Live in Barnsley, one of a very few urban festivals in Yorkshire that has remained free, returned to town for a second year with an expanded line-up, more venues and a larger expectant audience. Easing us into the day is seventeen year old singer songwriter DANNY SMART, with a simple remit: one man, one loop machine and a handful of songs from the heart. After seeing Danny perform a couple of times over the last twelve months, it’s good to see that most of his set-list now comprises of mainly his own material, though he still finds the time to pay homage to his musical inspirations such as Fleetwood Mac. Playing mainly material from his debut EP, the end of his set provoked the first sing-a-long of the day to a cover of Don Mclean’s American Pie, which even the patron of the festival Feargal Sharkey, joined in on (much more about The Undertones front man later in this review).
Speaking of talent shows, I hadn’t far to go to see former The Voice contestant EMILY WORTON who was performing in Walkabout. Emily bravely took on divas such as Dolly Parton and Tina Turner and succeeded into her own. I didn’t catch all of her set but I’d like to think that she went on to perform original material.
Still in disbelief that I’d seen one of the defining songs of the 80s performed in such an intimate venue, I made my way to the opposite side of the town centre to see the first of two bands with black in the title, BLACK VINES. Described in the programme as bluesy indie, Voudou even had blue lighting to match. Sadly the atmosphere was better than the sound system. Having got there just as the band took to the stage, I found myself stood at the back of a very small and very packed bar where I could only just about see the band and at times could just about here them. I’ve been to enough festivals and gigs to know not to hold it against the band and instead go away and listen to their songs in the way they had been originally meant it.
The one good thing about being stood right at the back for this gig is that I could easily sneak out the back and head to a bar that’s had more name changes than Prince and Jordan combined over the years, The Underground to see THE BLACK LAMPS. If you needed any evidence that this year’s Live in Barnsley was a success, than look no further than this band’s set. Playing one of the larger venues at the relatively early time of 2pm the place was heaving. Not surprising really considering they’re a band whose members have been playing since the late 70s and have gained a legion of followers along the way. They were quite easily were one of the highlights of this year’s festival.
Sometimes timings and line-ups go awry at a festival. In an attempt to take in as much of the atmosphere and venues as possible I headed to The Civic to check out a colliery band. I arrived there expecting the sounds of a brass band, instead I found myself in an empty room with two men who were doing a cover of a Madonna song. I made exit from there before I was spotted and arrived at The White Bear, unfashionably early for the next artist, KID CONVENTIONAL.
Next I made my way back in the direction of Wellington Street. It’s a street I usually hate, especially after dark, but it was great to see it packed with music fans. I called in to Digtial very briefly where the up-and-coming indie band, FLUIDITY, from Doncaster were playing. Their songs sounded instantly familiar, even though I was certain I’d never heard the band before. I think the band were a bit taken aback by the drunken women dancing just in front of the stage. It didn’t affect the performance too much though, which mainly comprised of original material and a Maroon 5 cover, which every busker and cover band seem to be covering at the moment for some unknown reason. From an up-and-coming indie band to someone more older and established (sorry Mark if youu’re reading this). I’m talking about MARK JACKSON’S CRIINAL WASTE OF TALENT, who was playing in the very intimate setting of The Shakespeare. This leads me to my only big criticism of the festival. As expected, there was a huge turnout for Mark and his band, meaning by the time I got there I could barely see the stage and at one point I couldn’t work out if I was in a queue for the ladies toilets or to watch a band. Grumbles aside, it was a very entertaining set, the songs and the atmosphere soon made me forget about the cramped conditions. On the way back to Peel Square I actually laughed to myself as the song There’s Always a Queue at Greggs was spot on.
Next came the hardest decision of the day, choosing between two of my favourite Barnsley indie bands, Aztec Doll and POLYOPIA. Thinking that Opium No10 would already packed with people eager to see Atzec Doll, I headed to The Courthouse instead to see the band I first saw this time last year, filling in for a band which I’ve already forgotten the name of. An energetic set, packed with a lot of new material, older songs and even an invitation to dance with the singers mum who was in the audience, followed by the lead singer Luke coming into the crowd to make sure that everyone was singing along. Being one of the more enigmatic front-men meant lots of interaction with the audience throughout.The penultimate band of the day was a headline set from my favourite band from Castleford (not that I’ve got a list or can even think of any other bands from that part of West Yorkshire). ALLUSONDRUGS over at Opium No10 have been getting a lot of exposure recently and rightfully so. A band who I’ve heard but never seen before, the lead singer has a look of Kurt Cobain about him and make just as much noise. Just a couple of songs in and it was clear to see why there’s so much hype around them at the moment. As my friend who also saw them pointed out, they actually looked and sounded like a fully formed band compared to some other bands he’d seen that day. With all the headliners finishing at around 9pm, it was time to descend onto Walkabout for the last performance of the day ‘We Are The Bands’, which was basically a who’s who of the Barnsley music scene in 2014; led by the band that opened the festival, THE BAR-STEWARD SONS OF VAL DOONICAN, one of the hardest working bands in town. Okay, so they may cover other people’s song and use their own words, but one look at the amount of gigs and publicity they do and you’ll find it hard to disagree.
They were introduced on stage by the organisers of Live In Barnsley, as well as its patron Feargal Sharkey. The band played for just under an hour, with a set filled with their usual comedy songs and sing-alongs but this time joined by various members of bands who had featured throughout the day. It was a fitting end to the festival. After ten hours of live music, the bar was the fullest I’ve ever seen it; more so than any sporting event or even the time The Libertines front-man Pete Doherty played an acoustic gig there. As the evening drew to a close with the charity single We Are The Bands, I think most people in the crowd would agree that this was one of the best festivals that Barnsley has hosted and clearly it’s a festival that is here to stay. Here’s to Live in Barnsley 2015!