A Festival Of Whiskey & Music... Yes Please! Introducing The Whiskey Sessions
Oh it flowed, enriched every sense, filled you with warmth, plus the music wasn’t half bad either.
Whiskey and music has been a partnership for decades, it’s the one spirit you mostly associate with music and no one really can pin-point exactly why. Well the Whiskey Sessions attempted on the 21st-22nd of November to bring the two together like never before. Hosted at the now historic Victoria Warehouse, better known for Uni students dropping by for the Warehouse projects, the venue proved it has many a trick up its sleeves.
After being presented with three whiskey tasting vouchers with every ticket, it was hard to drag yourself away from the warmth the booze and Victoria Warehouse Hotel provided to trudge back over to the main venue. Especially as you could attend a whiskey tasting session given by professional whiskey tasters, where you not only got to know the difference between a bourbon and scotch but also got to taste and discuss these distinct flavoursome creations.
The carefully crafted line-up fitted the ethos of the festival perfectly. Give them pleasant bands, nothing too out of the ordinary, with headliners that have enough hits under their belts to cause the mainly middle-aged crowd to shriek along in nostalgia. Treetop Flyers with their soulful duelled vocals and finger-picked riffs provided an excellent excuse to trickle to the main stage early on. The rabble remained to hear a lustrous performance of rich harmonies and toe tapping goodness.
Those who remained were treated to a far more varied set from Matthew and the Atlas, creating rich harmonious builds that seemed all the greater when contrasted to their stripped off riffs, Matthew’s commanding lead vocals being the net to capture the varied activity.
Highlights of the 2nd stage Irish Brother and Sister act Southern proved the festival may have longevity. Even prior to their debut these Dubliners brought hits like “Where The Wild Things Are” that can compete with the more cemented bands on the bill, high hopes for a return next year and more up and coming bands.
Back on the main stage Tim Burgess has drawn a large crowd in for his own brand of desolate pop, but sound problems lead to classics like ‘White’ feeling distorted with sound levels causing reverb around the cave like warehouse. These issues continue for British Sea Power, casting a tainted light on what would have been an ecstatic set.
Their songs are cleverly crafted, tempos flitter and change as great harmonies clash together, ‘Waving Flags’ near Arcade fire quality baffles the audience to a mob like dance along. Their stage presence was commendable throughout with ferns-a-glitter with fairy lights combined with their anthemic songs created an assault on all the senses.
The electric atmosphere boiled though when I Am Kloot enter the stage. Armed with a cup of tea as a prop, they sling into their headline slot like an old worn glove. Their sleazy basslines and contrastingly calmed guitar is a walk in memory lane for the loyal Manchester crowd. An amp blows up, a timings missed, “We are f***ing up left ,right and centre but we are still great and gracious” they admit, but this statement aptly sums up their set. They literally could do no wrong in the audiences’ eyes and thankfully with a set full of melodic tracks like ‘Proof’ where all words are known and ‘Northern Skies’ they could have been on all day on repeat and still smashed it.
Day 2 and To Kill a King take to the main stage. Having supported the likes of Bastille they are no strangers to playing to larger crowds, and their confidence shows. They’re harmonies and gentle vocals sway through the crowd in a soft-rock Noah and the Whale style that drags people closer to the front. It’s the perfect ease into home grown Badly Drawn Boy’s set. His stage setup reflects his demeanour, humble, but strives to be one of the best acts of the weekend.
Baring his soul in his intimate lyrics feels all the more personal when just his beanied silhouette is seen through the rich red lights. At times the set feels a little roughly put together, having to pause to remember lyrics seems a tad unprofessional, but this is all the act, it’s a local lad with great songs and just adds to the honesty in his performance. This causes songs like ‘The Shining’ and ‘Something to Talk About’ richer and more immersive partly due to the stripped back nature and crisp clarity of BDB’s still perfect vocals. It’s on ‘Once Around The Block’ where the crowd truly back the singer, unison clapped hands provide tempos for the verse as it’s delivered in a manner to make it the song of the whole weekend.
On the 2nd stage Irish rockers The Riptide Movement tear up the place. The high tempo quartet bounce about the stage to each song, as does the crowd. You know there’s going to be a lot of converts from this show. ‘Shake’ is their anthem, causing the crowd to boil as they’re encouraged by the bouncing guitars, one of which is played using a beer bottle, can you get much more rock n’ roll?
The rip-roaring set seems to have pleased enough people to convince them to stick around for Little Comets. The Newcastle band have been playing smaller festivals for years and have earned themselves some pretty dedicated fans, and they may have just earned some more. Songs like ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Dancing Song’ are their party pieces, and as the rather dwindled crowd can’t deny, they’re bloody catchy.
But it’s Gomez that really gave the final seal on the weekend’s antics. They were the ethos of the festival, true nostalgia, well-aged, but in perfect pristine quality. Every song an anthem echoed back by a crowd that grew up with the band, got jobs, and married to all to their tracks in the background, it’s that passionate. ‘Shot Shot’ and ‘Get myself Arrested’ still has all the power they were crafted with, as they thundered through the Warehouse.
Whether due to the whiskey or the acts, most came away with a warm glow and a stumble from a weekend well spent.
Words & pictures by Jack Wood