We return to Whitebottom Farm for the third day of Stockport’s Blackthorn Festival. Louder Than War’s Dave Beech reviews.
Photos: Trust A Fox Photography (Coming Soon)
Somewhat groggily despite an earlier night than most it seems, we arrive back on site and head straight to the Paddock Stage where a crowd’s starting to form for the first band of the day. Fresh-faced (though perhaps not in the literal sense given the two days partying they’ve endured) The Claremonts are one of Manchester’s brightest young prospects and their set is one we’ve been waiting for all weekend. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t disappoint. Pre-game Jagerbombs make sure that the a pocket of crowd are in high spirits as the band erupt in to high-energy set ramshackle indie-pop. Featuring the first moshpits of the weekend (and a collapsed barrier as a result), half a Stone Roses’ cover and more blood than is normal for a Sunday afternoon, it’s pure unadulterated chaos and the band seem to relish in it. The best set of the weekend so far. Expect big things from the Claremonts and expect them soon.
Needing a bit of fresh air, we opt for some liquid refreshment and find a spot perched on a hill, the stage of the Paddock visible, just as Louie Louie arrive. Fifty percent Mancunian, fifty percent Portugese, one hundred percent excellent, they’re a welcome inclusion to any festival line-up and it’s little surprise they ended up on the Paddock this year.
Next up is Rum Thief, a trio now after expanding from the solo project of frontman Jot Green. Clearly experienced as a frontman, the band benefits from the clear musicality of the three members, with at least two serving in previous bands previously. It’s a shame there’s not a huge crowd, but it does start to fill out towards the end.
Over on the Main Stage, Liverpool’s The Jackobin’s unfortunately clash with the ever popular Stillia, so while their set is the easily the best sounding on that stage thus far, and the guitar acrobatics of lead guitarist Veso during its conclusion is certainly impressive, it lacks the crowd they’re deserving of, and indeed accustomed to.
Back to the Paddock – a trio of Manchester bands comprised of Sly Antics, Sixty Minute Man and the mighty Jade Assembly close the best stage of the weekend in an epic fashion particularly in the case of the latter, whose army of followers appear in full voice.
Of course, with it being the final day of the festival, the band on everyone’s minds as evening rolls around is Maximo Park. An impressively ambitious booking for a festival entrenched in the DIY scenes of the North West, and one which works massively in their favour.
Anyone who has seen Maximo Park knows they’re a bit special, and tonight is little different. Exploding on to the stage with an excellent rendition of Give Get Take, the endless energy of frontman Paul Smith is absorbed by the crowd and thrown back at the band tenfold. Despite being on their feet for two days, every member of the crowd seems to have forgotten their fatigue ; encouraged by Smith’s onstage scissor kicks, gentle ribbing of the crowd, and the band’s effortless charisma – it’s a true festival feeling. One notable highlight is the inclusion of a brand new song Risk to Exist, which had yet to be played in the UK. That the band are still writing new material over ten years since their debut is a testament to their songwriting chops, and is a firm answer to those few doubters who inevitably asked “Are they still going?”.
The answer, in short, is yes. And with an arsenal of songs and singles as strong as theirs at their disposal, there’s little reason for them not to. They were there when the indie bubble burst in the late ’00s, and they’re here now as the genre’s popularity is once again on the increase. They’re a band with tireless energy and charm in equal measure something which contributes directly to both their longevity, and their flawless live shows.
It might only be in its third year, but Blackthorn once again gave us reason put faith in the smaller, more independent festivals. Yes there’s still small issues that need ironing out, but find me a small festival in which there isn’t. We’ll absolutely be there next year.