As Skeleton Coast Festival returns for it’s third year, this time to the beautiful Leasowe Castle, Getintothis’s Lucy McLachlan joins the big love in.
Well this is all very civilized.
A lovely old building set in very respectable grounds, it’s like we should be lounging around on deck chairs drinking Pimms and lemonade. We’ve come to see a rock show? Where’s the croquet lawn? Venturing over to the Wirral, it’s nice to get some fresh air and be away from a standard Saturday night in Liverpool.
Skeleton Coast Festival returns for it’s third year, no longer in Hoylake, we’re going a little more upmarket. It is The Coral‘s album launch after all. However, with the change of scenery and line up full of Skeleton Key Records artists and best mates, we’re wondering if the festival’s well loved community spirits will still be intact.
As we’re browsing some original artwork by Ian Skelly, in an elaborate but cosy wood panelled drawing room, a kind fellow comes in to tell us the first band are starting in 10 minutes. Nice one, thanks for letting us know. A quick glance at some Coral album covers we recognise, there’s also the new Nick Power book on sale and we go to find the main stage.
We’re greeted by Dr Octagon’s hip hop blasting out of a lovely old ballroom, there’s a standard hotel function bar and standard vomit patterned hotel carpet, complete with chandeliers. We’re wondering what the hotel guests checking in are thinking about all this.
Peach Fuzz have come festival ready with face glitter. Perhaps it’s not that type of festival. Yet. They bring big guitars and synths like something from a John Hughes film. With their song Softie about ‘the bullshit surrounding men’s health’ they’re holding attention and we didn’t notice the keyboard dramatically fall off the stand during the set. We promise. However, the crowd are stood too far away and are a little subdued. At this point we’re still pondering if we should have gone for festival glitter boobs or if there was actually a cocktail attire dress code.
Next we’re moved to a bright and airy chapel, we can drink beer in a chapel guys!
Niamh Rowe’s vocals fill the room, her celestial voice singing about wedding bells, it’s pretty perfect to be honest. Captivated from the minute you walk in, there’s a vaulted ceiling, natural light and wooden church pews.
We also notice no chatting during The Sundowners singer’s set, pure silence, everyone watching, no phones out. Bliss. Her last song got a collective gutted aww from the audience, we genuinely didn’t want it to stop and it was definitely a stand out set from the day.
Going from bright and breezy back into the dark and heavy. As the set times don’t clash at all during the whole day, the audience shuffle between the two stages stopping off at the bar in between. Fuzzy Sun’s jangly guitars and laid back synths make it look like we’re building up to something loud in the main suite.
We overhear “I haven’t been here since Prom” in the toilets and remember we’re in a hotel.
Back into the chapel, this is messing with our eyes going from bright light to a cave like darkness. When’s the sun going down, where’s the food? We can smell curry…Solis bring a full folky band which echo so lovely throughout the room. With an almost songbird, weightless voice, Solis is also using part of her dress as a guitar strap. The chapel does well to bring together heavenly vocals in a heavenly space.
Starting to get hungry and wondering where that enticing smell of curry is coming from. Outside there is a stall with unidentified ready made take away boxes and ketchup & mayo packets. Is this the only food? Hot dogs and burgers sitting around sweating outside in polystyrene boxes aren’t too appetising and we never did find out what the mysterious ‘vegetarian option’ was, but apparently it wasn’t curry.
Back into the dark where Birmingham’s Cut Glass Kings bring a fuzzy blues rock sound with driving beats, it’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club meets Wolfmother and it’s also the first set where the crowd are closing into the stage and getting warmed up. Though that could just be the beer flowing on an empty stomach.
Marvin Powell brings his soulful singer songwriter tunes to the chapel. He’s got a loyal Merseyside following and the room soon fills up, especially when backed up by band members featuring The Sundowners’ Fiona Skelly on bongos. This is where it feels like everyone in the room knows each other, or at least are introducing themselves to each other, it’s a friendly vibe in the chapel. “Is this seat taken?“.
However, pews that were around the back of the room have now been pushed forward, there’s not as much room at the back for people to stand and we’re worried about being that person standing in the aisles and it’s getting way too squashed at the back of the room. As the main suite empties out, the chapel just can’t take the same numbers of people in one small space.
The Mysterines need no introduction and quite rightly get the biggest crowd so far in the main suite. Lia Metcalfe has some of the most powerful vocals on Merseyside right now, whilst bassist George Favgar brings all the moves. It’s swaggering rock and roll with a loud effortless growl, if you still haven’t seen these guys, where have you been?
Back in the chapel and Edinburgh’s Rituals have brought an empty bottle of wine onstage… This is where the atmosphere turns from heavenly to holy roller. Sounding like a cross between Ian McCulloch meets Interpol‘s Paul Banks and a smidge of Guy McKnight the song Redeemer seems fitting in a chapel along with some haunting organ sounds. Plus, the most dapper gent of the festival award goes to Rituals‘ guitarist, though more of a southern gent than holy preacher.
Tim Burgess & The Anytime Minutes featuring Laetitia Bocquet of Average Sex is one fun happy riot throughout the whole set. Just One Kiss sees a delightful duet between Laetitia and The Charlatans frontman who appear to have a beautiful and electric dynamic together onstage. Everyone’s having fun, their guitar player is leaning against the wall, Laeitita is dancing around and Tim has a maraca. What more could you want?
For our final trip to the chapel, The Fernweh are FINALLY the band to say “Pull up a pew“, guys there were 5 bands on this stage and we had to wait for the last one to hear this? For this one though, if you’re not in the pews then the rest of the audience were too far away. Packed into the very back of the room, it was actually really hard to see much. Having the pews pushed to the sides of the room would have worked so much better. The lighting now resembles a school hall rather than the bright space it once was. However the good times roll, The Fernweh bring folky jams and groovy bass lines, a bit of feel good sunshine to end a beautifully curated chapel stage.
So the kings of the castle are here and, obviously, they have their name in lights. The main suite is absolutely packed out, everyone is here for The Coral.
This is their night, the crowd are either part of the community or they’ve traveled just to see James Skelly‘s lads play. We overheard people had traveled from Scotland just to see them “You’re so lucky to have them play on your door step“. Leasowe is quite a way to go to see The Coral (if you start your journey in Scotland) but this year’s festival being a launch party for their new album Move Through The Dawn, the whole room was rooting for them and everyone was in good spirits.
The set was as expected, a mixture of the new album with old favourites and even a Yardbirds cover thrown in, we see artists from all the acts who played throughout the day in the room enjoying the ride. It was genuinely a feeling of togetherness that something special was happening.
The community spirit from previous years was still there thanks to the Skeleton Key Records crew, locals to the Wirral and people who had travelled to see The Coral.
There wasn’t a sense that this was in the middle of a city and anyone was there just for a Saturday night out. These was real music heads who were here for the local bands and here for the music. Despite the fact that it was a roster full of Skeleton Key bands and associates. It still had its fair share of new music and well known talent. The location made it a true gem of a night that felt special. You had to be there and only a few actually were.
Where are we going next year guys?
Images by Getintothis’ Lucy McLachlan