The Waterfront Festival is on its fourth year, and the hundreds of people who flocked to be by the canal in the summer weather, with excellent music and an amazing atmosphere weren’t disappointed by the festival’s offerings. With money raised going to support The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Indee Rose Trust, everyone involved seemed to be in great spirits throughout the day.
I began my day sitting on a picnic bench outside in the sun by the UNDER THE TREE acoustic stage, and was spoilt to a sweet and blissful set by JAMIE MOON. As usual with Jamie, his quietly dramatic performance is captivating, with a delicate mix of melancholic tones and floaty fingerpicking. It’s the perfect way to ease me into the festival. I also go to get a drink and check out HALLOUMINATI performing on the downstairs LEFTLION stage. Their set was a different sound altogether, bringing boisterous jazz and some killer riffs. It’s a busy stage and a lively one with a brass section injecting a spiciness which the audience can’t help but dance to. It’s busy and upbeat, perfect for the sunny afternoon.
After chatting to a few people, I check out LEAH SINEAD, whose explorative set is humbling. Her vocals are deep with a sweetness that makes the set feel passionate but gentle. Her understated and focused performance was a delight to hear. I also managed to check out SALMAGUNDI. The gypsy jazz is funky and upbeat, and the gorgeous instrumental solos are filled with passion and enthusiasm. The melodies are cheeky, and the well constructed arrangements flaunt the musicianship of the band in a groovy way. The summery vibes keep the people dancing. JOSH WHEATLEY treated my ears next with his chilled and confident delivery of a great set. He spreads the love with a gorgeous Saint Raymond cover but his own songs are what steals focus. They are smooth and sweet with beautiful melodies and storytelling lyrics.It’s easy to warm to him.
JOSH KEMP changed the pace with his masterful use of loop pedal and vocals which are lively and reflect his warm personality. It’s a charismatic performance and he nails it. He performs a great TV theme mashup of 90’s classics called ‘The Fresh Prince of Sandiacre’ and the audience love it. It keeps the mood lighthearted and the beautiful day seems to be reflected in the performance. BIG RHINO add some big rock sounds into my afternoon with an enthusiastic performance, especially from the vocalist. The band are tight with some great riffs, and they take themselves lightly which adds a spark of humour to their gig.
ANWYN WILLAMS brought her eloquent country tones to the afternoon, with gorgeous vocals which sail above a delicate and melodic guitar, she’s intriguing and gritty in her performance.The songs are wonderful and set the mood perfectly. I also managed to catch a bit of THE DAMN HEAVY on the upstairs whose bluesy, dirty riffs added some energy and rhythm into my afternoon. Their gritty vocals and subtle attitude suited the set and they really had the crowd going.
The Canalhouse was a fantastic venue for the festival, with three stages it was impossible to review the entire happenings, but everywhere I went there was one thing in common. People enjoying themselves. I couldn’t help have a smile on my face. There were hamburgers on offer for the hungry festival goers but unfortunately being a vegetarian there was only the option of ordering a pub meal from the bar. So I ventured out to find food, but on my return I got to see the lovely OPIE DEINO taking the audience with her as she turns and swoops through her songs with a confidence and grace which is breathtaking. She’s a stunning performer, and having last seen her with her band, she was just as charismatic on her own.
Performing next on the upstairs CASTLE ROCK stage were PRACTICAL LOVERS. With their trademark downtrodden vocals juxtaposed on a bass and synth led musical background, they’re both energetic and melancholic, and they balance this very well. Following them are APRIL TOWERS, who unfortunately encountered some technical difficulties (first with their laptop falling off, then with the signals) which forced them to end their set prematurely. At this point, feeling rather disappointed I sauntered back downstairs to check out a clean shaven RYAN THOMAS at the Under The Tree stage. He’s passionate and emotive, and his band are on top form, also bringing in Anwyn Williams to join him on a few songs. Ryan’s vocals are strong and engaging, and the guitar solos are excellent. Most of the set has a country/blues vibe but towards the end the funk comes out and it’s a clever way to end the set.
On heading back inside, I managed to catch a bit of DEAF BRIDGES mental set at the downstairs stage, where they had beach balls, parachutes and all sorts of inflatables being chucked around the audience. It was frantic and busy but it seemed like a lot of fun if you weren’t trying to make your way past with a drink! They had some great riffs and song developments which added to the chaos and were brilliant. SAM JONES was next on the list for my day, and with his band he really went for it, being a lot more forthcoming and enthusiastic than I’ve seen him before. His music has developed more of a rock vibe with the band set up, and the upbeat performance was ace despite losing strings on both his guitar early in the set… However he powered through and managed to make quite an impression on the audience who loved it from the start. Meanwhile inside ULYSSES STORM provided an exciting, shape shifting set, where the frequent ‘drops’ in the heavy music keep you on your toes and wanting more. Just as you get into the groove and start head banging, the style changes and it’s always surprising and intense. Their performance is musically tight but still relaxed and fun.
94 GUNSHIPS were next up outside, and their set was funky, lighthearted, grizzly and heartfelt. The set was varied and intimate, whilst having some inspiring vibes bringing people to the front to dance. By this point I would stress I was feeling pretty tired having been at the festival a number of hours, but I still had a boogie alongside the rest of the packed out audience. The drums are rhythmic and relentless which is pulse raising (especially with the dancing) and combined with the Tom Waits style vocals and great instrumental parts, it was a brilliant band to have at that point in the festival. THE MOST UGLY CHILD were next and headlining on the Under The Tree stage, and they were another perfect band for the warm summer evening and the setting sun. Revisiting the country flavours of the festival, they sang Americana style songs with lyrical topics such as drugs, love and alcohol. It’s an entertaining and fun performance, with some wonderful vocals and use of instruments to heighten the emotions in the songs. The slower numbers are well placed within the set and nicely change the mood to bring out a different side to the festival, and feel contemplative on how beautiful the day has been. The crowd loved their set and they were a brilliant headline act.
The brilliant DJ kept the party going, but at this point I was knackered and looking forward to the final few bands on the Castle Rock stage upstairs. I was surprised as Origin One did not step out onto the stage, but instead it was Leeds based duo THAT FUCKING TANK who provided a rock instrumental interlude. The vibe was so different to what I was expecting, and it just seemed a bit out of place. However the audience were definitely enjoying it, as they were dancing and bopping along quite happily. ONE BOMB followed, and kept the audience’s feet moving with their funky, electronic, hip-hop vibes with some gorgeous vocals and drums. By this point I was knackered, and they were great at injecting some late night dance anthems into the room and they brought me to my feet and made me feel alive again so I was grateful. Unfortunately their set had to be cut short due to technical difficulties. It becomes apparent that this is becoming increasingly a problem. After a little bit of drama which I won’t go into on here, the audience began to become increasingly excited for the CAPTAIN DANGEROUS set with orchestra… Which ended up being around half an hour later than expected, again due to technical difficulties. After they had everyone mic-ed up, finally we were away. They headlined the festival with a bang, which is exactly what it needed after the wait. They were full of energy and filled the room with their excellent, lively pop music which had everyone dancing, most in a drunken stupor, but they were still having fun. Rob’s violin solos were brilliant, and the rest of the strings were a beautiful addition to the band. It is a shame the levels were out, because often I could hear mostly strings and much less of Adam’s vocals than I want to hear, but they still nailed it. The last two numbers, the final track and the encore were really great with some haphazard stage diving from the audience as well as the artist, which was hilarious to watch, as the crowd got more rowdy the festival ended on a massive high. It was a fantastic event, and my first ever Waterfront Festival, so thank you for making it such a good one. Despite a few hiccups here and there, the festival was a huge success, and I look forward to next year!
Review by Cassia Helme
Photographs by Daniel Whiston