After a long, gruelling 4-day week I was feeling a little jaded and the prospect of a late night followed by sleeping in a field wasn’t filling me with enthusiasm. The drive up through Northumberland to a stone’s throw from Scotland didn’t help, and then moments after arriving the rain began, so the Lindisfarne Festival had a lot of work to do to shake me from my malaise.
My mood was lifted by the effusively friendly welcome I received from the enthusiastic staff, who seemed to genuinely enjoy being part of this fledgling festival. After finding a spot for my pop-up tent (festival standard) I made my way into the arena. The unique and picturesque backdrop of Holy Island, cast under a gorgeous sunset gave the whole thing an ethereal air to go with the agricultural aesthetic created by every wall and seat being a hay bale. With 3 large marquees, a smaller beer tent and an additional inflatable cube, plus a large circle of hay bales (the ‘circle of inclusion’) and a camp fire, there were plenty of stages for the incredibly varied acts to do their stuff.
Unfortunately I wasn’t in time to see the slide blues guitarist Johnny Dickinson, and I was only just in time to catch the final few bars of Kosoti’s set, but from what I heard they sounded great, and people I chatted to backed that up. I’m not going to be able to comment on everything I saw and heard, for the simple fact I cannot be in five places at once, maybe two at best, three at a push. Before returning for one of my favourite bands of all time, The Baghdaddies, I nipped in to check out Mixmaster Morris in the ‘Shorefields’ marquee, which had been given over to DJs for the night. He was playing an energetic set of tracks I’m afraid I wasn’t familiar with, but it sounded good! I’ll come back to him later…
The Baghdaddies were their usual scintillating selves, Paul Ruddick leading the line admirably and now sporting a beard almost as long as his sax. Unfortunately, the regular drummer Nick Alevroyanni had conspired to burn his hand quite severely at their previous gig, luckily there was a dep on-hand with a burning desire (rather than a hand burning desire), John Lambeth from Alston was magnificent, and could have fooled the crowd that he’d been in the band all along, maybe being a fan from his teens had helped! My feeling of utter and complete tiredness had been replaced with elation and joy, helped partly by the beer, but the belting Balkan beats had done the trick. Get well soon Nick!
I popped back in to the other tent to catch a bit of DJ Yoda, but much to the chagrin of the assembled masses his train was kaput somewhere in the Northumberland countryside, we were assured a taxi had been dispatched. In the meantime, the absolute trooper that is Mixmaster Morris filled in without complaint and did a fantastic job, hats off to you sir. The delay had pushed the running order back a bit which gave me the chance to visit the beer tent and catch a bit of the King Bees, now, this isn’t the Geordie jazz-funk outfit King Bee, who were sadly not on the bill, but instead the classic blues group featuring mouth organ, guitar, keys and double bass. I really enjoyed their set, I felt a bit like I’d been transported back in time, and it just made me want to drink bourbon (which I did, but much later on). Back over to Yoda I made my way, where he had made it in and was well into his set. He’s a very clever DJ, able to mix and scratch, playing some pretty bombastic beats, but I wondered whether he might have been trying to whip through his playlist such was the frequency of mixes. My friend told me the next day that he had been chanting ‘one whole tune’ to the tune of ‘one more tune’, I couldn’t really comment though because I was keen to get over to hear a bit of Public Service Broadcasting before the main man started his delayed set. PSB are a very trendy group of lads, impeccably dressed and neat, their music matches, very cool, very neat, very clean and very catchy, there is nothing ‘grunge’ about PSB. I really enjoyed what I heard of their set and if they venture north again I will definitely get myself along, but I had somewhere to be.
At this point I would like to make something abundantly clear; Craig Charles does never, has never and will never use pre-mixed CDs. I wrote in a previous article that there was a suggestion among the DJ fraternity that he had done, well, I can categorically and without doubt guarantee that he doesn’t. I spoke with Craig before the set, and I have to say that despite my being so wrong, and frankly out of order, he was incredibly gracious about my error. As a reviewer and photographer, I am allowed awesome access to the artists, and I was able to view the whole of Craig’s set from practically onstage on Friday night. The only criticism I can level at Craig is that he’s a bit messy with his CDs, because they are all over the place on the mixing desk, and yes, I saw each and every one going in and coming out of the decks! The set he played at Lindisfarne was different to the Boilershop one, and once again he judged the crowd perfectly. This crowd was much more connoisseured than the week before and the choice of tracks reflected that. I’m terrible at judging numbers of people in a room, but suffice to say that a pretty big big top was completely packed and jumping, the funk was strong. One of the best moments for me was seeing a female steward twerking against the safety barrier in-between hugging festivalgoers and posing for photos, legend. I have to say that I felt pretty rotten at my mistake the previous week, but my frown was turned upside down as funk and soul filled my veins and the good vibes were restored, and by the way, he can mix, in fact he was on fire that night!
The good times continued long into the night (or should that be morning?) as Tommy from WHQ took to the stage and launched into his trademark uplifting groove. I’ll admit to being an old sod, as I heard half his set from the complete discomfort of my tent. However, I didn’t go straight to bed…I stopped off on the way to try my ear at the silent disco. If you’ve never been to one of these, it’s basically a set of headphones hooked up to one of two (or more, two on this occasion) DJs who are spinning disks, or MP3s as the case was (not sure if you can spin those), in complete silence. You can switch between DJs as much as you like. It’s hilarious, because if you take the headphones off you can hear people half-singing along to the songs. It’s as if they’ve been kidnapped and are trying to sing through the handkerchief stuffed in their mouth. It was fun, but I couldn’t stand the dance music they were playing, so I went to gan t’kip. I would have kipped, if it weren’t for the fact that my tent is 6’2” and I am 6’5”, so the only way to stretch out was to open the zip and stick my feet out. Not in that wind! So I did the classic staring at the ceiling (?) and waiting for the morning.
Inevitably the morning came, and my awareness that the festival had risen from its slumber was the unusual sounds of the Tashi Lhunpo monks, chanting and banging in a way only they can really get away with. Ashamedly, by the time I got my arse into gear and some scran down my neck it was already getting on for lunchtime, I was sitting in the hay bale circle watching a couple unsuccessfully attempt to erect a huge gong, they got a couple of resounding bongs out of it before giving up and succumbing to the wind. I caught the end of Dancing with Ghosts’ set, which was a very pleasant folk quintet featuring some nice vocal harmonies. Up next were the Slowlight Quartet, featuring Tom Quilliam on sax. Their sound is similar to Chris Potter or Ravi Coltrane, jazz with a sax emphasis, relaxing but modern, perfect for a sunny afternoon on the coast. I returned to the beer tent afterwards and took in a bit of Simon Wood with his hang drums, what an intricate and complicated instrument that is! It must take a lot of practice and a lot of skill to be able to not only play the hang drum, but also the Cajon at the same time. He played some classic tunes, even a bit of the Prodigy I think at one point, great stuff, and a perfect accompaniment to the bloke playing with his balls outside. Glass balls, making them seemingly float and spin, what did you think I meant?
I had heard a lot about the Backyard Rhythm Orchestra without actually hearing them play. They were flipping amazing! Such a colourful band, and with mohawks and spangly dresses abound. With a trombonist at the helm, nothing could go wrong, and it didn’t. I was dancing away with gay abandon (nice bloke) and thoroughly enjoying their set, joined by some peeps from Bar Loco, I’m not sure if anyone was left to man the bar there! Their music is in a similar vein to The Baghdaddies, Balkan, ska, latin, but with a bit of hip hop and drum n bass thrown in, it was different enough not to be the same, but similar enough for me to absolutely love it (get them on the same bill somebody else!).
Evening was approaching, and I wasn’t sure where to head next, Adamski didn’t really appeal to me, but I heard some righteous sounds coming from the Pond&Maisies stage. The Church was in session, and they were riotous! Singing soul classics straight out Motown, the lead singer was a white suited, dreadlocked (or braided, couldn’t tell!) ‘preacher’ who was about a religious as my foot. Backed by 3 gorgeous ladies in church gear and a nerdy organ player, they interspersed top notch singing with hilarious faux-eulogistic comedy skits, even inviting people up on stage to confess. There was the bloke who had engaged in carnal relations with his girlfriend in his tent WITH THE DOOR OPEN, the lady who had impure thoughts about our host, and the Dutch guy who claimed to be Scottish, pish. I took a breather after that, caught a bit of Jibba Jabba poetry, Scott Tyrell to be precise, who was very funny. The sunset was incredible, and the night was about to join it.
I almost played with Frankie & the Heartstrings. They needed a brass player and I am one. Unfortunately I was otherwise engaged when they needed me, shame, but I was happy to see them play at Lindisfarne. The cheeky Geordies are a great little band, playing Indie rock like the best of them. Careful not to swear in front of their Mams, they have a unique sound, mostly down to Frankie with the mic. I couldn’t stay to enjoy the whole set though, because another set of cheeky Geordies (and a mackem) were taking to stage next door. Smoove & Turrell are a growing force in the international funk/soul world, and having just returned from a string of European tours were primed and ready to engage in a bit of shock and awe for the massive crowd. With a re-shuffled line-up, minus Dave Wilde on sax, who is focussing on his own project King Bee (not The King Bees), and plus Lloyd Wright on guitar, two Lloyds in one band, unbelievable. What else is unbelievable is the quality of the music they play. Block rockin beats from start to finish, John Turrell has the kind of voice Simon Cowell dreams of, but the X-factor on this occasion was definitely Mike Porter’s arse as it thrust, inches away from me, hovering precariously above his keyboard set up. Once again, the S&T boys did Newcastle proud and I’m already looking forward to the next time I see them.
I couldn’t stay to the end again though, because next door was another Geordie group, albeit an adopted one, but rest assured, Hannabiell is now most definitely a Geordie, as is Yilis, not to mention the rest of her superb band (many of whom were Geordies to begin with). Their completely unique blend of afro-funk-latin-ethno beat soul food music is another to add to the category of ‘a physical inability not to move your feet’. Hannabiell is an infectious person, it is impossible not to love her, which is something the entire crowd knew by the end of the set. A crowd which included members of Smoove & Turrell who had just finished in time to catch the last couple of numbers from the Midnight Blue gang.
As if my feet weren’t tired enough, I caught a little bit of the Ghetto Funk Allstars, who were rapping away next door, it wasn’t really my bag, so I beat a hasty retreat back to whence I had come and saw the chilled and dubby reggae band The Skints. Very Lahndan, but cool with it, these guys had the patter off to a tee, and with the gorgeous Marcia Richards leading the line with her dainty drum machine and keys the night was ending on a definite high for me. I wanted to stay till the end of their set, I was right at the front and loving the scheme of the jib they were cutting, but I had a bit of Reverend and the Makers to squeeze in before my drive home. They seemed to be coming to the end of a smashing set, the huge crowd were bouncing and there was a fair amount of sweat flying about. With his strong Sheffield accent, Mr Reverend had a great rapport going, and an even better gig in the bag. I caught a ska tribute and really great rendition of ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’, which was how I felt as I left the hay-filled Lindisfarne arena. Such a brilliant weekend, jam packed with fun, and so many acts I was gutted not to see. The drive home wasn’t such fun, I had a hire car and couldn’t figure the lights out, meaning I spent a fair chunk of the journey with no lights on whatsoever….anyway, that’s another story.
The Lindisfarne was a resounding success, thanks to some inspired artist choices, incredible performances by said artists, wonderful, friendly staff and volunteers, great food, and most importantly, a stunning setting. Book your tickets early for next year, I have a feeling they’ll be flying off the shelves.
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