In only its second year running SPLIT Festival arrived to offer ‘real’ music lovers of the region the opportunity to see the abundance of talent sitting on their doorsteps. The setting of Ashbrooke Cricket Ground mirrors the rawness of an event put together by fully fledged Mackem darlings, The Futureheads. Lead singer and co-founder of SPLIT Barry Hyde was beaming as he wandered around the marquee checking out the acts he had helped add to this year’s line up, ‘I’m really excited, it’s getting much bigger every year. Glastonbury only started with about 300 people so why not?’, a heart warming insight into the ambitions of a man proud of his roots and eager to give back to the place where it all started.
There was an abundance of new talent sweeping through their sets and into the hearts of new followers in frantic fashion. Stand-out performances of the weekend came from expected quarters. The Paddingtons combined raucous punk with melodic indie rifts to send the unsuspecting crowd into a head thumping frenzy. Little Comets were charming and charismatic, clearly having as much fun as those watching, as they infected the audience with their bouncy pop. David Burn led Detroit Social Club with swagger as they raced through a captivating set.
Their performance stood out from similar acts, leaving them on the brink of making a convincing case in shaking up an overcrowded same-same genre that defines indie at the moment. The biggest disappointment of the weekend came from the much fancied Frankie & The Heartstrings. With so much puff surrounding the inevitable emergence of Sunderland’s latest ‘stars’, I was expecting great things. From the first note of their set there was a distinct lack of gusto from a band that should have thrived upon their home town crowd. Eventually the boys appeared as if from behind the hype, to finish the set with more umph! Sadly, too little too late, and if word is to be believed the boys will need to make some serious improvements to their live performances if they are to reach the dizzy heights reached by SPLIT’S two headline acts.
Saturday’s headliners Maximo Park arrived on stage with Paul Smith immediately energizing the crowd with his usual livewire style. The success of the band has not left them detached from their roots, as Smith interacted with the crowd on several occasions, each time appearing humbled by the homecoming. This band pack a bag full of tunes and throw them at you rarely pausing for breath, as Smith covered every inch of the stage and its equipment, rocking the marquee with classics ‘Going Missing’, ‘Apply Some Pressure’, and arguably best live song ‘Graffiti’. It was announced midway through the set that this would be the boy’s last outing for a while as Smith embarks on a solo tour and oh could you tell. They left everything they had on stage; any emerging talent watching should have been taking notes of how outstanding chemistry in the live arena can turn average songs into great anthems.
A decade and four albums later from their first performance to fifty people at the same ground, The Futureheads closed proceedings on Sunday night, in what was a proud moment for the band and without doubt the defining moment of the weekend. Modest in their appreciation to the crowd and those involved in SPLIT, they rewarded them with a fast and furious hit of the bands sing-a-long anthems that have made them the local heroes they are today. The triumphant ‘Hounds of Love’ heralded a mass of hands rising to hail the bands biggest hit to date, some clutching plimpsols and boots as the crowd hollered back ‘il take my shoes off and I will throw them in the lake’ with full lung capacity.
The laid back atmosphere of the weekend only adds to a long list of reasons why SPLIT will only get bigger and better as each year rolls around. Who knows, in time you might spot a tent or two under the rugby posts and a pyramid shaped construction in front of the clubhouse.
Emma Howe (Shields Gazzette)
To return to the review menu click here