The Garden Party.
Isle of Man, Begoade Fields.
7th July 2012.
The Garden Party is a small & unique festival in the Isle Of Man. This was it's third year and The Charlatons were headlining. Liam Core was there for us & reports back below.
After the first night was brought to an abrupt halt before I had left the pub, (a blessing in disguise considering Newton Faulkner was headlining) second day of the Isle of Man's Garden Party went ahead as scheduled in significantly improved weather. The festival was taking place in a field relatively high up about a mile outside of the village of Onchan, and about 3 miles outside the capital Douglas. Previously focusing on local bands, this is the first year where recognisable names from the UK were playing, with The Charlatans and the previously mentioned Newton Faulkner playing, along with James Walsh, Turin Brakes, Reverend and the Makers, and The Little Comets.
After taking the opportunity on the Saturday to show some of my friends around some of the best sites that Douglas has to offer, we arrived at the festival relatively late but still in good time to see the last three acts.
You have to wonder why Turin Brakes still bother. In fact, you have to wonder why Turin Brakes even bothered in the first place. The alleged ”Ënew acoustic' movement of the late 90's and early 00's produced some good artists and bands, notably the excellent I Am Kloot, but Turin Brakes surely fall in along with the likes of Mull Historical Society and the countless othersÃÂ ÃÂ who all blend into one boring mix in the best forgotten bargain bin. They play to a reasonably sized crowd, with no one showing any particular emotional connection to the band. Thankfully, I missed half their set, but still, I can't help but think half an hour of my life has been taken from me which I'll never get back. The set list was simply that acoustic one which sounds like all the others, played about ten times. Next.
As is customary at these things, it was now time for a drink. Well, it would be if we could get served at the bar. The usual over priced cans served in plastic glasses. Only this time, service was so slow we might as well have rang a taxi, and gone to the off license in town. It might have worked out cheaper as well. By the time we made our second visit to the bar, they had committed the cardinal sin of running out of drink. Great.
James Walsh was on next, becoming the first artist I've seen on the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man. Depending on your point of view, either it's great that he's playing under his own name, but on the other hand, would anyone really notice if he was calling his band Starsailor? Probably not, as the sound is pretty indistinguishable from his main band. The first noticeable thing was that he was introduced as playing with “just an acoustic guitar”Â as if that was some kind of achievement never before reached by a human being before, then proceeded to play quite loud with a full electric band. As an aside, what is it with people bragging about others who are playing “unplugged”Â as it were? You never hear of people saying “playing with just one keyboard”Â or “just one sequencer”Â. Anyway, James Walsh comes on and does an acceptable job of being the bloke from Starsailor playing some Starsailor songs. Opening with a version of Good Souls, he plays a mixture of Starsailor songs, including Silence is Easy, Alcoholic, and Four to the Floor , all of which sounded exactly the same as when I last saw Starsailor in 2005, and some new material, which was just there really. James Walsh comes across as a nice guy who can write a half decent song. However, like many before him, he'll always be tagged as ”Ëthe bloke from Starsailor'. Maybe not a band thing, but you have to wonder if he'd more successful just sticking with Starsailor?
Headlining tonight is The Charlatans. Coming on stage just after 2230, when it was quite cold and a bit windy, and this is where one crucial factor is noticed. There was no back to the stage, which made the sound engineers job impossible and played merry hell with the sound, especially Tim Burgess' vocals which often were lost in the mix throughout the gig. Playing what amounts to a greatest hits set, this is the first time I'd seen The Charlatans since Leeds Festival 2005, when they played to a significantly larger crowd. Opening with a storming version of North Country Boy, the band seemed happy to be playing on the Isle of Man for a second time and were well received by the audience. Whilst the band were battling against the sound, this did not dampen their enthusiasm for playing. Tim Burgess bounced around the stage with a confidence that comes with twenty years of musical evolution through many different musical eras, with the rest of the band offering solid support behind. With a setlist that offered no surprises, the band tore through at a good speed saying little to the crowd, although some of the audience holding stupid objects above their heads did get acknowledged. The clear highlight of the set was a storming version of One to Another, which sounded as fresh and as vital as it did when first released in 1996, and personal favourite How High. Strangely, probably the most famous Charlatans song was the one which sounded the most flat. The Only One I Know sounded slow and much more dated than it does on the record. Ending with a fittingly past paced Sproston Green, and not returning for an encore was an excellent way to end a brief but enjoyable headline set. No need to mention that hairstyle though”Â¦
Some general points about the festival. Crowds were sparse and this wasn't helped by not announcing The Charlatans until about six weeks before the gig, months after the rest of the lineup was announced. Coming the week after the Stone Roses gigs at Heaton Park wont have helped, but getting to the island is time consuming and expensive. Leaving it so late means that many of the Charlatans fan base who may have travelled from the UK for the gig may have been possibly already committed elsewhere. A conversation with one of the security staff on Saturday night summed it up:
Me: “How many were in then?”Â
Security: “Five, maybe seven”Â
Security: “No, hundred”Â
Secondly, as alluded to, the beer situation was a shambles. I suppose everyone should be grateful that the crowd wasn't larger otherwise the festival would've run out of beer a lot earlier.
Thirdly, Turin Brakes and Newton Faulkner? Are you serious?
All words: Liam Core. More by Liam here