With its capacity to play tunes from any era and make them seem automatically trendy, it’s no surprise that BBC radio station 6 Music has jumped on the festival bandwagon. And where better to host it than the home of hip northern music, Manchester?
Aside from the practicality (considering the BBC’s recent shift up north) the city’s combination of underground musical history and an exciting, rejuvenated vibe seemed perfect for a celebration of a much-loved, niche public radio station. Held at the Victoria Warehouse – once a cotton mill, now a club venue – the 6 Music Festival featured a mini daytime fringe and a record sale, as well as two stages with huge acts and a Silent Disco (everyone wears headphones and has a great time dancing around while appearing, to the outside observer, like a bunch of maniacs).
Indoor music festivals are something of a contrast to a typical summer festival. Think leather jackets rather than daisy headbands, no wellies in sight and a massive dark warehouse to explore rather than muddy fields. But because BBC 6 Music is a beautiful and welcome contrast to mainstream radio this unfamiliar set up worked as a festival environment.
The crowd boogied in smiling soundlessness to Mr Scruff’s silent disco set, fairy lights and trees turned the main stage into an ethereal garden party and a serious Damon Albarn played none of his best hits. Stood in the midst of it, dancing, swaying and breathing it all in, I really felt that the brilliantly awkward ambience of cool radio had been joyfully recreated for both its loyal audience and the enthusiastic newbies. If this is what being alternative is, it worked, and I’ll willingly testify to Funk Messiah Craig Charles’s closing salutation: “God Bless you. God Bless 6 Music”.
So in keeping with the Manc theme here’s a list of the ‘Sound’ and the ‘Naff’ of the inaugural 6Music Festival…
Matt Berninger of The National climbing into a spellbound crowd during a performance of Mr November.
James Blake, just being James Blake and filling the smaller stage with some incredibly heavy bass lines.
Craig Charles, enjoying himself more than a robot wars competitor, being interviewed by Philippa Forrester, manically mouthing every song in his set and commanding the audience to “bounce” and “rest”.
Kelis, so far from the I Hate You So Much Right Now days, was a surprising Diana Ross style diva in a gorgeous dress.
Lykke Li’s sultry Swedish dream pop set.
Jake Bugg’s constant delivery of great music and hearty vibes…all of which I swear he performed staring at me (dreamy).
Haim being the greatest of pop rock acts with an amazing drummer (side note: his name is Dash Hutton, now that is rock and roll)
Franz Ferdinand’s stream of songs pounded the crowd with thoroughly enjoyable commands, such as “ake me out”, “do y’wanna?” and “walk away”…luckily no one did the latter.
The silent disco, which hosted a range of eclectic DJs, and changed what is normally a novelty late night festival billing into an engaging and innovative way to experience a live show.
Damon Albarn When your least melancholic song is Melancholy Hill, I don’t really think you’ve got the festival vibe down. Although his current repertoire is steeped in seriousness, and it was fantastic to hear his first live solo debut, it would have been nice to bop along to Park Life or at least mosh to Song 2. Even Kelis managed to bring Milkshake back to the warehouse’s yard, so take note Damon, we love you for a reason.
Disability access Although this was rectified on Saturday, Friday proved very difficult for my visually impaired friend. There is a viewing platform for disabled access, but unable to get in to it due to the sheer number of people, the event proved impossible. The key seemed to be going straight to the box office, and ensuring security staff would be able to help out.
Stage 2 was so, so full I loved the venue but I couldn’t help but think that somewhere with a larger capacity, or at least some video replay facilities, would have made Stage 2 more enjoyable.
Toilets It wouldn’t be a festival review without a toilet complaint. In this case, breeze block toilets were the criminal, with a friendly reminder that “it’s drip dry only ladies” solidifying the rankness…
Catch highlights from the 6 Music festival on BBC iPlayer, or by listening to the station itself this week