REVIEW: Lancaster Music Festival 2016

The Bootstraps perform outside Barclays Bank

The Bootstraps perform outside Barclays Bank

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Explosions of sweets, crowdsurfers, a feminist mouse circus, dancing witches, sparkly spandex, laser head experiences, and music, music, music.

That would be Lancaster Music Festival then.

the audience in The Hall

the audience in The Hall

And it went on for nearly a week.

From twentyfourseven playing the opening party at Lancaster Brewery on Wednesday night, to the Luca Brasi Four hitting the final notes at The Robert Gillow on Tuesday morning, the city went off in October again.

At times venues were bursting at the seams with rowdy, rocking crowds, with only those determined enough willing or able to find a space in the mass of bodies.

At others, a solo guitarist picked his way through acoustic numbers to a handful of attentive listeners.

Bill Roberts and The Billionaires Trio featuring Emma Williams perfom at the Robert Gillow Pub for Lancaster Music Festival

Bill Roberts and The Billionaires Trio featuring Emma Williams perfom at the Robert Gillow Pub for Lancaster Music Festival

Guitars were tuned, drum kits dismantled and rebuilt. People relaxed.

Coffee roasted, beer barrels were changed, musicians moved from one performance space to the next, dragging, hoisting and pushing all manner of instruments.

There was late night dubstep in a burrito bar, and brass bands brightening up grey cobbled streets at lunchtime.

Groups and individuals made their way purposefully or stumbled across often uneven terrain in the dark.

Rock It Man perform in Bar 1725 for Lancaster Music Festival

Rock It Man perform in Bar 1725 for Lancaster Music Festival

Some followed the Official Guide for inspiration, others followed their ears.

Children ran about with glee, parents rolled their eyes and let them get on with it.

There were very few places in the city that you couldn’t hear a whoop, riff, drum roll, applause, bass line or singalong chorus all weekend.

One stranger said that many of the festival’s bands and musicians play here every week, and why couldn’t it be like this more often?

Dean Marroni from Divide & Conker on the big screen at Lancaster Castle

Dean Marroni from Divide & Conker on the big screen at Lancaster Castle

In some ways it kind of is. Just not usually with so much purpose and posture.

I attended the festival for roughly 32 hours in total.

Helping to welcome Sensory Hoverload back to the city on Thursday night at Lancaster Brewery, and finally admitting defeat in The Storey on Sunday night.

Inbetween times it was mainly random picks and old favourites.

Maze of Sound at the castle, The Low Countries at The Storey, a chat with James Varney, Mazza Vee and Tom Flemons about treason, music and lasers at Atticus Bookshop, Stephen Hudson in The Hall, Ragamuffins in The Merchants, Maelstrom Theatre in Market Square, Citizens Band at Lancaster Castle, The Lumberjacks making a surprise and raucous return at The Wagon, The Lovely Eggs’ secret, sweet-filled, cider swilling soiree at the Priory Hall and Phantom Voices in the Robert Gillow.

It was a bit of a whirlwind.

Saturday eased in a bit more slowly. If like me you want to absorb as much as possible, it can be logistical fun and games when you’re in a group setting.

So time was taken on Saturday afternoon to catch up with old friends and be introduced to new ones.

Things kicked off nicely with Rory McCleod in Market Square, before Divide & Conker at Lancaster Castle limbered everyone up with their amazing energy.

It was a veritable feast of sound from there on in. Everyone was up for it, conversation flowed between strangers, and there was literally a muso around every corner.

After a quiet start on Friday, things went well at Lancaster Castle on Saturday and Sunday, the new layout making a lot of sense and allowing people some space to relax without being right next to the stage.

Other highlights included the wonderful Boom Bike Bourree, in The Storey, South African punks SoapGirls, New Jave Trio featuring James Mackie, Lyons and La Zel on The Melodrome in Sun Square, Greenheart, Bootstraps, Carpe, EZXP and Balkanics. Needless to say I missed a great deal. Oh to do it all again!

Some observations I gleaned from the weekend - “it would be great to see European square style covered seating for food and drink in Market Square and the market stalls in the square itself could have been temporarily better placed as a one off.

“It just didn’t quite work”.

“The big screen at the castle could have gone where the stage was last year, giving more sightlines within the castle”.

And, “it would be great to see shuttle buses running to the Ashton Memorial for performances there, perhaps from Dalton Square?”

The festival organisers, who are all at once musicians themselves (some playing in multiple bands), and also representatives of the city’s night-time economy throughout the year, have nailed it yet again.

Hats off, well done, and get some sleep!