Bingley Music Live was my very first exploration into concert photography and so certainly holds fond memories for me.
This festival has grown in the 10 plus years it has been running, from a local “Party in the Park” into one of the most popular festivals of the summer season.
Over the years, the line-up has seen the appearance of summer of the biggest artists of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s alongside up and coming bands from the Yorkshire region and beyond. This year that theme continued although for some, possibly not as strong as years gone by.
BML was sold out in a short space of time, at £70 for a weekend ticket and £35 for children it is no wonder the festival prides itself on being “family friendly”. With the attraction of headliners, The Manic Street Preachers, Kaiser Chiefs and student indie-pop favourites The Wombats, a capacity 16000 festival goers descended on the beautiful Myrtle Park in Bingley, West Yorkshire.
Friday night’s main stage openers Cabbage took many of the already growing crowd a little by surprise. Many of the families enjoying their first festival experience were really not sure what to make of indie rockers and their strong political lyrics. However the Cabbage faithful were there front and centre kicking the festival off with a bang (and the odd thrown vegetable from the crowd). For this reviewer the evening’s lineup began with the next band Glasgow’s own Twin Atlantic, then Maximo Park and the Manics.
Although clearly unknown to many of the crowd, Twin Atlantic delivered a much more family friendly set that won them a good deal of new fans and the initially stunned Yorkshire families settled into what, for many, was their first festival experience. As Maximo Park took to the stage the mood lifted another notch and they ran through a blistering 16 song set within their 1hr slot. Opening with the pop tinged anthem “What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?” the festival crowd were soon dancing along. Paul Smith is well known for his frontman antics and dancing and he was truly on form and gave the festival photographers a chance to grab one of his famous jumps. And so to the Manic Street Preachers. Opening with “Motorcycle Emptiness” we were treated to a 90 minute ride through their greatest hits in what was, a truly festival friendly performance. Professional to the end, they have certainly matured since their early days, although Nicky Wire still jumps around and entertains the crowd. The set was perfect in every way, with “A Design for Life” bringing Friday to a triumphant close.
However, we must not forget that there is s 2nd stage at BML hosting some of the best new talent around. On Friday night the “Discovery” hosted Lea Porcelain, Dead Pretties, The Pale White and headliner Tom Grennan. The stage lived up to its name allowing festival goers the chance to discover some new music, whether it be the synth tinged dark pop of Lea Porcelain, the energetic controlled chaos of the brilliant Dead Pretties, or the soundscapes and driving rhythms of The Pale White. Tonight, headliner Tom Grennan stole the show with soulful tunes and superb musicianship. The Pale White and Tom Grennan should be on your “check them out” list, watch for their rise over the next 12-18 months.
As festival weather goes Saturday was just perfect. The sun brought the crowds in early, Friday’s bar queue problems were taken in hand and everyone was in a buoyant mood. However despite the headliners being the mighty Kaiser Chiefs the rest of the main stage line-up was difficult to judge. Leeds based Sifaka were able to showcase their fusion of Soul, Rock and Blues to a good sized crowd and went down well. But really the crowd only began to really build for British Sea Power, whose loyal fan base were treated to a solid set of uplifting tunes for a summer’s day. Sundara Karma have matured over the past year and delivered a solid and popular set. Front man Oscar Pollock looked very much at home on the stage and fans responded not only to their good looks but the indie-pop tunes as well. Speaking to a family who had never seen them before “they were great, easy on the eye and great songs as well, what more could we want at Bingley.” Sheffield Indie-rockers Milburn upped the tempo once more with their radio friendly anthems, proving a great platform for the upcoming release of the new album in September this year and that they are indeed back on the scene.
However we come round to the problem act of the day. Sure Pete Doherty is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, but today .. oh dear. Bearing in mind that this festival has more than its fair share of young families making up its audience he really did not do himself any favours. When you book him you never really know what is going to happen and this was not the greatest choice by the selection team.
All was forgiven when local heroes the Kaiser Chiefs took to the stage. Ricky Wilson commands a stage like no other frontman, within seconds he had the crowd in the palm of his hand and kept them there throughout the hit filled set. The band are so confident in their audience that many of the greatest hits came early in the set and worked the crowd into dancing and singing with all its might, even the backstage area emptied quickly with the majority going out front to watch the show. Saturday mainstage ended triumphantly.
So where were the crowd early on Saturday? Families were enjoying the funfair, top quality stalls and large children’s play area, music fans were over at the Discovery Stage watching a stellar lineup of top upcoming bands. The Shimmer Band gave Bingley a taste of what many are saying are the best unsigned band on the scene, Anteros brought the first touch of glamour to the stage with a set that really should have been seen on the mainstage. Stevie Parker‘s soulful lyrics and electro-pop tunes attracted a large audience that appreciated the calm against the chaos emerging on the main stage. Headliners The Big Moon fully deserved the slot, set against the release of their first album, which has brought the girls great critical acclaim and a slot at BBC 1 introducing stage amongst other prestigious festival appearances this year. The Discovery Stage was definitely the place to be on Saturday, a great mix of music combined with great performances .. a big thumbs up from me.
Sunday at BML brought a noticeable slow start to the day, probably as a result of the revelry from the previous night’s partying and main stage bill who’s recognisable acts started half way up the bill for much of the audience. Once again the Discovery Stage attracted a reasonably large crowd from early on. Leeds emerging band Marcians brought their festival friendly indie-pop and played a superb set. They have recently released a new single “Friends” and are set for bigger and better things over the next year. Another highlight of the day came with the soulful, blues infused singer song-writer Tom Walker, although sound issues meant we struggled to hear his tasty blues guitar he would certainly give the likes of Rag’n’Bone Man a run for his money. Sunday’s Discovery stage ended with the fantastic sets of indie-punk pop from Get Inuit, Muncie Girls (hailing from Exeter) and finally Halifax based teenagers The Orielles, whose chaotic set was captivating (even if they did have to stop for a band meeting mid-set to decide upon the next song).
Over on the main stage things didn’t really get going until Little Comets took to the stage. Described as “Kitchen Sink” indie they certainly entertained the growing crowd with many dancing along despite not really knowing the band’s music. The hat, the guitar and the piano can mean only one thing Manchester’s own Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy. Regaling the audience with tales of his newborn son, his musicianship is unquestionably superb. To be fair the act that finally brought the crowds into the main arena was 90’s soul/dance legends Soul II Soul. Jazzie B (OBE) and Caron Wheeler played to the crowd on a soulful trip from the opener Keep on Moving through to the huge global hit Back to Life. In the words of one festival goer “that was proper ace.. I’ve only ever heard them on record but wow how good were they…” I can say no more ..
Sunday ends on the main stage with 2 stalwarts of the indie-rock scene – Feeder and The Wombats. Both bands delivered blistering sets of anthems that were instantly recognisable even if you didn’t know the artists. Unfortunately, the Wombats were stuck without much of their equipment which meant that Feeder played and extended their set which pleased the crowd no end. Frontman Grant Nicholas is much more restrained these days but that does not mean the performance is lacklustre .. in fact, the band are tighter than ever and firing on all cylinders. The huge crowd pleaser “Buck Rodgers” is a song that always delivers and tonight was no exception. Having been lent equipment by Milburn and Feeder, The Wombats take to the stage for an hour long set that comprises of mostly their first album, which to be fair contains most of the recognisable hits. The Bingley audience welcomed them with open arms and had a proper indie party. Songs such as “Moving to New York” and the huge hit “Let’s dance to Joy Division “ whip the crowd up perfectly and, despite visibly struggling with unfamiliar equipment, the band are on top form. Front man Matt Murphy and bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen never stopped from the moment they hit the stage, with Murphy being clearly disappointed to have to finish the set to make way for the obligatory end of festival fireworks.
Overall Bingley was once again a huge success and a highlight on the Flick Of the Finger calendar. We are all looking forward to next year’s line-up announcements and joining the families of West Yorkshire for another great weekend.