Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 22.02.30Beautiful Days Festival 2018
Day Two

Live Review

Manic Street Preachers 

Shed Seven

British Sea Power

The Skids


Slow Readers Club

Holy Moly And The Crackers

The Spitfires

Emily Capell

Beautiful Days Festival has carved out a niche for itself with an extended family of 20 000 people a year flocking to the beautiful site near Exeter to the Levellers own event. Of course, a festival run by people who are from festival culture is always going to have an edge and the friendliest festival on the circuit also boasts a great bill and a partisan crowd who flock to the event despite it never getting reviewed in the mainstream media.


First on a festival main stage on a Saturday is never easy but Emily Capell pulls in a sizeable audience who are drawn to the stage by her waif-like post-Amy Winehouse charisma and powerful voice dealing out a thirty minute set of great classic pop songs. The band are razor tight with ska chops entwining with the perfect tumbling sixties choruses and big melodies that dominate the songs making them all sound like perfect hits. It’s a well-received introduction to a new name who will soon be headlining these kind of affairs.

The Spitfires fire and brimstone, Weller intense, wired English lads in a rush, neo-mod is an exciting rush, also they have the songs to pull this off and the skinny, taut, looking band’s very physicality matches their music. There is no easy route for this kind of the band – the public love it but the radio for some reason ignore it, but the Spitfires are musical street fighters with a genuine passion who deliver their set with a wild-eyed intensity that wins them many new friends.

Fast-rising Manchester band, Slow Readers Club, have emerged as a best kept secret and have slipped from the shadows into serious contenders with one of the albums of the year. Their black-clad, self-effacing, stage presence sees them deliver a set of addictive yet introvert and magnificent brooding songs. The band lock into the Joy Division corner of the city’s musical culture – coiling bass lines and delicate guitar figures with impassioned and beautifully sung vocals. This is no wam bam grab them while you can exercise in showbiz aggro but a carefully played set of songs that pull the audience in. It’s a very daring way to perform at a sunny afternoon festival but this is a great audience who want to fall in love and from the initial core at the front who are already wide-eyed devotees the band gradually infuse the whole field with their powerful and emotional songs.

It’s the same way that they have emerged in Manchester. Going from small bars to the Apollo with no hype apart from feverish write ups on Louder Than War and a handful of other websites like the excellent Even The Stars , written by people who go out to see bands instead of arriving when they make it like vampires claiming all the credit. This is a deserved rise to the stadiums for the band who play a perfect set.

It’s 5 O’clock in a field of England.

It’s time for Dreadzone.

If there was any group that epitomised what festivals like this are about then it this band with their mesmerising crossover of dub, post-punk, Notting Hill fusion, rebel dreads and dance in a glorious bricolage that always, and I say always, has the whole field dancing in pure joy. The band have nailed the perfect groove with a mighty rhythm section and the twin vocals attack is a reminder of just how powerful the punky reggae party ideal was in punk rock and one which, over the years, they have honed down to a perfection.

Proof that the greatest art came from the most unlikely places in the punk wars Dunfermline’s , Skids reformation has been an exercise in perfection. They could have staggered back into the frey for a few shows and got the deserved pat on the back but this has been mighty exercise and far more than a lap of honour. The band is made up of core skids members Richard Jobson and original Skids bassist Bill Simpson and drummer Mike Baillie with Big Country compadre Bruce Watson completes the current Skids touring line-up alongside his son Jamie Read is full of musical chops but even at near 60 years old has enough punk rock fire to make them sound urgent. 

Oddly missed out of punk rock and Scottish musical history and films their return is a timely reminder of just how ahead of the curve they were. No wonder Ian Curtis was a big mate of Richard Jobson – he recognised that Bowie infused artfulness from the extrovert frontman who self-taught himself out of the small town Fife backstreets and infused himself with culture from the Bowie school when it was far harder to find than a google search.

The band were always brilliantly reaching beyond themselves and from their first big hit – the iconic, Into The Valley, were embracing grandeur and anthems. It was a delicate but exciting balance and they are one of those bands with far more hits than most people remember. Jobson runs on the spot like a boxer returning to the ring and laughs at himself for getting out of breath but still turns in a brilliant show and they are welcomed like old friends by the old punks and as a key influence by the watching headliners, the Manic Street Preachers as they deliver a rousing set that underlines how much inventiveness there was in punk rock.

British Sea Power were as gloriously grey sky melancholic as ever. There is something powerfully affecting about their music – that idiosyncratic melange of post-punk playfulness and dark pagan English folk that sets them so far apart from anyone else. The eccentricity and the beauty of their sound is as perfect and precise as ever and brought back memories of when they played their Man Of Arran soundtrack at this very festival along with the film a few years back. 

Shed Seven may have never had any media love in the great Britpop wars but that has actually played in their favour. Left alone by the metropolitan cappuccino hipster scrum they have quietly become one of the biggest live draws on the circuit. This may be baffling to the naysayers but in these tough times people don’t part with their money for no reason and without the power of hype every single Shed fan has been earned by the band who turn in a powerful performance that even has a cheeky cover of the Roses I Am The Resurrection thrown in a nod at the masters whilst underlining the musical prowess of the band who make it feel so effortless. They really connect with the packed crowd with their amiable homespun vibe that belies a musical dexterity. Rick Witter is a great frontman – a skinny Jagger-like who exudes the right balance of supreme confidence and yer mate next door having ago that really works and the band are on a roll with their current Youth produced album being considered their finest.


Read the Manic Street Preachers review from Beautiful Days here


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Pity there is no review of Calexico, easily the best performance of the weekend with Eric Bibb coming a close second.

  2. I agree Rab Morrison’s comment – shame no review of Calexico’s tour de force in the Big Top on Saturday, but I guess the main thing is I was there to see it – mesmerising, sublime, hypnotic, powerful – a great performance from a great band, and no messing around or egos on show – they just came on stage and played great music – highlight of the festival by an Arizona country mile


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