Festival Review: Skeleton Coast 2019

I wasn’t going to do a review of Skeleton Coast Festival.  I’m off on holiday tomorrow.  Hurricane Dorian permitting.  But sometimes you’ve got to give a bit back.  Skeleton Coast is one of those times.

Skeleton Coast Festival is in its fourth year.  I am ashamed to say this is my first time attending.  Coming from Wirral I should have been here earlier.  I apologise.  It is held at Leasowe Castle Hotel.  It’s either a hotel that thinks it’s a castle; or a castle that thinks it’s a hotel.  I’m not sure which.  All stages are indoor, so no nasty weather concerns.  There are two smaller stages, one in the chapel (The GIT Stage), one upstairs in a function room (The Shit Indie Stage), and the main stage (The EVOL Stage) in the main function room.  Like Red Rum Club, my only other experience of this place was when I was attending a wedding.

Halfway 2 Nowhere ratings: HHHHH – Unreal, HHHH – Excellent, HHH – Great, HH – Met expectations, H – Poor.

First band on any stage were a young, local band The Difference (HH).  It’s hard to open a festival but The Difference had a good stab at it.  The played a punchy little set of their own spiky, indie compositions and a decent cover of the Arctic Monkey’s ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’.  With a bit of work on their stage presence, they may be a band to keep an eye on.  Mark down as one to watch.

The first band on the main stage were Sheffield, all-girl, five-piece The Seamonsters (HH).  I was keen to see them as I had heard good things about them from my Yorkshire friends.  They started a little cautiously on the big stage in front of a moderate crowd but grew in confidence as the set progressed.  I really liked their New Pop sound, they played a decent cover of The Ting Tings ‘Shut up and Let Me Go’ and finished the set with an extended version of ‘Lost (and Found)’ with all members of the band left prostrate on the stage, energy spent. 

Back upstairs to The Shit Indie Stage and a band who I knew nothing about, Kangaroo (HH).  I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed the portion of scouse psychedelia the band presented to us.  Kangaroos are excellent musicians, with sound harmonies, and own songs in which you hear influences from The Beatles, The Byrds and mid-era Pink Floyd.  One I’d see again. 

The only disappointment for me on the day was the no-show from the artist Tracky.  I really like his funky song about the ‘North Face Ninjas’, ‘Boys in Black’.  Give it a listen.

Skeleton Coast had been going along fine up to this point, but it kicked into a whole new gear with the arrival of The Snuts (HHH) on the main Stage.  I fill with dread when I see an Indie band swagger on stage with lead singer all cagouled-up, especially indoors, in August.  It’s a big look to pull-off.  The Snuts have the cajones and the songs to do it.  Passing round the Buckfast between songs, bantering with the audience, ‘We usually like a ruck with the crowd, but you lot look like you can handle yerselves’, The Snuts played a brilliant set of songs filled with swirling guitars and pounding drum beats.  Lead singer and guitarist Jack Cochrane has a voice like a gravelly, indie Paulo Nutini and delivers his lyrics with vigour.  Highlight of their set was the tribute to their home town ‘Glasgow’.  A festival anthem in the making.    

I have reviewed this next band before.  If you were lucky enough to read my ‘Deeper Cuts Festival’ Review then you will know that I love, love, love Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard (HHH).  The band play their own brand of new glam-rock with such enthusiasm, and guitarist and singer Tom Rees is a tour-de-force by himself.  He has the swagger of Jagger and wears a microphone cord like Marc Bolan wore a feather boa.  New song ‘Love Forever’ sounds great live and the band know how to please a Merseyside crowd with ‘John Lennon is My Jesus Christ’ and a liberal dose of tory bashingbetween songs.  A rammed, sweaty stage gave a rousing chorus of approval at the end of a memorable set.  In typical BBB style, instead of heading straight to the bar after their gig, the last I saw of them was the band traipsing over the Wirral sandhills to check out the views of the Mersey estuary.

Down the stairs and back to the main EVOL Stage.  It would be a tough call, but my performance of the day went to the next band – Red Rum Club (HHHH) – Whoo HaThey bounded on tothe stage to a soundtrack of Dick Dale and The Deltones ‘Misirlou’ and hit the packed crowd right between the eyes with a set of banger-upon- banger.  Red Rum Club play epic, cinematic, rock and roll songs with a Mexicana twist provided by ‘Joe Blow’ on trumpet.  The quality of the songs and the sheer passion in the vocals of lead singer Francis Doran (how often does he beat his chest?) take Red Rum Club soaring past the ordinary.  Highlights from a barnstorming (or should that be castle storming?) set were ‘Would you Rather be Lonely’, ‘Angeline’ and ‘Honey’ where Francis encouraged the ‘chocka’ crowd to join in at the appropriate point.  They needed no such invitation, they would have screamed it anyway.  

I couldn’t get in to see The Mysterines back in the crowded upstairs venue as it was a strictly on-in, one out affair.  I’ll just have to catch them in December at Jimmy’s, Liverpool.

It was time for our headliner – local boy made good, Miles Kane (HHH).  Resplendent in bright, white suit over a white vest emblazoned with a gold ‘Crispy’ logo, Miles Kane strode on to the stage like he owned it.  And he did.  He hit the now busting at the seams, main stage with ‘Inhaler’ complete with gold confetti cannon and went from there.  Miles Kane live is a force of nature, and to see him in such an intimate festival venue was an exciting experience.  Looking round at the crowd during Kane’s set I spotted a girl wearing a papier-mâché Frank Sidebottom head as a hat, she was swinging from a chandelier.  Then I knew I had my memory of Skeleton Coast 2019.  Time to go.  God bless you Skeleton Coast, and all who sail along you.       

Ian D.

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