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:: The Fall :: Optional Wallace :: Wild Palms :: Golden Glow :: Jo Rose :: Mount Fabric :: The Slow Readers Club :: Yuck :: A Certain Ratio :: Two Wounded Birds :: Toro Y Moi :: Edge Of 13 ::
22 May 2011 / Capesthorne Hall / Cheshire
By Cath Aubergine

The weather has well and truly arrived - along with a message from The Whip via their Facebook page: "Fuck sticks, they have had to close down our stage at F.O.M today due to health and safety so we unfortunately will not be playing tonight. Totally gutted about this!" That'll be the Big Top out then. We find an equally pissed off Milk Maid hanging round the beer tents - it's not been possible to redistribute all the affected bands today so that's that. A few, mostly as far as we can see the non-local ones, will get to play in the hitherto DJ-only House Party tent but it's a real shame for the others and for the festival. Few people would rule out rain at a British festival, but the winds are reaching 70mph and small outdoor events such as village fetes are being cancelled across the region. We take cover in the Capesthorne Arms where the availabilty of shelter and real ale sees a big crowd in for MOUNT FABRIC, whose last two slices of upbeat and very twisted progressive pop we catch while the wind batters the sides of the tent. We'd have liked to have seen more actually as it's clear this band is just getting better and better. JO ROSE is next on, kicking off with a cover of Steve Earle's "CCKMP (Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain)" - Jo has always been one to wear his musical influences with pride, but it works because his own songs are good enough to stand beside them, and maybe in another couple of decades some young troubadour will be covering Jo's own beautiful "Balcony Doors".

Again we feel a bit shit leaving, but as we're missing TORO Y MOI at Deaf Institute later we head for the main stage where they're stopping off en route. We notice on the way past that the Bowl stage also seems to be standing abandoned, although down in the Lake/Mainstage half of the site the wind is less fierce. We clearly haven't been paying attention as we hadn't been expecting a full band; Toro AKA Chaz Bundick is joined by a bassist, drummer and guitarist who create soulful electronic pop full of lovely spacey synth noises and funk squelches. The odd thing is how some parts of the set veer towards an updated version of music I used to hate in the 80s... still not sure I'd go see them at a gig but it's nice for an early afternoon festival wake-up - the sun even tries to break through for them...

Toro Y Moi; Slow Readers Club

In the Lake Bar, SLOW READERS CLUB seem to have attracted an audience of small children - and indeed a fair few grown-ups with their atmospheric guitar pop. Since (most of) their days as Omerta there's been no doubt these lads have a way with a melody, and "Block Out The Sun" (a favourite here at MM since we got our hands on their first CD about a year ago) is beautifully haunting whilst the interplay between Aaron and Kurt Starkie's vocals on "Lost Boys" is fantastic. After they end with a couple of updated takes on old Omerta live favourites we wander outside and suddenly it absolutely shits it down. For about 20 seconds, then stops - just for long enough to make the short walk to the outdoor Lake Stage where TWO WOUNDED BIRDS are about to start, at which point it shits it down again. We get the feeling this is pretty much the blueprint for the day's weather - and it's only a bit of water, isn't it? Staying put is definitely the right idea as the Margate foursome - somewhat hopefully wearing shades - deliver a few glorious shots of fuzzy surf fun like The Ramones gone indiepop. It's all over in what feels like seconds but those who braved the conditions all look happy that they did

Two Wounded Birds and the rather imposing weather

In bright sunshine we head off to see WILD PALMS who are due on the main stage any minute - then half way there the heavens open and we find ourselves taking refuge, 35 people under a small gazebo, at which point the rain goes horizontal. Poor Wild Palms, you could count on your fingers the people insane or devoted enough to make it through the monsoon to the front for the start of their set - on the other hand, we're pretty impressed that anyone did. They soldier on, though, their expansive post-punk sound echoing the light-and-shade of bands like The Chameleons, and they're (somewhat appropriately) rewarded with blinding sunshine and a reasonable crowd for the second half of their set. Yes, we know it's northwest England in May but this is ridiculous...

Time for a tour of the other stages, then: in Ronnie's, Bridlington trio EDGE OF 13 are doing basic but decent enough Britpoppish guitar indie. Extra points for a clutch of friends wearing T-shirts each with a different song title on (we feel for the lad who's been given "Great Mistake") - points off for them being in some hideous Comic Sans type font. OPTIONAL WALLACE have drawn a good crowd in the Capesthorne Arms for their stirring, troubled indie rock which freed from the dark corners in which it's normally found sounds almost stadium-ready. And back down at the Lake, Pierre Hall takes some time out from Friends Of Mine official duties to lead GOLDEN GLOW through a sparkling set. They sound a lot harder and tighter these days - the way Michael Woodward attacks the drumkit during "Adore Me" is worthy of any punk band (and makes Pierre's request for adulation sound more like a demand!)

Optional Wallace; Golden Glow

Vintage Factory funk or grungey swirls? The early evening slot sees the crowd pretty much age-divided. Terry Christian introduces A CERTAIN RATIO in front of a crowd almost entirely of their own generation, even if "Do The Du" has aged rather better than a lot of the label's early 80s output and wouldn't sound out of place in a modern-day club; whilst YUCK draw the biggest crowd of the day so far at the Lake Stage. Perfect woozy pop tunes are the order of the day here with plenty of guitar distortion: the fact that they basically deal in near facsimiles of the sounds being played in dirty basements when they themselves were still at nursery doesn't actually matter because they do it so well, and with visible joy. They're as amused as everyone else by the fact that ACR's hard grooves fill the spaces between songs - the guitarist even joining in at one point while his bandmates do a quick retune; they end on a big swirly noisy shoegaze freak-out to a rapturous reception.

Sunday evening

Twenty five past eight at the main stage and we're waiting. A bright double rainbow breaks out across the fields behind the campsite and fades away again. The lines were checked a good 20 minutes ago. The stagefront security bloke fiddles with his drink bottle. THE FALL were due on at quarter past. But then this is The Fall, and you can't hurry The Fall. Allan from Air Cav has brought his dad along, who recalls seeing the band at Droylsden Concord Suite in 1977 (sounds like a quality venue, that!) and wonders if they'll play "Psycho Mafia" (not a chance!)... half past, and an electronic drone starts up on the empty stage, closely followed by whoever's actually in the Fall these days: I'm told I have seen this line-up before, and it's been one of the more stable of recent years - and it shows, as they actually sound like a coherent band with the blokes holding down a churning motorik rhythm as Elena picks out a keyboard riff and we await the arrival of her husband. And there he is, the man, the legend that is Mark E. Smith, doing exactly what he does best: looking rather pissed off and growling. This set is the polar opposite of the Buzzcocks' last night: The Fall have had hit singles, and there are plenty of other tunes in their gargantuan repertoire that would count as such, and they play precisely none of them. Instead they rattle through a collection of vague obscurities, with Smith spending about half the set rooting around behind an amp for items (coat, lyric sheets) he deposited there just a few minutes earlier. It's not the best I've seen them, not the worst, but you have to have a certain admiration for the way they treat a festival set in much the same way they would a low-key warm-up at a dodgy pub. Smith beckons them off after half an hour and they all dutifully follow, only to reappear moments later for a brilliant "I've Been Duped". Allan's dad is grinning throughout; my resident (and much younger) Fall aficionado concurs with me that it was an OK one; a former fan reckons they were shit; John Robb whom we run into afterwards reckons they were brilliant. They were probably all of these things.

And what of the festival overall? Well, the line-up can't be faulted - genuinely something for everyone, with pretty much every era of independent music of the past three decades represented alongside some new names that'll be more familiar in a year or two's time. The site is fantastic - compact, scenic and seemingly made for such an event. The hitches? Relatively few when you look at the scale of the thing, although we concur that The Whip and Milk Maid may beg to differ here. Some comments have been made about the lower than expected attendance - but not by anyone who's been here before, by which I mean a brand new festival of this scale. In the summer of 2006 we sat in a very empty field, far emptier even at peak times than Friends Of Mine at any point over the weekend; watched great bands play to empty tents and lamented the fact that the great new festival probably wouldn't see a second year - happily we were wrong, and five years down the line Latitude is heading for another sell-out. Later that summer we had similar thoughts at the first End Of The Road - these days another success story. Here's hoping we can add Friends Of Mine to that list.

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