Sunderland Split Festival 2011 – Day 1- Sat 17th Sept.


Here we are again, back at one of our favourite events, Sunderland’s SPLIT Festival. Now in its third year, last year was great fun and 2011 promised to build on that success. This family friendly, 2 day, music bash at Ashbrooke Sports Club, offers a snapshot of (predominantly local) talent at varying points in their musical careers. Part organised by The Futureheads, it’s immensely inspiring to see people getting off their arses and putting something back into their area. And… not only putting on a cracking event,  but also providing a platform for smaller local bands to rub shoulders with household names.

The Acoustic tent has been rebadged this year, as a “Fringe” tent… (but it looked pretty much the same to us.) And a shiny new food tent had appeared, which was a welcome surprise. There was also a big inflatable slide for kids to hurtle down and a separate kid’s activity tent, face painting and games etc.  A coconut shy, stilt walkers, graffiti artists and even a penalty shootout. The main tent had changed too. Gone, (unfortunately) were the “split” stages, which we thought worked so well last year, replaced by one mega stage. Ah well… never mind… on with the show.

Wasn’t sure how Saturday was gonna pan out, weather wise. It was threatening rain, then out came the sun, and then there were a few spots of rain, and then eventually it settled down into pretty much a nice sunny afternoon. It had however, plooted down the night before, so the ground was still a bit squelchy underfoot. Probably described in horse racing parlance as “Good to Soft”.  I had wondered whether the groundsman might have had an aneurism with the amount of foot traffic after the rain, but the organisers were on the ball and had put down good quality matting to protect the pitch from getting chewed up.

We got down about 1.30, aiming to see the Grandfather Birds, we were unfortunately side-lined by the bar, and only managed to catch the end of their 20 minute mini set, although, in all fairness, I think we have seen them about four times this year already and have never been disappointed. We had a bit of an explore and then settled in to watch a cracking set, by The Union Choir, in the little tent. A much trimmed down version of The UC. I think last time I saw them, there were about ten of them, this afternoon they’re a leaner 5 piece. Still sounded great mind. We caught a bit of The Generals, complete with their startling new stand-in, drummer, (Just who is that fella?) and then back to an absolutely, packed fringe tent to catch The Lake Poets. Expecting Martin’s usual one-man band, we were surprised to see him playing with a full backing band, and another cracking set. Next on our radar were Spector, who I’d been really keen to catch. The Killeresque “What You Wanted” has properly wormed its way into my napper and just will not leave. Brilliant tune and another brilliant set, can’t wait to catch them again.

Next up  B>E>A>K. If you’ve not come across the mighty B>E>A>K ‘sters before, they are a colourful, feather-faced, collective, pooled from  various local bands, who’d be quite at home at any carnival, playing their up-tempo danceable, brass tinged tunes. Certainly difficult to ignore, and went down a storm with the home crowd. Now… here’s where we made a slight departure to the food tent, and in particular the Borneo Bistro. Ah man, what can I say “Number 1 on Trip Advisor” as we were informed and a popular haunt for several of the bands playing. The food was tremendous. We got to sample about half a dozen plates, before plumping for 2 generous portions of spicy beef satay, and Thai curry with noodles. Think it’s not the last we’ll see of the Borneo Bistro. Caught the end of Cush and a great set by Edinburgh’s Withered Hand in the fringe tent. Certainly some great bands in this little tent this year.

Then back across to the main tent, for Manchester’s, Dutch Uncles, who were my favourite act from last years SPLIT, and another great show this year. Then Newcastle’s Little Comets, made the main stage their own, with a blistering set, pushed rightfully so, up this years billing. Next up The Rifles followed by The Mystery Jets. Now…I’ve seen the Mystery Jets live before. About 5 years ago, they  were on an NME tour with local lads Maximo Park, stealing the show that night and showcasing,  We Are Scientists, and some band calling themselves Arctic Monkeys. (Not sure what became of them?) I remember not being too enamoured by The Jets live show then, I’d put it down to the quality of their peer group that night. But again, tonight, considering they were second top billing for the Saturday… they just didn’t do it for me live again. Especially after seeing  the energy of Little Comets and Spector earlier in the day. Never mind, the energy levels were cranked back up again when the headliners The Drums, came on. First time I’ve seen them, and they were brilliant. Late starting, because things were over-running, but a great show from the NY four piece. I think the second album, Portamento, is excellent and was the backbone of the nights set. A great band for SPLIT to pull in. Top marks on that one.

Highlights! Spector, Little Comets, The Drums and that beef satay. Lowlights! Not many really… Slightly miffed at paying three quid for a two fifty burger, due to the cashless voucher system… and of course… the fact that I couldn’t make the Sunday.

Thankyou SPLIT for a great day and can’t wait for next year.

Pics. by Barry (Sick Bucket) Bell


By Dave on September 21, 2011

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