It’s the 4th Split Festival and one look at this year’s line-up suggests the Sunderland music festival is evolving. Just to pick a couple of names from the line-up that caught an eye, local bands Field Music, Thiss Ain’t Vegas alongsude PiL, Future Of The Left, The Unthanks, Pulled Apart By Horses, Citizens! and of course the over-worked amazing festival organisers The Futureheads.
Upon entering the Ashbrooke Sports Centre, you get the full effect of the sunken bowl, technically the festival is cited on the outfield of a banked t Cricket pitch, surrounded by a fence a good setting for this weekend’s Festival. For those that love their cricket the wickets and pitchs were guarded by a net, numerous flags and even catering vehicles on one side, so at least the wicket will behave itself and by next year the outfield should totally recover as well.
Weather wise, it was great, the weather gods delivered bright sunshine, even blue skies, mostly, no rain, yet again even if The Spilt Festival had not avoided BST bad weather it would not have mattered – all stages were tented, Stage One, Tunstall Hill stage and the Folk tent, all three stages weather proofed just in case. Add to the tenys and kids junboo inflateabloe slide, all the organisations, outlets and festi-styled shops, something like a dozen or more catering trailers offering the now familiar Jamaican, British, Tibetan the usual burgers, pizzas roast hog, noodle bar and the Food of the Seychelles which was a new one for us.
The Split Festival – Saturday
Decided on fuelling up before proceedings proper had reports that Lilliput were good – like a mix between The Thrills and Mumford & Sons, as we journeyed, vegetable wrap in hand to catch Young Liar – Pretty good Newcastle outfit, mostly Instrumental with the odd use of samples had a good sound though, building up some effective guitar led wall of sound without the distortion. good thing – not falling into the JAMC trap, enjoyable first exposure to Young Liar. 7.75/10
Still finding our feet, we stayed in Stage One for Lulu James. First impressions, she has a very good voice which along with her stage presense is polishedm but over ‘backing tapes’. I also sigh hat, in this post Ga-Ga world Lulu wore a white cape Noel Fielding would have been proud of! Came across well rehearsed and professional, but this could have been a Club PA rather than a festival appearance. Thought if she had a tight Jazz trained drummer and cool bass player – think Gbenga Adelekan from Metronomy moon-lighting and you now have my wish list to add more to a promising singer. 7/10
Another musical first awaited at the Tunstall Hill stage some 2 minutes or more, depending on foot fall to the smaller venue all to catch The Cornshed Sisters, pon entering the tent, it was a busy crowd all eager to see them and with “that one from Kenickie” if anyone ventured the word – “who?” a generation of adults that remember downstairs at Blueberries sighed, but they were the ones that showed their support. Well. Allll was well deserved, tight neat snappy lyrics met acoustic guitar chord twiddlings, piano and attitude had me thinking of a Boston scene in terms of delivery and narrative. Suitablly impressed, already It’s a rich life – 7.75/10
A quick green tea and I am bouncing back to the Tunstall Hill stage to the The Lake Poets in just a couple of years the band have achieved a good overall sound and fans including us, the band which had most of the first seven or eight rows dancing especially to ‘City By The Sea’ which went down particullarly well, for some locally known reason. 7.75/10
Pulled Apart By Horses are hard and furious and lots better for it. The Leeds band are well know 100 miles South I guess, but after the first two songs I’m thinking – we are just chuffed they are here in the North East at Stage One. They deliver an ear ringing heart pounding set with passion and chords in spades. 8/10
Time for a different pace, instrumentation and musical styles as we enter the Tunstall Hill Tent for the 2012 Mercury Prize nominated The Unthanked sadly they were blighted by sound problems early on, niggles aside, they continued to charm with songs from previous outings up to the current ‘Late’ album. With there orchestration of classic Northumbrian folk the strike gold a number of times, but there is more to their collective bow than just reinterpreting old ditties, the musical net is cast wide. Employing trumpet, violin, piano, acoustic guitars and “North East clog dancing” they would have won over the whole tent if a few idiots at the back drew breath from constant banter, all chatter evidently without any consideration what 95% were there to witness an impressive Sunderland bow. 8/10
Then to Spilt Festival main stage aka Stage One for PiL – which these days have again evolved, with re-worked classics and new ‘This Is PiL’ material all fit for purpose in 2012. As frontman extraordinaire sings “…statue Of mind” to telling effect, wondering how early PiL fans would get on. John Lydon always seemed comfortable with the ever changing and at times, challenging Sound of PiL. The new album ‘This Is PiL’ is well represented tonight, with ‘Deeper Water’, “’Out Of The Woods’ but its the albums first single proper, ‘One Drop’ among newier repertoire that shines brightest. sand gets the biggest roar, least so far.
At one point. John Lydon asks, a group of students “How much do you pay now for a student pint?” Answer comes back £3.10 to which he replies £3.10! When a pint at the Houses Of Commons costs 1p a pint!” With that look and a slight wag of a finger continued, “You only have yourselves to blame – you voted them in!” only time John speaking to a north east crowd might have been not accurate as The North East is waves mostly a red flag, think we had nothing to do with this poor coalition. But I get his point, mind drifts to his Question Time TV apperance, before the next song kicked in.
There are reworked classics such as ‘This Is Not a Love Song’ ‘Flowers Of Romance’,’Warrior’, and ‘Rise’ which are all tweaked with a rockier guitar sound, although we are not talking wholesale changes, just re-worked, to reassure the nervous – there is an ever-present strong backline with heavier bass and drumms.
As the band returned to the stage, to bring their Sunderland apperance to a close after a fantastic 90 ,minutet, a positive crowd exploded to ‘Open Up’ the the Leftfield collaboration from the 1990s that met with approval. As did the whole night, John Lydon even partly apologised on behalf of Arsnel fans, “Fror Nicklas Bendtner, but not totally!” 9/10
Spilt Festival 2012 – Sunday
For a 1:30 roll call, we headed to Stage One to see The Folks, unfortunately after 15 minutes still no sign of the Manchester band, much to With guitars disappointment.
Moved up to an earlier slot, The Citizens! were an unexpected pleasant surprise, but readers of the elite music organ NME will all be familiar he band are comfortable and confident onstage moving between Electro and indie styles to good effect, band are now off to Australia asnd North America shortly to tour in this form they’re in for a treat. 8/10
Pure Grit are a local guitar and drums two-piece combo that play in tease indie rock to good effect, remember them supporting Tribes first Headline gig at the city’s Independent venue, there full on set nowadays is well rehearsed and delivered. 7.5/10
Stage One and Field Music were a another high point, with brothers Peter and David Brewis, Andrew Moore and co cooked up entertaining and popular set. The Sunderland band’s melodies and lyrics definitely one of Spit’s multiple successes – 8.5/10
To another Sunderland band that filled the Tunstall Hill stage was This Ain’t Vegas, After two albums and as many singles also to their songs contributed to multi Nice compilations went down well with the tent filled crowd. 8/10
Hawk Eyes take to Split’s Tunstall Stage and immediately get on with it a hard, up-tempo alternative rock style with energy, aggression and power. Lead Singer Paul Astick after a handful of songs stepped down from the two foot stage, and planted the mic stand on the grass in front of him, as the crowd formed a semi circle around him, he continued to sing and play to al in close vicinity. Still not done he went walkabouts with an extra long guitar lead – the end result was a more animated crowd filled with renewed enthusiasm. Very pleased I have updated my view on the band, when I last saw them they were know as Chickenhawk, as Hawk Eyes they are even stronger these days. 8/10
Still enthused we made the short journey to Stage One as Saint Etienne took to the stage, video screen behind the band’s lead singer blazed with imagery, while Sarah Cracknell voice has lost none of it’s tone or charm. A set of hits and selected songs from their 2012 album ’Words And Music By Saint Etienne’. A completely guitar free set. Their brand of 1990’s house friendly alternative pop was greeted enthusiastically with lots of cheers and hand slapping by the large swell of bodies. 8/10
Like a runner ball, we bounce back into a busier Tunstall Stage Tent to hear one of Wales’ loudest band. With Lost Prophets one the finest of the current crop. Future Of The Left are in great form, when were they ever not? Sunderland were treated to a blistering set packed with hooks which the draw you in before another sonic eruption of hard hitting rock. Fine band, fine times, not sire about the chaotic shenanigans at the end of the set, though. 9/10
Then it is all down to the last band standing at the Split festival, The Futureheads. Early tunes opened with the Richard Thompson song, ‘Beeswing;, one of the favourites from the ‘Rant’ album before plugging in for a number of first album gems including a heading back 10 years playing an early single set standard ‘Meantime’. But flicking backwards it was The ‘Old Dun Cow’ with crowd encouraged to sing the chorus, that warmed the tent with a glorious sing-a-long. British folk never had it so good. A Jam-packed set in terms of releases like ‘Acapella’, ‘Radio Heart’ and ‘I Can Do That’, ‘Meet Me Halfway’ rom all three albums cumulated in normal time to a climax- closing their set with The fantastic ’Hounds of Love’ cover, which had the festival crowd in fine voice, we were singing our hearts out, it seemed louder than when they preformed the song in the open air, supporting Red Hot Chili Peppers earlier this year. Must admit a guilty pleasure when the guitars get plugged in and the volume and crowd volume get turned up a notch, this writer is at his happiest, but on reflection, it the songs from Rant that warm the crowd, just as much as say ”Meantime’.
Due to the Sunday night time restriction (9pm) on the festival meant that proceedings on this Sunday night would be called to a halt at 9pm. The whole festival had gone like clockwork, but couple of people also looked at the time leading to a fair outcrof mobile phone screens that lit up bright in the dark, one or two went for an early bath, but 99% stayed and after a minute or two were rewarded.
Returning to the stage after a quick undoubtly off stage conflab, to a soundtrack of the crowds constant cheering and applause brought the lads back on-stage with the word “You’re gonna get us fined!” they could, if the crowd was was in control, to play on for another hour at least, but a time it was just a more beefed up one- song encore the title of which at this time escapes me all I can report is that sent a happy festival crowd that went home smiling also with the bonus, even no tents to pack up!
A cracking good time. 9/10
Maybe if With guitars ask nicely of we could sort a punk rock tent out, not saying it is going to happen, but we will at least try to add even more to a perfectly good music festival. Sunderland’s best annual event.
All live photos copyright Helen Todner & With Guitars