Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe
Morning has broken. Seemingly over my head. The choices of the night before, prompted by the engaging festival feel and the desire to get all dance-y, now seem like a catalogue of errors. The chance of getting breakfast slips away; I am forced to embrace the fact that lunch and a recovery pint are the only way forward.
And so, being in a pub already, this is what we do. Down the stairs, to the bar, a sandwich and a couple of pints of something light. Back to my usual self again. Ish. Thank goodness we didn’t try to do the ‘4am finishing’ after party or today may have been lost.
The Old Crown feels further away from the Beyond The Tracks festival site today, as Paul and I wend our way through the town. We make it through the entrance process to find Carl Barât and the Jackals both looking and sounding cool. They’re a good choice for the festival daytime being slightly rocky, slightly punky, and slightly indie; a good balance of appeal across the audience.
They’re energetic but not so energetic it puts my shuffling state to shame, and while no one song stands out the set overall is good. Something in their deportment keeps screaming ‘LONDON’ at me, but I would be hard pressed to say exactly what.
After this solid introduction to Beyond The Tracks’ Saturday programme, the festival’s second stage hosts Sandinistas from South Wales. Sporting a bass made more of tape than wood, an approachable charm, and punk rock to knock your socks off they’re a total change of atmosphere. Upbeat and fun, with some excellent banter from lead singer/guitarist, Dan Hagerty, Sandinistas do a great job of entertaining; Beyond The Tracks is the first time I’ve seen this band but I would be keen to catch them again.
Following Sandinistas, local lads The Twang take to the main stage. The Twang are a band I’ve heard a lot about but never seen before so, while I have an idea what to expect, I’m not too surprised to find my initial idea was totally wrong. It can happen. Musically reminiscent of The Streets in some ways, The Twang bring an urban edge to the day which, while not entirely my cup of hot beverage, does mix things up nicely.
The real star of the show is Phil Etheridge, having a laugh with the audience and swigging from a can of Red Stripe. Etheridge makes full use of the stage, which I like, and while I can’t help feeling his voice isn’t as strong as it could be, with the band covering the music and Etheridge covering the performance The Twang deliver and engaging and enjoyable set.
A quick trip to the bar is in order while The Americas finish setting up; as they get started I’m reminded why I was looking forward to seeing them. Although I’m slightly surprised they’re on the second stage as I would have expected their ‘American road trip’ styled rock to be ideal main stage material.
Somebody has to take the smaller stage though and with a solid, easily accessible sound The Americas make it their own. Still reminding me of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in some ways, they continue the trend of bands either winning me over musically or by performance, but not both; it’s unfortunate, but with each of them being tied to an instrument the performance is a little static.
I think it’s fair to say at this point that, while I try not to be biased, with three such different days it’s incredibly difficult not to have a preference in some way. So, I give up and admit to myself that this, the middle day, is almost certainly going to be my favourite of the Beyond The Tracks triptych. That confessed, I have an open mind towards The Coral while also half expecting them to follow the day’s pattern and wow me with their performance over their music.
They don’t. The Coral are pretty static visually but musically their back-catalogue shines; ‘In the Morning’, as you may expect, goes down exceptionally well. The crowd is building up now and with more people comes more applause, more appreciation and more singing along. I was never massively into The Coral when they first hit the charts and found their sound to be confusing, somehow both new and old at the same time. Something about that always put me off a little bit but seeing them live, but they win me over at Beyond The Tracks and I plan to delve a little deeper when safely offsite.
It’s pit-stop time, following The Coral, and while I hate to miss any of Table Scraps’ performance having seen them earlier in the year I know they’ll do a top job. I do wonder if it’s the wrong day for them though, and to my mind they would possibly have been a better fit for Sunday. The good and bad thing with festivals, in equal measure, is that there’s always so much going on that you can’t catch everything. Plus at some point there must be a welfare break, and right now the Persian Kitchen is calling. And then the bar.
Sadly then, the last number is all I catch of Table Scraps’ set, but the crowd seem to be fully on board and I’m sure they’ve hit it as hard as they usually do.
This of course means that Maxïmo Park are about to start on the main stage. Having reviewed their latest album, Risk to Exist, earlier in the year and not being too impressed with it, I’m not holding much hope for their live set. If I’m honest, I’m almost biding my time until Ocean Colour Scene.
What a mistake. As soon as they start I can see and hear that Maxïmo Park mean business. The sound is spot on and they look cool; proper ‘rock-star’ cool. By the end of the first song, Maxïmo Park win me over and I’ve move as close as I can get to the stage.
Paul Smith, in particular, is excellent – climbing on the monitors, striding across the stage and generally coming across like a caged tiger. The band start with ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?’ and power through to ‘Our Velocity’ and beyond. My biggest surprise of the day and a band I would heartily recommend seeing live.
At this point the crowd is super dense, so there’s not much chance of getting too close to Superfood on the second stage, but they sound decent from where I can get to (which you may have guessed is the bar). Musically they make a good follow on to Maxïmo Park and while the second stage doesn’t quite offer the same opportunity for a ‘big show’, Superfood maintain both the atmosphere and the crowd set by their predecessors.
In fact, with Ocean Colour Scene ever closer to coming on stage the crowd is swelling more than ever. And although the announcement of a reduced-price Sunday ticket for Saturday ticket holders gets a mixed reaction, the crowd is clearly buzzing with anticipation for the Saturday night headliners.
They sound great too. All the concerns I had about another situation like The Twang are instantly put to bed; Simon Fowler hasn’t lost any vocal clarity or power over the years, and Steve Craddock is as dexterous on the fretboard as he ever was. More so, perhaps, as he makes everything seem effortless.
In fact they all do, yet somehow that doesn’t come across well. It’s the same situation that has occurred throughout the day; musically Ocean Colour Scene are just as good live as on the records, they’re just not very visual.
They don’t seem to have brought much in the way of staging or lighting, with the band members almost fixed to their spots onstage. Ocean Colour Scene have also chosen quite a downbeat set for a headline act, starting with ‘Profit In Peace’ which in my mind is more of an anthemic closer than an opener.
That said, Ocean Colour Scene deliver all the back catalogue bucket list hits and the crowd singing along to ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ is a beautiful thing. Clearly Birmingham still has a great soft spot for this once Moseley mob, and while the atmosphere on stage could be better the atmosphere in the audience is something to behold.
As the last echoes of the amplifiers fade away, Beyond The Tracks’ Saturday crowd begins to move slowly back towards the city centre. I find it hard to imagine anyone not having had a good time today – passing happy face after happy face as we head back to our temporary nest at The Old Crown. Two down, one more to go.
Jaws – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Jaws, visit www.jawsjawsjaws.co.uk
Sugarthief – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Sugarthief, visit www.soundcloud.com/sugarthiefuk
Carl Barât and the Jackals – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Carl Barât and the Jackals, visit www.carlbaratandthejackals.com
Sandinistas – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
The Twang – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on The Twang, visit www.thetwang.co.uk
The Americas – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on The Americas, visit www.soundcloud.com/theamericasyeah
The Coral – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on The Coral, visit www.thecoral.co.uk
Table Scraps – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Table Scraps, visit www.table-scraps.bandcamp.com
Maxïmo Park – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Maxïmo Park, visit www.maximopark.com
Superfood – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Superfood, visit www.superfoodjunk.com
Ocean Colour Scene – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Ocean Colour Scene, visit www.oceancolourscene.com
For more on Beyond The Tracks, visit www.beyondthetracks.org