Blackthorn Festival 2017 – Friday

The fifth year of Blackthorn arrives and this will be the third year Sonic Bandwagon have attended and covered the festival located within the beautiful setting of Etherow Country Park. Given how great a time we’ve had the past two years, this was a date that’d been saved for a while on the calendar.

After last year’s heatwave I knew months in advance that we wouldn’t be as lucky with the weather this year……and I was right. Not like a bit of rain would dampen our spirits though, the sheer energy that Blackthorn emits as a festival would be enough to make the weekend one to remember.

In anticipation of the bad weather, we decide to upgrade from our trusty two-man tent (which has served us so well at the past two festivals), in favour of borrowing a mammoth six-man beast that provided a lot of space and comfort for when the rain inevitably poured. Just one problem! For two people who aren’t very outdoorsy……we don’t know how to put it up. Fortunately, photographer, Richard McCann, pitches next to us like last year and he’s on hand to help.

We’re up and running and after everything is unpacked it’s time for a customary festival pint to have with some dinner from the wonderful choices available – token pizza was chosen.

Only two stages are in operation on the opening night: The Main Stage, housing the annual tribute acts, and the Meadow Stage, playing host to the Psychedelic Circus. This was a new concept and was ran by Control of the Going, who provided the bands for an evening of mind bending psychedelia – including a finale set from themselves. Unfortunately, much of the psychedelia clashed with the tribute bands I wanted to see, so it was difficult to switch between the two stages, especially with the unavoidable downpour later on in the evening.

Kicking off The Main Stage were Ohasis, and being a true Manc who grew up at the height of their fame – it was a must see from my point of view. They were superb, with the frontman being a dead ringer for Liam Gallagher in look, attitude and delivery. The others held no facial resemblance, but there was a definite likeness in their playing ability – bringing the 90s swagger to open proceedings and get the festival off to a flyer. Dressed in a zip up trackie top and bucket hat, I bounced about and sang along to a series of classics from the first two albums with my fellow Oasis loving peers. ‘Rock n Roll Star’, ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Wonderwall’ were a few tunes to mention that kept the crowd buzzing. It was also refreshing to be at an Oasis type gig and not be on the lookout for ‘warm pints of beer’ being thrown all over the place.

The Smiths Ltd were on shortly after, and having seen them on the same stage two years earlier, I was anticipating another stellar performance. They didn’t disappoint as another series of Manchester classics followed one after another to pacify those in the crowd that were around at the height of their popularity. ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, ‘This Charming Man’, and ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ were a few of the highlights. Just like ‘Liam’, with Ohasis, ‘Morrissey’ was a spitting image in looks, voice and mannerisms…and the Johnny Marr wasn’t far off too.

With the crowd well and truly warmed and the merriments reaching optimum levels, the final act, The Sex Pissed Dolls took to the stage, and were eye-catching in more ways than one – dressed in revealing PVC outfits with bras showing and make-up on overload. They looked fantastic, a proper set of femme fatales you wouldn’t dare mess with, and their stage presence and antics were in the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. With each member carrying names suited to a punk version of ‘Fox Force Five’ (Pulp Fiction reference) such as: Nancy Doll, Connie Rotter, Jilly Idol, Anna Key and Kitty Vacant, the expectancy was something a little devilish onstage. Not limiting themselves to solely playing Sex Pistols numbers, they unleashed a blistering set of classic rock and punk tracks upon the audience as the rain came firing down. ‘Rock n Roll’ by Led Zeppelin and Talking Heads’, ‘Psycho Killer’ were personal highlights amongst a fiery selection of rock that left the audience wanting more as they left.

Despite the weather not being ideal, the music was a success, and with four stages being fully operational on Saturday, it would make for an enticing day of underground music.

Photo by Richard McCann