Splendour Festival 2013 – Wollaton Park, Nottingham
Originally published in the Nottingham Post.
Although Splendour has always offered a platform for local talent, it felt as if Nottingham musicians all but took over this year’s festival. Fifteen acts were spread over Wollaton Park’s three stages, including an unprecedented four acts on the main stage.
The festival opened with a tremendous set from The Gorgeous Chans, who won their place on the main stage thanks to the annual Future Sound of Nottingham competition. Swelling their ranks to a mighty ten-piece, including two saxophones and a four-piece percussion section who darted all over the stage, the band instantly proved themselves to be worthy winners, with a cheerily uplifting sound that sat somewhere between Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Opening the Jagermeister stage, Ferocious Dog picked up where the Levellers ended last year, with their rambunctious brand of folk-punk. Then it was a quick dash back to the main stage for one of the city’s most prominent rising stars: Indiana, fresh from performing at Glastonbury and singing to the Queen at the BBC. “This is surreal – I thought I couldn’t talk – there’s so many people!” she giggled, casting her eyes up the hill. Current single Smoking Gun and future single Mess Around confirmed her extraordinary vocal talent.
Saint Raymond is normally a solo act, but in honour of the occasion, Callum Burrows recruited three new band members for his set, which drew a sizeable crowd to the Jagermeister Stage. The performance climaxed with his two most popular tracks, Bonfires and Fall At Your Feet. Rob Green followed, promoted to the Jagermeister following his exceptionally well-received performance last year. A born showman, Rob’s sunny personality and rapid-fire vocal precision connected effortlessly with the crowd.
Over at LeftLion magazine’s Courtyard stage, Future Sound of Nottingham runner-up Sam Jones opened the proceedings, followed by OneGirlOneBoy’s dark, dramatic synth-rock and Ryan Thomas’s dusty blues. Georgie Rose drew big cheers when introducing Twenty Mile Road, a country-tinged lament set on the road from Mansfield to Nottingham. Her set ended in fine style with the excellent L.O.V.E. Later acts included Injured Birds, Joel Baker and the penultimate Nottingham act of the day, Harleighblu, whose classy mix of languid soul stylings and don’t-mess-with-me-mister assertiveness brought a welcome touch of mellowness to the early evening.
Paving the way for headliners Maximo Park and the unexpectedly magnificent Peter Hook and The Light, teenage trio Kagoule provided one of the home-grown highlights of the day, with an astonishingly powerful and accomplished set that twisted Nineties post-grunge/alt-rock influences into fresh new shapes.
Back at the main stage, West Bridgford’s Dog Is Dead played their fifth Splendour in six years, causing scenes of utter pandemonium as the teenage moshers down the front kicked up a literal storm, their feet sending clouds of dust into the air. Who needed dry ice?
“We have to remind Nottingham every time: it’s not a Slayer concert”, said singer Rob Milton, surveying the chaos with cool amusement. The mania even infected keyboardist Joss Van Wilder (the clue is in the name), who launched himself into the crowd on two occasions, clambering back each time in increased states of disarray.
Augmenting their line-up with a five-piece gospel choir, who added yet more delicious harmonies to the mix, Dog Is Dead powered their way through seven familiar songs and three brand new ones, ending with perennial anthem Glockenspiel Song and a stunning Teenage Daughter.
Performing his first ever festival headline set, Jake Bugg took the packed hill in his stride, unfazed as ever by his mushrooming success. Well, when you’ve just played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and supported The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, what fear could Wollaton Park possibly hold? It was all a far cry from his bottom-of-the-bill appearance at the Courtyard stage two years ago.
Like Dog Is Dead before him, Jake treated us to three unrecorded new compositions. One was a Gallagher-esque mid-paced rocker, featuring a dazzling guitar solo, another had more of a country feel, perhaps inspired by recent trips to the US, and the third was Slumville Sunrise, a super-fast piece of rockabilly skiffle.
A three-song solo acoustic section calmed most, if not all, of the crowd, ending with a glorious rendition of current single Broken. Then it was into the final run of bangers: Two Fingers – Jake’s fond but firm kiss-off to Clifton – a rattling Taste It, and an extended Lightning Bolt which could have lasted twice as long.
Jake’s triumph set the seal on a landmark event for Nottingham music. This was a public celebration of our scene’s coming of age, drawing on genres across the musical spectrum and demonstrating just how far we have progressed in recent years. Where Jake Bugg and Dog Is Dead have led, others are certain to follow. Next year, will there even be space for out-of-town acts? We can but dream!