Splendour Festival - Various Artists - Wollaton Park - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Splendour Festival - Various Artists - Wollaton Park

by Lawrence Poole Rating:8 Release Date:2011-11-30

If there’s a festival that does more to celebrate its innate local-ness then I’ve yet to see it. Local brewery peddling a selection of real ales? Check. Plethora of home-based sponsors? Check. And most important of all – clutch of rising stars from the city’s circuit? Double check.

Now in its eighth year, Nottingham’s Splendour Festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2008 when alt-pop troubadour Kate Nash (crikey, remember her?) headlined the main stage. Held in the grounds of Tudor gem Wollaton Hall – incidental star of The Dark Knight Rises – it was left to 2 tone survivalists The Specials to bring another heady day of music and sun-kissed mayhem to a close on Saturday night.

Spread across four stages, the pick of the early action sees Celt-infused punk rockers Ferocious Dog snap a hazy crowd into action on the Jagermeister Stage. As if channelling the ‘shot of adrenalin’ drink itself, the sextet are a riot, ripping through a, well, ferocious, set fused with Levellers and Saw Doctors-inspired ditties with great gusto. Plus surely they must possess the only frontman in the business with a mohawk called, somewhat incongruously, Ken.

It’s now nine years since Brummie baggy kids The Twang graced the front cover of the NME, showered in a flood of plaudits. And while it’s difficult not to ignore that they’ve never again hit the heights of their acclaimed 2007 debut LP, Love It When I Feel Like This, the Jewellery Quarter-formed quintet prove they're still capable of laying on a gem of a show.

Duel vocalists Phil Etheridge and Martin Saunders are able conductors of a festival crowd, inspiring many an ‘arms aloft, girlfriend on your shoulders’ moment, particularly with their stellar hits 'Either Way', 'Wide Awake' and 'Two Lovers', although there are some samey fillers. They may never grace the A-list music press again, but there’s still a place for The Twang on the mid-afternoon festival circuit.

Hot-footing it back to the Main Stage, it's time for arguably Manchester’s most underrated band, James, to remind everyone why they’re still recording acclaimed new albums and selling out sizeable tours 25 years on. A rare outing for ultimate student digs joint 'Sit Down' and a mellow 'Out to Get You' get things off to a flier, before one two many cuts from their, admittedly strong, current release, La Petite Mort, knock things off-kilter slightly. But when you’ve got the armoury jelly-legged frontman Tim Booth and co have, that doesn’t last long. Needless to say, by the time the monstrous 'Laid' and climatic 'Sometimes' (surely the best ever song to be written about a thunderstorm) are unleashed it was game over.

With just enough time to snatch a few minutes of 80s pop angels Bananarama – who draw in every woman who spent the first day of the weekend watching Saturday Swap Shop – it's not long before uber-miserablist Terry Hall is playing up to his deadpan persona, demanding an ice cream before chastising the brow-beaten provider for not including an extra Flake. The Specials’ singer continues to orchestrate his ska collective The Specials with great aplomb, though, despite the absence of Neville Staples costing the Coventry outfit a certain joie de vivre.

'Ghost Town', 'Gangsters', 'Rat Race', 'Doesn’t Make It Alright', and 'Monkey Man' leave the beery masses giddy with delight, so by the time the joyous trumpet blasts of 'A Message to You Rudy' are sounded, they pull the curtains down on a brilliant, truly Nottingham day out.

There may be a ridiculous excess of festivals in the UK at the moment, but when the cull does eventually come, the splendid Splendour won’t be one of the victims.

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