The success of the inaugural Hit the North Festival last year meant a welcome return for the festival last weekend. Although perhaps not boasting as many big names as last year, the increase of local talent made it just as enjoyable. Taking in twelve acts across five different venues makes this inner-city festival a brilliant concept and one that with any luck will continue for the foreseeable future.
One opening party saw Indie quartet Circa Waves supported by the brilliant Sunset Sons take to the O2 academy in front of a raucous crowd. Although they perhaps took some adjusting to the larger setting, Sunset Sons grew into their set whilst the crowd simultaneously warmed to them. Offering up classics as well as treating us to a first listen to a couple of tracks off their upcoming EP ‘The River’, they were a very decent opener to the weekend. Following on were the lads from Liverpool, trading in Newcastle Student Union for the O2, they seemed well suited to the bigger environment. They rattled through their setlist opting for a greater emphasis on their older material, a slight pity which led to the one disappointment of the night- a distinct lack in change of tempo. Of course fans go to see the anthems they have produced, however, they could have benefited from slightly better set management to offer up one of their slower but equally brilliant songs. Overall they were a perfect addition to open up the weekend, albeit slightly predictable.[pullquote]Sunset Sons grew into their set whilst the crowd simultaneously warmed to them[/pullquote]
Saturday night headliners Peace took to the Riverside a day later, fresh off the back of their third LP Kindness is the New Rock n Roll Although somewhat plagued by a dodgy sound system which resulted in around a ten minute delay before they came on, they battled against it well and produced a stellar set. The performance of some songs from their new album may take some fine-tuning yet but it was a routine full of promise on their return from their three year absence. Perhaps a surprise for a band renowned for their own up tempo singalongs such as ‘Lovesick’ but their best moments came when they played a trio of slowed down songs, one from each album including ‘California Daze’ and one of the first plays of ‘From Under Liquid Glass’. These captured the crowds’ attention whilst allowing Harry Koisser’s vocals a chance to shine. What Peace perhaps lacked in the polished nature of Circa Waves’ set (to be expected after such a long absence) they more than made up for with the way they managed the set, crowd and tempo of the evening.
Then came the busiest day, Sunday. Despite seeing eight varying acts, there were some obvious standouts. Geordie locals The Pale White and The Old Pink House produced performances well worthy of the stages they were on- hopefully which will lead to an opportunity to have their own headline slots in venues equally as big in the future. A predictable but very welcome highlight was that of Blaenavon. Also giving fans a first listen to some new tracks alongside brilliant songs such as ‘Lonely Side’ and the fan favourite ‘Prague ‘99’, the trio’s well-polished and energetic set was a sign of the continuous growth of Hampshire’s finest.
Sunday just kept producing as with a quick walk in the glorious weather from Boiler Shop to Riverside there was a short but sweet set from female fronted Pale Waves. Heather’s unique stage presence kept all eyes firmly on her as they produced an absorbing set, albeit a lot shorter than billed.[pullquote]Heather's unique stage presence kept all eyes firmly on her[/pullquote]
By this point the day had unfortunately peaked, a trip back to where it had started on Friday evening, the O2, was the scene for the biggest disappointment of the weekend. Closers and supposed headliners Rat Boy may as well call their next album ‘Music for Moshpits’ as that seemed the only aim. The single ‘Move’ was a rare decent moment in what was otherwise loud, aggressive music just for the sake of it.
Overall the festival was a success and a brilliant concept to showcase local and up and coming talent. One area of improvement required would be to ensure they know how long artists plan on performing for as on more than a couple of occasions, bands billed to be playing for an hour were done in half that time leaving some extended periods of waiting. However, with any luck and a bit of fine-tuning, this festival will become a mainstay in the North Eastern calendar.