Live Review: Bingley Weekender 2019

Bingley brings festival season to an end…

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Friday

Going back to work after six weeks off is always pretty challenging but to be whisked off to a festival straight afterwards certainly softens the dull ache of no longer being able to eat Coco Pops in your pants at midday. We arrived at Bingley Weekender cautiously optimistic after organisers had stepped in last minute to arrange the festival in place of the institution that is Bingley Music Live.

Idles kick off the weekend and you won’t find a better opening act anywhere in the world right now. I am admittedly prone to bouts of hyperbole but Idles must be seen to be believed, such is the formidable power of their live set. From the opening stomp of Heel/Heal through to the sonic assault of Rottweiler this is a performance that has everything. Guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan wade into the crowd at regular intervals to act as wild eyed ringmasters to the demented circus that is Idles Friday night set at Bingley Weekender. Singer Joe Talbot prowls the stage whilst still regularly espousing the twin ideas of love and kindness that underpin everything that Idles stand for. Everyone who experiences this band is an immediate convert. Watch them now before they implode into a confusion of black t-shirts and screeched love songs.

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Idles!

Due to the main stage running late, we only catch the last few tracks of Starsailor lead singer James Walsh – tonight performing a stripped back acoustic set. Silence is Easy and Four to the Floor sound just as entrancing performed acoustically but it is a shiver inducing cover of the Oasis classic Slide Away (to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Definitely Maybe) that will truly live long in the memory.

And so, to our first headliner of the weekend. Ocean Colour Scene have been performing for three decades now and this is clear in their professional but heartfelt slot at the Bingley Weekender main stage. The band are completely at ease throughout and deliver a high energy greatest hits set that has the crowd singing and dancing even as the Yorkshire sun dips below the horizon.

Get Blown Away, July and Lining Your Pockets are highlights from an almost perfect set, but it is Hundred Mile High City and The Day We Caught the Train that inspire the first big singalong moment of the weekend. A true headliners performance.

Saturday

Saturday kicks off with Manchester noise merchants Twisted Wheel attacking the main stage. Johnny Brown and his band are clearly relishing the return to live action after a hiatus and You Stole the Sun and Strife serve as the perfect wake up call for some fuzzy headed festival goers soaking up the atmosphere.

Another polished live act has perhaps the biggest crowd of the day so far in the shape of Circa Waves who deliver a career spanning set over on the main stage. We opt for Zuzu on the Discovery Stage instead however, and the Liverpool songstress is on fine form after a hectic festival season. Zuzu deserves to be considered one of the most exciting prospects in the UK indie scene right now and tracks such as Can’t Be Alone and I’m Good support this hypothesis. Sports Team follow and deliver a frenetic performance that includes some casual chatting with the front row as well as singer Alex Rice scaling the scaffolding to get a better view of the sizable crowd the band have attracted.

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We catch the end of Tom Grennan who seems completely comfortable with massive stages and massive crowds before it is the turn of Saturday headliners Doves to bring their special brand of indie rock to West Yorkshire.

The Manchester band are perhaps the most underrated of their generation and their set here is a pummelling, joyous affirmation of why we all spend our wages to stand in a muddy field. Snowden is majestic. Black & White Town is awe-inspiring. Kingdom of Rust hypnotic. This is a band revelling in a comeback and remembering just what made them special all over again. A stupefying version of The Cedar Room closes out the night before There Goes the Fear sees Bingley united in choral harmony.

Before Doves were Doves, they were a dance outfit called Sub Sub and they nod to those bygone days with a cover of their track Space Face. A suitably upbeat end to an unforgettable set.

Sunday

The beauty of holding a festival at a rugby ground is that I was able to watch Ten Tonnes from a stand with a roof over it as the rain poured down everywhere else. Ten Tonnes is the younger brother of George Ezra but his music is a little less safe, a little more erratic, and he is all the better for it. The young ‘uns down the front love it, I nod approvingly into my hot chocolate as the rain splashes on the metal roof above me.

It’s too early to tell whether Bingley Weekender has a legend slot but if it has then Billy Bragg is clearly that person this year. Bragg is a compelling and likeable live performer and while I don’t normally care for political rhetoric during a live performance – particularly at a festival – this is so much part of Bragg’s history as a performer that it can be forgiven on this occasion. Nobody is safe from Bragg’s ire as Morrissey, Boris Johnson and DIY all come under attack from the Bard of Barking. Musically, Bragg is as arresting as ever with Levi Stubbs Tears and A New England providing poignant passion and heartfelt folk grit for a festival that is perhaps too often made up of four lads playing indie rock. The crowd love it.

Miles Kane is next, and he is someone who has the potential to become as much of a stalwart as the aforementioned Billy Bragg. Stints in the Rascals and The Last Shadow Puppets have informed his work as a solo artist and he now has a formidable back catalogue to choose from. Tracks such as Rearrange and Come Closer take on a different power when played live and Kane is a confident and exciting performer.

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Miles Kane

Sunday ends on a bit of a sour note with Echo & The Bunnymen delivering an uninspired and sonically disappointing set before James succumb to self-indulgence in their headline slot.

The latter band have a rich and iconic oeuvre to choose from but instead lean too heavily into their more recent material with limited results. There is a time and a place for new songs and that time and place is at your own gig with your own fans. At a festival, particularly as a headliner, you have a duty to respect the fact that not everybody is here to see you and, for want of a less harsh turn of phrase, to shut up and play the hits. A late flurry consisting of Come Home and Laid is too little too late for James but Bingley Weekender itself, despite some teething problems, has been a raging success.

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