Split Festival

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Split Festival

Split Festival

Posted: 11 Aug 2014

Mowbray Park, Sunderland

9-10 August

The North East’s thriving music scene was superbly showcased at Sunderland’s Split Festival which goes from strength to strength and this year took place at Mowbray Park.

Saturday’s line up was headlined by Dizzee Rascal, who by all accounts was superb, while for me the highlight would doubtless have been the always brilliant Lake Poets.

It was Sunday I was able to attend however. This was a good choice musically but an awful one weather-wise, with rain pouring down most of the day. Thankfully two of the three stages were in marquees, although the crowd taking in the main stage were completely open to the elements.

Over the course of eight hours I caught 10 bands, many of them local and most of them excellent. Rushing to get out of the rain when I first arrived I dived into the stage three marquee in time to catch the final two songs of So What Robot, a high-powered guitar band all in suits and ties and sporting white guitars.

Next up were three-piece Newcastle band Iceni, featuring dual lead vocals from two girl singers, their harmonies setting a high standard for the day. They were followed by Cohesion, an effervescent five-piece who seemed aptly named as their timing in segueing from one song to another was impressive.

Dashing from stage three to the main stage the highlight of the day was Lilliput, rain or no rain. Lilliput are another of this golden generation of Sunderland bands and, while as small as their name suggests at the moment, they are a class act if you enjoy carefully crafted songs full of harmonies and fine musicianship.

Back to stage three I caught some of Futurehead’s Barry Hyde’s piano-based set before taking in another local band in Frankie & The Heartstrings on the main stage. With a charismatic front man, Frankie & co were on top form before their home crowd.

Next up was a trip to stage two to see Glasgow band Twilight Sad who obviously take their name seriously as their light show left them in half-light. Cutting them short to head to the main stage, The Cribs delivered a driving hour-long set to delight their many followers.

One of the good things about a festival is there’s often a nice surprise. For me this was the final act on stage three: Symphonic Pictures. They were a local band I’d not previously heard of but they were really good with a quirky and apparently unintended ‘60s feel about them, not least though the occasional twangy Shadows sound to some of their songs.

Climaxing the festival and again highlighting the quality of music from the region were Newcastle band Maximo Park. They included some of the songs from their new album Too Much Information, playing to an enthusiastic crowd by performing the songs they’d just recorded in Sunderland. Maximo Park were on top form and sent the by now bedraggled crowd home contented if somewhat soggy.

Rob Mason

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