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Review: Friends of Mine Festival

Jo Waddington checks out a festival in its infancy, as Friends of Mine draws an eclectic range of acts to its idyllic Cheshire setting for its first ever outing.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 25th May 2011

When: 20th -22nd May 2011

Where: Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire

Reviewed by: Jo Waddington

Friday 20th May saw Friends of Mine Festival open its gates for the first time. Starting life as a series of club nights in 2004, Friends of Mine became quickly established as one of the events that all Manchester bands and singer/songwriters wanted to play. After putting on events in venues around Manchester, organising a big festival would be no mean feat, but if anyone could do it these guys, with their genuine passion, love and drive for music, could.

Set against the idyllic backdrop of Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire, there is a feeling of peaceful serenity at the festival site. Arriving to pick up tickets in a glass encased out-building, complete with a huge chandelier, then pitching up a tent by a beautiful lake, almost feels like some relaxation retreat – not the usual huge, port-a-loo ridden, ‘badly mapped out field in the middle of nowhere’ that festival-goers are used to.

The peace and quiet doesn’t last long though. The tell-tale sound of the snare drum sound-checking implies a weekend of live music is about to ensue. The smell of festival food from various burger vans fills the air, the ferris wheel begins to turn – FOM Fest begins…

Friday sees some stellar sets from the likes of 12 Dirty Bullets and Suzuki Method at The Bowl Stage, whilst The Janice Graham Band inject soulful ska vibes into the crowd over at The Lake Stage. Where’s Strutter? are next up, and whip the crowd into a frenzy with their hint of ska mixed with a whole lot of indie rock. Favourite on the Manchester scene, Danny Mahon, draws the crowd over at Capesthorne Arms with his blunt, northern tales conveyed through excellent song writing. He packs the tent out with the who’s who of Manchester gig-goers and wins the hearts of a few more along the way.

As well as the usual live music lovers, there is a lovely family feel around certain parts of the festivals. In hindsight, this is an ideal event to introduce children to festivals. There are fun and games for everyone to join in and quieter camping areas where young families seemed to congregate, which were unscathed by the late night revellers.

Friday headliners at the Satellite Stage are Bad Lieutenant. Bernard Sumner, despite being in two of the most iconic bands of our time (Joy Division and New Order), proves he really is an underrated guitarist. Dipping in and out of their current catalogue and throwing in some New Order classics, their set proved a great end to day one…although many festival goers went on to party the rest of the night away in the House Party tent.

Day two, Saturday, is undoubtedly the main day music wise. People are still arriving and pitching up tents throughout the morning, while others try and warn off last night’s hangover with bacon butties.

The weather has been overcast with the occasional drizzle of rain, but kitted out in wellies and waterproofs we head down to the Satellite Stage. As if by magic, the clouds begin to part and the sun begins to shine just in time for The Heartbreaks’ set. Opening their set to a rather sparse crowd, it’s not long before the Morecambers manage to tempt people from across the festival site down to the main stage. Their brilliantly romantic bittersweet performance uplifts the crowd and was the perfect way to gear up the festival-goers for yet another full day of live music.

The Lake Stage and The Lake Bar seemed very popular on Day Two. Frazer King, near impossible to categorise, delivered an astonishingly catchy, bluesy, rythmatic set which left people reeling, and still questioning why this talented band have still not received the recognition they so much deserve. Choppy ska rhythms ensue with Kid British who have the crowds in high spirits, and later on Manchester favourites Twisted Wheel knock out hits such as ‘You Stole The Sun’ , ‘ We Are Us’ and ‘She’s a Weapon’.

Over at The Lake Bar we witnessed something rather special from The Minx. Continuing with the trend of funky ska that we had seen throughout the weekend, this band really did bring a whole new breed of talent to the table. From their style to their swagger, this band is definitely one to watch.

English punk legends Buzzcocks (pictured) seemed to draw mixed reviews across at the Sattelite Stage. Many were not impressed and almost wounded to watch their icons deliver a sub-par performance, yet the majority loved rocking out to old classics such as ‘Ever Fallen In Love’.

An impressive crowd have congregated down at the Satellite Stage for Saturday’s headliners The Cribs. A firm favourite with every indie fan, this is their first festival performance without ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. They are absolutely astounding. A highly energised set, faultless performance, playing all the favourite Crib tracks throughout the years – the crowd were lapping up every guitar riff and singing back every lyric. In true Cribs fashion, they end with ‘City of Bugs’, which can only be described as epic.

The arrival of Day Three is quickly upon us and whilst many people are packing up and leaving due to the un-predictable weather, there are many still coming down with day tickets to see the likes of The Charlatans, The Fall and Young Knives.

Unfortunately the day saw a few teething problems, such as two stages being closed down due to safety issues regarding the weather, bands being moved around to accommodate the stage closures and in some cases appearances were cancelled. Manchester band Kong had their second set cancelled due to their ‘rowdiness’, which didn’t seem to go down too well, however there were still smiles on many faces.

Willy Mason made a surprise appearance on the Lake stage, Mark.E.Smith stayed true to rebellious form by cutting The Fall’s impeccably brilliant set short, and it was now down to The Charlatans to round off the festival on a high. They did just that.

A wave of euphoria spread across the crowd as Burgess and band deliver an outstanding performance. ‘The Only One I Know’ had everyone’s hands in the air and instigated dance moves in people that were reminiscent of a 90’s acid house rave. ‘Sproston Green’ was the track chosen to end FOM Fest 2011 on an incredible high.

As far as first festivals go, FOM really pulled it out of the bag. There were a few gripes and moans but that is to be expected. This truly was a festival with something for everyone, and almost a home from home. The FOM team have done themselves proud, and all their months and months of hard work really did pay off. Bringing people together to enjoy a full weekend of live music, being able to watch the big names and discover new unsigned talent in a stunningly intimate setting has been the perfect way to start the summer.

Roll on Friends of Mine 2012…

Photo: Buzzcocks, © Emma Davies

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