Cotton Clouds 2019: review, best bands and what we learned from Saddleworth

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Cotton Clouds from the clouds (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

Cotton Clouds is back for a third party on the moors, Getintothis’ Nathan Scally was drinking in the atmosphere of festival fun.

Putting on a festival of any size is a task we’d all underestimate – but returning for it’s third edition, Cotton Clouds has shown once again the organisers know exactly what they’re doing.

Nestled in the valleys on the edge of Saddleworth, brothers Rick and Max Lees and the Cotton Clouds team have carefully curated a celebration of the arts that’s seen legends including The Sugarhill Gang and Sister Sledge make unlikely journeys to a cricket club halfway between Manchester and Huddersfield.

This year was more of the same, hosting Peter Hook and the Light and The Wailers for round three. There was a lot to live up to, but no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were up to it.

With some clouds a little heavier than cotton to open up the Friday, the heavens opened up for a peek at what was going in Saddleworth. They saw a growing crowd of northerners defying the rain to celebrate what has already become a highlight in the local calendar.

Callow Youth and The Maitlands are tasked with opening proceedings. And one of the most underrated parts behind this festival is the accessibility of it all.

With it sitting on a pristine pitch ready for cricket, everything is a hop skip and a jump away. You’re never fighting through a herd or embarking or on a Duke of Edinburgh trek to see your favourites.

The weather played its part, filling the tents with eager punters ready to get the weekend underway. And each band produced stellar efforts, steaming up each tent in astounding fashion.

Cotton Crowd (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

Opening the Main Stage, Alabama 3 showcased their veteran savvy, tempting the people out of their cover and scaring away the rain. Using their ability to manipulate a beat to bat away the clouds and open up the night sky for something much more comfortable.

As most of you will know, Tim Peak’s Diner is home to some of the hottest young talent on the live circuit – and local act, Satyr Play looked more than at home on the stage.

It’s impossible to tell how many of those in attendance were already aware of the indie pop outfit, as after a few minutes, anyone within earshot had just bought shares in their future.

Their energetic riffs and magnetic stage presence are signs of a one to watch well into the future, and with upcoming slots to follow in Warrington and Manchester, we’re sure they’ll find some more investors in the coming months.

Ash have a much longer history than most of the artists but they failed to leave as much of an impression as their counterparts. With a set filled with fan favourites, the feeling that they were holding back still loomed. Maybe they were waiting for the crowd to give back what they were taking? We’ll never know.

As the last two tent sets are gearing up for take-off, it’s hard to keep away from She Drew The Gun. They’ve already produced some memorable sets this summer, and were one of the highlights of Cotton Clouds number one. It’s only right we venture back.

And we’re rewarded with a roof blowing set filled with vigour and a soundtrack so smooth it’s as if they’ve played together every day for a decade. They’ve earned every smidge of praise from the last few years and then some.

Now it’s time for the main event. Peter Hook and the Light fly through their back catalogue of certified anthems. It’s almost all over too quick, in a blink and you’ll miss it hour slot, they don’t waste a single second of our time.

Ending on the perfect note of Love Will Tear Us Apart Again, with a dedication to Tony Wilson, many a voice would’ve left croaky having give it their all. Many of the crowd will have been able to experience it all before, but there’s a reason songs like that last so long in our hearts.

Once again, the Friday night addition to Cotton Clouds is a masterstroke, everyone in attendance just wishes it was all day.

One of the most enjoyable elements of this festival is the ability to include local people, acts and businesses, while still remaining a completely world-class operation.

It’s obvious the team behind the show know what they’re doing, they’re bringing in show stopping acts, everything is running as smooth as melted butter, and there’s not a single grumble or frown from anyone.

Peter Hook in the Friday night lights (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

There’s a diverse crowd, from families with youngsters to group of teens probably just out for their first taste of festival fun. And absolutely everyone has something to do or see. We’ll never know how long it took to put together, but we do know it worked.

Our only complaint from Cotton Clouds 1 was a hiccup in the queuing. And it’s a miracle the only downside was having to wait for a beer and a burger with such an ambitious production. But this time that’s been completely eradicated. There’s delicious specially made pints from the local producers, Donkeystone Brewery and an array food options all readily available, including another two bars for complete convenience.

The only thing we’d change in 2019 though – barring the power to control Friday night’s initial downpour – is extended tents. Tim Peaks and The Spinning Room both got gradually fuller as Saturday went on, making it near impossible to catch a clear view of the show. But as problems go, being too popular is one of the best to have.

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Saturday morning arrives and we’re blessed with blistering sun. Sun-creamed up, but not brave enough to risk shorts, we’re up and out ready to see what the day brings.

There’s a slow build in footfall, its possible some people are waking with sorer heads than expected. But we’re off to a flyer, local newcomer The Flatline give it their all in the Spinning Room, and they obviously have a future with their debut expected soon. Picking the right time to make your move is impossible in the current climate, but theirs is almost here.

Much of the same can be said for singer songwriter, Sam McGurk, who is entrusted with opening duties for the Main Stage. And his unique style is just right for the occasion.

As you look around the site, you can take in the truly glorious backdrop of the valley. Surrounded by green, the Pennines are a backdrop underestimated by all until they’re seen in the summer sun. And they’re only made better by the people you meet onsite. Be they local or on the payroll, there’s smiles on every face you see. There’s a true community feel in the clouds.

The C33s have had a big year so far, and they make sure to show us why by kicking Saturday into another gear. The punk trio have dragged everyone up onto their feet but some serious moves as we shift into the next stage of the day.

It’s at this point that tent size becomes a bit of an issue, as each hour passes, it gets harder and harder to secure your place inside. First come first served is in place, risk a toilet break if you dare.

Patawawa (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

Festivals thrive on variety, and Cotton Clouds is no different. And that’s how Patawawa of Matlock, Derbyshire, arrived to steal the show. They crossed the Peak District to tell us something very important. Disco is back. Their rhythm is contagious and bodies are flailing across the field.

From beginning to end, people tried to fight the rhythm, but it was impossible. On a bill filled with very few lows, they’ve proved to be one of the most exciting and must-see acts we’ve seen in a long time. And with a discography littered with beats they have the potential to be around for a long time.

In what could almost feel like a secret set, Milburn man Joe Carnall Junior appears with his latest project, Good Cop Bad Cop. It’s a drastic turn in sound for Carnall Jr, but the Matt Helders produced album really carries well with the crowd, and showcases his true talent and word wonders.

It’s a miracle we slipped into this tent, as soon as word had spread who was on, the crowd really made a move forward.

Now, we tend to make a lot of recommendations for bands to see and tracks to listen, but that’s because we’re blessed with so much talent. However, if you’re looking for an act that is simply nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before, Oh My God! It’s The Church are the one.

Seemingly from out of nowhere, they steal the day. Praising sexy Jesus and motherfuckers from across the world, left, right, centre, front and back, people are dropping the religious beliefs they’ve held for so long and are instantly converted. If they continue to perform a service like this, you can expect them to a shock result in the religion category come the 2021 census.

As the age old festival dilemma strikes again, who wins the clash off? LIINES are well known for producing a heavy stroke of punk, and Big Society have the potential to produce an airwave-conquering anthem. In the end doubting was the downfall and we have to settle for a performance on the fringes of both.

Criminally underrated, The House and Garage Orchestra at first appear to be playing regular instruments, but it soon becomes apparent the strings their handling are controlling the crowd. It’s infectious and there doesn’t appear to be a vaccine in sight.

With a masterful rendition of existing classics, their originality and ability to manipulate rhythm is simply astounding. Do yourself a favour, and catch them in October.

Learning from past mistakes, there’s no time wasted getting to Mark Radcliffe’s UNE at Tim Peak’s. It’s near impossible to put into words the feelings evoked from the sound, but its something dreamy. Like you’ve heard it all your life and never before at the same time. Anything else will just feel like we’re ruining it.

Reverend and the Makers (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

Sexy Jesus has been and gone. So how about a holy figure we’re much more familiar with. Reverend and the Makers don the stage, producing exactly what they say, banger after banger. You’ll struggle to find an act who manage to produce such an energetic show so consistently. They’ve never settled for anything comfortable and after a career-spanning set, we just wish they could’ve stayed longer.

Once again, the Sheffield outfit showed us just how they’ve managed to remain relevant all these years while so many acts they grew up with have faded away. They love what they do, and we love them for it. More of the same next time please Reverend.

Now is one of the toughest choices we’re left to make all weekend. Tim Peak’s himself, Mr Tim Burgess, or do we venture to the last act to be confirmed, Hyde Park Brass. The allure of trumpets is too much to pass up on, and while both options were the right one, our faith is instantly restored by the Leeds outfit.

With brass bangers we know and love, and those not so well known, the tent is thrown into absolute chaos in the best possible way. Blistering sound is bouncing from wall to wall, and everyone in earshot can’t help but get involved. It’s a miracle the structure is barely left standing after shapes that must only learnt about on a maths master are thrown. There was questionable dancing, but it’s an A for effort all round.

Had you have been onsite a week earlier, there’s absolutely no chance you’d expect to hear some of the most iconic songs of all time to belted out among thousands here. Which speaks volumes of the Cotton Clouds crew’s ability to book such monstrous acts as The Wailers.

Perhaps a different crowd than they’d typically play to, we’re treated to all the classics. The Wailers rattle through them all with an extended instrumental or two, no one can believe their luck to see one of the world’s most famous bands here in the heart of Saddleworth.

The Wailers (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

As they leave the stage, it all feels a bit surreal, but this isn’t a flash in the pan, it’s definitely happened.

Cotton Clouds is the cream of the Pennines and one of the best small festivals in the country. If not the… but that’s not for us to say.

And now we’re left with one question, where do we go from here?

Three stellar years of this festival, and there’s absolutely no reason to doubt their next move will be just as good.

In fact, the only logical answer is, wherever they want to take us.

The nine best bands at Cotton Clouds 2019

Patawawa (credit Cotton Clouds Facebook page)

Patawawa 

The DIY Disco Revivalists are a breath of fresh air, and we hope we get to see more of them very soon.

Peter Hook

Peter Hook and the Light

Their classic filled set was the perfect end to a magical Friday, and had the rain continued, it still couldn’t have dampened the party.

Satyr Play

Tim Peak’s Diner barely managed to contain their energy. Even the slightest bit more bounce and we’d have been a tent down before the weekend had barely started.

Oh My God! It’s The Church

The biggest surprise overall were much more than just a shock to the system. They’re going to be taking people to the promised land for years to come.

Hyde Park Brass

Everyone needs a bit more brass in their lives, but if you’re looking for the purest most premium on the market, there’s only one place to go.

Good Cop Bad Cop

The only thing holding this new project back is the possibility of a new Arctic Monkeys or Milburn record – it might be a long wait, but if there’s more GCBC, it won’t be painful.

Reverend and the Makers

Banger after banger. Three simple words but probably the best way to describe every set we’re blessed to attend.

The Wailers – Warren Millar

The Wailers

One of the most recognisable bands on the planet showed us just why those songs are seemingly ingrained in our brains before birth.

Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess

Now we didn’t personally experience the Charlatans frontman this time round. But his set, including an unrehearsed version of Only One I Know feat Average Sex, was the hot topic heading into the headliner. Music is about people and the people spoke “Tim Burgess was incredible.”

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