Little Mix @ Manchester MEN Arena

Little Mix provide VIP treatment for my birthday girl

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At some point in 2016, a text conversation went a little like this…

Wife: Little Mix are going on tour.  Shall we take Lana for her birthday.  It will be her first proper gig.  She’d love it.  They are playing Leeds.  Do you want to go too?

Me: Yep.  Sounds good.  I’m sure she’ll love it.  Yes, I’ll go too.

*Radio silence*

Several weeks later…

*signs on to internet banking*

Me: Err, Clare.  Have you spend £505 on Little Mix tickets?

*shudders*

It seems that my wife felt that Lana’s first experience of a proper gig (festivals not withstanding) should be amazing.  VIP tickets were therefore the order of the day.  In Manchester.  Sometimes it’s best not to argue.  I may have shaken my head once or twice and muttered the odd expletive, but at the end of the day, it was all about these two.  Particularly the taller one at the front, whose birthday it happened to be.

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As Manchester is over a 2 hour journey away, it was essential to stay the night, so we picked the kids up early on their last day before half-term and headed off to Manchester.  We arrived at the Premier Inn near the venue shortly before 6pm.  We set off almost immediately to the arena failing to find anywhere obvious that would sell some food on the way.

At the venue the security was reassuringly tight, without any unnecessary delays.  Upon entering we were directed towards the “VIP check in desk” *coughs*.  We were all handed our “The Up Close VIP Package” goodie bag.  This consisted of:

  • Great seat in the first 15 floor rows / best tiered seats
  • Exclusive VIP gift chosen by Little Mix
  • VIP tour programme
  • Exclusive VIP tote bag
  • Commemorative VIP show ticket
  • Collectable VIP laminate + lanyard
  • VIP check in desk

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Just a reminder that I had this VIP package too.  This means, I got this goodie bag full of IMG_1101stuff or another word beginning with s.  To labour the point slightly, we started the night with 4 programmes.  Four.  4.  I was hoping the VIP gift would be a t-shirt.  The girls could have had mine.  Instead it was headphones.  4 pairs of Little Mix headphones.  We had just bought Lana a pair of headphones for her birthday.  She has another pair now.

With the VIP gift not being a t-shirt, we headed to the merchandise stand and Lana spent some birthday money on a T, while Erin decided she would pre-spend some Christmas money on one.  Oddly there was only a select few available in the kids sizes, but they found ones they liked anyway.

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Anyway, stomachs were rumbling now.  Food choice: Hot Dogs or…well, nothing.  Hot Dogs it is then.  Hot Dog and a pint – £9.  With a soft drink – £7.  £32 lighter we all ate our quite substantial, but ultimately unsatisfying Rollover Hot Dogs.  The kids were hungry less than an hour later.  Oddly there was no-one selling snacks in the arena, unless you joined the lengthy bar queue.  A rare missed-opportunity to make some money.

We headed inside and took our front row seats.  Erin was initially disappointed thinking she wouldn’t be able to see as the stage was quite high, but she realised that wouldn’t be an issue when the first support act came on.

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Lina was first up.  Inoffensive Europop with a pretty decent piano ballad to open her 4/5 song set.  She was followed by Jessarae.  Justin Bieber sung in the style of Ed Sheeran.  Not my thing at all.  The crowd didn’t respond that well either, despite having got behind Lina.

 

I was taken aback by the advertising throughout the pre-gig entertainment.  Large screens at either side of the stage showed 4 or 5 music videos on rotation, with the artists and song title clearly displayed.  Lina utilised the screens during her set to advertise her website.  Effective, but not what I’m used to.  Little Mix were prominently spruiking their new fragrance.  Lana duly purchased this the following day with some more birthday money.  Effective.

Little Mix took the stage shortly after 8.30pm and opened with Power.  The kids love this song, however, Erin was clearly afraid of the plumes of fire jetting out of the stage.  They were noisy and at our vantage point, very warm!  It was impressive stuff. Lana loved it.  Erin cried on my lap for most of the first song.  She calmed after that, although was cautious for the 3 or 4 further tracks that utilised the fire jets.

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Black Magic (the girls favourite) followed.  There was something odd about the music for this with a thundering dance beat removing some of the poptastic class that the song usually has.  Regardless, the kids lapped it up.

 

What followed was an impressive show.  They utilised the full stage and the full venue.  There was one big screen across the entire width of the stage.  Throughout the show this showed a collection of crowd clips, backstage clips, video footage and live footage from the stage.  I’ve not been to a gig with such powerful screens before.  Top stuff.

 

Another of Lana’s favourites, F.U., followed from a platform rising from the stage.  When asked by an old couple in the hotel lift the following day, what her favourite song on the night was, without skipping a beat, she said F.U.  Oh, to be 9 and innocent.  Bless her.

 

The first costume change came after F.U. and they made there way onto a metal gangway that had been lowered from the roof.  They then performed a few songs from the back of the venue before making their way back to the stage.

 

I can’t really comment on the rest of the songs as, for me, they did blend a little.  That said, the pace was quick, the performance was upbeat and the show was good.  I found myself enjoying it throughout.  I’m not going to go out and buy a Little Mix album (Lana has them all anyway), but it was good.

 

After a second costume change they did a few more tunes before a quick three song medley before leaving the stage.  Lana was most impressed by being waved to by each member of the band at various point in the gig and there was also a brief a appearance on the big screen.  Happy, birthday girl!

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There was a final costume change before the encore and last song; Shout Out To My Ex.

 

The girls are unlikely to reach that kind of level of VIP-tastic immersion in the future, but they certainly enjoyed this one.

Little Mix Setlist Manchester Arena, Manchester, England 2017, The Glory Days Tour

 

Chase Park Festival @ Saltwell Park, Gateshead

The inclusive Chase Park Festival proves a huge success in the blazing summer sunshine

The Chase Park Festival is a one day accessible festival that I’ve now been to twice.  This year it relocated from Chase Park to Saltwell Park, retaining the Chase Park name and brand.  The Saltwell Park site was a perfect enclosed setting in the afternoon and early evening sunshine.

You can read all about this festival on their website.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you have a family (the kids loved the goodie bags from sponsors; Voyage Care & Honda and the free face painting).  The tickets were an absolute steal at less than £35 for a family of 4 (when we went in 2015 it was an astonishing £10 for a family of 4!).  If you are lucky enough to be a fan of any of the acts playing, then it’s incredible value, but if you aren’t, for that price it’s worth a punt regardless.  Two of the acts playing yesterday are two of my current favourite bands and I was able to reacquaint myself with a band I was a big fan of in the 2000’s.

The accessible aspect of the festival is what makes this unique.  There’s a huge mix of people of different abilities in a superbly organised, inclusive arena.  A second stage (band stand) demonstrated an outstanding array of talents from those who unfortunately don’t get many opportunities like this.

The pace of the music didn’t let up until the final three acts on the main stage.  Until that point, the acts on both stages alternated with barely a pause for breath, so there was no time for restlessness.

We missed the first act (Fiona King) on the second stage.  All (Percy Hedley, White Dove, The Twist) were entertaining, but the final act, The Soundbeam Band, were the pick of them for me, despite some unfortunate power cuts.

Present: I was there with my wife, Clare and our two girls; Lana & Erin.  Andrew was there with his daughter.  My brother, Mike, was there with his wife and two girls.  We set up for the afternoon and enjoyed a picnic in the sun while enjoying the music.

My daughter, Erin, has become a bit of a poster girl for the Festival’s press since we attended in 2015, with the following picture attached to virtually every article that pops up on social media feeds (just search chase park festival on google images and you’ll see):

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Drinks: Wylam Brewery provided an excellent bar and I enjoyed several Galatia during the afternoon.  My brother sampled each of their real ale offerings.  The only complaint about the bar was how busy it got after 5pm, but it’s always a tricky balance to know how busy it will be.

The bands…

James Leonard Hewitson opened the main stage with a thoroughly enjoyable set.  This was soon followed by Vito playing some good indie rock.  Alex Francis then slowed things down with a fabulous acoustic chilled out set in the blazing sunshine.  I’ll be adding Alex to my spotify playlist.  Boy Jumps Ship then turned up the volume and our kids went to the front and really enjoyed themselves (Andrew & I went for a bit of a trek to the nearest cashpoint for most of this set).

Cattle & Cane

One of my current favourite bands took the stage at around 5pm.  This is the 4th time I’ve seen them in the last 12 months and they never disappoint.  Both Lana & Erin declared them as their favourite of the day and you can’t fail to see why.  There’s a slight possibility of bias from my kids after we spotted Helen and Joe on site earlier in the day and they were kind enough to do some signings for all of our kids.  They are a band from teesside who deserve more recognition than they get.  The Poacher is always a set highlight for me, but Saviour wasn’t far behind.

Cattle & Cane Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017, Mirrors

Little Comets

I’ve seen Little Comets 3 times now and they seem to be getting better each time.  I think this set just edged it as my favourite on the day.  The band seemed to be really enjoying themselves and that always seems to add something to the show.  There were loads of highlights form this set; Bridge Burn (Lana’s favourite), The Man Who Wrote Thriller, Joanna, A bientot, Dancing Song to name a few.  Another band that deserve more recognition (latest album, Worhead, deserved a higher chart placing than 83), but I’m glad I was introduced to them back in 2015.

Little Comets Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017

The Coral

Headliners on the day were The Coral.  I’ve caught The Coral 5 times now, but most of these were in the early 2000’s.  I became less familiar with their albums after 4th album, Roots & Echoes, but I plan to get reacquainted after this excellent headline slot.  It was really only the middle of the set that I was unfamiliar with, but it was a good career spanning retrospective.  There were some incredible guitar solos on show here, and the crowd were heavily involved on the way to a crowd-pleasing end with Dreaming Of You.

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The Coral Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017

If you’ve never been to the Chase Park Festival or have never heard of it, then it would be well worth keeping an eye out for their offering next year (fingers crossed there is one) as it’s sure to be something special.

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Deer Shed Festival 8

An awesome family festival that I’d recommend to anyone. Loads to do, great music, great atmosphere and great company.

This is the third year in a row that we’ve been to the Deer Shed Festival and we’ll be going again next year.  Amy nudged us all in the direction of this “family friendly” festival back in 2015 and it’s now a permanent fixture on the calendar.

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DS6 & DS7 were superb and this probably topped them both.  The line-up isn’t packed with household names, but it’s fair to say that for me the music is a bonus as there is so much else to do there.  The website notes this as a family friendly festival and it most certainly is.  There’s so much to do and explore that every year we reflect on how much we missed.  The organisers do a fantastic job of making sure there is something for everyone and it would be fair to say that the kids activities are for the big kids too!

This year our kids did the following activities; fashioned a bow and arrow in the wilderwild, created “arty stuff” (screen print & designed bunny kids), did a forensic investigation, slack lining in the sports field, fairground rides, made paper airplanes and a paper dodecahedron…

You literally could spend all day in the sports field, science tent and wilderwild, but then there’s music across 4 main stages on top of that.

Deer Shed 8

Present at this one: Clare & I with Lana & Erin, Set & Amy with James & Ewan and Andrew with Mayu and Shumei.  The kids are aged from 4 to 9, but there’s something for everyone of any age.

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Food: the food is always great.  There’s a broad range of foods available from a variety of cultures.  I had Mac n Cheese, Red Thai Curry & an awesome steak & ale pie & mash.

Beer: probably the one frustrating thing about DSF is that you aren’t allowed to take any alcohol into the arena.  I know that’s standard at most festivals, but I’ve been spoiled at Glastonbury.  Nevertheless, that’s a minor complaint and the beer on offer is great.  Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as the Obelisk bar which had around 30 ales available.  I stuck with the main bar and enjoyed a few pints of the excellent Mary Jane and the specially brewed Wilderwild.

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Music: as always we created and shared a spotify playlist in advance.  I hadn’t heard of many of the bands in advance and so have now picked up a number of new favourite bands / artists.  I was looking forward to Teenage Fanclub anyway, but most of the others were pretty new to me and in fact many of the ones I did know were just because of previous DSFs.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see anyone on either the In The Dock or the Obelisk stages, but that’s the perils of having a family!

Friday

Happyness turned out to be the first band I caught on Friday.  I was familiar with a couple of tunes from the playlist and the played to a crowd that was beginning to build as the day wore on.

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Honeyblood were the main support on the main stage.  They’ve got some great tunes and have a good stage presence.  They can certainly make some noise!

I then caught a bit of Jesca Hoop on the Lodge Stage before the main headliners.

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Teenage Fanclub were awesome,  I saw them back in November and they were equally good tonight.  It was a career spanning set with a focus on their latest album, Here (4 out of the 16 tracks were from this one).  The tracks from my favourite two TF albums were my highlights (Grand Prix & Songs From Northern Britain), but it was all good.  Shame there was no encore, but it was still a treat.

Teenage Fanclub Setlist Deer Shed Festival 2017 2017

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Saturday

Two all female groups kicked off the music on Saturday.  The Big Moon were in fine voice and She Drew The Gun started the poetry theme that spanned to the headline slot.  I enjoyed both and will certainly be following The Big Moon in the future.

Sandwiched in the middle, Ste & I managed to catch the second half of the Roddy Woomble set on the Lodge Stage.  It was enjoyable, although I was hoping for a sneaky Idlewild track.  He may have played one and we just missed it.  I plan to check out some of his solo stuff after seeing this.

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King Creosote was next (after a fast spin on the Ferris Wheel), followed by Ibibio Sound Machine.  ISM aren’t my thing, but they certainly got the crowd dancing.

We all then went to see John Smith on the Lodge Stage.  He was great.  I hadn’t heard of him before the line-up was announced and I can see myself getting an album before long.  I might have got one that night in the march tent had events not conspired against me.  I had Erin on my shoulders for the last 3 or 4 songs and she was enjoying the sweet sounds.  She was obviously enjoying it so much that she drifted off.  We were all amused as she continued to stay asleep as the set ended and we left the tent.  The heavens then opened…

…as we headed to our base in front of the main stage.  With Erin asleep and clearly struggling, Clare and I decided (as did Andrew and his kids) that we wouldn’t brave Kate Tempest.  Not our thing anyway, but the weather took a turn for the biblical.  We were all saturated by the time we got back to the tent.

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Sunday

The festival has a shortened Sunday and consequently you get a feeling that the weekend has gone very quickly.  You can stay over on Sunday night for an extra £50, but we’ve only done that the once.  We only caught two bands on the final day as we emerged ourselves in the Wilderwild and the sports field.

Teleman were one of my most anticipated new (to me) bands.  They didn’t disappoint.  There’s something joyous about finding a new band that you take to.  It’s an almost certainty that I’ll have bought Brilliant Sanity within the next few months.

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The Sunday night headliner was another band that I’ve never really “got”, but you could tell that most of the crowd certainly did.  The Divine Comedy ended proceedings and left us all adding the early bird DS9 ticket sale date to our diaries.

Weather: the weather was variable.  The Friday was pretty awesome, Saturday was pretty patchy and then insane rain.  Sunday was pretty good with the odd showers.  If you come prepared with wellies, then it really doesn’t matter.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this a great festival.  See you next year!

 

Busted @ Bents Park, South Shields

Busted deliver a gig like no other band I’ve seen this year (or ever?)

We are off to see Busted with the kids next month btw…are you excited? 😂

The above was a text from my wife to me whilst I was at the home of music, Glastonbury.  Clearly I had no say in this. The kids would no doubt be happy.

I got home to discover that this was a free event as part of the South Tyneside Festival.  However, we’d bought priority tickets at £5 a piece! Bargain.

This was a decent event – especially for those that got in free. There were 4 acts on in quick succession, so there was little time to get bored between them.  I gather there was quite a queue when it opened (12 noon for priority ticket holders), but we didn’t arrive until until about 1.30pm and sailed straight through.  The weather was pretty great all afternoon, so that was a bonus.  All the support acts were local.

Sonny: the only local performer to do his own tracks (from what I can remember) until he closed with a medley of covers. He sounded pretty decent and was a nice way to start the day.

Call On Sunday: played covers for the younger audience members. Sounded good.

The Understudies: played covers for the older audience members. I really enjoyed these. Covers included; Franz Ferdinand, ELO, The Beatles, Buggles, AC/DC, Pulp…

Busted: I’m not sure how interested Busted were in this. Charlie Busted’s eyes seemed lifeless behind his shades and they didn’t hang around at the end of their set.  I’m pleased to say I didn’t know as many Busted songs as I feared I might.  The girls seemed to enjoy it, although they were pretty exhausted in the sun after a great morning playing in a football tournament. The definitely enjoyed Year 3000 and a few others. You can see why Busted have some appeal and there were tonnes of people singing.  It’s not music made for me. That’s fine. I was there for the girls and it was good value, even with priority tickets.

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For what it’s worth, here’s the setlist (I submitted this, but only thought about it 5 or 6 songs in – so it’s incomplete – and relied heavily on lyric searches on google!)

Deer Shed Festival – Deer Shed 7

Amber Arcades Lodge
Beth Orton Main
C Duncan Lodge
Cattle & Cane Main
Ed Harcourt Main
Everything Everything Main
Fronteers Main
Lanterns on the Lake Main
Misty Miller Main
Richard Hawley Main
White In The Dock

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Chase Park Festival feat. Turin Brakes

Headliners: Ash
Support Act: Turin Brakes (pictured)
Others on the bill: Slug, Blizzard, Hot Soles

Deer Shed Festival – Deer Shed 6

Acts watched (Chris)

Black Rivers In The Dock
Cattle & Cane The Obelisk
Dan Croll In The Dock
Diagrams Main
Emmy The Great Lodge
Frankie & The Heartstrings Main
Honeyblood In The Dock
Ibibio Sound Machine Main
Rozi Plain The Obelisk
The Hinds Main
Villagers Main