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Manchester music reviews

Ramsbottom Festival

Ramsbottom Festival at the Cricket Club

Reviewed by Helen Nugent September 2011


In a country where there are more music festivals than you can shake a stick at, is it folly to launch a new one? The organisers of the new Ramsbottom Festival didn’t think so. And judging by the weekend’s entertainment this boutique event deserves a permanent place in the summer festival fixture list.


Before a musician had played a note, the Ramsbottom Festival looked like a promising bet. Who could fail to love a festival which, in addition to a main arena, had a second performance area entitled ‘T’Other Stage’? Added to this was a Beer Tent serving locally-brewed delights (including the fragrantly-floral Ramsbottom Festival Ale) and a range of mouth-watering treats in the Food Village. Kids were also well-catered for in this family-friendly town nestled in the shadow of the West Pennines.


With the combined resources of The Met in Bury, Don’t Panic Event Management and Ramsbottom Online behind it, the three-day festival drew a combination of internationally-renowned talent, nationally-recognised bands and local musicians. A calculated decision to ‘theme’ each day paid off. Rock and blues ushered in the festival on Friday night with Mark Radcliffe and the Big Figures followed by The Animals & Friends with Steve Cropper on the main stage. But pure genius was to be found on T’Other Stage in the form of Randolph Matthews, a shoeless one-man machine who did everything using his own voice and a loop pedal.


The Travelling Band, photo by Kat DibbitsIndie tunes were on the agenda for Saturday. Heavy showers and a distinct chill in the air did nothing to deter festival-goers, most of whom were prepared for inclement weather with waterproofs and wellies. The itinerary was chock full with little respite between acts – just the way a good festival should be. Aptly-named Rainband were crowd-pleasers while The Travelling Band showed everyone why tickets to their upcoming gig at the Manchester Academy would be a sound purchase.


Later (and after a nourishing meal of chips and gravy for many people) Bolton-born Cherry Ghost warmed up the audience with his mesmerising repertoire of northern melancholy. Local lad Badly Drawn Boy threatened to perform his entire set without having a grump - but couldn’t stop himself from unleashing a foul-mouthed rant at the organisers before his final song. Yes, Badly Drawn Boy could have carried on for two hours but this was a festival showcasing a wide range of talent, not just him. And, yes, perhaps he should have been headlining. But during a new and fresh festival that is trying to break new ground it seemed appropriate that a band embodying the same attributes should take top billing. And so the Guillemots rounded off Saturday night.


By Sunday it was time for a more relaxed pace. An afternoon and evening of predominantly folk singers and bands was just the ticket. Particular highlights included Kirsty Almeida and The Troubadours, The Once, Ahab and Capercaillie. By the time The Waterboys filled the main stage all thoughts of drizzle, soggy socks and rain-flecked glasses had been forgotten. The crowd swelled to its biggest number of the weekend while the Scottish folk rockers ended this engaging and enjoyable festival in bone-shaking style.


As the final festival of a summer dominated by music-fuelled weekend events, the Ramsbottom Festival struck the perfect tone: chilled, informal friendliness with the just the right amount of jumping up and down and beer-drinking. This part of the UK needs a show like this. The south of England has an embarrassment of music festivals, it’s time the North West had its own day in the sun.

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