Posted: 11 Aug 2014
Mowbray Park, Sunderland
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
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