Rave-o-dale hits the right note as Cumbrian bands shine

Date: Friday 25th June 2010

WHAT a difference a year makes. The new and improved Ravenstonedalefestival site looked as pretty as a picture as music lovers of all ages donned sun cream and hats in preparation of a weekend of fun and frolics.

Nestled at the foot of the Howgills, High Greenside Farm was transformed into the sort of embryonic festival which evokes fantasies of what it might have been like attending an early Glastonbury.

Organised by the irrepressible Suzie Metcalfe, Rave-o-dale, as it was dubbed, represents all that is good about life in a self-reliant community where people go that extra mile in order to put on events which otherwise would never happen.

Having a stream running through the middle of the festival site added to its rural charm and created a real “get away from it all” feel.

Kicking off the musical festivities on the Friday night were Gale, a four-piece blues covers band from Penrith making a first time outing. They drew a small audience of spectators while the majority of festivalgoers watched the first half of England’s disappointing 0-0 draw with World Cup minnows Algeria which was being shown elsewhere on the site on a small television and makeshift big screen.

It’s never easy having a set time which clashes with an England World Cup game, but luckily for Manchester’s Girl Peculiar the first half was so uninspiring that those who did venture back over to the main stage tent stayed to check out their phenomenal set.

Lead singer Jenny Shuttleworth began proceedings with an intimate electro acoustic offering which sent shivers down the spine, before being joined on stage by the rest of her band mates. With Jenny having now picked up a rhythm guitar, the tempo was cranked up to 100 degrees. Highlight of the set was the awesome Bangers & Mash, which, according to Jenny, is about “sleepwalking and eating cake” quite acombination!

After watching England’s final feeble attempts at saving some face over in South Africa some light relief was needed and Penrith’s Pixydisc Recordings provided just the tonic. It’s always nice to see raw talent on show and here it was in abundance with some excellent vocal re-mixing of well-known tracks.

Taking things to an entirely new level though were the New Killer Family, from Lancaster, with a fully charged set packed with songs which simply cried out to be listened to. Lead singer Rob Park has a swagger that could envy that of Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. Atomic bomb alert here’s a band for the future, they’re nuclear.

It was great to see names back on the bill who had performed so well the year before in such atrocious weatherconditions, including The Missin Beats. They’re infectious Merseybeat stylings never fail to get a crowd moving.

However, for festival-goers who really wanted to get into the groove there was a wealth of choice on offer over at the dance tents with the phenomenal Stylus area pumping out house and techno nearby a darker and whole deal grimier world of drum ‘n’ bass.

On Saturday live music proceedings got underway on a beautifully sunny afternoon. One of the first acts on were a collective calling themselves Righteous Bees which featured some of Cumbria’s finest including Paddy Rogan, Jack Hartley, Michael Woodward, Jake Dakin and Louise Martin.

I’m not sure if owls are fans of the sun or not, they seem to be predominantly night time dwellers, but anybody who caught Alston’s Room Full of Owls’ early afternoon set would surely have felt pretty pleased with themselves. A band made of musicians from Alston and Penrith, they are flying a flag for Cumbrian music and deserve to go all the way.

In lead singer Fiona Clayton, Room Full of Owls have an extraordinarilytalented fontwoman, and if there was ever going to be day for fans of a strong female vocalist, then Saturday would have to be it.

Not only did Girl Peculiar return for a second set of the weekend, againreinforcing just how good a tune Bangers & Mash is, you also had Penrith’s Jenny Jones tearing the place apart in Birds Vs Planes and a banging headline set from Digital.is to enjoy.

Fans of live music must also have had little cause for complaint in witnessing a truly memorable set from electro rock Kirkby Stephen-cum-Leeds outfit Deathretro. Time away from their rural roots must have done them a world of good as they have now become the sort of proposition they always promised they could be.

Vocalist Kieran Harris leads the line from the front and when on song theanimal becomes a beast. Having stepped up to another level, just how far could Deathretro go? Talented musicians all, and with an ear for a killer tune, their destiny lies in their own hands.

Also taking to the stage on Saturday were rocking blues band Sidetracked, a side project featuring Set in Stone’s Billy Raine, of Crosby Garrett, and Martin Dent, of Ravenstonedale, with Jack Wolfendale on drums. This is rhythm and blues like it should be played with a great upbeat and positive feel. A track that should definitely be listened out for is one of their own called Nature’s Child.

A wonderful start to the festival season which provided a fabulous showcase for the wealth of Cumbrian talent out there. Long may it continue.