Bingley Music Live: Review


Once a year, as August reaches its end, the innocuous little town of Bingley in West Yorkshire welcomes throngs of music-lovers of all ages into its quaint narrow streets and from dusk until dawn the quiet country air is instead filled with the sounds of their revelry alongside the thunderous performances of a myriad different musical acts and artists. Backstage, behind the quaking steel edifices that are the Bingley Music Live Main Stage and Midi Stage respectively, bands and artists that are virtual unknowns rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the business. This year’s festival saw Bingley play host to an incredible set of headliners- The Human League, Primal Scream and Chic/Nile Rodgers- that undoubtedly rivalled, if not completely outstripped, many of the much larger and far more widely known UK festivals.

Bingley Music Live is not a music festival in the conventional sense; instead of a field of tens of thousands of inebriated youngsters, BML accommodates, in line with its ethos of ‘Big Heart, Big Sounds’, families and people of all ages, yet still with plenty of room remaining for said inebriated younger people. There is also no on-site camping; rather, the festival itself takes place in the idyllic Myrtle Park while festival-goers take residence upon a number of campsites in and around Bingley. Upon arriving with my friends and discovering this (we clearly didn’t do our homework before we came) I confess I was a bit put out . However, it turned out to make for an even more enriching, if not a bit haphazard, experience for us as every night, after the music ended in the park, many of the younger revellers would become patrons of the surprisingly large amount of pubs and clubs in the town centre, which even more surprisingly were actually quite good. As the dancing and the alcohol flowed into the tender hours, we would return to our tents to catch a few hours of sleep and shelter from the howling North wind, and begin the entire saga again the next day.

As for the actual range of music available during the day, it truly was nothing short of incredible considering tickets came at an absolute steal at a mere £55. Even the acts beginning the day managed to attract an impressive gathering, who would sit or stand leisurely around the stages to experience an eclectic mix of styles and personalities. Some particular highlights of the earlier acts included Sunderland’s own Frankie and the Heartstrings on Friday, York’s own By Toutatis on Saturday (which unfortunately we had to cut short due to an unwarranted attack by a wasp upon my friend) and the ever-energetic Theme Park on Sunday.

In mid-afternoon the crowd around the Main Stage would engulf much of the main arena floor. On Friday they grooved to the Ska sound of the Neville Staples Band, and on Saturday, in perhaps the most impressive numbers I’ve seen at that time of day at a festival, they went wild to our teenage favourites The Fratellis. On Sunday, they gathered en masse for some first-rate skanking to Katy B and some good ol’ fashioned headbanging to The Cribs.

It is difficult for me to decide which of the headliners stole the show because each were superb in their own way. The Human League, admirably for their age, had as much stage presence and energy as any of the far younger acts, and the effects show that accompanied their terrific crowd-pleasing performance made Kraftwerk’s 3D lightshow at this year’s Latitude Festival seem like it was produced on Microsoft Paint. The crowd, simply put, went insane when the band played a rare extended version of their 1981 mega-hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’, and especially so when they finished with Phil Oakey’s own ‘Together In Electric Dreams’. The nostalgia of Friday night was made all the more enjoyable when taken with their remarkably modern and immersive stage show.

On Saturday, Primal Scream took to the stage and, while it was very likely frontman Bobby Gillespie was under the influence of alcohol or something a little more potent, the show was at the same time extremely polished and extremely wild. Playing all their crowd-pleasers such as ‘Loaded’, ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ alongside some of their more experimental back catalogue (‘Swastika Eyes’ and ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’), Primal Scream delivered one of the best live performances I have ever witnessed. Suffice to say, my friend walked into that crowd essentially indifferent towards Primal Scream and left singing their praises the remainder of the festival.

Finally, master of all things funky Nile Rodgers and his band Chic closed the festival. I was a little skeptical as to how the crowd would react to Chic’s brand of groove and disco, but my reservations were entirely unfounded- some of the shapes cut by members of the crowd (and myself) were testament to that as the band performed hits such as ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Le Freak’ and even a rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, a command to which the crowd wholeheartedly obeyed.

But perhaps what made Bingley Music Live such an incredible festival, alongside (or perhaps as a result of) the excellent line-up, the infectious performances and the inherent virtues of the setting in which it was held, was the atmosphere that existed for those 3 days in Bingley. There was a real sense of people coming together just to enjoy themselves and lose themselves in their love of music, without the drawbacks of traditional festivals such as that interminable group of ‘lads’ that always seem to pitch camp next to you or those who feel the only way to enjoy a festival is to act a pr*ck and burn down tents. While at BML, I met some terrific people and had some equally terrific times with them, some of which I’m sure I will not soon forget. And, for 55 quid- well, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be making an appearance next year too.

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