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 ”˜new 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 others  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” 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” as it were? You never hear of people saying “playing with just one keyboard” or “just one sequencer”. 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 ”˜the 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”¦

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?”

Security: “Five, maybe seven”

Me: “Thousand?”

Security: “No, hundred”

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

4 COMMENTS

  1. Review nails it. I’m Manx. I go to gigs. I even promote events too. Doesn’t mean I can’t agree with the fact that the whole thing was mediocre, at best. Price didn’t reflect line- up. Beer tent needs no comment. Promoters not really in touch with their crowd. Shame, really, but that’s the Isle of Man sometimes. Removing camping killed this ” festival” …

  2. The back of the stage was missing due to the previous nights high winds. As a precautionary measure (due to the safe working winds speeds being highly exceeded) the stage was cleared initially before later on.. as the winds didn’t decline in intensity, the back was removed to let the wind through and so it didn’t act like a big sail.
    The back and side walls of the stage are really heavy and were installed as the roof structure was raised from ground level up, there was just no way the stage guys could climb up amd hold the weight of it whilst trying to re- attach it.
    all in all, the weather did throw up a lot of problems in all areas, something that wasn’t accounted for with it being July.. Logistical, supply and staffing problems arose very quickly, many people worked through the night Saturday helping vendors get unstuck from the mud, temporary plastic roadway panels were sourced and layed through the night just to provide partial access to some parts of the site.
    All equipment on stage had to be covered due to the new exposures presented with no back wall on the stage, some stuff got soaked and had to be checked for electrical safety the next day before being used again. Technicians worked through the night on rotation to monitor the weather and take check on the site, power distribution had to be moved due to the rising water levels back stage.
    The list goes on about being unprepared for the type of weather that was witnessed but I’m sure other local festivals would have fallen foul too due to the time of year, lessons learnt all round.
    Band wise, it was far too mellow for me.. A bit too acoustic/for the most but, that was a selection of offered acts that the promoters chose, and from a purse that wasn’t the deepest.
    A lot of work went into the event initially and a lot more to overcome the unpredictable.

  3. Did you write this review on an iPhone in a train toilet? I’m not talking about the content just the writing, it takes the credibility away when it doesn’t even read properly.
    Apart from that, it sounds like they don’t know the identity of their own festival and, despite the 3 months of miserable weather before, were totally unprepared.

    What a weird line up!

    Written on an iPhone
    Whilst running
    Manchester

  4. After reading this pile of utter turd, I think it\’s safe to say that the chimp who wrote this review had already made his mind up about the festival before he had even wobbled his way in to the field. The Garden Party is a festival run by locals who give up their own precious time, money and energy to try and create something new and fresh to the Isle of Man. This festival is in its infancy and as he mentions himself, this was the first year they had recognisable names. Where do you think these people can pull the money from to bring big, current names over? Do you think the bigger named festivals started with a big enough budget to accommodate pedantic little whingers like you? The organisers of this festival are building this event from the ground up and this means there will be mistakes made as they learn how things need to be done. The idea of a festival of this type on the Isle of Man is a very new concept and to make this worse for them this year, they were hit with appalling weather conditions to contest with. Do you think perhaps that the weather conditions had something to do with the smaller crowds, or do you just seek this out as another area to take pleasure in criticising? Its painfully obvious that your opinions are based on personal taste, as you didn\’t even bother to show until late afternoon on Saturday and you had already made your mind up that Newton Faulkner\’s set was doomed to be below your personal standard. I don\’t know where you were standing when you were watching Turin Brakes or James Walsh but from where I was standing, those watching, including myself, were enjoying everything they gave us. They sounded amazing and entertained the crowds brilliantly. As for the back of the stage, this had to be removed due to the poor weather conditions the previous day as it posed a danger to the artists and stage crew but of course, someone like you would relish the opportunity to find fault with this. Were you one of those odd little children who enjoyed pulling the legs/wings off bugs in the playground? Based on your harsh and pre-conceived opinions of this growing festival, I would say so. I\’m sure the organisers of this festival will continue to learn year by year and develop this festival into something amazing for the people on the Isle of Man. Criticism is to be expected from people as they go along, you can\’t please everybody as they say, but your opinions and obvious enjoyment in rubbishing this monumental effort can only assist to spur on those behind the scenes into making this something the people of the Isle of man can look forward to and enjoy. I\’m sure you will not be gracing The Garden Party next year with your presence as there are bigger and better festivals you’ll no doubt be attending that meet your standards. In the mean time I am really looking forward to seeing what they have to offer next year and watching this event grow.

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