- After years of Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading and London taking the glory for the most popular summer music festivals in the UK, Birmingham is now on board
- A September-time gem in the heart of Digbeth, Beyond the Tracks brought the best bands to entertain the locals on September 16th
- From the much-loved Ocean Colour Scene to the upcoming four-piece Sugarthief, there was an array of musical geniuses
The anticipated rain held off, removing wellies was a necessity and keeping ticket-holders warm enough to keep that ‘festival’ vibe alive. Saturday began with Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam and it was clear that if this band was setting the tone for the day, that we were all in for a treat. The indie group, born and bred in Birmingham, performed a select few tracks from the albums they have under their belt and delighted the crowd with a heavy sound blessed with an alternative twist. One drink down and the festival had already established an excitable vibe.
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam
Following next was Jaws, a well-known part of the Birmingham music scene with two successful albums consisting of mellow but punchy songs. A short half-hour set granted the crowd a soundtrack that, if you’d not heard of the group before, was surprisingly soft and dreamy for such a harsh band name. Easy to step back and relax to, yet equally as easy to obsess over as undeniable head-bangers; finishing with a fan-favourite, ‘Gold’ confirmed Jaws’ infectious noise.
A mere couple of metres to the left was the slightly smaller stage for the lesser-known bands that still make you note their name down in your phone to add to your playlist later. Sugarthief, another local quartet, took to this stage to provide us with the anthems and whilst looking young and fresh to the scene, the confidence with which they play on stage suggests otherwise. Sifting through their singles with ease and enthusiasm, they earned their place at Birmingham’s biggest festival, establishing their noise as Magic Gang-esque, yet with all the potential to make their own stamp on the town. Finishing with their most popular tune, ‘Joy Affair’, the boys left us itching for an album.
Next up, the Brummies were in for a memorable moment with The Libertines front-man starring in his own band, Carl Barat and the Jackals. All in matching leather jackets with “Jackals” spray-painted on the back, it was clear they knew exactly what they were doing when they stormed the stage. Their punk rock sound is heavy but still delivers a dose of indie, and would it be Carl Barat if he didn’t perform The Libertines? He gave the people what they wanted with a cover of ‘I Get Along’ with the same messy charm he and Pete Doherty are famed for.
Carl Barat & the Jackals
The crowd didn’t just taste the Birmingham sound at Beyond the Tracks either; the festival featured Welsh band, The Sandinistas too. A three-piece that is proud to be pop-punk performed singles, ‘Ready to Blow’ and ‘Down on the Street Today’ to get the audience familiar with their sound, followed by one of Birmingham’s oldest and most loved bands, The Twang. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of their first album, the iconic Brummies made sure to give the people what they wanted: renditions of the old classics. From their most popular tune, ‘Either Way’ to ‘Ice Cream Sundae’, not their most recognised but one truly adored by dedicated fans and ones to throw your drinks around to. Lead singer, Phil Etheridge, spent the set effortlessly working the crowd with a finishing quote to remind us The Twang are the ones to remember: ‘’They’re not going to switch us off, we’re the Twang’’.
The Americas took to the smaller stage and proved themselves for a well-deserved place on the main stage next year. They owned the space with their old-school sound that mirrors that of The Rolling Stones, particularly ‘Hot Minute’. The tracks almost transported the crowd back in time which was incredibly refreshing, only confirming the festival as an utter escape from everyday life. A Birmingham three-piece that you can’t believe you’ve been overlooking until now; The Americas smashed it.
Back to the main stage, the headline acts were creeping in (as was the rest of the crowd to see who they really came for). The Coral are a group loved and cheered for absolutely anywhere they go, so it didn’t matter one bit that this music wasn’t local. The Merseyside boys always ooze style so effortlessly, owning the stage with their psychedelic-rock masterpieces they know their fans will never tire of. They worked their way through the classics and ended with ‘Dreaming of You’, the tune that fills everyone with some sort of happy nostalgia that makes you feel like you know everyone around you.
Birmingham duo, Table Scraps, presented to the festival their debut album of garage-rock. Their sound is nightmarish and heavy so the headbangers shot straight to the front to squeeze every last drop of garage rock music out of this set. It might have been more of a niche sound we were hit with here but there’s no doubt about it, you can’t not have respect for the intense energy this high powered trio express.
The last band on the main stage to warm the crowd up before Ocean Colour Scene was Maximo Park, one that seemed an odd choice considering the tone for the day up until that point. But Paul Smith’s energy lit up the stage and the now dark festival park; he worked the crowd like a pro but with the enthusiasm of a new artist. There were clearly some real fans among the festival-goers, screaming back the lyrics to ‘Books from Boxes’ and ‘Our Velocity’ word for word.
A more familiar sound for the audience next, to the likes of Jaws, was given to us from Superfood. The 90’s kids mirror their younger years in their sound; another band that gives you the nostalgia-rock we all love but with a quirky twist you can get a fresh kick out of. With a new album released just this year, the Birmingham group played a mix of oldies and new gems; ‘Mood Bomb’ was a crowd favourite with its relaxed undertone and excellent lyrics you love to get to know.
Finally, it was time for Ocean Colour Scene, the headliner for the day. Simon Fowler began with an appreciative speech for the city we live in, pointing out the view of the town and trains passing behind us. 21 years since the Moseley musicians entered the charts and they can still count on a large crowd of excitable locals ”la-la-la’ing” their lyrics right back to them.
Ocean Colour Scene
‘The Day We Caught The Train’ was received in the best way with everyone’s arms around eachother, swaying and singing the melody right back to them. It was clear that there was a shared love for Britpop sounds in the area with the other crowd pleasers including ‘Hundred Mile City’ and ‘The Riverboat Song’. What a band to end day two of the first official Birmingham festival. Raise your glass to another one on the cards.
Ocean Colour Scene
Photographs by Paul Reynolds