What really struck me about this year’s Lancaster Music Festival was the energy.
I started out at The Bowerham Hotel on Thursday night watching New York’s J & The 9s, and finally admitted defeat at 1.30am at The Apothecary on Monday morning with the same band.
A kind of full circle experience.
The Apothecary, which didn’t close at all, was still jumping as I left.
In terms of music, Lancaster Music Festival was relentless.
Literally hundreds of hours of it.
My ears were still ringing on Tuesday.
It’s been estimated that around 80,000 people attended the event over the five days, which is a truly remarkable number if accurate.
Many pubs were literally bursting at the seams, and as much as I would have liked to step in to watch what was going on, it was often impossible.
Highlights wise, there was a lot to choose from, but in no particular order; Sold To The Sky, Uptown Monotones, Lowes, The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co, Dohnut, Kriss Foster, Greenheart, Andrea Perrone, Cumbria Gaita, Carpe, The Hackney Colliery Band and the afforementioned J & The 9s all put on great shows.
I caught fleeting rhythms, drum rolls, hollers and basslines moving around the city’s venues throughout the weekend, and the squares were packed with dance, theatre and art.
The salsa in the square event drew big crowds, and it was a joy to watch both adults and children enjoying the music and dancing on the plinth.
There was a great atmosphere in St Nic’s Arcade too with the wonderful Haffner Orchestra.
The castle looked great all weekend, although quieter than recent years.
Lowes in particular on Friday night held a unique atmosphere in terms of sound, lighting, location and a brief but heavy downpour, which all helped to create a poignant and celebratory mood.
They also announced they’d just signed a deal with Sony, which drew a huge applause from the very appreciative crowd in the courtyard.
Despite seeing the band more times than any other, it was impossible to resist catching The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Company at The Yorkshire House on Saturday night.
It was a sold out show, and support came from Dohnut (formerly known as eating disorder), who set an energetic party mood.
The big and bouncy People in Dub was being played out as we walked in and it’s a hackle raiser of a song.
It was all about the dancing here, and The Lumberjacks, performing with a mix of former and current members (lead singer Jimi Ogden is now based in Warsaw, Poland) let the audience have it with classic after classic.
Hopefully, despite the distance, they’ll continue to return to Lancaster in the future.
On Sunday we followed the Cumbria Gaita Band up Penny Street for a bit, their Galician bagpipe and percussion sound irresistable to those walking past or shopping in the city centre.
Later, Lancaster’s Sold To The Sky blew away the cobwebs with a heavy rock set of new, original material at the castle as part of Fiesta Bombarda’s Carnival in the Castle.
I felt a bit sorry for Analog Bombs who played to a tiny crowd earlier on, but I think they enjoyed it nonetheless.
Brass Gumbo from Edinburgh, who were billed to play next, had got stuck on the M6, so Uptown Monotones stepped in.
The Austrian three piece produced sounds I never knew existed, and their onstage charisma brought smiles all round.
It was high octane stuff, and the electronic element of the music worked really well.
Some stunning beatboxing too and I believe their show at The Wagon and Horses just minutes later went down a storm too.
The Hackney Colliery Band completed the castle’s line-up, and although a bit of a wait ensued setting up, it was a treat to hear their sound and some fantastic brass covers of well known tracks from across the musical spectrum.
Ticketing at the castle during the evenings put a lot of people off, and it split groups, my own included, with many saying ‘why would you pay when there’s so much free stuff going on in town?’
There’s some argument to say that a lower price in the evening would ensure a larger crowd for the headline acts too.
However, there’s no doubt that Lancaster Castle is a stunning venue by national standards, and must play a part in the event’s overall offer.
The Bobbin was busy on Sunday night with an excellent dub/reggae rock and funk line-up including Illerstate, Divide and Conker, Carpe and then Jeremiah Ferrari.
And the mood was still jovial, with many people dancing and enjoying the atmosphere.
I’ve mixed feelings about the planned break next year.
On the one hand, it has the potential to strengthen the event, give organisers some breathing space - and allow them and other key players in the city to focus on its all year round offer - and get the message out that Lancaster is bristling with live music week in, week out.
On the other, it’s one of the best festival’s in the country, and will be sorely missed.
Perhaps there’s room for something a bit more informal to fill the void?
Once again, hats off to all the festival volunteers, pub staff, musicians, and anyone else who pulled together to make it happen for 2017.