Under the Stars Festival – Music News
The musical lineup was notable for its diverse genres and featuring the three female headliners – Imelda May, Suzanne Vega and ‘Her Royal Sweetness of Barnsley’ the lovely Kate Rusby.
For Kate Rusby, it was a special festival as she celebrates her 30th anniversary as a professional musician. His usual style of audience engagement, outpouring of love, chat and humor was thoroughly absorbed by his devoted fans. She performed many of her well-known and beloved songs, as well as tracks from her new album, “30: Happy Returns.”
Imelda May gave a stunning performance, showcasing an exceptional diversity of musical styles and poetry, backed by an impressive and talented band featuring Donny Little. She wowed audiences with her energetic and thrilling delivery of iconic rock numbers such as “Tainted Love.”
Suzanne Vega, considered one of the leading songwriters of her generation, engaged audiences in her usual calm and loving way with a selection of numbers spanning her long and distinguished career as a songwriter/poet.
As well as artists from the UK and the islands, five other countries were represented, each bringing their own unique style of local music offering an eclectic mix of flair and tradition.
Highlights of Friday’s lineup included ‘Stone Jets’, a group of three talented guys from South Africa whose distinctive sound of rhythmic soul paired with a feel-good factor got the festival off to a flying start. They were followed by N’famady Kouyate and his band who wowed the crowd with a vibrant performance of modern renditions of traditional West African Mandinka songs – his enthusiasm and speed at which he played the balafon, a traditional wooden xylophone, were breathtaking.
The Trials of Cato hit the ground running with their renditions of traditional tunes with a modern ceilidh twist. Polly Bolton’s superb and illuminating stringing was incredible and the crowd was asking for more. After This is the Kit, Kate Stables’ musical project is best described as “multi-layered”, which appeals to listeners on different levels as each “layer” is revealed and unfolds as it takes you. takes you on a musical journey.
Then, completely out of the box and with more surprises, was the ‘This is your Life-ish thingy’. Usually Kate Rusby’s best friend Sal and Kate have a good old thread about their escapades in the past and a walk down memory lane, but this year, as it’s her 30th birthday, it was – ‘This is your Life Kate! Even Kate’s old music teacher came!
Sam Kelly & the Lost boys, cited as ‘one of the most exciting bands to hit the UK folk scene in the last 20 years’, had the full participation of the audience with their superb original music and reworking of the traditional tunes.
The last of the evening was Davina and the Vagabonds, live from the USA! The retro New Orleans/Memphis repertoire delivered by Davina’s unique voice and commanding stage presence, and the band’s brilliant brass musicians, ended the evening with a Bang!
Saturday brought more surprises as the famous Brighouse and Rastrick Band took to the main stage. The Briggus, as they are affectionately known, have a formidable reputation, and they have not let us down! A packed house, brilliant musicians and a very, very grateful audience – a real piece of Yorkshire for over 150 years!
The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican (yes, you might well be perplexed) are in no way related to Val singing but to a group of Yorkshire lads wearing showy wigs and tank tops who, while at times outrageous, are very entertaining. Jarvis Cocker reckons they are ‘the best thing to come out of Barnsley, from the A61 to Sheffield!’ Do whatever you want with it!
Flatcap Carnival continued the fun with their seven-piece Latin-inspired ska band whose mission is to always bring some sunshine to the festival stage with their bongo bashing macca shaky trumpet sounds. Will Varley followed – harrowing (often true) stories told by a man with a great voice.
The afternoon continued with performances from bands like Trousdale, a group of dynamic young women from Southern California whose crystal clear voices combine to achieve great harmonies and meaningful songs. This was followed by an audience with Adrian Edmondson, the actor, comedian, musician, writer and TV presenter, catching up with us with what makes him tick.
If you love a traditional folk medley (like we do), the Kinnaris Quintet will get your heart pumping. Pure instrumental nectar at its best!
The legendary Haggis Horns rocked us into the evening – highly acclaimed and incredibly versatile, these accomplished musicians delivered their unique breakbeat-heavy soul, hip-hop and funk to a moving crowd.
The final act of the evening, Big Moon, closed the evening with their tight vocal harmonies in their own inimitable style.
The last day brought us a wonderful variety of music and entertainment. Kicking off with Iona Lane’s smooth, precise vocals and lovely guitar sound that brought us a range of both her own material and traditional folk. Next up was the funky twelve-piece brass band called The Intergalactic Brasstronauts, a local band loudly doing their thing with a collection of dub, reggae, jazz and electronica. Australian singer/songwriter Azure Ryder relaxed her audience with her warm, seductive vocals and beautiful, dreamy songs, with nods to the rural pop of Maggie Rogers and the earthy drama of Florence. A change of direction came with the wildly popular Jason Manford who loves doing live comedy ” “Of all the things I do, stand-up is the job I love the most. It’s great to regain the freedom to be responsible for what I say and do. It’s just nice to be back. Bravo Jason, you made us laugh and you did well! Banjoists Damien O’Kane and Ron Block, masters of their craft, brought us a high-octane banjo-fueled storm, wowing audiences with a spectacular sound of traditional and contemporary gear. Talented and award-winning group, The Young’uns, who specialize in unaccompanied singing, performed a great selection of traditional carols, contemporary songs with breathtaking stories, beautiful lyrics, warm harmonies and a repartee implacable. Five-piece Newcastle-upon-Tyne indie rock band Lanterns On The Lake came next with their natural touchstones of wispy dream-pop and monumental post-rock – brilliant!
All in all, we couldn’t fault this little festival. Very well organised, with top performers, plenty of seating in the main venue, beautiful location, very friendly staff able to help and guide in all areas, excellent clean sanitary facilities, great variety “all you want to do” music and dance workshops, and great fun for the kids and not a bit of rubbish in sight!
All in all, it was a relaxed, hassle free and very friendly festival and one we will definitely try to return to next year.
Photo credit: Steve Lacey Photography