Love Music, Hate Racism was set up to combat the poisonous politics of the far right - not with rhetoric and speechifying, but with a glorious celebration of the diversity of music on offer in and around Barnsley. This years main event was on a smaller scale than last year’s, but the line up was just as varied and exciting.
We got to the main stage in time to catch Alex Young - a singer-songwriter in the style of Tim Buckley - who made for a mellow start to the day and a good chance to enjoy a pint of beer in the warm, spring sunshine. Next up came Fleur D Lees - a local four piece playing upbeat rock with a bluesy edge to it. Lead singer Faye Watkinson really put her heart into the songs, particularly one called ‘Blue Rose’ and the final number ‘Miss Bitch’ - definitely a band to watch out for.
From relative newcomers to grizzled veterans, the headliners on the main stage were ‘Seventh Son’ who have been stalwarts of the local music scene for over thirty years. Classic head-down, foot up on the amp metal played with real flair and panache, and aided enormously by the charismatic presence of lead singer and front man Bri O'Shaugnessy who can certainly belt out a good rock song as well as bantering with the crowd about his memories of falling over in Peel Square. They played a good variety of songs, including the title track of their new album ‘Spirit World’, and closed with an encore of a superb cover of ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zep that had the crowd singing along.
After the main stage event, there was an huge variety of music on offer, with fifteen venues and dozens of acts to choose from. I had been assigned to cover the ‘White Bear’ so that’s where we headed for another refreshing pint of cold beer and a sit down on some comfy leather sofas just by the side of the stage area where the bands were playing.
Kicking things off were the band formerly known as These Black and White Flames. Apparently they are changing their name, but haven’t decided what to yet! They seemed a little shaky to start with, but soon hit their stride with solid drums and confident guitars that gave them a sound that was somewhere between the Stereophonics and Placebo. The standout of their set was a version of ‘Half a World Away’ - appropriately enough the theme from ‘The Royal Family’. That was probably as close as we got to a mention of Wills and Kate all day!
The next band were without a doubt the absolute highlight of the day for me. The Velcro Teddybears have a mature sound and confidence far beyond their years. They are an acoustic three piece band from Penistone consisting of Chaddy on vocals and rhythm guitar, Griff on lead guitar and Mike playing percussion on a wooden box, his legs and anything else that came to hand! They opened with an assured cover of Bad Moon Rising before moving on to their own material - all well worth checking out on Myspace. They are the natural heirs to the skiffle sound of the fifties, with an astonishing range of influences to draw on - they are surely destined for great things.
Following on were The Empire Signal, playing a blend of indie and alternative sounds - perfectly fine, but they didn’t really grab me in any way. The Gypsy Toes were on next and initially sounded promising with some interesting keyboards and an amazing set of bongos, but the vocalist really didn’t fit at all - I wrote in my notebook that they sounded like Muse fronted by Bob Dylan. If a band is ever destined to split up from musical differences, it is this lot I think.
A brief break to nip out and get a sandwich from Greggs, before the final band on the bill - Stellavision (which my iPhone kept wanting to autocorrect to Stella Idiom for some reason). Raw, uncomplicated and rock solid, they managed to engage the crowd (an eclectic mix of music fans, Saturday night drinkers and a succession of Hen Parties in fancy dress) with some excellent songs including ‘Times Like These’. Good stuff.
While Stellavision were packing up we got chatting to some people sat next to us who turned out to be The Jade Assembly, who had been down to play at Voudou - apparently it had been a bit dead there so they had decided to gatecrash the White Bear to play a ninja gig and jolly good they were too with a passionate edge to their political songs. Perhaps the lead singer John Foster was trying a little too hard to get the indie look right and he must have been sweltering with his buttoned up jacket on such a warm night. They made for a fine end to the evening, before we headed back to the station for the train home.
See you in 2012!