Shiiine On Weekender Year 5

All the single ladies looking for a thick-necked, beer-swilling late forty-something male need look no further – Shiiine On Weekender is here for you. It is also here for those of us who spend the other fifty one wasteland weekends of the year willing it to be mid-November – our chance to escape the daily grind, indulge in a bit of hedonistic nostalgia and hang out with ‘our people’ once more.

From a fairly low-key start in 2015, this gathering of the tribes of Indie, Rock and Dance has gradually transformed; with this year bringing more acts, over more stages and for longer. If you fancy starting your day off with comedy or a film show; afternoon hip-hop Karaoke or a pop quiz; an evening of up-and-coming bands or stalwart festival favourites; club nights or sing-along cover bands, there really is something for everyone. Cleverly arranged to avoid clashes for headline acts, the whole event successfully manages to appear effortless; bands start on time, changeovers are smooth, the staff are wonderfully friendly and relaxed (this year, Levi is Shiiine personified – full of high-fives and contagious enthusiasm) – the festival goes from strength to strength. 

Part of the joy of Shiiine On is the anticipation – making a playlist for the long journey down to Somerset (get caught behind a tractor on that final road to Minehead and you’re in for a slow, frustrating trek); getting the card to your chalet and your yellow and black festival wristband; tasting that first, tantalizing drink of the weekend; loving the obsessively organised Excel spreadsheets which help us work out who we are going to see and when and setting ourselves the challenge of staying up for Steve Lamacq. These are the moments we anticipate all year; grabbing a drink, heading into the Skyline Arena, the hazy blur of noise and excitement, music reverberating off the walls before the main acts have even begun: all our Friday nights lead to this moment and the promise of what is to come over the following few days. We have food, booze, tea and Berocca. Shiiine On Weekender…we are ready for you…


Having read so many positive comments about Ivory Wave, I was keen to see the Birmingham five-piece with their modern take on the acid-house dance music of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. First up on the Skyline Stage they attract a large Friday afternoon crowd and their contagious Happy Mondays vibe is perfect to warm things up. On next and following the up-beat dance theme comes Reverend and the Makers, a perfect, energizing Friday evening choice and my only regret is that being lower down on the list means a shorter set for The Reverend’s own form of catchy indie pop and electronica but with Cast and Lightning Seeds still to come, the night is only just beginning. Headliner Ian Broudie is blighted by sound problems and the set starts slowly, the band working hard to overcome technical issues but hitches are resolved and the crowd is fully engaged by the time alternative culture’s football anthem ‘Three Lions’ is belted out as the band’s closer.

I’m keen to catch Deja Vega after seeing their ferociously raw set last year on the Sunday afternoon and this time they are playing the much smaller, dive-like Jaks at the back of the arena, an interesting choice after last year’s Skyline slot. Their debut album has been on the turntable at home for weeks and hearing them in this dark, claustrophobic venue really emphasizes the searing, at times overwhelmingly powerful sound this three-piece creates. The atmosphere is unlike that of any other set I will see this weekend – wild and unpredictable, screeching guitars and frantic punk screams and as singer Jack Fearon leaps into the audience, leading us into a psychedelic trance as he spins amongst us, the sound from the stage fills the room in a frenzied crescendo. The mood is electric and this is what live music is all about.

As we head towards the early hours, King of the Slums are forced into a shorter than planned set due to a broken guitar amp and we head upstairs to dance venue Reds to catch Transglobal Underground, although frustratingly we must miss Apollo 440 as 1 AM beckons us next door to Centre Stage to catch The Wedding Present’s penultimate show of the year. David Gedge and his ever-revolving Fall-esque troupe of players are on excellent form tonight, with heavily pregnant Danielle Wadey playing her guitar slung low to the side; ripping through their set with the usual intense energy. The crowd love this band and tonight You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends is our Shiiine mantra: music, memories and friends, this is why we are all gathered here.


A rarely seen November blue sky, the sun hanging low, forces us off site and into the eccentrically English seaside resort of Minehead, sticks of rock and Crazy Golf momentarily beckon, but it’s not long before we are in the pub, lured by our Irish friends, one of whom has flown over from his adopted home of Seattle to join us and later, surrounded by fellow Weekenders we head back to the site, itineraries in hand.

Hearing great things about the sets by Steve Mason and Idlewild (you have to eat and sleep at some point, however…) I am keen to see Turin Brakes’ early evening slot. Having slid off my radar after the first few albums, I am surprised to hear that the London four-piece released their eighth studio album last year and I’m glad I manage to catch them tonight: the sound is tight, the band charm us with old favourites and the tempo rises with each song. The set’s standout track is definitely Black Rabbit from 2016’s Lost Property, the power of which gets me right in the solar plexus: it is just stunning – powerful, beautiful and intensely moving. I leave wanting more.

I remember seeing Embrace around the time they released The Good Will Out, playing a free outdoor gig near Leicester Square in London; I wandered down after work one bright summer evening, wanting to see what all the hype was about, enjoyed the gig and the album and that, I thought was that. Fast forward over twenty years and here I am, barrier-hugging and allowing myself to be pulled into the crowd’s enthusiasm on this Saturday night as they belt out the favourites, charming and funny, effortless performers, the tone just right for the sing-a-long crowd: ‘it’s been a long time coming and I can’t stop now’ and I allow myself to be caught up in the moment, as Saturday night on the Skyline Stage draws to a close.

Bob Mould plays an intense late night set on Centre Stage with a focus on solo material but with the welcome inclusion of some Sugar and Husker Du tracks and the room is packed out and ready for Jim Bob who is here with his usual self-deprecating charm, to play 1991 album 30 Something. I’m sure we would all have laughed at the time if we had been told that one day there would be moshers and stage-divers to one-man acoustic renditions of Carter classics and yet here we are and the crowd shouts back every word at their beloved suited and booted singer, whose witty puns and rapid fire one-liners are rejuvenated in their current stripped-back format. 

We forget that we are now in the early hours of Sunday morning, eager for more music, more memories. These now follow with the appearance of Niall O’Flaherty and his Sultans of Ping. Bedecked in pink-leopard print trousers, O’Flaherty prowls and stretches across the stage, acerbic and wittily sexual whilst his audience beckon back as one ‘Sultans, Sultans, Sultans’: University Lecturer by day (whilst internet surfing I come across a link to Rate Your Lecturer, which provides me with the following amusing comment from one star-struck student ‘I think he’s too attractive to be a lecturer, so it’s sometimes distracting during the lectures’); charismatic, pouting pop minstrel by night. It’s Saturday and we are all in love. 


After keeping to our word and managing to stay awake for (at least a) part of Steve Lamacq’s annual indie disco, we are up and ready for The Clone Roses’ appearance on Centre Stage at lunchtime. Cover bands are a welcome addition at Shiiine On and this Stone Roses tribute band, who I have somehow missed on previous years, go down remarkably well – the room is packed, we sing collectively and I have a tear in my eye during This Is The One: this after all, is a moment we have waited for all year.

I’m keen to see Jesus Jones on the Skyline Stage after their initial Shiiine On visit in 2016 which came just as they were emerging from a fifteen year hiatus. Having watched them in various venues since and marveling at the passion with which they perform, it’s wonderful to see the size of the crowd who have gathered here this afternoon and the band whip through their set with energy and enthusiasm, singer Mike Edwards lithe and virtually unchanged since the early ‘90s.

Early evening and the mood in the arena is electric, we know what’s coming. It is Stourbridge Sunday and the Holy Trinity of West Midland indie alternative bands are soon to take to the stage for a much anticipated event; the first time that the three giants of the era have appeared on the same line up: Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Shiiine On darlings, The Wonder Stuff.

I am biased and for any hyperbole I must apologize but these bands are my youth, icons of my formative years, the musical accompaniment to life’s ups and downs and this evening’s line-up is going to be hard to beat. Down at the front for PWEI as they storm through an electrifying performance of second album This is the Day, This is the Hour, This is This; I step back for Ned’s and watch the crowd around me, enjoying the atmosphere, the familiar refrain kicking in at the start of each track, as singer John Penney holds the stage: at last they are here and I doubt that this, their first Butlins visit, will be their last. I close my eyes for a few seconds; I can feel the energy and excitement around me and it is breath-taking.

Finally, it is time for The Wonder Stuff, who have appeared – in various guises, both as a band and in stripped back acoustic form with Miles Hunt alone – at every Shiiine On Weekender. Hunt reminds us that the band have just released their ninth studio album but sardonically assures us that we won’t be hearing any tracks from it tonight. He knows what his audience want to hear on this Sunday evening: drunk, tired and emotional, high on the adrenaline of three nights of musical memories, eager to shout and sing and dance away the evening while we can before real life creeps back in… and tonight we do all those things and the band are better than I think I have ever seen them. Mark ‘Gemini’ Twaite and Malc Treece are back and we again throw our arms in the air at the familiar refrain: ‘You know that I’ve been drunk a thousand times, and these should be the best days of my life’.

I feel as though the Skyline ceiling will lift right off, such is the reciprocal energy created between band and audience, the love we share for these performers, for the memories they have created over the years, for the mix-tapes and the club nights, the hotly-anticipated new albums, the tours and the lyrics we have sung along to in the car or shouted out, arms held high, at gigs and at festivals, stretching back through the years and bringing us to this point. All of these emotions, memories and connections are shared, by all of us, right here tonight by this band that we hold so dear and they can surely feel it too.

For of course, it is the audiences who help to make this night and the weekend so special; because after all, it is the people you meet along the way, fellow Indie music fans, arriving from all over, that are so key in making the Shiiine On experience unique. Looking back at my musings for Disarm after last year’s weekender, I am reminded of these moments and this year is no exception. 

Shortly after wandering into the Skyline Arena on Friday we encounter a friendly gang wearing Shiiine On Weekender Appreciation Society t-shirts, one of whom is Laura, who I would bump into various times over the following few days. Shortly after this, I find myself standing behind a guy I had chatted to (and mentioned here) on the same night, last year. We had spoken about our favourite bands – I had told him I had not heard The Rifles before, he had assured me that I would enjoy them, we met each other’s friends and all danced together. Like homing pigeons, we all have our favoured vantage points at gigs and it seems that he and I share the same one, for here he is again and remembering one another, I thank him for last year’s recommendation.

Here is the guy I similarly recognize from previous years for his ‘Until Sally I was never happy’ t-shirt – I spot him before the Clone Roses set on Sunday and we have a chat; my name, his t-shirt, the band: it all makes me smile. 

There is also my barrier companion during The Wonder Stuff who it turns out has never seen them before, brought along by his mates, now fully converted and vowing to acquire the back catalogue. We bond over the remarkable set we are witnessing, I laugh at his shock at how wonderful this band are, chastise him for never having seen them before, for having disparaged them and now, here he is, blown away and thanking me for sharing my joy with him – over thirty years on and these bands still have the power to garner new fans.

And there is first timer David from Amsterdam, via Brighton, attending with his Shiiine On veteran friends, who I get chatting to during Sultans of Ping. It turns out that we are both Wedding Present Fans and confess to one another that we have each seen this band more than any other; our murmured conversation about the Indie music we love and his kind words, make me smile when I need it. 

These and so many others, are the people who help to make this weekend special, who we connect with due to shared passions. They create the feeling of unity which brings out the goose bumps when you’re standing together, watching the performers you love, the musicians of your formative years; when you feel a tightening in your throat at the immense power that music has to transport you, the impact that the opening bars of a song can have, forcing you back to when you first heard it, all those years ago.

Thank you to all those people: to the ones I spoke to, those I danced next to and the ones who turned to me during our favourite bands’ choruses and belted the words out together – all of you make Shiiine On unique and just maybe, I’ll bump into you, stand next to you and sing along with you, again next year.

With thanks to Sally Hamilton for the words, Sally’s partner for the photos.  The Canadians WILL return for the 2020 installment.  Mark my words.


The Resurrection and the Light: Cover Bands at Shiiine On Weekender

The Cover Bands at Shiiine On Weekender 2016 were part of an after-1o pm slate of programming that kept the party rolling across various rooms (nightclubs) well into the wee hours. We were able to cover The Smyths, The Clone Roses, Oasis UK, The Sex Pissed Dolls, and musical interpretive legend Mike Flowers. We also have a mention of True Order, who we unfortunately missed. (Other band omissions are due to scheduling only, we heard good things from all around the festival.)

Last year’s Shiiine On featured The Clone Roses, who packed out the room they were booked in, causing long lines and becoming one of the most talked about parts of a strong program of live music & DJ sets. This year they were the feature of late night at Centre Stage, a big, empty room that boasts two 40 foot long bars along either end (and with extra draft bars beside them) which is, on Saturday, transformed in minutes to a packed nightclub of  3000 devoted Manchester music fans, in a game of hectic musical chairs and where you’ll lose your better half for an hour at the bar in conversation and side parties while queuing up.

Imagine if the popular, overplayed and sausage factory squeamish “music” of the current era was suddenly replaced with the best thing ever to come out of England in 1984, and we are all hip to it, and the club was full of it. Some here tonight have seen The Smiths in their brief time as the band who invented Indie itself, and others listened to records in faraway rooms where Morrissey’s angst and unrequited feelings rang as true as the slamming doors of suburbia everywhere, or worse, the real suffering of the poor and lonely where no one cared enough to fight at all. This music is epic, like so much of what Manchester produced (in various sounds and genres and points of view) entirely special, unkillable and fresh as a spring gladiola.

Morrissey’s literary love letters (and bitter missives) lifted by Johnny Marr’s effervescent, transcendent, reinvented jangly guitar sounds was something altogether new, from somewhere the wider world was just becoming aware of through the music of the tragically short-lived Joy Division and then the cutting edge cool of New Order. No one would get far attempting to cover this band as a matter of course, in front of fans (critics) who know every groove of those records. Not in this country. So what we get tonight, all the way down the years (tell that to our hearts, forever 14) is a treat that brings a tear to an eye, as thousands sing along to every word, as there’s never a dud, no filler, no commercial interruptions and the only feeling is happy.

The dance floor is jammed, the seated area is full, you will not find your friend if you did not have a landmark made. The room is dark, everyone is beautiful, you lose your friend, you find another, people buy rounds like handshakes and dream of visiting one another.

If there is a non-Stone Roses fan among the 6000 at this weekender, they are staying quieter than a Trump supporter tonight. The room has been reaching and filled out to capacity steadily long before The Clone Roses (please tell me there are T-Shirts, somewhere, to purchase?) hit the stage at midnight. The less said about “comedy” nightmare act “Ian Brownbottom” which has been slotted in briefly beforehand, the better, but it is such a rare unfunny misfire here that people feel personally betrayed and frighteningly sober for a few long minutes, and will mostly forgive and forget. The rare sound of hundreds of people booing, having had limited personal experience with angry mobs is almost worth the ear bleed and heartache. He’s taken off with a hook (one hopes) and disorder is restored. Here, midnight is the new headline slot and The Clone Roses blow their diehard fans away, presumably selling as many pints as The Roses did at their recent (parties) shows, causing many expressions of love and shuttling us into the glory of 1990.

The Roses self-titled debut stands among the very best first albums in a country of music legends who were honed on tough crowds in scary small town back rooms or made overnight by John Peel, with the pressure and fortunes to be ridden like a wave, above the sharks and around the rocks of ego and substances. Oh, and, the poison press. The album, developed over most of a decade, is so good and is brewed so perfectly that the band struggled to play it live, leading to both legendary and notorious shows, taking risks and shaping their own history that we’ve all watched and felt for like others do the Royals. The Clone Roses do not struggle. It is really like Ian Brown at his best is showing us why he is one of the coolest characters in all of music, and the guitarist impresses greatly; John Squire’s genius is unquestionable. It’s so good, so golden. All we can do is stay up all night, talking and singing, and take a wrap around pic and a little video to remind us over the long winter of one great Saturday night where time stopped.

This year’s too-packed-to-move-sellout-room is True Order’s set. The had to be there, overcrowding, did ya see it story. We have a brief chat prior to set up  earlier in the day (the singer has an eerily good resemblance to Bernard Sumner in his prime, they are lovely guys) and we catch a bit of their warm up where our hearts are warmed immediately as the perfect chords of Bass God and residing king of Manchester, Peter Hook float by. Cover bands are to be admired, who would attempt such a thing unless they could really do it? And True Order are no different. Plans to go are abandoned, friends who say they are in line there instead appear here, and we go off in another direction and plan to see True Order next time. There has to be a next time.

Adding Mike Flowers to the bill in the weeks leading up to Shiiine is a stroke of genius. Flowers comes out onto the main stage Saturday between acts, lightly bouncing in to the front of the stage and riffing off a song or two of his classic retooled, groovy faux-vanilla masterworks, before a quick “thank you” and disappearing. Our jaws are agape. He ought to be booked onto Glastonbury’s roster posthaste. He’s here to do a DJ set late after True Order, and it’s a surprise to us that he’s also here outside of that planned DJ set in all his 1995/1967 glory to treat fans of the various bands to “Candy Man” from Willy Wonka, surprise hit “Light My Fire” (which is a revelation) a brief Prince tribute medley, and at one point, “Wonderwall” which team Step On races through Butlin’s to catch like less elegant Rentons and Spuds on a heist- only to miss most of it! The worldwide Oasis smash that Mike Flowers, with the blessing of all, subverted and snatched away just as the original monster tune was reaching market oversaturation, is a wonderwall in itself, creating something new and utterly glorious.

Mike Flowers is funny, camp, comes from cabaret, and is in full effect even without his dozen Pops around him in chiffon and monkey suits in a half-circle,  and even with someone else’s drum kit behind him. There’s no velvet in sight, nor a place for Flowers to rest his microphone. What a pro. This performer is brilliant, a keen arranger of music, a humourist, a wit, and a delight. With a lovely singing voice. Here’s an idea: how about for Shiiine 3 in 2017, Mike Flowers hosts a daytime party like the famous Bez pool parties, only this one ought to be a Tiki bar or a martini bus. Or eggnog? What’s your drink of choice, Mr. Flowers? (Dear readers: please take a moment to sign my petition, did you see it? I pinned it to the eyeless bear outside Butlins, oh dear, I hope it’s still there for me to pick up.)

Mike Flowers Pops has a new song out, and we’re now a little obsessed with hearing more than 30 seconds of it! He fits into the lineup and our vision of Indie/90s/Manchester/Dance as much as anyone, and we can reveal here that he’s not got a single grey hair! It’s still as lovely as a boy. As is his sense of style and way with a microphone.

A quick pop in was all that was possible for Oasis UK’s set, another returning band from last year like The Clone Roses. Oasis is never far from the ethos of this festival, and their music is needed like air and lager. The nearby art installation by Microdot is full of Oasis memorabilia and rare promotional posters and banners, and is irresistibly priced, too (more on Microdot in our general roundup to come shortly).

The Sex Pissed Dolls, late night in Reds, are no doubt legendary wherever they go.  Clearly skilled musicians, stunning to watch (and look at) and with a massive musical vocabulary, in short order, they cover The Ramones, The Clash, Nirvana “Teenage Kicks” and The Sex Pistols. Don’t miss them if you see them on a bill, a good time will be had by all. Prepare for your jaw to drop when it ends with a sweet voiced, polite “thank you ever so much!” Oh England, Oh Shiiine, Oh Butlin’s, Oh Shiiine On Family, we love you so.

Jacqueline Howell

The Farm: All Together Now at Shiiine On Weekender

In short order (probably as it was happening) The Farm’s gig this past Sunday at Shiiine On Weekender was firmly established as an absolute high of a weekend packed full of great bands and diverse DJ parties that went on until 4:00 a.m.

Our friend Charlie summed it up better than I can.

Here is what The Farm did in just about an hour on Remembrance Sunday under a big top in Butlin’s: per Charlie, they gave a “performance showing respect to those who lost lives in war; about wishing for more love in the world and about stamping out racism. Genuine people. True people who use music to show passion.”

And that’s exactly right. The set list for an established band can go in many directions, considerations among them are fan service, time allotted, and band preference (possibly in that order). But in just an hour that flew by, The Farm managed to meaningfully address the events of our distant past (that we must never forget) the resonance of thoughtful, sensitive anti-war messages still very much needed in the world today, launch a new song (seamlessly) “Feel the Love” (not Viva Love…) that reminds us who were there, why the 90s optimism is no less urgent today, and make a clear call against the vile disease of racism, that is today front page news in our leading nations, as it troubles our politically unstable policies and has come screeching out of the long shadow of Brexit and the Reality TV horror show of last week’s US Presidential election.

But here, under a big top, a playground for music fans, all these serious concerns rise in music and words, each song bookended by exciting musical cues including one from touchstone film Trainspotting (which while being about the adventures of heroin addicts is also a cry for creating a life free of authority and prescribed values that all of us 90s kids cherish as bible). Trainspotting 2 will arrive shortly, it’s back. Like Merseyside legends The Farm, like the best of our deeply formed and forever cool music, it’s back in the wider spotlight but it never went away for those in the know, those who love forever. It has never lost meaning and ability to move us.

Instant anthem “All Together Now” from 1991’s Spartacus has always been one of the best story songs ever written in a nation famous for its literary prowess and love of history. It’s alternative history, the story the warmakers will never tell you. It never fails to give chills, even tears for some of us. And it’s all true.

A spirit stronger than war was at work that night, December 1914, cold, clear and bright.”

“It’s about the working classes being sent to war. People across a divide who probably had more in common with each other than the people who had sent them to war in the first place,” said Hooton ( via BBC).

All Together Now, written and shaped through the early years of the band, began as a recording for a John Peel session. It was written about “The Christmas Truce” during World War One in 1914 when soldiers in the trenches on both sides decided to lay down arms and meet in No Man’s Land for a brief time at Christmas. The event, and the song it celebrates, speaks about humanity itself, showing war as an unnatural state, which can be ended by an agreed upon ceasefire, by listening to hearts instead of directives from the powers that be (mostly cozy in warm homes many miles out of range of The Front). Music was often a component of these peaceful periods of respectful fraternization. So was collecting the injured or dead for treatment or burial. There’s the bitter. There’s the sweet. There’s the humanity.

The song’s power has made it iconic as an unusually cool and catchy protest song (as far from folk as you get get) from the creatively rich time of 1991, and has had lives as a football anthem (Everton FC and others) as well as being a catalyst for forming instant camaraderie in festival crowds of all types, as it did for all of us at Shiiine On year one. We were all together, now. In a world still troubled, in bittersweetness, outright sorrow, in uncertainty; music, always the steadying metronome of life to keep us alright.

Tonight it’s sung on Remembrance Sunday, in a country where most people younger and older still wear their specially fabricated, decorated and pretty poppy brooches with dedication, where memories are long, where wars of different kinds persist and encroach, and the significance is lost on no one. If feels particularly poignant because it is. Cheers, hugs, laughter and tears follow a rousing repeat refrain, aided by the thousands in the crowd, who is captured in a photo by the fabulous singer Shona Carmen, for a quick memento.

Peter Hooton has long campaigned through musical activism- tours, recordings and speaking out-for Justice for The 96, the people, children and adults killed in the Hillsborough disaster, the terrible and senseless loss of life in 1989 that, while being the worst disaster in British sporting history (and among the worst in the sporting world) was denied both fair reporting and any sense of justice for decades, an open wound that could not heal in the face of bias and corruption and cover up by authorities and the rags. He spoke to the Shiiine On crowd last year about campaigning up and down the country for this cause as the families of the victims and the wider community of Liverpool fans, and increasingly, the country, have watched in pain as inquests and trials come and go and appeals failed in the face of corruption and cover ups. The Farm played The Clash’s “Bankrobber” in support of this initiative.

And at this year’s Shiiine gig, the issue is revisited again, but remarkably, justice has finally been achieved in the intervening year (2016’s Golding Inquest at last found that the 96 were killed unlawfully due to gross negligence by the police & ambulance services failing in their duty of care.) For a second straight year, fans of The Farm (and of The Clash) and all who happen to catch the Farm’s cracking show at Shiiine On Weekender have been treated to a rousing version of Bankrobber. This is a perfect addition to The Farm’s set; the punk rock ethos of The Clash is our shared, impeccable and incorruptible living cultural shorthand for resistance, for individuality, for free thinking, for music as protest and protest as music. And, occasionally, like tonight, despite all the shit of the wider world, as unity, as celebration.

Jacqueline Howell

Thousand Yard Stare Live at Shiiine On Weekender

After seeing their jaw-dropping performance at Shiiine On Weekender 2015, learning that Thousand Yard Stare would return for the 2nd instalment of the festival was definitely cause for celebration. Prior to that first Shiiine, we knew very little about the 5-piece out of Slough, but was assured by newly met friends that it wasn’t to be missed. The performance instantly secured a place on our top-10 list of concerts for 2015 and made us fans for life.

Playing this time around at Centre Stage, the after main-stage hotspot (not to mention superior sounding room), Stephen Barnes and the lads threatened to blow the roof off the building, firing off a relentless slew of guitar driven indie rock that quickly drew in spectators and packed the room Saturday night. Throughout the set, Barnes prowled the stage like a caged panther pointing at fans while singing out key TYS lyrics. We were treated to massive sounding versions of “Keepsake”,“Version of Me”, personal favourite “Comeuppance”, and “Wonderment” before the band left the stage while fans called for more.

The performance at Shiiine On Weekender marked the end of a string of UK shows and their first tour in 23 years. We can only hope that Thousand Yard Stare got as much out of it as we did and will continue on with more dates and perhaps even a new record.

Dave MacIntyre

Shiiine On Weekender: Friday – The Full English

Shiiine On Indoor Picnic
A quick mini-picnic in between sets. Grassy carpet and all!

Shiiine On Weekender –Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.

Day 2: Friday

With no less than 40 band and DJ slots on 5 stages from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. as the festival opened wide, Shiiine On staff had their work cut out for them for Day 2. Yet it seemed to kick off seamlessly. Of the several ways to pace oneself for a long day of festival-going, we Canadians went the sleep in /sleep it off, start later and close it down route.

Everyone worries and wonders over set time conflicts, a fan dilemma that is not always handled with care by those in charge or ideal given Artiste availability. Here is one of the ways that Shiiine excelled and showed that as cool as they are, they are also thoughtful. Conflicts were very minimal and set times were practical. There was also a great deal of attention paid to flow and a class DJ’s ear applied to the overall timing of the weekend with respect to what people need when: The DJs in between live music gigs and late into the night were the caffeinated kick that made tired brains get overruled by happy feet (many of them Adidas clad).

Friday’s offerings started with main stage shows by Kustombuilt and the reunited Thousand Yard Stare, whose announcement on the bill had some of the most excited online comments in the lead up to the festival. This gig definitely was a special draw for their fans who’ve missed them, and did not disappoint. They were followed up by Milltown Brothers, the very cool Space, and The Farm who are the pure best merchants of the early Northern sound: chunky bass lines, issue songs that are danceable, and effortless cool. The Farm are bearers of this music’s history and were in top form including solid a cover of Bankrobber by The Clash, hits Groovy Train and epic sing along All Together Now where strangers danced and embraced each other, eyes wide. And we all are, All Together Now, in a brief respite from a dead zone of music and culture, art forms that we thought were eternal in our youth. All this was capped off by the closing set by Inspiral Carpets who were stellar and a perfect choice to end Friday. They brought down the house to a chorus of Moos. No sign of Noel Gallagher popping round to haul gear for them for old times’ sake, though we kept an eye out.

Shiiine On The other stages were each different: but generally the larger ones were great night clubs with multiple levels, ample seating and kick-ass sound, light and video systems. And were nice and loud. Electronic/Dance pioneers The Orb who brought ambient house to the world were one of the key bookings that bridged the experience from evening to late night (1:00 a.m.) in a PACKED huge dance stage on the first very full day. For those looking for a chance of pace/vicarious living that still suited perfectly, there were great film screenings all weekend including the legendary, perfect Trainspotting.

Some of the artists and many DJs moved from room to room, helping to define the groove that carried everyone through the days like a happy, nodding, shuffling wave. These included Space Monkeys, The Spitting Pips, and DJs Will Nicol, Terry Farley, Gareth Crilly, and Dave Booth who took a devoted crowd to church from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m. New Order songs were played here that would be played by the man Hooky himself in less than a day: both versions succeeded in hitting us right where we live, as eternal as this music is. And some Sympathy for the Devil was mixed in to boot.

Thursday’s house party vibe was replaced with a full house at Butlin’s, but never too full to have a little room to dance. Bars were ample and well-staffed, and anyway, you could go around with your own pitcher of cider, beer or whatever pleased you. Even if that might be 6 straws for 6 sharers in a pitcher of something slushy and toxic looking. If you were friendly, you would never go thirsty, as we found. Rounds were bought at lightning speed. Rounds are still owed! Lively talk carried on over loud music. Many lost their voices and may have entered boardrooms today in far corners of the U.K. bearing this mark of the Shiiine class of 2015 like some kind of (non-violent) Fight Club.

By Friday music heads were all easing into the unreal fact that this whole vibe was not a moment or for the life of a good couple of tunes but an energy that quickly filled the place and all of us with something lasting and contagious, both necessary and well earned by all involved. It was a team sport we could all chant to with no rivalries or regional tensions. Canadians slipped in discreetly (we think). We are officially ruined for festivals now that do not have cohesive line ups that excite us, so that’s it for the bulk of North America.

From DJs, the steady throb of music of Pulp, Stone Roses, New Order, Underworld and James and the sudden vastness of a new world utterly free of and insulated from bad music and celeb “news” was stunning.  The lack of rigamarole and hassle that we’ve become used to at other festivals, the tension that is too much like work, was a fading bad dream. We realized moment to moment as the crushing boredom, irritation or strain to smile never came, that we’d been taught to accept piss poor service, overcrowding and inadequate beer offerings for top dollar from the cynical, the handcuffed and those with questionable taste and sense at other festivals for too long, where we counted on one or two bands to not just entertain us, but miraculously make all that other stuff go away for an hour. And by god if they failed in that alchemy, 30 people will tweet nastiness about it.  We can never go back down that slope again. This Shiiine, theirs and ours that we have all found and really, are rediscovering right out in the daylight here, is something actually organic, actually surprising, unprecedented, focused and pure, the good stuff, not stepped on.

More to come. The assault of happiness, ease of enjoyment and the pace that promised no days off and a firm resolve to sleep “later” (still too wired anyway) along with the big gigs ahead meant that Saturday and Sunday were only going to get crazier, more surreal, and more like everything Shaun Ryder threatened and promised a night with him would contain…

Words by Jacqueline Howell, photos by Dave MacIntyre.

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender & North Country Boys.

Thousand Yard Stare

Milltown Brothers


The Farm

Inspiral Carpets

Shiiine On: No Days Off – Day 1 Thursday: Arrival, Photos & Gig Report

Shiiine On WeekenderShiiine On Weekender – Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.

Festivals can be a dicey and exhausting proposition. A gamble. You can give up precious vacation days, sleep and significant funds to end up muddy and rained out, surrounded by wilted flower crowns and bands who are too sincere or not sincere enough.  Your heart aches as YOUR heroes have been housed at the Siberia Stage while mediocre artists with baffling connections and nothing to say hog the main stage, revealing the dire state of modern music and its shadowy industries. Fans who’ve waited for hours at the barrier end up getting their well-earned view blotted out by distracting photographers. There always seem to be too many media types, spreading their entitled and jaded vibes over the highest and driest ground, openly indifferent and tweeting their ingratitude.

And then there was Shiiine.

For months we looked at that black on yellow poster. We discussed it often, eyes glowing, with the other biggest Happy Mondays fan in town, a man who’s kept the music and the love alive for many thousands of punters in these parts as a DJ, Chef & True Blue British-Canadian as much as anybody can claim to have done in the cities in the U.K. and U.S. and Canada that remember AND more importantly, keep it alive. What was for sure just another pipe dream to attend this insanely good weekend became a solid plan through memoir-worthy hustle and twists of fate and fortune that have become so regular that we can’t tell anyone, for it might break the spell.

Minehead is impossibly quaint and enjoyable, even in November. People play crazy golf and arcade amusements through a light drizzle, and pubs are packed with solid Footie fans representing on a Saturday midday and memorable lunches that go til 4:00. Just up the way is Butlin’s, which affords travellers a year round resort experience under a massive tent that defies any weather concerns like several fingers extended (maybe 3?) they’ve got this down to an art form, and it proves to be the perfect site for this festival.

The three day event was extended into Thursday, so overstuffed was it with goodness. This night (like Sunday 2:00 a.m.) would be only for the hardcore and it was there, at what would become the venue’s cozy “local”- Jumpin’ Jaks- or as someone called it “a really great house party” that we met them all. Lifelong friends or just for the moment? It matters not- it was very special indeed. We made fast friends with the quite reasonable hands down winner and unfortunate recipient of the only shoving match we saw all weekend, because you always back the one in the Johnny Fucking Marr T-Shirt. Always.

We were greeted warmly as “The Canadians” by the organizers/wizards behind this weekender, James and Steve, during one of the only moments they had to breathe, and then settled in for a long and lager drenched night of great live music and DJ sets leading to the kind of singalongs Canadians can only dream of. Keep it Social DJs gave us all a chance to be Jarvis Cocker yelling “Do You Remember the First Time?!” and let us revisit so many 80’s and 90’s musical highs that would define the weekend in between gigs and set the tone perfectly. Sulk did the first of two sets of the weekend and were just great, bringing necessary swagger and fire to their set. The Sunshine Underground is not to be missed, look for them if you can see them. And The Twang was much anticipated by many and closed out the live portion of the night. In all cases these bands played sets that were both long and lively, and the posted rule of no drinks on the packed dance floor was routinely ignored. In case that wasn’t enough of a starter, Mike Joyce (ex of The Smiths) brought us all home with a two hour DJ set in between friendly chatter and photos with fans. We were carried to bed on a wave of euphoria that would last all weekend. And that was before we tasted our first local pasty.

Daily Festival reports with full gig reviews and live photo galleries of over 20 bands to follow in the next couple of days.

Including: Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Peter Hook and The Light, Stereo MC’s, 808 State, The Wedding Present, The Farm, Lo Fidelity Allstars plus many more.

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender, North Country Boys, and Butlin’s Live Music Weekends.

Words by Jacqueline Howell Photos by Dave MacIntyre.

Gotta Be a Loose Fit: Happy Mondays



“I wrote for luck. They sent me you.”

Happy Mondays erupted out of a Manchester that was somehow entirely different than Morrissey and Marr’s town, twisting The Smiths’ wry wit by the ear.

They bore nothing at all in common with other greats from their city who came before them: Joy Division, New Order, James;  except that they were also singular and also great.

Even twenty odd years on since Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches, it’s astounding and ever thrilling to hear the cocktail of sex, drugs, debauchery, profanity, humour, satire and weirdness that falls out of Shaun Ryder’s stream of consciousness lyrics which are actually often quite pointed and full of cultural criticism, beautifully uncensored and unfiltered, unfettered. They shimmer with true freedom as so many great, at times opium fueled poets of ages past would have loved to be.  These words and intonations were carried on a sketchy breeze of cool, unfussy rebellion, of the sound of Baggy itself, of a shrugging toughness that could never be faked. Whispered in the ear,  mumbled, or barked lyrics travelled round the world and made kids everywhere want to be part of one local scene that existed too briefly in one Northern English city, and the larger unknown culture that formed it, as we nodded if not knowingly, than wishfully, that we could get even a tenth of the inside references. A lifetime mission to penetrate this dialect was born in suburban hearts everywhere.

For to learn the slang of the gang was as worthwhile a pursuit as any we could think of from miles and miles away. Shaun Ryder, the unpredictable bard, made “twistin’ my melon” sound needlessly dirty, naturally, while “four, four in a bed. Three giving head. One getting wet ” came out sounding, oddly, rather romantic and sweet.  The bite of anger in “Wrote for Luck” was mitigated by the naturally funny and freeing lift of Ryder’s offbeat moments, like a long yell in the middle of the song that seemed to say as much about what it felt like to be young in 1990, in northern towns, far from the centre, in faded empires, under grey skies as it seemed to maybe just say, “eh, fuck you”. And today, the same howl and stomping cool of this anthem offers commuter relief in its forever unpackaged originality. Try it on a loop, it’ll change everything on the coach.

They were Bummed. They were Happy. They said Yes Please while picking your pocket, because singing about the travails of a Mondays’ “Holiday” involving “one small sneak” is just too damned funny to be any kind of crime, no matter what the contraband. They were unabashedly street. And they were smart. They reminded us that “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ gets you nowhere (but comes from somewhere).”

“Kiss me for screwing everything in sight. Kiss me for never getting it right. Kiss me goodnight. Kiss me for old time’s sake. Kiss me for making a big mistake.” How could anyone resist?

Have the Mondays ever received their due? In spite of the question that lingers like smoke for this band and so many others who burned so bright in the early 90’s, The Mondays are bigger than petty concerns or a waste of time jostling for cred, as ever. Instead, as if summoned by the endless dreams and devotion of global fans, The Mondays are on a major anniversary lap this past year, a high point of which is undoubtedly headlining the unusually cohesive line up for November’s Shiiine On Weekender.  This festival boasts a roster of the top albums of 1990-91 (and beyond) from across Indie, Dance, Ambient, and Manchester bands and offers a full weekend of music, films, DJ sets and pool parties, including one hosted by Bez himself. Pinch me.

And here we are, 15 years into this goddawful new millennium, when the jetpacks we were promised are still backordered, seeing The Clone Roses. Yes, please. We’ll take two: seeing the great Peter Fij (Adorable, Polak) for the first time ever. Oh and that’s just my personal favourites there’s The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Northside, Peter Hook and the Light, Stereo MCs, The Farm, The Orb, The Real People, Thousand Yard Stare…It’s a month away, and already historic for the happiness its triggered in anticipation.

Shaun Ryder and Rowetta in 1990But back to The Mondays. We’ve waited years for this band’s compositions and Shaun Ryder’s lyrics to receive the acclaim they deserve. True to form, cool resists such things and the body of work has instead gone on to be something better: an inside joke and a secret handshake understood by a select number of global insiders, a knowing head bob, and an appreciation that defies definition. “Show you what the cat’s been doing, and how he gets around” is no less funny if it’s a reference to good ol’ “Grandbag” shortly before his anticipated death, or an image of a family standing around watching and discussing the antics of the family pet (the true meaning of the line holds a decadent amount of air time at Step On Mag HQ of late; we suspect it’s the former, but we are endlessly entertained by the notion of the latter.)

In the intervening years when we all, unfortunately had to grow up (and before the welcome resurgence of our top 90’s bands now that our lot has the keys and can fill the roster like good Indie kids) The Mondays stayed on rotation through the LP, CD, and iPod years. We may never have dabbled in anything stronger than the evil, legal alcohol, but Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches has, through some strange northern magic, served as effective holistic medicine for what ails on that morning after commute. Somehow that Chill Out Room of a brilliant record (and it works best if played end to end) covers the hungover listener in a blanket of comfort that keeps subway rage to a minimum, and its smooth rhythms are a tried and true balm for the self-inflicted wounds of the drinker – a remedy we’ve prescribed to anyone who’ll listen for two decades. This band is not shambolic, you see. Rather, they were and are ingeniously tight and comfortable together, honed over many years before their breakthrough;  as well as their outside projects, their real lives and their individual survival. Back in 1990, their musical looseness, captured rather perfectly on their records along with Ryder’s off-the-cuff ramblings, gave us all something that sounds ridiculously fresh and spontaneous. And free. And offers a different kind of happiness: the darker, weird and authentic kind that we know is all.  And Shaun Ryder’s singing is still one of the most original, fearless and cool in all of music history. His rhymes and left turns contain multitudes that hold up ridiculously well alongside the greats of the English canon:

“We all learned to box at the Midget Club
Where we punched with love and did someone good
It’s good to see ya, to see you nice
If you do me once, well, we’ll do it twice
We’re twice as likely we’re twice as right
You say it’s wrong but we know it’s right

Ride on, right on”

Northern Soul is alive and well and will be celebrated in fine form down south at the seaside for one big weekend beginning one month from today. It might be time to pack up the skin tights and put on the Loose Fits again (Hallelujah!). The original and definitive Happy Mondays line up, with, of course, the inimitable and essential Queen Rowetta, will headline.  And will always shiiine on.

All lyrics c. The Happy Mondays (Ryder, Paul Anthony/ Whelan, Gary Kenneth/Day, Mark Phillip/Davis, Paul Richard/Ryder, Shaun William) Warner/Chappell Music Inc., Universial Music Publishing Group.

Happy Mondays 

Shiiine On Weekender

By Jacqueline Howell

Shiiine On!

Shine On Weekender (5-9 November) is a brand new festival for your festival-ing needs coming to Butlins Minehead U.K.  this year. Headliners include The Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Peter Hook and the Light, Stereo MC’s, 808 State, The Orb, The Wedding Present, The Farm, and many more, including Adorable’s Pete Fij (now performing as Pete Fij & Terry Bickers). Also on offer are many DJ sets and, to round out your late 80’s and early 90’s Indie and Dance music needs, The Clone Roses and Oasis UK.

All but sold out, this festival promises four solid days and nights of reverie, good times and new memories. Presented by North Country Boys and Butlins’ Live Music Weekends, the ticket price includes accommodations on site plus a full festival pass. Along with a full schedule of great live music, Shiiine On will feature afternoon pool parties (including one hosted by Bez of Happy Mondays) and film screenings. Eternal summer can be yours…

As you may have already guessed, we at Step On Mag have more than a passing interest in The Happy Mondays, now on a massive 2015 tour, and this festival is a cause for celebration for UK music lovers as well as those cheering on from Canada and US! (“Ha ha hey, ha ha hey!” <whistles expertly>)

Shiiine on Weekender’s Facebook page.

More coverage to follow.

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