York Sports Club, Shipton Road, York
Sat June 27, 2015
You know you’re at a family festival when there are almost as many ice cream vans as stages.
This year’s Apollo Fest had three different options when it came to the white stuff, and in sunshine so unabashedly glorious we felt like we had to thank someone for it there were queues of all ages, shapes and sizes streaming away from them for the entire ten-ish hours the festival was on for.
Even for non-music enthusiasts, there was a hell of a lot to do, with a good few fairground rides (mostly spinners – to be avoided after a Lincolnshire Foot-Long Hot Dog), ‘lob a loo roll’, the traditional festival flower crowns and ornate face painting, with a constant, tantalising scent on the air of something frying.
My day began in the Rick Witter Premiere tent with probably the youngest group of the day.
4 Pint Milk have an average age of 15, but their knowledge of indie tunes from throughout the ages and sheer technical ability proved more than a match for many local covers bands of a more conventional age.
Honestly, they were as tight as the back end of a cat, with bass-and-vocalist George Robinson’s rehearsed northern nasality excellently recalling messrs Turner and Bugg over Sonny Leach’s eye-openingly dextrous guitar, including star turns on This Charming Man and, brilliantly, the entirety of I Am The Resurrection.
Their 20 minutes was followed by the slightly more experienced but just as entertaining foursome The Shots, another band forged in the blazing inferno that is Huntington School’s music department.
Since I last saw them a couple of months ago, their sound has definitely evolved into fulsome and earthy tones, focusing more on the rhythm section of George Barwick on bass (said instrument bearing a sticker which simply read ‘I like Belgium’) and drummer Mike Elders.
His piledriving rhythms held together tracks like a proper balls-out cover of My Chemical Romance’s Na Na Na, faultless except for the lack of backing vocals – and therefore ‘na na nas’ – on the chorus.
Their one original, entitled Eat Their Hearts, was a slick bit of indie songwriting that fitted right into their set and alerted me to the fact that at some point I’d love to see an entire set of theirs comprised solely of original tracks.
Frontman Dougie Turner, whose cheekbones could cut through diamond, perfected Van McCann’s drawl on closer Homesick while Tom Snashall on guitar played with nuance for a swelling and engrossing finish to a solid set.
They were followed by Black Lagoons, another school-formed band, this time from Millthorpe. They already have an August headline slot at Fibbers pencilled in.
You could see why – their raging energy and the powerful grunt behind their riffs were both outstanding. Though for me they’ll probably better suit a late-night slot at Fibbs rather than a sunny tent, so the audience can properly throw themselves about. Believe me, they’ll want to.
After an excursion to the waltzers (fun) followed by a sausage bap (delicious) I nipped round a few sets in quick succession.
Firstly I caught acoustic three-piece Mohawk Radio on the Ebor Rock Um stage. Lead singer Mia Page had a dynamic, Florence-esque voice, yet for me she did occasionally share the same problem with said redhead of overpowering her elegant backing musicians.
Wall of sound
Back to the land of Witter for a quick burst of Faraday Waves, a Yorkshire band through-and-through with chiming, rhythmic indie tunes that perfectly suited the chilled buzz of the day.
Nicking bits of disco and harder rock here and there, this was truly toe-tapping stuff, and having a five-strong gang crammed onto the relatively tight stage only added to the energy radiating out of there.
Next up was 17-year-old songwriter Matt Philpott, fresh from an EP launch at the Basement last Saturday.
The highlight was his reworking of synth pop classic Take On Me in first acoustic then reggae style – a total reinvention that was hooky and clever. Plus his quiff was truly excellent.
The oddly named Happy Daggers (what does that even mean?!) on the main stage were actually pretty good. Their jagged Chic-like riffs were extremely taut with Get Yourself Together especially sounding like a potential sing-and-dance-along that went perfectly with the jugs of Pimm’s casually imbibed by many an audience member.
The next full set I saw took place back in the Ebor tent performed by another of those bands I’ve heard mentioned on the scene but never got round to seeing, Apollo Junction.
Despite a lack of keyboardist (a computer was the substitute, disappointingly) and some slight technical issues early on, their eight-song show provided many an impressive wall of sound. Tracks like If I Fell were reminiscent of early 21st century U2 while Paris would not have been out of place in a car advert with its evocations of MGMT.
Two bands I’d seen before who had evening slots were Armonia and Everlate, the former delivering a perfectly pleasant set of acoustic covers with exceedingly pretty harmonies, particularly a gorgeous rendition of Wake Me Up by Avicii. Though they’re a one trick pony, their trick is lovely.
Everlate are a touch overrated in my book.
They are often compared to Snow Patrol, which is okay if you like Snow Patrol, but I don’t really.
I hadn’t seen them before as a full four-piece, and they did produce some tremendously sunny, pounding, Kid Wave-style finales which were very poppy and uplifting but not very interesting. Certainly suitable for Apollo, though.
The big names
Finally, the group of us plonked ourselves just behind the standing mass of about a hundred people before the main stage for the big names, beginning with middle-aged Scousers Space, a band I’ll ashamedly admit to not having heard of before the festival line-up was revealed.
Now though, I’m a fan – unnervingly catchy tracks like Haunted Houses and particularly Boy In A Body Bag blended Sparksian subject matter and humour with dramatic, proggy structures that occasionally verged on the baggy side but mostly remained varied and ridiculous enough to keep me engaged.
Charlie M with its ingenious sample of Hooked On A Feeling was a personal favourite, taking in bizarre stream-of-conciousness rap (‘there goes Elvis, looking for his pelvis’) and some truly gnarly soloing preceding the legend that is Female Of The Species, complete with ridiculously slinky intro, which got a truly huge crowd response.
I’ll definitely be checking out their singles collection.
You can buy prints of Marc McGarraghy’s great photos by going here
The headliners, in keeping with the quality of the rest of the festival, were fantastic.
Based on a phenomenal Farfisa keyboard sound that is a natural progression from Highway 61-era Dylan through early Elvis Costello and Rattus Norvegicus, Inspiral Carpets really were enjoyable.
Their tracks are just meant to be performed live, with the magnificent Clint Boon contributing not only those keys but also a wit so dry it could drain the Ouse.
Mass singalongs broke out to the likes of the now quarter-century old She Comes In The Fall whilst Dragging Me Down was met with drunken pogoing en masse.
Newer track Let You Down, originally guesting fellow Manc John Cooper Clarke, was the penultimate song, and it was brilliant, fluctuating to a climax of repeated howls of ‘I let you down!’, while their formidably catchy encore of Saturn 5 – what else? – was rapturously received.
I really, really loved the Inspirals’ set, and it was the cherry on the icing on the cake of a relaxed, fantastic day in what was basically a big field that, for one day each year, turns into a genuine family festival of fun.
I will definitely be back next year.