JULY 2009: Live Review – Haigh Fest 2009

Who: Smudge, The VCs, The Adjusters, Snakes Hate Fire, TheBrokenDoor, Prose, The Klang, Before Autumn Falls, This Devastated Fan, Mr. Fist, Eighth Wave, Elias T. Hoth
Where: Haigh Hall & Country Park, Wigan
When: July 5th, 2009

The stage has been pulled down, thousands of music fans are back home with minor sunburn and the 2009 Haigh Music Festival is in the history books.

As the sun struggled to break through, blues rockers Elias T. Hoth opened things up with a strong performance. Greeting the descending masses with cuts from their recent album Let Sleepin’ Demons Lie, the band brought an old-school twist to the festival with some delightfully dirty rock.

Eighth Wave followed, joined at the front of the stage by an army of loyal fans who were clearly delighted to see them and lapped up the group’s powerful pop songs full of upbeat refrains masking simple-yet-effective lyrics about love and heartbreak.

If Eighth Wave brought a sense of conventional pop music to the table, Mr. Fist brought anything but.

Taking to the stage next with their leader adorned in a long brown dress and a balaclava, the ‘Fist clan did their best to turn the festival on its head with some seriously demented noise.

Doing exactly what you’d imagine it’s supposed to, their chaos-led performance gained them a lot of attention, along with arguably the biggest crowd of the day so far and it’s hard to argue that Mr. Fist were certainly one of the most unique acts on the bill, if not quite our cup of tea.

So we were more than happy when long time LINC favourites, This Devastated Fan showed up.

Whenever we’ve talked about these guys in the past, we’ve found it hard not to shower them in hyperbole. Yet the truth is TDF really don’t need us to tell you how good they are; they can quite easily show you just by walking on stage, plugging in and rocking the hell out.

We could tell you about how their sharp, gritty riffs sliced a hole in the sky through which the sun was able to shine gloriously over Haigh, or how the rhythms rumbled and the vocals exploded, but we won’t. Instead we’ll just say this, TDF were as good as they always are.

From one band we’ve raved about endlessly to another, Before Autumn Falls were next in line to do their thing for the Haigh crowd, and they did it well.

Vocally flawless, with scintillating lead guitars screeching over crunchy riffs backed by an enthralling dose of power, it’s always enjoyable to see these guys perform and their set at Haigh was no different.

As the rain threatened to spoil everything, The Klang kept spirits high with some summery indie-pop that sounded better live than we remember hearing on record.

That’s not to say we didn’t like what we heard when we last popped the band’s demo in the LINC stereo –of course we did- but simply that when its unleashed on the Haigh, The Klang’s affable, almost adorable tunes are really brought to life.

What’s more, far from simply lifting the clouds with some agile guitars and agreeable melodies, the four-piece really did their best to get the summery atmosphere in full flow; hurling beach balls into the crowd and being as lively and entertaining as possible.

Prose calmed things down a bit next with a set that was just as enjoyable and exciting on its own merit but which, with hindsight, somehow seemed to get lost between the beach-party atmosphere of The Klang’s set and the exhilaration of Thebrokendoor’s show-stealing performance.

By their very nature, the drum ‘n’ bass improv’ collective’s set is made up on the spot and proves to be a surprise highlight of the day, at least for us.

A cornucopia of sounds slammed into each other and ripped their way through Haigh with a buyount intensity as the crowd bounced and danced, led by two sublime MCs whose names we now sadly can’t make out in our notes (that’s what happens when we try to write stuff down whilst dancing in the midst of an enthused and lively crowd; sorry guys!).

With the afternoon turning to early evening, Snakes Hate Fire led us into the final stretch and wasted no time in establishing themselves as firm crowd favourites.

Thebrokendoor may have been our highlight up to this point, but it seemed that for the majority of Haigh Fest revellers, Grace Tither and her group of animated pop-rock stars were the ones to watch.

Having already performed earlier in the day at the St. Helens music festival may have given any lesser band an excuse to plead fatigue and phone it in, but Snakes Hate Fire were not about to present their legions of screaming fans with anything less than a phenomenal performance.

Their enchanting, guitar-driven pop music was delivered by a band clearly having the time of their lives and accepted with fevered gratitude by the biggest crowd of the day.

Spinning things on their head after such well-polished, sugar-sweet pop came The Adjusters, who ripped it up with some riveting old-school punk rock ‘n’ roll.

Taking no prisoners and rollicking their way through a set full of sharp bursts of raw, gutsy guitars, wild vocals and tumbling rhythms, the young punks whipped up the crowd into some good old fashioned slamming and made a serious challenge to Thebrokendoor’s title of our favourite band of the day.

Whilst taking a brief respite backstage before The Adjusters went on, our sneaky reporters overheard a rumour that The V.Cs were nowhere to be found, despite following on directly from the aforementioned punk outfit.

Thankfully, Wigan’s long-time favourites did turn up in the nick of time and were greeted to a huge ovation when introduced as the penultimate act of the evening.

They sounded different than we last remembered them, but that wasn’t much to worry about; bands change and evolve all the time. What was somewhat worrying however was that for at least their first two numbers, The V.Cs looked for all the world like they were going through the motions.

Yet before too long, the band’s spirits seemed to be lifted by their own bold and catchy tunes and all was right with the world once more as The V.Cs turned in an enjoyable performance.

Finally it all came down to Smudge.

Arguably the biggest band in the borough at this point in time, the boys wasted no time in proving why they deserved to headline this year’s festival by tearing up the stage with boisterous songs every bit as big as their unwavering popularity.

Having played all over the country in recent years, the borough’s favourite pop-punk heroes have had plenty of opportunity to perfect their electrifying stage show, and it certainly showed. Smudge were as fantastic as they’ve ever been and provided as exciting a finale to the festival as you could possibly hope for.

Until next year at least. Roll on Haigh 2010!
By Jack Conner

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