With Guitar’s Best Family Friendly Music Festival
Traveling towards the North West UK festival, weather reporting of heavy rain and amber alerts over most of the country and did The Beautiful South record that song, ‘pencil case’ or was it the Housemartins and why has west Carlisle got no road signs and at the odd busy junction traffic lights? are just three topics of conversation on route to join the eclectic crowds, all drawn to Solfest and the mixtape of bands, from iconic, Billy Bragg, the Waterboys, Timo Maas, System 7, The Members, Transglobal Underground, Adam Ant, The Duke Spirit and Big Country to the more recent crop of Baghdaddies, KT Tunstall, Nina Nesbit, Saint Jude, The Talk and Pikey Beats to name but a few.
Friday at Solfest was at first taken up with entering the children’s area and letting the kids check out all the fun things that were happening there. The adults chilled and the kids ran riot which is the only way to be in this amazing area. After a couple of hours we moved on and ‘pitched up’ at the main stage for some music. This stage opened up with the Bootleg Beetles. They gave a great round of Beetles tracks and the crowd sang along to pretty much the whole show. 8/10
Friday was taken up at this stage but as the toilets were in between the Main stage and the Drystone Stage a glimpse of what was happening on here was able to be observed while waiting in the Que. The Drystone always has amazing music and it was brill to check it out through the night. As was The House Of Joy tent playing some in toxic mix of dub reggae, handy then it was near a South African Food Stall, so one of our number was happy with The Stewed Chicken and Kidney Bean Rice.
But most attention was increasingly focused on the main stage that Friday night, next up Nina Nesbit who has just turned 18 and takes to the Solfest main stage after completing tours with Ed Sherian and Example, her voice is different and appealing although not I feel for everyone. 7.5/10. Right on schedule at 18:30, The South apparently no longer Beautiful, but reminded the large early evening crowd to a gallery of the familiar, with songs from the whole of The Beautiful South’s career, they only had 34 chart singles to select from. True to form or should that be reform, Paul Heaton & co. were on fine sing-a-long form, oh, and that song was ‘Song For Whoever’, “One From way back. 8/10
KT Tunstall stoked the main stage crowd, her popular live set shone full of energy and confidence ignited the nights crowd 8.5/10. One or two of our merry band slopped off over the slight hill to the natural amphitheatre of the Drystone stage to catch the Slabs do their thing very tasty side dish o8/10 Before we return for the last four songs from KT Tunstall who if i remember right is due in the studio around now and gave the crowd a sneak of what to expect, all seems good. 8.5/10
Adam Ant And The Good, The Bad & Lovely Posse, took to the stage cue lights, even more dry ice and a healthy roar for Adam, some of With Guitars caught a fantastic appearance at Guilfest 2011, sad there was only one ‘Deucher girl on backing vocals, least from our vantage point unusually at the front, it did not matter too much as Adam ant & co, delivered a virtually perfect rendition of multiply singles and b sides from across a successful journey. think the only thing i missed was Killer In The home, but UK single, yet another festival crowd royally entertained. 9/10
Saturday was a mixed bag of great music happening everywhere and we just had to try to get round it all. Louis Barabbas & the Bedlam 6 were on at the Main Stage in the afternoon and I was draw to them due to their insane manner and off their wall lead singer. He was entertaining and had a few different personalities during the show which worked well when the songs were a ‘duet’, and he ‘played’ both parts. A fantastic band to watch and their songs we load, funny and entertaining to be sure. They swung from folk to rock and jazz. The lead was energetic and clearly loves what he does up on stage. A great band to have at any festival and definitely got the crowd in a good mood for the day. 8.5/10
Over on the Drystone Stage was Juba do Leao. A large group of mixed genders grabbing their influence from Brazil. They were all in green and looked so professional which was true when they began their set. They were intoxicating and mesmerising. A wonderful array of harmonies through voice and percussion instruments. They worked as a team and become one to entertain with a beautiful rhythm and groove. 8/10
Seth Lakeman has played Solfest three times and he rocked. The crowd were all dancing and it’s not surprising due to the fact that the folk tunes kicked out were nothing but magical. This man certainly knows his way around a fiddle. He is multi-talented with instruments and his band are just as unique as him. This was kick-ass in the terms of you could not just sit….you had to get up and join in the dancing. 9/10
Ford And The Shouts playing played just after six, in The Bar stage, seemed a little pushed to fill a longer set, but what they played worked well, including songs ‘Disco!!!’ and ‘Man-up’ worked well, WG is keen to hear more of an interesting band 8/10
Looking at the plastic glasses momentary on the table until the one of the encircling Juveniles struck, getting a little tired, waiting for slow coach adult drinkers to sup up and collect empty pint glasses, which could be redeemed at the bar for 20p a go, the plastic glass predators had headed out to pastures new, searching for plastic. Then around five minutes later a busy Bar Stage Tent The Boobytraps are go. This young band did what they said on the label……..a Boobytarp is something that can surprise a person and they did just that. Loved this hard indie-rock music. They were energetic and passionate. Playing a good chunk of their debut album, ‘estate Of mind’ Great tracks and suited to the Bar stage. 8/10
The Sufin Turnips hit the Bar Stage. Brilliant is what I can say about this band. They are from the West Country and sang about cider, drinking and a random song about pasties! They covered the Wurrsels and a few known country tracks and the crowd were over the moon. The dancers joined in with the lyrics and scrumpy was flowing. This stuff was 7.5 on the rector scale and it could get messy! The best line this year had to be the bands quote…..’You do not have to justify yourself when you are drinking Scrumpy’! Love it…very entertaining. 8.5/10
A short walk out of the Bar stage tent and we walk around two thirds down the bank meet up again with friends, five minutes later, yet again the majority were impressed by Billy Bragg with a heavy dose of socialism and fair play, tackling racism, sexism and the banks. liked most of billy Bragg’s points especially his when it comes to causes to cancel third world debt, modern day sexism, or when he talked about 70’s office 70’s bigots before going, aged 19, to the first Rock Against Racism watching The Clash and what that meant, that crowd, that shared view. Inter-laced though are great songs think highlights from the Mermaid albums with lots more besides. cumulating in his original ‘New England’ song made even more famous as the first breakthrough single by Kirsty McColl which was one mass sing-a-long yet again. 8.5/10
The writing crew were pulled to different stages covering The Waterboys over on the main stage and The Members aka JC Caroll on vocals, guitar, Chris Payne on bass and Rat Scabies on drums The Members gave their all on the Bar Stage. They can knock it out and sound as good as ever. Songs like ‘Solitary Confinement’, ‘I’m in Love With A Working Girl’ and ‘Sounds of the Suburbs’ all part of a clutch of songs that shine and are played with gusto and skill. Considering they have been around for donkeys and it’s great to see punk bands still keeping it real and why give it up if it the job you love to do. This music will never die and it’s fantastic for the younger generations to get to see the punk bands that made history. A great memory trip. 8/10
The Waterboys reformed, what would Mike Scott and the lads serve up headling Saturday at the main stage in 2012. answer flawless, his voice just as strong, the band as tight, playing a greatest hits that beguiled and rocked, hearing songs like ‘Fishermen Blues’ and ‘Whole of the Moon’ before the lights lift the roar and clapping of hands began early as the song each song ends, an impressive return 8.5/10
Later that evening the Dance tent hosted System 7. It was brilliant. These two are great and hold their own in the dance area. Fantastic mix of synths and guitar and they loved it themselves as they kept smiling at each other. A long set was happening here and the energy in the tent was electric just like the tunes. 8/10
On route, we catch Strictly Business were playing in The Love Shack. Gorgeous roots music. A relaxing feel keeping the body moving in the slow rhythmic bounce you can only find in the dub area. 7.5/10
Sunday starts proper sitting (for once) in the Bar Stage Tent, talking in a lazy Sunday afternoon, the weather was good, even sunshine could be detected between the clouds. We stayed under canvas for a while, to accustom back into hat festival ambience and live music enjoyment. Serial dancing broke out that greeted The 309’s which were easy on the ears with their blues, country, swing sound. 7.5/10
Followed by Brewed Slowly are a cover band and pretty much most of the tent knew the folk tunes from The Dubliner’s, last night’s headliners, Pogues were all heavily represented. All songs were well played, a good set and the punters danced too. 7.5/10
Moving into the daylight, Stephen Hudson & the Fiat Pandas were entertaining and smooth for the Sunday at the Drystone Stage. Easy listening and lyrics. 7/10 loose plans to split between the bar stage and the main and Drystone stages are drawn up in bid to cover more ground and bands.
Over of the main stage, Klaire caught Transglobal Underground were sensational. They are fantastic musicians and the instruments blend so well together to create the harmonies and kick ass beats that flowed over the field. You just have to groove to this group, the music is magical and it’s like being taken over by an invisible entity. Brilliant set. 8.5/10
After a much needed food break, some of us, caught Saint Jude on the mainstage, good sound and with a distinctive vocal courtesy of Lynne Jackaman which worked well. But with the band’s name well touted, we were a smidgen disappointed, it is a crowed market-place, no doubt they are something good and have made a big enough splash in their native London, but today on an the open stage, it did not carry the weight of a a tight stage and darkened room, and the energy that experience brings, in comparison Saint Jude does not work so well in daylight. 7.5/10
Very pleased With Guitars caught The Duke Spirit, female fronted rock, is not my favourite thing, but with Liea Moss gave a powerful performance, the band formed in 2003, but I have not seen them, since early days, in 2012 they were a true festival highlight, never have green wellies fought so hard to move stuck in the main stage Mud. pleased at least from the crowd in their preverbal seal of approval. The. Duke spirit rocked and it was great. 8.5/10
Cheered by such an impressive set, making the reality short trip from the main stage area, up he hill to the bar stage was a little hazardous, but so pleased two of us did. Time for some 2tone from Hull in the form of The Talk. Back on solid ground, one of WG’s number danced themselves into a frenzy of beats and wheelies, after only two enjoyable nights in the east coast city, that when the lead singer enquired @Must have a few fans from Hull” one of our number joined in the chorus of cheers, such was their enthusiasm for this two tone flavoured live set, after supported so many of the Coventry’s labels stalwarts, it not that much of a shock, good band and set. 8/10
Soon after The Talk finished, informed that Baghdadies are playing now on the Drystone stage, hot footing it I caught the last four songs, but WG’s Klaire was in the bumper sized crowd, so she takes it from here. The Baghdaddies at the Drystone Stage as always were just right to get ya dancing pants on. There was a big crowd and they were all ready to get groovy with The Baghdaddies’ beats. They are the type of band that you have to dance to as it is impossible to stand still while listening. Great entertainment, great band and a great set. 8.5/10
Over over on he main stage, Big Country headlined that last night. Without Stuart;s distinctive vocals will always be missed. in 2012 Big Country are loud and bright and there is no doubting that they preform an entertaining set 7.5/10
Three of our merry band, Lucy, Nikki and Steve were there early to catch Pikey Beats, do to some female north west attitude from a frustrated drunk en fan that sadly realised that just could not push any farther, fearing that Nikki would lamp her if she pushed or poked her one more time, we decided to chill catching just four songs in, all With guitars can portray is that is was good quality, with massive support, having played this festival for the past few years to change stages was a good if really busy bar stage was a little edgy. But that is not Pikey Beats fault they were as many expected in good form. 8/10.
And apart from returning to the Reggae/ dub stage with live vocals and raps over some great music, actually House Of Joy, should in some of the writers views, sort a UK if not a European tour, to see them on a shorter tad more focused night at a local venue would be, just like Solfest 2o012, be fab.
With Guitars was fooling around when reviewing the festival many facets, please find below Klaire Ferry’s guide to the Kids activities, as much as the adults enjoy the music, it’s a family festival, here’s why…
Solfest’s kids area is packed full of activities for all ages of children. There is even an agenda if you want to follow what’s on through the day. This area starts early, so if your little ones are up earlier than some festival goers you have entertainment. There are craft activities in The Ladybird Area and workshops in The Settlement. Your kids can make shell mobiles, dragonfly pegs, mosaics, fancy dress, things with beads and dream catchers. There is storytelling and sing-alongs. You can borrow a buggy from the Baby Chill Out Tent if you forgot yours and your little one needs a nap while you all want a wander, or just chill out on the couches and have yourself a cuppa. There are also facilities for breastfeeding, warming food and changing your baby .
For older kids there are reclaimed pool tables, table hockey and ping pong in the Trailer Trash Youth Club. If you want to get musical and make some beats then pop into the music area, (which is full of different instruments) and knock out grooves with new friends at Buzzy Beats. The Ladybird Area this year was jammed packed with Friday being Science day where the team were mad scientist. They go on walk about and get the kids (and adults) involved with educational experiments. One was getting the kids to say the order of planets and line up as the planets then run around the sun. It went a bit pair shaped as things with kids can do and everyone was ‘Burnt’ as they went too close to the sun. These types of activities are fantastic as they get the kids to think about and do science while having a great time. Saturday was circus day with tug of wars and circus skill learning and Sunday was myths and legends day with treasure hunts and tales. Even if you do not have the kids you can join in with some of the activities too where you could learn to knit in The Little Knittery.
This area is open till around eight where it often finishes with a cabaret. No matter what you come for at Solfest it will be very difficult to get your kids to leave this fun-filled area. Brilliant. Well thought out and an all-rounder BIG FAT HAPPY TIME. 10/10
Written by Klaire Ferry, Lucy Galley, Niki Lawson, Steve Janes.