic view of the world. I also like the fact that his set didn’t pander to the crowd and the usual Hefner favourites were conspicuous by their absence. He is a really endearing character and one of the somewhat hidden treasures of English music and his set seemed to end all too soon, although he probably had one eye on the clock. If he is playing anywhere near you on his own or with the band you should go and see him.
The day ended with The Wedding Present . It may have been tempting for David Gedge to get his band to roll out a greatest hits set for the two festivals. However whilst there were a number of favourites on show there was no Kennedy or Brassneck which casual fans would normally expect to be in the set.
I get the impression that the band are seriously looking forward to the release of their new album in 2012 and the inclusion of 524 Fidelio and Back a bit….Stop showed they are just as interested in the current material as they are in the likes of Rotterdam, Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm or Go Go Dancer. I was also glad to see The Thing I like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend in the set from their underrated and most recent album, El Rey.
So some great music; but was it a great event? It maybe unfair to compare this event with its sister in Brighton, but to me it seemed less well attended, and also the attendance seemed less consistent throughout the day. I think people elected to pick and choose acts to see through the day disappearing off elsewhere, and because of this there seemed less of a constant hub-bub. Having said that, as this was the first time this festival had taken place it was certainly a resounding success on the music front. It will be interesting to see if it takes place again next year.
Photos – Stephanie Colledge
Review – Ian Gelling