The Alternative Elsecar Jubille started of life a couple of months ago as The Party In the Park; a fundraising event in Elsecar Park organised by the Hoyland and District Royal British Legion in a way to raise money for the local Poppy Appeal. Local musician and teacher Scott Heald (vocalist in Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican) was given the task of organising the live music by the chairman of the Legion after he had organised a number of smaller and similar live music events in the past for them.
A number of talented local singers, bands and also The Yorkshire [brass] Band of the RBL were lined up to play. However, after received a number of protests regarding rock bands being associated with the Legion, the formation of two separate fundraising events happened; one official and one not so.
Scott and now his sister Sarah (of local toy/accessory makers Gobo & Sock) took the newly christened Alternative Elsecar Jubilee to the Milton Hall; however after a tirade of abuse from local Councillor Franklin about ‘punks’ and the use of the name of the Legion, they were once again venue-less. Fantastic then to see a local uprising of support from local entrepreneurs, venue owners and people willing to donate their time, allowing the event to now take place in the much superior Fitzwilliam Arms. Steve the pub landlord did a sterling job in supporting a worthy course and local talent and also in donating fresh BBQ and pizzas for all!
Starting proceedings on the main stage was Sheffield five piece BIG STRIPEY LIES. Any band named after a Kate Bush song can surely do no wrong; opening with an instrumental and a song called This Is My Life that felt like a cover but surely it wasn’t the Shirley Bassey number? Whatever, this was perfect pop folk with hints of Steve Nicks and The Corrs but the real highlight was Full Circle; fusing the rhythms of Britpop, folk and skiffle.
In-between main stage acts were performers on the Acoustic Stage; first up CHRIS SAMMON who has the quality of a spoken word performer and tones of Billy Bragg (without the politics). Songs like Acoustic Tent and White Van Man gets the crowd singing along.
Richard Kitson is arguably Barnsley finest bluesman and here, flanked by Mynas’ Chris Scarfe and Agga Booth on bass and drums is THE RICHARD KITSON BLUES BAND; now with arguably Barnsley’s finest rhythm section as well. The group thrust onto us the sounds of Rory Gallagher, Hendrix, Cream and a number that has a vocal melody that sounds uncannily like Without Love by The Doobie Brothers; certainly no bad thing and Lay Down is a fine rocker of a number. Following them is GEORGINA GILMARTIN, whose nerves are evident but when she announced that the first song she ever wrote is certainly not her best, she actually had all the hallmarks of early Jewel and that fragile vocal on the last song about ‘life and a guy named Jimmy’ is just wonderful.
MYNAS are a slick beast of a boy/girl indie band. Seemingly influenced by 60’s girl groups and indie pop groups of the early 80’s; Sarah Evans voice has echoes of the beautiful Tracey Thorn and Del’s complicated riffs come from the Johnny Marr school of knocks. Sleep Tight, Bliss and the set closing latin tinged Wherever You Are Not prove that this band are indeed a first class indie pop pedigree. Following Mynas is a tough as but over on the acoustic stage is Lewis Ryan’s latest band THE ROLLING DOWNS, whose grunge-lite Americana comes over as a cross between Pearl Jam and Mumford and Sons, with Lewis Ryan being more than a little influenced by Eddie Vedder. Skinny Jeans and Speak When You’re Spoke shine and although the odd inclusion of The Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work felt like an attempt at crowd pleasing, they definitely didn’t need it as Feelings and a brand new song called The Honey and the Bear had all the ingredients to be classics and certainly blew me away.
It was at this point that the jubilee weekend rain started and while the Main Stage got shifted into the shed-like marquee, a handful of acoustic acts took to the stage. First up was BRANDON GRAY. Now, the first time I saw Brandon was back in March supporting Mynas. You could see the potential then; the right songs and a really likable personality but in the end his nerves got the better of him. Here… it’s all change. The set list is stronger and his confidence has grown tenfold and with that comes not one ounce of arrogance but instead a cheeky smile and a very humble performance. Opening with a couple of Kooks numbers, a version of Under the Bridge and The White Stripes’ Conquest; each cover version is made his own but the real highlight was the inclusion of his own song called Progress; a genuinely catchy chorus and hopefully a sneak preview of things to come. SHANNON LASSU starts of well too, with a great cover of the amazing Kate Nash’s Foundations and even pulls off the southern accent, which isn’t easy for a northerner. In fact the accents go on to change with each song but she makes up for that with great selection of songs including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Train’s Drive By, which suits her perfectly. And it seems that the cover versions are there while she finds her own voice and if the closing self-penned Big Girls Don’t Cry is anything to go by, the wait will be very much worth it; and as her short but sweet set comes to a close, the main stage is now set up in the sheltered area way from the rain for POCKET FULL O’NOWT who are definitely not my kind of thing. My idea of a good comedy record is Peter Cook and Dudley Moore or Flight of the Conchords. These guys are about as far away from what I like as possible. However, The ‘Nowt’s sound today is richer, fuller and even heavier with the inclusion of ex-Housemartin’s drummer Hugh in the ranks but for me, Mike’s performance still feels too forced. However, despite my feelings, the second half of the bands’ performance really pulls in the crowd with the double whammy of Michael Jackson’s Doctor and When Did We Want It?; a rip roaring song about Thatcher that got the crown singing along.
I’d heard a lot of great things about THE SILENT GESTURES in just the last couple of months but this was the first I’d managed to see them and they didn’t disappoint one bit. Their impressive sound slots comfortably somewhere between Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. Expectation is a great example of their wares; all angular rhythms and cool northern swag. Playing at the same time over of the Acoustic Stage was STEPH SHAW. She has fans aplenty and it took me a while to get round to seeing her initially but once I did I saw that she’s one of those Eva Cassidy types who easily pleases many but me being the eternal miserablist that I am, needed a little more than the cover of Kings Of Leon’s Use Somebody that you hear on ever episode of every talent show. I think Steph Shaw is better than that though, so it is great when she pulls out those lush tones of Suzanna Vega and when she sings ‘just don’t ask me how I am’, it’s convincing. But when she asks if there are any Rod Stewart fans in the audience and you just know she’s going to do The First Cut Is The Deepest, which is a little too predictable for me. She is however, for the masses and the set goes really well.
Festival organiser Scott Heald takes to the stage with his band THE BAR STEWARD SONS OF VAL DOONICAN and for those who don’t know them, their shtick is knitwear, wigs, taking popular songs and bastardising them into little tales about the ins and outs of Barnsley life. I’ve seen Scott do this and similar acts over the last fifteen years and it is very much an acquired taste, but I’ll give him this… he has new material practically every month and so keeping it fresh is never a problem. In fact, part of the fun for me is seeing how quick he can turn an audience. It usually takes a few songs for a new audience to understand what is happening to them and here in what is a very well selected setlist, Tarn Life (Blur), Avon Calling (The Clash) and a great number using The Monkee’s I’m a Believer to tear Justin Bieber to shreds goes down a storm. You Got To Fight For Your Pint In Barnsley is dedicated to The Beastie Boy’s MCA and the finale of Jump Ararnd really does get the floor shaking. A success by all accounts and this time he even bloody converted me!
I had been looking forward to catching headliner’s GOLDSOUL for sometime after seeing their videos on line and catching a great set from guitarist Mike Mulholland recently. Opening the set with their fantastic debut single Blood Red is a great idea but the amount of reverb on vocalist David’s guitar and voice is over the top, out of time and drowns out just about every other sound on stage. Even in-between song banter is rendered inaudible. It’s refreshing then when Mike sings with clean vocals and when they play their latest and actually very good single Kill All Love Songs, you can just about make out the great song that lies beneath the noise and how’s Brady’s back beat manages to keep in time I don’t know, but those fills are superb. I’ll look forward to catching them again in hope that the venue was partly to blame. In the meantime, do check out their single here, because regardless of the sound here, Gouldsoul are an incredible band.
Overall it was a fantastic festival and everyone was luckily to get a decent amount of sun. They also raised £660 for the Poppy Appeal, which is a fantastic achievement.
Check out everyone who took part below.