Neale McGeever

REVIEW: Split Festival Saturday – Dizzee Rascal, Hyde & Beast, and a few surprises

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Dizzee Rascal

Image © Split Festival

With three music stages and a host of other delights all crammed into Mowbray Park, Split Festival is on the smaller-scale of Festivals. Small, but perfectly formed, as with names like Dizzee Rascal, Tom Vek and Ocean Colour Scene on today’s bill, there’s definitely a big festival feel about it. In fact, one of the best things about this festival is the size of the site. Each stage is around 30 seconds from one to the other, so you’ll never miss a song.

Son Of Jack kick the weekend off on stage 2, providing an atmospheric start as we get settled into our surroundings of a typical ‘fest’: long queue at the beer tent, the smell of chips, random fairground noises muffled by a sound check in the distance. Over at stage 3 is The Firelight Opera, who seem to get the now full tent swaying to their tunes, the festival’s first surprise hit. Following them is a band called Waste Of Space, who certainly live up to their name. Some writers would move on but I’ll take this opportunity to warn up-and-coming bands that we are sick of the repetitive sub-indie that Jack Penate tried to flog in 2007. We didn’t want it then and we certainly don’t need it now. And breathe.

Cold Committee serve as a great replacement on Stage 2. Even though Split is all about giving local acts more exposure, it’s also an event to catch acts from across the UK, such as Cold Committee, who are from Wales. Some pleasant ditties to bring us up to the first act of the main stage.

The main stage introduces us to Big Beat Bronson, a colourful cartoon take on the hip hop genre, with influences of ska and ‘70s rock. Definitely entertaining, they remind me a little of Happy Mondays or even Beck. Also, that red three-piece suit but be a bit close on a sunny day like today. The Lake Poets wind down the afternoon at around 5.30, it’s good to see families and groups of friends sit down and chill out to the sounds of the local Sunderland based multi-instrumentalist.

Next up are another great North East act who are gaining momentum and somewhat of a following – Smoove & Turrell. It’s hard to believe these lads are from the North East when we hear such a soulful voice coming from a beady white man accompanied by flutes, saxophones, retro organs and the like. Best band so far and definitely compliments the sunshine we have today in sunny Sunderland.

Hop over to the second stage and we get something totally different. Bleech, a young grunge band from London. Extremely impressive and heavier than most acts at the festival, which is refreshing. Definitely a band to look out for in the future. Very reminiscent of The Breeders, Sonic Youth and you guessed it… Nirvana. Back to stage 1 and, from Ocean Colour Scene, Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison come armed only with an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a bass and their charm. As you can imagine they make their way through a lot of their singles that remind you of those hot summers on the mid-90s. An hour long set also gives them room to play some album tracks. This serves its purpose as the ‘sunset slot’ but 60 minutes is a little too long for an acoustic set, especially on the main stage.

After a much anticipated version of The Day We Caught the Train the crowd sing along before moving over to Stage 3, which is already packed out to see Hyde and Beast. It’s not just full the audience is spilling outside of tent at every exit. They haven’t even started and it’s clear this act should be on the main stage. It could be to do with the band releasing their latest album Keep Moving or possibly frontman David Hyde’s other band The Futureheads being involved with the organisation of the festival. Either way they don’t disappoint, starting with Blue, Hyde and Beast keep the summer alight after the sun has set. Close your eyes and you can imagine you are at a T Rex gig, Hyde’s voice emulates Marc Bolan, joined by Ex-Golden Virgins’ Neil Bassett and multiple young musicians, a perfect way to end a great day.

The show isn’t over yet though, we still have our headline act. In a day that we have explored indie, folk, grunge, glam rock, soul and BritPop – we have Dizzee Rascal. I understand why he is booked to play the event and is the headline act. The talent is there, and Dizzee has the respect of the indie community and has previously played rock dominated festivals like Leeds festival and even Glastonbury. Even so, this choice seems really jarring compared to the rest of the acts. Even so, he gives it his all. Making his way through his mountain of hits such as Bonkers, Fix Up Look Sharp, Holiday, Just a Rascal and Sirens, he proves  that he is definitely headline material, just maybe not for this particular festival.


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