When I first found out about HoiFest, I was amazed by the line-up. It had just about the best of the current crop of metal, indie, pop and space-pirate-core in Barnsley. Not only that, but it appeared that event organisers Victoria Scott-Hague, Amanda Hague Wroe, Emma Wroe and Tara Martin had gone and created Hoyland Common’s very first charity gala and musical extravaganza.
HoiFest was created in memory of Barry Hague and Stephen Wroe. “In 2002, Steven Wroe lost his life in a tragic accident and left behind his partner of 17 years, Amanda Wroe, and his two young children, Emma and Daniel.Mountain Rescue engineered an unsuccessful attempt to save Steven and his family have never forgotten how they worked tirelessly through the night and never wavered in their dedication to find him,” explained event organiser Victoria Wroe-Hague.
“Last year, the family were hit again with tragedy, when Barrie Hague, father to Tracy Hague, Amanda Wroe and Victoria Scott-Hague, lost his fight against pulmonary fibrosis. Lung disease is the fifth biggest killer in the UK and the British Lung Foundation are leading the way in order to find a cure for this and other respiratory diseases.”
When going through the belongings of her father, Victoria came across a photograph from the 1920s of many people of all ages crammed into what was then the courtyard of Saville Square (now Saville Square pub) celebrating in a kind of street party or gala. It was the sense of community that photograph that inspired the girls to create a unique event that would raise money for The British Lung Foundation and the Mountain Rescue.
So, not only did I want to go see the stellar line-up of bands that HoiFest had lined up; I now also wanted to volunteer – it was after all such a worthy cause. As well as reviewing the event, I could offer some much-needed help on the door. Yes, it meant that I’d miss a small handful of opening acts but it was worth it. The event organisers were some of the nicest people I’ve met in a long time and next year, assuming there is a HoiFest 2013, I’ll get someone else to review it for me and I’ll work the whole event.
And so to the festival…
The entrance next to Cowgills Field had pretty much turned to a swamp over the few days running up to the weekend but the actual festival site on the lower field had dried out fine over night and for those who had problems driving in, a tractor was on hand to pull people in and out whenever it was needed. The set up was similar to Coalfields; a very manageable and basic site, but with more emphasis on local businesses, family activities such as a circus workshop, zumba and a fashion show in collaboration with a local designer. Over at the other side of the site, the open back lorry/stage and the best noodles in Barnsley.
The first band I saw after receiving my lobster-red sunburnt neck from spending two hours over at the festival entrance was MAJORITY VOTE. This five-piece are one of my current favourites and I don’t mind making that known; it’s partly down to their amazing songs and partly because they remind me of myself and my motley bunch of friends, ready to take on the world with a kick in the nuts back in 1998. 90s grunge does loom heavy in their set; especially Wishful Thinking which has a snifter of Silverchair’s Cemetery about it and Self Destruct which owes a clear debt to The Smashing Pumpkins. Clarity is still a lynchpin in their set list and still one of their finest songs but there is more to them than just the 90s; new number Grown Ups Never Own Up is a wonderful collision of 70s girl groups like The Runaways and current guilty pleasures My Chemical Romance.
Next up is Goldsoul’s MIKE MULHOLLAND who offers the crowd a solo set consisting of a variety of covers ranging from Johnny Cash and The Black Keys to Bob Dylan. As a performer he is always likeable and charming and has a kind of Merseybeat twang which brings something new to even the old classics in his set.
BLACK SHOES were represented by just vocalist and guitarist Adam who also plays percussion via a bass drum at his feet; a great idea and something unique amongst other indie bands. The songs appear to be all originals and are actually all pretty impressive but there is nothing original about the vocals, which are all sung using the same vocal style and tics that made Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill so unique. Adam clearly has a bloody good voice and I’d love to hear more of ‘his own’ voice come through. As impressed as both the audience and I am by both the setup and Adam’s vocals, I imagine they will have to pull something individual vocally out of the bag to make it. Definitely worth catching though.
VOLUME ZERO are a totally different prospect. Sounding much rawer than they do on record; they are part of a pretty big local scene of bands that mix 90s inspired alt rock with emo and pop punk. Their songs are catchy and although I wish she had a little more aggression in her performance, in Kirsty Taylor they have a fantastic vocalist (new EP review coming soon).
MYNAS are one of the finest bands in Barnsley right now; perfect, timeless songs that remind me of bands as varied as Dexys, theaudience and even The Smiths. Opening with two of my favourites tracks, Sleep Tight and Bliss, they showcase why the band’s present incarnation and Sarah’s sublime lead vocals have attracted the audiences they have. Despite this, Retreat, a much older number with guitarist Del on lead vocals is still a highlight of every set and an instant treat for any fans of The Jam.
JACKSON CAGED’s brand of nu-metal is currently doing well over in Sheffield and they have headlined a number of shows at the O2 Academy. With members hailing from both Chapeltown and Hoyland they more than deserve their spot on the bill and are the perfect act to add variety to the line-up. Now nu-metal has never been my kind of thing but when played well, it is perfect party music and their fusion of Papa Roach and Rage Against the Machine hit the spot.
SKINBOATon the other hand, were one of the main pulls for me today. I remember watching these guys as far back as ten years ago at Chunky Fest and The Union Bar. However, the last time I saw then was at Barnsley’s 2010 Love Music Hate Racism festival at Chambers. They put on a blinder of a show then and today is no different. I had forgotten just how much their act is in debt to Reeves and Mortimer. The songs, the props and their banter are like Vic & Bob doing space punk. It’s very 90s and despite that, it resonates with everyone. With songs about ‘those that just shu’nt be breeding’ and lyrics like ‘we are the sea salty pirates and we’ll kick yer fucking arse, yeeearrghhh!’ are made all the more likable by the fact they are driven along by Queens of the Stone Age-like fuzz and Ska-heavy bass. The undoubted highlight though is Evil Trev and its catchy as flip pop bridge.
Following them is VELVET RISING who have recently signed to End of the Trail Records and have played a number of successful dates around town. When vocalist Josh hits the stage, he does so wearing his coat and shades like Ian McCulloch; but that’s only cool if you are indeed Ian McCulloch. Smoking on stage, flicking your cig to the monitors and complaining down the mic about the quality of the monitors isn’t cool either.
Even though they aren’t my favourite local reverb heavy, psychedelic indie rock band; with beats similar to Kasabian, a vocal style in the same vein as Richard Ashcroft and a particularly impressive, slow-burning number called Life’s Vision actually ends up converting me and proves that regardless of that attitude, with a song like this they are worth watching. But that’s festivals for yer; playing to folk who you wouldn’t normally and doing your damn best to grab them and turn them.
Barnsley’s premier Thrash Metal band, REDMIST DESTRUCTION have had an amazing year so far. They’ve already released their debut album, they’ve been featured in the international music press as ones to watch and were invited to played Metalfest IV. Opening with a lengthy and softly-atmospheric instrumental, it isn’t long before they turn around and beat you in the face like a brick, with their duel vocals and pummelling blast beats. The Coroner shows just how catchy Thrash can actually be and good on vocalist John for telling the crowd to dig deep and spend their last three fifty of a charitable donation, rather than a pint. New number Clowns Can Get Away With Murder is sick, fast and anthemic and set regulars Fucking Destroy and Re-animator kill it. In Redmist, Barnsley honestly have the beginnings of its very own Slayer.
Although I had to make my way home after RedMist’s set, in the distance I could hear HITOMI blasting out their ever reliable electronic tinged alt rock. Leaning towards the heavier side of Linkin Park but with a vocal that can appeal to the masses, they’re a band worth checking out, even if I didn’t get chance to.
For a first attempt at a music festival, it was a damn good shot and one of the best so far this year. HoiFest had a great range of acts with something that could appeal to everyone. Hoyland has always had the potential and the talent to take a good potshot at the festival scene and Hoifest did it with success; all while benefitting two amazing charities. I’ll look forward to Hoifest 2013.
Photographs supplied by Andy Harris of Just For You Photography and Brett Carr of Candy Media.