A spendid festival and up there as one of the best events of its size in the UK. Everything a smaller festival should be; a true celebration of talent, imagination, creativity and professionalism.
Following last year’s extreme conditions at Galtres, the 2012 festival was a model for any event wishing to minimise the impact of terrible summer weather. Of course there was some mud – it wouldn’t be a festival without it – but the efforts put in place this year reduced the impact to a minor nuisance rather than a nightmare. Many an event would be wise to look at Galtres as an example of how it should be done.
Plenty of festivals pay lip service to being an ‘arts’ event or being ‘family friendly’ or ‘having something for everyone’ (you know who you are!), but Galtres genuinely delivers on all these things and much more besides. Small AND perfectly formed, this is a festival where the bands are just a small part of a much greater experience. If you yearn for more than music in a field with camping then this is the festival for you. Just take the beer as one small example; this beauty has a real, genuine, 100% full-on Beer Festival going down as one of the many delights on offer. Galtres Festival actually began life as a beer festival and that heritage shows. We counted 100 plus different offerings; there were over 35 ciders for goodness sake – and a dedicated wine bar. We are talking real glass etched souvenir glasses and tasting notes with this baby. No wonder we had such a good time! There was a medieval village for the kids that was absolutely crammed with events and happenings all weekend. There was theatre, there was performance art, there was…. You get the picture.
What holds all this together and makes it so special are the people – the chilled crowd, the performers, the organisers and support staff; everyone is a player here. It all comes together. There is, indeed, a vibe about Galtres. A really friendly bunch and a great atmosphere. The festival prides itself on being a showcase for all that good in the locality – be it the beer, the food, the artists, or whatever. As a Manc it pains me to admit that there are some bloody talented and creative people in Yorkshire! Don’t get me wrong – Galtres pulls performers of international standing, but the sheer quality of the primarily local artists performing on the side stages are one of the main unique selling points about Galtres.
The event runs exclusively with live music through until 2am every night – so no wind down Sunday’s here. Along with the beer tent area, The Arts Barge tent is perhaps the twin heart of Galtres, particularly once the main stages close. You can relax on one of the many sofa’s and listen to some outstanding musicians, be it short, rapid fire sets, or longer, impromptu jam sessions. Usual suspects, the immensely talented Dave Keegan and Andy Stones, are typically in the mix somewhere or other. One particularly fine artist, Lee Parry, caught our eye this year; both in a formal set and as part of the jamboree. Splendid stuff. You are knee deep in musicians and creatives at this festival, at least in the bar! We shared a particularly excellent night over a Moonshine cider or two with Oxman Stage headliner and local raconteur Jonny Rizla, and the talented young up and coming singer songwriter John Ainsworth. It’s that kind of festival.
In what has become a truly awful summer, the facilities and preventative measures to combat foul weather really were first class and a credit to the organisers. There were even a few hours of sunshine on Sunday as a cruel reminder of how summer should be.
Musically, the festival was a cracker with excellent performances across every stage. Friday saw perhaps the best new band we’ve seen for many a festival – Panda Cubs. Shades of Joy Division, and Fields Of The Nephilim were all in the mix for this reviewer. Music with a serous head. Powerful stuff. Earlier, we’d kick started the festival with the excellent goodtime beats of Hope & Social before catching the polished Buzzcocks. I’d forgotten just what an excellent festie band Pete Shelley and the lads really are. All the hits and much more besides. We finished off the main stages with the aforementioned Jonny & The Rizlas. Brilliant R&B and probably one of the best covers of Shakin’ All Over I’ve heard. Ever. Great band. Yet another local talent, Marc Otway, regaled us in the Little Top to finish the day in style.
Saturday witnessed some great music, not least from the excellent Virginmarys, who, in Danny Dolan, must surely possess the most aggressive drummer in rock music! People would kill for a share of his drumstick expenditure. The Guillemots were simply exquisite; beautifully melodic songsters, but explosive when they needed to be. The mighty Ash, playing their last festival date of the summer, absolutely let rip. Generating probably one of the best audience reactions of the weekend this was a stunning set… has it really been 20 years? In another imaginative touch, Galtres offered up the Solid Air Sessions in tribute to the late great John Martyn over on the Firkin Stage. A celebration of acoustic singer-songwriting, there was none better than Jon Gomm on a bill absolutely crammed with talent. I don’t think I will ever witness a better masterclass of virtuoso acoustic guitar playing; the way that Gomm utilises the guitar as a percussive instrument simply has to be seen to be believed. An awesome musician. Some top comedy from Danny Pensive, a bit of silent disco and then the Arts Barge chill out sessions – what a Saturday night.
Sunny(ish) Sunday highlights included a couple of festival warhorses, in old stagers Seth Lakeman and Billy Bragg. Lakeman illustrated just why he is such a festival staple with a marvellous set. The guy is guaranteed to bring virtually any festival crowd to its feet and Galtres was no exception. Likewise with Mr Bragg; it’s a rare occurrence to label any festival act ‘inspirational’ but this passionate, thoughtful, funny, and immensely gifted man was a pleasure to share a field with. Hugely entertaining. You know exactly what you are getting with this pair and they both delivered. In Spades.
A jazz fuelled jam in the Arts Barge and more late night singer songwriter excellence from Ollie Web finally did for us and we ended this wonderful festival shattered, but grinning from ear to ear.
The festival’s strapline is “Beer-Cider-Music-Fun-Food”; you may argue about the order – but this reviewer thinks they got it spot on. Get this one in your calendar for 2013. Excellent.
Article by Barrie Dimond