The second annual Split Festival landed on Wearside this past weekend, featuring more bands and even more people than its debut year. With a line-up including Sunderland punk-rockers The Futureheads, Maximo Park, Detroit Social Club, Frankie in the Heartstrings and a whole host of top local bands, there was certainly a degree of expectation on a festival still in its infancy; but it proved to be a huge success for all involved.
Local performers were given the platform to showcase their music alongside the best two Northern bands of the past ten years; the largely family orientated audience experienced over fifty three acts for just £32.50 a ticket; and with a trouble-free atmosphere in friendly surroundings, festival organisers should be praised for their part in a fun weekend of music, comedy, beer, jugglers and cup cakes.
Whilst a lot of the focus going into the festival was, perhaps rightly, on the headliners – The Futureheads’ homecoming, the special appearance of Maximo Park and Frankie & The Heartstrings’ rise from relative unknowns to support headliners being the main talking points – Split was designed to not only give Sunderland a music festival to be proud of, but also to promote grassroots music and help build the local scene. In that sense, the Wearside festival replicated its blueprint to perfection.
Local band Let’s Buy Happiness, brought to life by Sarah Hall’s wonderfully melancholic voice, proved to be a highlight of the opening day at Split - if you can catch them around Newcastle soon, do so. Coal Train also put in an excellent performance on Stage One, and built up an effervescent atmosphere following the local comics on the other stage. They were my surprise band of the weekend, and well worth a watch.
Likewise Liverpool’s Hot Cub De Paris were well received by the Sunday crowd – they combined their energetic on-stage persona with addictive beats that are still rolling around in my head alongside Hounds of Love. It’s a beautiful combination, I might add.
Following them were Detroit Social Club, who, for all their hype, disappointed. Their debut album ‘Existence’ was a fantastic effort, and rightly achieved critical acclaim – however live they sounded like a Kasabian tribute band. Perhaps, though, it’s only fair to add that it must have been rather difficult for lead David Burn to fully connect with an audience spread across two tents, half of which were standing at Stage One waiting for The Futureheads.
Like Saturday’s headliners Maximo Park, The Futureheads proved that they are still one of the top live bands around. They know their audience and they work it to perfection – Hounds of Love, mentioned previously, is a prime example of the control they appear to have over their crowd. Before Split I was already a big fan of The Futureheads and their fun and experimental style – but live on stage, and especially in their hometown, they bettered their impressive back-catalogue of music with a performance unrivalled in popularity and energy.
Credit must go to everyone involved who made Split Festival happen. It was a weekend mutually beneficial to both punter and performer, and was, like its debut year, a huge success. Hopefully by the end of Split Festival 2011, organisers will be forced to consider switching to a bigger location in order to accommodate not only a larger audience, but also a wider variety of talented local bands.
Andrew Dipper (www.floatationsuite.com)
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