Warrington Festival Viola Beach Tribute with Starsailor and more: Bank Park, Warrington

Viola Beach

Viola Beach

High in poignancy, Getintothis’ Jackie Lees saw Viola Beach remembered by their hometown in the most fitting way.

As part of Warrington Festival’s programme, an all-day event took place on Saturday in tribute to the band Viola Beach, who tragically died in a car crash in February along with their tour manager.

They themselves had played the Bank Park festival last year and consequently, this year’s event was dedicated to their memory.

The band were featured in a moving live video set, which allowed them to take centre stage once again. Backlit by a beautiful and well timed sunset, which seemed fitting and added to the emotional impact of what we were seeing, the crowd were quiet and attentive, pausing as one to reflect on what the boys might have gone on to achieve and on the terrible loss of young lives.

The bands who took part this year were all local to Warrington and the surrounding area, the line-up consisted of Ellie Dibben, Priestley, The Ambersons, Conquer Rio, Five Days North, The Tapestry, PSYBLINGS, Weekend Wars, Joe Hatton, Pacific, The Tamalas, Delphina Kings, 16 Jackals and The Rainband, and was headlined by Starsailor.

It was encouraging to see just how vibrant and diverse the local music scene is. As is often the case in the wake of a tragedy, it provides a focus for those who remain to come together and strive harder. Many of the acts who had worked with Viola Beach on the local circuit, shared their own memories of them from the stage. Martin Finnegan, frontman from The Rainband, paused mid-set to change into a Viola Beach T-shirt and explained that all proceeds from sales would go to their memorial fund.

Getintothis‘ personal tribute to Viola Beach – a band who had so much more to give

Without exception, each band delivered a confident performance with a wide variety of styles and genres, from Ellie Dibben and Joe Hatton’s country style, to the much edgier sound of THE PSYBLINGS. We were given slick, well-crafted songs by Pacific and treated to Darryl Messer’s rich vocal tones with Five Days North.

The Ambersons brought a sense of humour and neat lyricism, while  Weekend Wars upbeat set and lead singer Jack’s Hawaiian shirt were well suited to the hot afternoon. The broad appeal was reflected in the audience, who were united and uplifted by the music but also left with some sadness due to the significance of the occasion, some weeping openly during the video set.

If we had to choose one personal favourite to take away from the day, it would be Priestley. Sam Allen and Matthew Morley’s voices blend so well together that their harmonies, in spite of the glorious sunshine, caused goosebumps.

Starsailor were joined onstage by Andy Dunlop from the band Travis and alongside their back catalogue of hits, made their own gesture to Viola Beach by doing a cover of Swings and Waterslides. The wealth of experience they brought to the stage was a perfect end to a day of balanced light and shade.        

It is a credit to those closest to Viola Beach that they have found the strength to get the band’s unfinished album released as a lasting tribute to what they HAD achieved already. The family of River Reeves have also gone on to set up a bursary in his name aimed at helping other young musicians and artists from the town to pursue their goals, a positive focus for their grief and a lasting legacy for those who will follow.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Jackie Lees.