A cracking weekend. Shiiine 2017 was never simply an ‘indie meets dance’ mashup. There is far more depth to this excellent gathering than a couple of musical themes and a collection of beanie hats. There is very astute and clever programming going down here. They have a cunning plan. Shiiine very successfully captured the mood of a period in time – not just a musical genre. Alongside Indie and House there was everything in the mix here to tell the story – from acid jazz to folk-rock, from reggae to electro-beats. Overlay the music with some brilliant documentaries, talks, and exhibitions and Shiiine pulls it all together to define a generation – not simply in musical tastes but in the whole culture of the times. The artists on offer were excellent – but in its third year Shiiine is actually bigger and better than the sum of individual artists now. Shiiine provides a window into a place in time; for most punters their youth, which not only shaped their musical tastes, but fundamentally defined who they are as people. Shiiine captures the vibe of a whole generation. It’s a melting pot. An annual pilgrimage for like-minded souls to meet and bond, whatever their musical peccadillos – why? Because they were there. It was their time. Each year the bands will change to illustrate the point, but the Shiiine event will grow and prosper in its own right ‘cos it’s got one hell of an important story to tell.
The location helps of course. The Butlins Minehead resort is excellent. Shiiine is a seriously good indoor music festival which happens to be hosted by Butlins… and it absolutely rocks. A few of the uninitiated out there still dismiss the whole concept of ‘music weekends’ in general and Butlins in particular. Never have they been more wrong. It’s a festival fix in winter! No mud, no tent, and no plastic toilets! It’s everything that’s great about the UK’s summer festival scene – with none of the hassle. It’s a festival and concert rolled into one – but with your own bathroom and comfy bed. The whole Butlins holiday resort experience is very much 21st century; the range of accommodation, eateries, and facilities is huge and the focus on quality is commendable. Forget all about Redcoats and Hi-de-Hi! If you’ve not been to a Butlins in years, if at all, you’ll be amazed at what a great, high quality experience they provide. Oh and don’t confuse the dedicated music bashes like Shiiine with the themed fancy dress events. This is a real music festival scene!
For an indoor weekend bash Shiiine is pretty big – with around four thousand attendees and is spread across the huge modern pavilion. The main Skyline stage can comfortably swallow thousands, with perhaps upwards of a thousand apiece in the Centre Stage and adjacent Reds Stage. Throw in a couple of smaller stages and there is a hell of lot going on musically. There are a couple of exhibition spaces too, and the wider site has a massive waterworld complex with afternoon pool parties if that’s your bag! There are bowling alleys, and pool rooms, and arcades, and sports bars, and quality restaurants, and…. OK OK you get the general picture. It’s a top location for a festival like Shiiine.
The audience is on the button too – happy smiley people up for a good time but as diverse as the music on offer. They are fostering a community vibe thang at Shiiine and its lovely. There is a real sense of oneness and shared experience amongst the crowd and the artists thrive off it. It all works together and makes for a great atmosphere.
The biggest complement FFA reviewers can pay any event is the struggle to decide who to exclude from the review. We saw many many class acts but who wants a list? So… here are just a few FFA highlights of a stunning weekend. We saw lots, we missed even more. Life is all opinion. If you were lucky enough to be there (and lucky enough to remember), you’ll have your own highlights – this happens to be ours…..
What a cracking opening act to kick-start festivities for FFA on Friday. Jim Bob’s simple acoustic set was absolutely splendid. Carter USM’s smart-arse lyrics were always as sharp as razors, and stripped down to acoustic format they shone like beacons, perhaps more relevant today than ever. Songs like ‘The Impossible Dream’ were revealed in all their fragile beauty and nearly brought a tear to this wizened old reviewers eyes. A great crowd reaction for the man and a wonderful performance. FFA were up and running. The Levellers are old stagers who always provide value and their excellent headline slot did not disappoint. A truly class act that had the cavernous Skyline stage bouncing. A rocking greatest hits set from one of THE bands on the festival circuit. Shiiine was already proving to be rather good! Throw in some stunning acid jazz keyboards from Corduroy, A Manctastic indie set from the wildly underrated Space Monkeys, and more soul fused acid jazz from Freak Power and Friday was shaping up nicely. Oh how Freak Power’s Jesse Graham tried to work the crowd – but they were all over at Centre Stage for The Clone Roses! Now having ‘copy bands’ on the same bill as original artists sits very uncomfortably with this reviewer; “it does no one any favours” I always sniff - but in fairness the band were good and the crowd reaction was, frankly, wild. They were stood on chairs whooping and singing and it was a great party vibe … so what do I know :). With late night DJ sets across multiple venues from the exalted likes of Clint Boon, Tam Coyle, and Dave Rowntree it was easy to do the rounds until silly-o-clock. A great first night.
Saturday again illustrated the multi genre, shape shifting nature of the Shiiine beast with some stunning artists from across the musical landscape. Starsailor surprised FFA with one of the sets of the festival. It’s a rare trick to mine a twenty odd year back catalogue, shake off a Brit-Pop Band label, and yet still sound contemporary - but Walsh and crew managed it with aplomb. ‘Four to the Floor’ was the crowd favourite but the band absolutely nailed it with a stunning version of ‘Good Souls’. Excellent stuff. Aren’t Fun Lovin’ Criminals a great band? Their sleazy hip-hop NYC rock always hits the spot and Mr Morgan and crew were in fine form. It’s always nice to witness experienced musicians genuinely enjoying themselves on stage – and the guys, and the crowd, had a ball. Blimey – Wolfgang Flur! Some cracking beats from the ex Kraftwerk man. Certainly the wrong time slot (10:30pm), and maybe even the wrong festival, but the guy laid down some awesome soundscapes. The Real People’s scouse Alt-Rock hit the mark before yet another genre change. Lovers of the darker corners of Indie World were in for an absolute peach of a time – The Wendy’s were splendid over on the Jaks stage with dark songscapes in a stripped back, understated performance. What better way to set the scene for A Certain Ratio! This Manc band had completely passed me by, so no bias – but this FFA reviewer would most ‘umbly rate their performance as one the sets of the entire weekend. A dark, moody, claustrophobic 1am set that sent shivers down the spine. Still ‘avant-garde’ for want of any defining label, the band simply excelled. Jez Kerr remained largely seated except to vocalise the crackling dark energy which engulfed the Reds auditorium. Bass, drum, and percussion duties were shared across the band. It was all a bit of a musical extravaganza as Denise Johnson, with a voice as pure as the driven snow, provided some lovely vocal flourishes. One to lay down in the memory banks. A stunning set. Some excellent late night beats from DJ’s Farley & Hellier saw us through to bleary-eyed beddy-bye’s.
Non-Music and spoken word can make a festival. Astute programming of related documentaries and interviews can define and conceptualise the acts that you see on the stages. It helps crystallise their impact and motivation, and, in a wider context, positions a whole musical movement and its relevance to the times. Well, the good people at Butlins excelled themselves with the Sunday afternoon combo over on Centre Stage. First up was an In Conversation with Steve ‘The Adj’ Atherton & Phil Smith. The Adj was former tour manager for the Stone Roses, amongst much else. Smith just let the man talk. Soooo funny, and insightful into the mood, ethos, and culture of the time. Said more about the 80’s and 90’s in a couple of tall tales than a library of books. Then a film screening of the excellent ‘Do You Own The Dancefloor’ – which not only nailed the whole Hacienda culture, but captured the mind-set of those desperate for a physical reminder of the demolished club… I felt quite proud of my home town! It is a wonderful documentary and all for charity too. Do check it out HERE. The Wedding Present captured the sounds of the moment before Peter Hook & The Light blew us away. Hooky has a natural stage presence and of course it was the Joy Division and New Order tunes to the fore. Surrounded by a fine band, hearing the man himself deliver the classics was a very special moment for this reviewer and much of the enthralled crowd. Wonderful stuff. Happy Mondays? You really need to sort yerself out Shaun lad. Shiiine just had to finish on a bang – and what a cracking ‘aftershow party’ they laid on courtesy of two of the hardest working bands on the festival scene. Wonderful scheduling from the organisers. Good times are virtually guaranteed with Dub Pistols and their high energy hip-hop beats. Ashworth, as always, was on top form for yet another splendid set. Dub Reggae legends Dreadzone did for FFA with a stomping set of largely new tunes, including the excellent ‘16 Hole’. The place went crazy one last time for old favourite ‘Captain Dread’ and FFA finally staggered home very happy bunnies.
So there you have it. A wonderful weekend of music from a festival that has managed to absolutely nail the spirit of the age. As I said at the top, Shiiine will thrive ‘cos it captures the soundtrack of people’s lives. Can’t wait for chapter four!
Article and cheesy snaps by Barrie Dimond
Check out Shiiine On Weekender 2018 HERE.