Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Michelle Martin
Day three of any festival weekend is always a tough one for me. Day one I’m mad for it. Day two is a recover and then get back on it kind of day. Day three is usually spent sober, tired, and can be a very tough sell.
There’s also no pretending I’m not hungover. So, having made it down in time for breakfast a fruit based recovery drink is in order. The city centre feel quiet as Paul and I head on the now familiar journey to Eastside Park. And whilst it takes a little longer to get through the gates with our bags today, the queue isn’t vast.
That being so, it’s a pleasant surprise to see a fair-sized crowd already watching Nadine Shah as she performs a mix of new and classic material; she is good naturedly takes requests and works well with the audience, as well as putting on an expressive performance. Shah is an artist who knows how and when to bring her political agenda into her art, mentioning it, tastefully, toward the end but in a manner that leaves little room for confusion on what her point may be. Nadine Shah and her band put on a good show, and the few times where the saxophone and guitar clash – making the instrumentation a little muddy – can certainly be forgiven.
The next band on are Dorcha, on the second stage. Unfortunately they are absolutely not what my brain needs at the time of day they are on. They play well together, but the sound is high pitched and quite intense, and while I did on-site describe them as the sound I would expect a band to make when falling slowly down a hill, this was largely an expression of how they made my hangover feel rather than a statement on them as a group.
Not one to be driven to drink on a final festival day, I nevertheless relent and get a recovery cocktail – clutching it tightly in my hand, I head back to the stage as Peter Hook & The Light start their set. Peter Hook, being a previous Joy Division member, has brought with him a little slice of the 80’s. No bad thing in my opinion. But I must admit, I’d had never expected to see two bass guitars playing complimentary melodies and with different effects. And yet the result is definitely a positive one.
Peter Hook himself has a great, powerful stage presence. He jokes about being from up north and waiting for his son (being the other bass player, Jack Bates) to get ready. At 61, and with 41 years in the industry (possibly more), Hook puts on an excellent show. The band play a mix of New Order and Joy Division numbers and end with, you guessed it, Love Will Tear Us Apart; a classic, but one that didn’t excessively stand out in an all-round high-quality set.
With little change-over time, Hoopla Blue take to the second stage. I can see straight away that these guys are what I would expect from the term ‘shoegaze’ – although perhaps ‘stargaze’ would be more fitting and would work well with their ethereal, spacey sound. Hoopla Blue have some great songs with ‘Rotten Sodden Loot’ arguably the best of the day.
I must admit that seeing them in a live setting doesn’t work as well for me; having listened to their recorded material, I prefer the records. Not to disparage a good set too heavily, but some bands are just more effective in a studio setting; fact that Hoopla Blue come across as slightly shy, alongside the limits imposed by live sound, make me feel that their recorded sound wins out.
That being the case, I take the executive decision that standing for most of the weekend has made my knees hurt, so I retreat to an area of open space and take a seat where I can still see the stage. I’ve had a message from a friend telling me to be sure to check out both Slowdive and The Jesus & Mary Chain; knowing Slowdive are on next, I prepare to either stay put or make a move to the front.
Staying put it is. Slowdive are continuing what I’m beginning to think might be the theme for the rest of the day: ethereal, slightly psychedelic, rock. They provide a good soundtrack to sitting in the sun sipping an iced drink, and have the kind of trippy visual effects on stage that I was expecting from Friday night – with the video screen working wonders for their live show. It may be unfair to make comparisons, but in some ways Slowdive put me in mind of a The-Wall-era Pink Floyd. No bad thing; music to relax to, a great soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon.
While Slowdive’s ‘When the Sun Hits’ does indeed bring out the sun, the closing of their set seems to encourage the lovely rainbow over the stage to become the considerably less lovely rain. Blackash take to the second stage under a slightly gloomy mix of cloud, rain and sun, all paying Beyond The Tracks a visit in around five minute cycles. Not to worry, Blackash are here to brighten your day regardless.
The first thing that springs to mind is Assassin’s Creed, as the band are all dressed in partial face coverings and hoods. I was expecting this to some degree, but the image still makes an impact and it’s hard to know how to take them. None too seriously as it turns out; Blackash are a band here for a good time and here to make you have a good time too. They suffer a little with the sound and the vocals are both lacking volume and a little of their trademark distortion.
Nevertheless, they are up-tempo (which I am infinitely glad of at this stage in the day) and good fun – with an appropriate response from the crowd, who, I think, were a little uncertain to begin with. They seem to warm to this surreal bunch and there’s a good bit of dancing and nodding along before Blackash’s set is through. Another band I would definitely see again.
As Blackash finish, Paul and I get chatting to two lovely people who were enjoying the set as much as we were. They heartily recommend Wild Beasts, the next band on the main stage, and furnish us with glow sticks that would probably have been better fitted to Friday night, but will also work perfectly well with Sunday’s space-rock.
I’ve been forced to admit that I’ve not heard of Wild Beasts, but as they come onstage they kick into their set this thought gets pushed aside as they’re good; very good, in fact. Slightly dance oriented, they’re more artsy than Blackash but have a similar head nodding, foot tapping effect on the Sunday crowd. Exhibiting excellent musicianship, each band member seems to play at least two different instruments (excluding the poor drummer who is stuck where he is).
Wild Beasts also have two lead vocalists – both very different, both very good. From all Beyond The Tracks’ Sunday line up, Wild Beasts have the highest number of catchy songs so and ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Alpha Female’ and ‘Get My Bang’ are stuck in my head for quite some time afterwards. They have quite a few songs about… well, as Ben Little says, “Fucking”, and that gives them even more of a dual image.
Funky but ethereal, artsy but obvious, sensitive but direct; it’s the sort of thing that appeals to me, in that my opinion of it can change dependent on my mood. As Wild Beasts’ set progresses, the good run of weather comes to an end and the rain comes down. A good few people retreat to the shelter of the beer tent but I just put my coat on and wait it out. No way am I missing this set for a bit of water.
With the rain slowing but still coming down, it’s time to commit to my no-drinking Sunday. I go and grab a coffee to warm my cold hands and move over to the second stage as Victories At Sea are announced.
And move offstage again.
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Technical difficulties. Whether the weather is to blame or not is a matter for the event staff alone to determine, but between the rain and the delays Victories At Sea start their set with some ground to make up. And it’s hard to be sure what else is to blame, but to my ear the sound is still terrible. It does get better as their set progresses but not enough to save it for me. (After the effect, I’ve done some research and again Victories At Sea recorded music sounds nothing like the stage show I watched. So I attribute it to water logged or faulty equipment, but bad luck all round)
After this minor downer, and having been given somewhat conflicting opinions of The Jesus & Mary Chain, I keep my fingers crossed for the next hour. As they take to the stage and their set starts, I’m once again pleasantly surprised. The uber-80’s sound I was told to expect fails to materialise and it turns out that The Jesus & Mary Chain are a good up-tempo Country-influenced band. Admittedly, they’re not as entertaining as they could be on stage, and their music isn’t entirely my sort of thing, but they’re solid enough for a Sunday with a 16-song set that is quite varied.
When they’re in the throes of a song, the sound is good and the balance of instruments works well, but for some reason William Reid won’t stop playing between songs making the set seem a little unprofessional. In some ways Jim Reid’s voice sounds a little strained too, but it doesn’t slow him down any and it was always their style in a way anyway.
They kick their Beyond The Tracks set off with the slightly new romantic/punk-esque ‘Amputation’, with the rest of the follows that somewhat heavily guitar led feeling. In comparison to the stargaze space rock mood of much of the day, The Jesus & Mary Chain seem more grounded and more traditional rock oriented.
Their set does unfortunately feel a little long, so when the last strains of the curiously titled ‘I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll’ fade away, I head away from the stage and find somewhere to sit down. I can hear Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation starting up on the second stage, but they sadly take a backseat to my desire for pizza as I follow Lazlo’s hierarchy and get food.
The main stage is now a hive of activity, as what look like industrial extract fans are set up and drum kits, pianos, keyboards, and other musical items are brought out; it all looks very exciting. As my hunger is sated and my interest is piqued, Editors begin, striking out with ‘Cold’, ‘Sugar’ and then ‘The Racing Rats’. It’s easy for me to see why they were chosen to headline; the setting they’ve brought is excellent, making maximum use of the stage and the available lighting.
Their performance is musically excellent too, as you would expect from a band of 15 years pedigree, but also very visual with Tom Smith throwing his all into it. It’s a set to rival Saturday night’s Maxïmo Park experience and with the light show to go with it; I’m hard pressed to decide which I think is best. I decide to just love them both equally, and by the time Editors’ set is halfway through and ‘An End Has a Start begins, I’m having a too much of a good care either way. Smith has a warm vocal tone and the 80’s leaning that he is known for, alongside their synthesiser driven backline, ties the day together well.
Editors finish their main set 14 songs in with ‘Marching Orders’ and I can’t imagine what they could possibly do to top it. One cliched pause for applause later and they’re back out, smashing into ‘Open Your Arms’, ‘Bullets’, ‘Munich’ and finally ‘Papillion’ – arguably their most 80’s oriented track. It’s a fantastic encore and an excellent end to the day; Editors come across as the culmination of everything we’ve seen and heard throughout Sunday at Beyond The Tracks and what perfect headliners it makes them.
Slightly sad that it’s all over, but with one eye on work tomorrow morning, the walk to the train station is a swirling mix of emotions. The journey back to Wolverhampton is spent comparing highs and lows, reliving the highlights one more time, and making plans for the next event from this fledgling festival.
As we found out in our recent interview with the festival organiser, John Fell, Beyond the Tracks may not be back in 2018 – but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for it in 2019. In the meantime I guess it’s back to normality.
Dorcha – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Dorcha, visit www.dorcha.co.uk
Peter Hook & The Light – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Peter Hook & The Light, visit www.peterhook.get-ctrl.com
Hoopla Blue – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Hoopla Blue, visit www.soundcloud.com/hoopla-blue
Slowdive – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Slowdive, visit www.slowdiveofficial.com
Wild Beasts – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Wild Beasts, visit www.wild-beasts.co.uk
The Jesus & Mary Chain – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on The Jesus & Mary Chain, visit www.thejesusandmarychain.uk.com
Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, visit www.josefinohrnandtheliberation.bandcamp.com
Editors – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 17.09.17 / Michelle Martin
For more on Editors, visit www.editorsofficial.com
For more on Beyond The Tracks, visit www.beyondthetracks.org