Split Festival, Sunderland, 25-26/09/10


The best things, as the old adage goes, are worth waiting for, Christmas, birthdays, Uncle Keith’s invoices, Baz’s review of Kendal Calling?… and it seems, Sunderland’s Split Festival.  It’s as if we’ve been waiting an age for it to come round, being one of the later regional festivals in the calendar, after a heady summer of Evolution, Middlesbrough Music Live, DeerShed, WickerMan and the afore mention K C.  And what a cracking little festival it’s turned out to be too… The second year it’s been hosted at the Ashbrooke Cricket Club and our first attendance, but I can see this one, going from strength to strength.

In keeping with a gig on a cricket pitch, play was lively and from both ends. Two stages either end of a big marquee, with each bands innings lasting about 45 minutes … while the crowd milled about in the middle. If there was a gap, and you needed a musical top up, then there was even a smaller acoustic tent just around the corner. And like Peters review of DeerShed, it was very family friendly… free entry for ankle biters, running around between slides, tea cups, face painting etc. … and subsequently, a nice, friendly, relaxed vibe. I reckon once that certain contingent see kids skipping about the place, they perhaps re-think there behaviour… at least I hope so.

So everybody’s happy now, everybody’s singing … and that suits me. Weather was kind too, which always helps… (but then again, they were, quite literally, well covered with  marquees in the event of the inevitable downpour than never seems to be far from the British summer outdoor event .)

The other thing that we were informed of, which sets this shindig apart from the others, is the mix of bands. A deliberate 4:1 ratio of local to national talent… giving it a very homely feel as well as reminding you, in case you didn’t know, of the wealth of talent emanating from the North East at the moment.

So… who was on and what were they like? Well, in reverse order, Saturday was brought to a close with an ear splitting performance by Maximo Park, with apparently their last gig of the year.  Before that we saw a cracking set by Frankie and the Heartstrings and a good effort by The Paddingtons, up from Hull, though not as punky as I’d actually imagined they’d be live. Before that we were in the bar… so missed most of, The Stones, who were surprisingly enough, a Stones “tribute” band. However before Mick and Keef took to the stage, we had the pleasure of The Dutch Uncles, with which I was very much taken actually… possibly my band of the day, though Frankie and the Heartstrings were exceptional too. Really though, The Dutch Uncles were one of those bands that you just want to see more of. Other bits and bobs before that including, The Generals, Coal Train, Lucas Renney and some blokes on stilts. Sunday was unfortunately a fleeting visit for us, well… you know what Sundays are like, the whole festival brought to a close by festival organisers, The Futureheads, with the marvellous Detroit Social Club and Hot Club De Paris before that. Missed, The Smiths Indeed, which I was a bit disappointed with… but hey ho… I’ve seen the original several times, so it could have never lived up to my rose tinted memories of Moz and Marr.

So in summary a great little festival, that I know will grow, but that I hope keeps the special local vibe that it’s got. Highlights… always based on personal tastes, but Frankie and the Heartstrings, Dutch Uncles, Maximo Park, Futureheads and Detroit Social Club….lowlights… not much really…voucher system for food was a bit annoying, but pales into insignificance now.

By Dave on October 1, 2010

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1 Comment » RSS Comment Feed

  1. Guys – Thanks for the review and glad you enjoyed yourselves. For all your readers there are 2 things on which I can re-assure everyone!

    1. Yes, our plans will always be to keep strong local content…I would love a band who played the event for the first time this year to be pushing for headlining in 2 or 3 years time. Our core ethos is about promoting and developing local talent and will always stick with that philosophy.

    2. Our other belief if that a Festival is just that – full to the brim with diversity in both music and other activities and the bigger we get the more we can include!

    I would welcome feedback from anyone else who went as to how we could improve for 2011 and yes, we do intend to keep growing to give the local music scene the platform it both needs and deserves. And if anyone wants a reminder of how it felt, take a look at the website at http://www.splitfestival.com as we have posted a review gallery and some truly amazing shots of some of the bands in action!

    Rob, Split Festival Chairman

    Comment by Rob Deverson — October 2, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

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