It’s the first Sunday afternoon in September, the sun has been shining all weekend and I’m watching a storming live version of Britain’s all-time favourite twelve-inch 'Blue Monday', (thankfully still technically seven hours away), with one original performer included, at a pretty Yorkshire riverside setting with 15,000 like-minded individuals. If that’s not a sufficiently ringing endorsement of Bingley Music Live then I don’t know what is.
The loss of Beacons left a big hole in the West Yorkshire summer festival circuit, with its eclectic line-ups in a picturesque Yorkshire setting. Thankfully, a dozen or so miles downstream on the River Aire, Bingley Music Live continues to go from strength to strength. In spite of no longer being the free festival it once was, Bingley has managed to keep ticket prices within reach of its core audience, and the pleasant riverside setting is only a stone’s throw from the local rail station so getting in and out is a doddle, ideal for decadent souls seeking to wring the last drop out of summer before the nights really start to lengthen.
Historically the bulk of acts appearing here fell into the local and unsigned category, leaving all but a few bigger names to pull in the crowds. This time however, BML have really pushed the boat out securing the services of indie legends Ash, Super Furry Animals, Cast, Embrace, the returning James, Carl Barat and the aforementioned Peter Hook, plus plenty of hot new talent such as Labirinth, Rae Morris and Ella Eyre.
The first opening day act before me this year provides another trip down amnesia lane, back to a West Midlands childhood where the star of 2-Tone shone briefly but brightly for a generation of Harington jacketed working class kids. There is an element of sadness as Ranking Roger’s incarnation of The Beat hit the stage, opening with the classic double-header ‘Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret’ as we find out that one of Roger’s comrades in arms at 2-Tone, former Specials trombonist Rico Rodriguez has passed away today. What better way to cheer oneself up than a sun-drenched set made up of favourites ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’, ‘Hands Off She’s Mine’, ‘Too Nice To Talk To’ plus a cover of Rock the Casbah as Roger pays tribute to another departed soul, former touring band partners The Clash and their sadly missed frontman Joe Strummer as old and young bounce up and down in the Friday evening sunshine?
Since my last visit 5 years ago Bingley has grown a second stage so, eager to check it out, I’m greeted by surprisingly few others as the well hyped Brighton based electro popsters Fickle Friends emerge. The south coast quintet’s songs have generated hundreds of thousands of online hits, not surprising on listening to stylish indie-pop nuggets such as ‘For You’. One to watch.
BML also boasts an intimate acoustic busking stage for local talent, keen to get a festival gig under their belt but back on the main stage the throng are further warmed up by Cast classics including ‘Fine time and ‘All Right’ before tonight’s headliners and Bingley favourites James bring the opening night to a thrilling climax. Frontman Tim Booth has lost not none of his stage presence (as opposed to his curls) and is clearly adored by the Bingley faithful.
Saturday evening featured a couple of mainstream chart stars but before that, a few hardy souls enjoyed the acoustic rock musings of Will Joseph Cook who has clearly listened to the odd Jeff Buckley recording. Nevertheless, the songs are pretty handy from a performer at the start of an upward curve ahead of the power pop nuggets of trio Room 94. This time there are more in front of the discovery stage (where a man with horse’s head is dancing as if no-one is watching) for the atmospheric anthemic indie (sort of a theme for the weekend) of Clubs and then the Oasis-lite of April who are very green but still have plenty of opportunity to find their own space musically.
The remainder of Saturday on the main stage saw guitar bands trade blows with chart stars starting with former Ride side project Hurricane #1, albeit these days without former Ride guitarist Andy Bell. ‘Step into My World’ and ‘Only the Strongest Will Survive’ still sound like Britpop classics and are still ringing in the ears as we’re greeted by the alluring sight of the corkscrew curls belonging to Ella Eyre, in fact I’m convinced the hair on her head weighs more than the rest of her. Nevertheless, she’s in fine form and it’s suddenly party time as the bass is cranked up for some quality high-energy R&B, like the Rudimental classic ‘Waiting All Night’ and the Sigma hit (co-written by Eyre) ‘Changing’ as the Bingley massive respond accordingly.
Ulster punk trio Ash prove the positive noises from their Long Division festival gig were accurate as a succession of short sharp shocks from their heyday, such as the sublime ‘Girl From Mars’ and the rifftastic ‘Shining Light’, throwing in a corking version of ‘Teenage Kicks’ for good measure, briefly shaking everyone from their hedonistic reverie. Headliner Labirinth (aka Tim McKenzie) really is all things to all people, singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist and from the moment he took to the stage he had everyone in the palm of his hand, reeling off ‘Jealous’ ‘Express Yourself’ ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ in a set where there was never a dull moment.
Final day highlights included Tom Prior treating everyone to his bluesy piano driven compositions in the early afternoon sunshine and London based quintet The Carnabys, probably achieving the biggest cheer of the second stage since Rae Morris concluded her set on Friday with their cover of ‘Song 2’. That doesn’t discount the pretty handy bunch of songs they’d written themselves including ‘Come Over Come Stay’ and ‘Where Did You Go?’ Next, distinctly coiffured fellow Londoner Kimberly Anne also comes across very well, despite some technical issues with her electronic wizardry, skilfully combining folk, soul and world elements to an appreciative throng.
It was then the turn of the aforementioned Peter Hook and the Light to make a play for stealing the show with an 8-song all-killer no-filler set, featuring absolutely no new numbers whatsoever (other reformed bands please take note) but the New Order and Joy Division classics ‘Shadowplayer’, ‘Ceremony’, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘True Faith’, leaving everyone thinking they’ve died and gone to join the late and much missed Tony Wilson and Ian Curtis. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hook returned to Bingley in the future to do a longer set in the box seat, such was the potency and continued vitality of these songs, none of which I’d seen played live before and in ‘Monday’ and ‘Love’ count as two off the all-time bucket list. It’s therefore no surprise in the intervening time, the back catalogues of both bands have provided much listening pleasure.
After such a high, the thought of watching Embrace again plus the obligatory Yorkshire chants followed by Idlewild led me to go walkabout once more, firstly to the busking stage where a number of performers came and went, most notably the ragtime-tinged bluegrass of Sleepy Jake Segrave, keeping it real with down-at-heel classics in waiting such as ‘Forster Square Blues’. It was left to Black Country troubadour Scott Matthews to close the festival of the second stage with his moody Americana.
Finally, after 50-odd hours worshipping at the altar of Rock and Roll, it was left to quirky Cambrians Super Furry Animals to bring proceedings to an end in 2015 with a criminally short appearance, veering from the disarming pure pop of ‘Hello Sunshine’ and ‘Juxtaposed’ to the indie-tronic skittishness of ‘Slow Life’ and blinding set closer ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck'.
The festival lost property staff even managed to locate and return my lost mobile. What a helpful lot.
Words - Mike Price
Bingley Music Live official