As we draw towards the end of this year’s festival season, we have to ask ourselves, what is it we really want from a festival these days? Reasonable ticket prices and affordable pints? Almost bearable portaloos and dry ground? A packed out line up free of stage clashes?
If that’s the case for you too, then you probably should have been at 110 Above Festival last weekend.
Hidden away in the Leicestershire countryside, Gopsall Farm is host to the hidden gem of the UK’s festival scene. Now in it’s ninth year, 110 Above welcomed headline sets from Fickle Friends, Circa Waves and Peace this year; as well as a heavenly selection of the best indie newcomers the country has to offer.
Providing a completely alternative festival experience, walking into 110 Above feels like walking into somebody’s garden party. Colourful hand painted signs adorn trees and the Commune stage while fairy lights hang overhead, giving off a truly welcoming feel.
Any festival goer knows that stage clashes are an enemy at any festival, but at 110 Above those dreaded decisions of whether to skip your favourite band to catch someone you’ve just discovered are non existent. Flawlessly organised to alternate the two main stages, there wasn’t a single clash in sight for the entire three days; a festival goers dream.
For some, a clash free weekend in a beautiful setting is enough alone to make a truly enjoyable weekend, but 110 Above doesn’t stop there. No, they took the enjoyment levels up a notch with the festival rarity of (almost) bearable portaloos with not a single queue in sight, affordable pints and a place to chill out over in The Meadow (or give hula hooping a go, if it’s more your cup of tea). Each and every little detail of the weekend added to the delightful atmosphere which made the weekend truly special. From children of every age to older adults, there was a smile on every face on Gopsall Farm; solidifying it’s status as our favourite festival yet.
The carefully planned out line up delivered some of the finest breakthrough bands of the past year or two across the three days; Friday saw the heavenly harmonies of London boys Flyte fill the Commune stage, making their live return after some time away in the studio. From the mellow sounds of Sliding Doors and Victoria Falls to the fan requests of older tracks Closer Together and Light Me Up, their simply stunning sound provided a hypnotic welcome to the weekend.
Early risers on Saturday were treated to the addictive indie pop of Only The Poets, offering half an hour of high energy singalong choruses and some almost questionable dance moves. Despite playing The Old Town Hall stage at 11:30am, the Reading four piece brought in a strong crowd and washed away any sleepy heads; getting the majority of heads bobbing. There’s no doubt their rapid rise will continue as long as their energy does.
The addictive energy continued throughout Saturday’s sets, stepping up a level when melody makers The Magic Gang took to the Commune stage in the early evening. Easily one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, the bubbly personalities and catchy choruses of the four spread a cheery atmosphere across their crowd. Despite a giant inflatable ball distracting half of the crowd for the first few songs, they smashed through the likes of Your Love and How Can I Compete in the style of a headline band.
Circa Waves’ Saturday headline slot started out with a packed out crowd down the front of the stage. Burning through the setlist with material from both of their albums, frontman Kieran Shuddall took a moment to introduce the new face behind their drums, explaining that full-time drummer Colin Jones has taken timeout to welcome his new baby.
As their headline set continued through Young Chasers and So Long, attention was drawn towards the back of the crowd where a circle had formed. Anyone intrigued would discover a group of excitable faces cheering on a young boy pulling off some serious dance moves in the middle of said circle. Joined by members of Judas and countless drunken faces, the atmosphere over the back fully took over from the headliners performing just yards away and adding another loveable element to the weekend.
Hey Charlie led Sunday’s packed line up, bringing their grunge pop-rock to the Commune stage early in the afternoon. Bouncing across the stage dressed in their signature matching outfits, chants of “Cheer up princess, you’re such a pretty mess” met with grungy riffs and pop hooks made the perfect wake up call for the last day of 110 Above. The three girls packed their set with a feisty confidence matched perfectly with their snarling sound, making plenty of impact on anyone in the area.
Continuing the feisty girl power, Anteros brought in an excitable crowd as they drew their festival season to an end on the Commune stage. A band growing stronger and stronger everyday, their set provided hit after hit, addictive choruses and big indie pop riffs from Drunk and Breakfast kept energy high while Laura Hayden’s enviable stage presence kept all eyes on her. Taking a moment to invite girls, and only girls on stage for Bonnie, Anteros’ set had a true intimate feel while still offering the performance of a band capable of much bigger stages.
Returning to 110 Above for the third year, the ever colourful Marsicans brought their tropical tinged indie pop to Sunday afternoon. As addictive as ever, the Leeds lads’ cheery personalities and upbeat energy confirmed that they remain THE feel good band of the North. Jangly riffs and choruses as catchy as a cold make Marsicans a vital part of any festival line up, and they certainly proved that on Sunday.
Somehow twisting their dark, gloomy lyrics into chaos ensuing festival anthems, Blaenavon brought their madness to the final day of 110 Above, taking to the Commune stage before the final headline set of the weekend. The Hampshire trio brought in the most raucous crowd of the entire weekend, making themselves the only band to cause mosh pits across the entire festival.
Sharing all of the fan favourites including Hell Is My Head, My Bark Is Your Bite and Prague, frontman Ben Gregory also introduced a taste of their recently recorded second album with the heavier sound of Catatonic Skinbag. Looking truly thrilled to be on stage, Blaenavon’s gloomy twist on indie pop made the perfect warm up for the rest of the evening’s events.
Just minutes later the Old Town Hall stage played host to the heavenly pop of Marika Hackman. As ever, she took to the stage with a loveable charm which makes you wish she were your friend. Laidback yet upbeat, material from her latest album I’m Not Your Man offered plucky feel good riffs and a chance to relax before the evening’s climax. Marika’s debut single Bath Is Black offered a taste of her darker side, showing just how magical her vocals really are.
Continuing through her forty five minute slot with Apple Tree and fan favourite Boyfriend combined with chatting and charming wit, Marika Hackman pulled off one of the most mesmerising and enjoyable sets of the weekend; earning herself new fans in the process.
There’s been some doubts about Peace in recent months, with third album Kindness Is The New Rock and Roll splitting opinions and some festival slots lacking in the enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from the Birmingham boys we’ve been left wondering, what’s going on with Peace?
At 110 Above those doubts were demolished. Taking the final headline slot of the weekend, Harry Koisser and co swaggered onto the stage with an that energy we’ve been missing. While the crowd was certainly not what you’d expect from a Peace show, there were many excited faces as they played hit after hit. Reeling off Bloodshake, Money, Power and Lost On Me, before bringing out that infamous big one 1998 (Delicious), 110 Above felt like being back in 2015.
There’s no doubt that newer tracks Silver Lining and Magnificent are struggling to keep up with the indie anthems of the original Peace sound, but none the less they make a refreshing addition to the set, and prove Peace are maturing along with their sound.
Drawing to an end with a Nine Inch Nails cover and a fan request of Ultraviolet, Peace brought what can only be described as a glorious weekend to a close with From Under Liquid Glass, topping off the incredible atmosphere with the loudest singalong of the weekend.
Check out the full photo gallery from 110 Above below.
(Photography by Ianthe Warlow)