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…

FRIDAY

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.

SATURDAY

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. 

SUNDAY

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.

 

Gigantic All Dayer Vol. 5 – May 25th, Manchester Academy

Back for its fifth outing on a drizzly Saturday in late May (well it is Manchester and it is a British bank holiday) comes the Gigantic All Dayer: a rollicking celebration of indie favourites from the 80s and 90s. Combine a clutch of bands, DJ sets courtesy of Pop Will Eat Itself’s Crabbi, ample real ale, and plenty of ageing indie kids eager to rediscover their youth and you have the perfect opportunity to step back to a more carefree time, if only for a day.

Jesus Jones – Phone pic by Gavin Morgan.

Placed early on the bill but filling the venue immediately, are electro-rock favourites Jesus Jones; Mike Edwards as lithe and energetic as ever, snappy in fitted shirt, instantly energizing the crowd with the collection of hits we’ve all been waiting for. Having released sixth album Passages in 2018, the band have been touring extensively – they played Brazil earlier this month – and are clearly energized by the enthusiastic early afternoon crowd.

“International Bright Young Thing” “Real Real Real”, “Who? Where? Why?”, and 1990’s “Right Here, Right Now”; the latter, an apposite choice for those of us Brits who are suffering from Brexit malaise and a sense of trepidation at what the future may bring. A song inspired by events across Eastern Europe in the late 80s and influenced by the band’s experiences whilst touring in Ceausescu’s Romania in 1989, it can’t help but feel like a warning to us all – thirty years later and the message of those optimistic youths still strikes a powerful chord.

Jim Bob – Phone pic by Gavin Morgan

Gigantic favourite Jim Bob, resplendent in sparkling jacket and red sunglasses to match his patent Doc Martens is here to rattle out Carter hits; accompanied solely by acoustic guitar and ready wit. The crowd love him and readily recite back a litany of quick-fire droll lyrics from the band’s back catalogue, echoing exuberantly: ‘in a bar Johnny drinks, Johnny drinks, Johnnie Walker’ as he launches into “Prince in a Pauper’s Grave”. We hear an amusing (and probably apocryphal) tale of band rivalries between Carter and The Bluetones, from back in the day when such stories shifted copies of NME and Melody Maker off the shelves; and as one we joyously chorus back the words to the band’s 1992 anthem to the outsider: ‘The gypsies, the travelers and the thieves, the good, the bad, the average and unique, the grebos the crusties and the goths and the only living boy in New Cross’.

The Bluetones – Phone pic by Gavin Morgan.

Next up, John Peel protégés, The Bluetones, with Mark Morriss rocking his own brand of devastating geography teacher chic. Having reformed in 2015 after a four year hiatus, the band have toured extensively as well as the continuation of Morriss’ solo outings. You only have to listen to them belt out such beloved indie-pop classics as “Bluetonic”, “Cut Some Rug”, and “Marblehead Johnson” to be reminded what a enchanting band The Bluetones are, providing confidently skillful musicians, incredibly catchy tunes, shrewdly self-deprecating lyrics and Morriss’ charismatic, ready wit. The latter’s onstage banter as ever charms his crowd, self-effacing asides lampoon the band’s heritage as being relegated to Heart FM radio fodder, as he mock-laments the releases that ‘no one’ bought. “Solomon Bites the Worm” and “Never Going Nowhere” are joyful reminders of a time when alternative indie-pop entered the mainstream and ruled the air waves, and the set comes to a powerful close with “If”, a wonderful sing-along crowd pleaser from second album Return to the Last Chance Saloon.

The Wonder Stuff – Phone pic by Gavin Morgan.

So, on to festival circuit favourites, The Wonder Stuff, with a new line up to join Miles and Erica and tie in with recording their next album: bringing back sorely-missed and much-loved Malc Treece on guitar with Pete Howard on drums and Mark Gemini Thwaite on bass. The anticipation in the room, fueled by beer and excitement, is clear and when Miles Hunt arrives, suited in 1940s style high-waisted trousers and natty braces, the room erupts with a roar. It feels unbelievable that it’s thirty years since Hup but this is a set of crowd-pleasing hits rather than an album outing and the band tap into the crowd’s energy perfectly, as “Mission Drive” commences the set. This is one of those special performances – the symbiotic relationship between band and audience causing the momentum to build with each song.We know every word, we anticipate the next track, stage and audience full of smiles, the atmosphere elated. ‘Donation’ sounds particularly vehement and scathing tonight and the crowd sings along to every word as ‘Ruby Horse’ leads into ‘A Wish Away’ and ‘Unbearable’, followed by a rambunctious outing of ‘Give Give Give..’ The superb set comes to a close as always with a fiery and powerful foot-stomping outing of ‘Ten Trenches Deep’; fast and furious, Erica’s violin scratching staccato sounds as the crowd stamp and clap their approval.

Echo & The Bunnymen – Phone pic by Gavin Morgan.

Tonight’s final act – I hesitate to say headliner, as in a sense all performers today bring equal weight to the bill – gives us Echo & The Bunnymen. Following Miles Hunt’s post-punk outfit was always going to be a big task for Ian McCulloch, hardly the most Echo & The BunnEchloquacious of frontmen. It takes a while (and a lot of to-ing and fro-ing from the crew) for the band to appear and by this point the euphoric energy created by The Stuffies has dissipated somewhat, making me wonder at the prescience of the billing order. But Mac is in good form tonight, reassuring the crowd that he is in a ‘fantastically good mood’. There is a lot of rather incoherent mumbling and at times it feels as though we are watching a technical display of musicianship rather than a festival performance but nothing can deny the beauty of hearing these songs live – as fresh now as they were thirty, even forty, years ago. The crowd adore “Bring on the Dancing Horses” and “The Cutter”, and when Mac announces ‘this is the best song ever written’, we are treated to a tender rendition of “Killing Moon”, the band illuminated by a cerulean glow, dreamlike and Gothic; a perfect finale to a day which has united us once more in a shared love of what must surely matter most – the power that music holds to captivate and bring us joy.

Sally Hamilton

Shiiine On Weekender 2018

Shiiine On is the festival of a generation – such is the narcissism of youth that we all believe our movement to be ‘the best’, but given the popularity of 90s based music festivals such as Gigantic and Indie Daze, the reformation of so many much loved indie stalwart bands and the resurgence of the era’s fashions (not that I ever moved on much in that respect); those of us who came of age in the late 80s and early 90s could well be right in assuming that our time, really was the best time.

Shiiine on, a name which of course references the House of Love (who played this festival in 2016), taps successfully into that sense of passionate nostalgia we all feel; it unites us for a weekend every year (and more, if you include recent additions of the Hull-Amsterdam cruise and this year’s one day event in Birmingham). It gives us a chance to escape the daily grind, to feel at home among our people and to indulge in a bit of fairly (depending on the strength of your liver) harmless hedonism and indulgent reminiscence. The venues are a great size, offering a perfect selection of spaces to watch and dance to your favourite bands and now in its fourth year, Shiiine is still going strong.

FRIDAY

It is 5:45 PM with people still arriving and the beer not yet fully flowing, when orchestral pop group My Life Story take to the stage – a slimmed-down version of the band, with five members rather than Jake Shillingford’s grand thirteen piece collective of old. This is a great choice for the Skyline Stage, although I do feel they could easily warrant a later slot further into the weekend. As ever, Jake is energetically flamboyant, snappy in checked suit and white boots, with high leg kicks and ostentatious mic stand acrobatics; rattling through the hits from 1993’s debut single “Girl A, Girl B, Boy C” through “King of Kissingdom”, “Sparkle” and the wonderfully acerbic “If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?” and culminating in live show favourite “12 Reasons Why I Love Her”, playing cards flung high into the crowd, our enthusiasm ignited for the weekend to come.

Next up, Sleeper (I shy away from the Britpop tag) – back on tour and in the studio after a nineteen year hiatus and with promise of a new album. Prolific in the mid-90s with eight top 40 singles, this witty band’s return feels apposite in a time of industry dominated generic female singers, for despite the famous t-shirt’s quip, this is not simply ‘another female fronted band’. Louise Wener, once so loved by teenage and 20-something men clearly (given some of the comments around me in the predominantly male audience) still lights a spark. Unencumbered by industry pressure, Wener appears less stylized these days, relaxed and feisty, full of smiles and moves, the band tight and enthusiastic. The spark lit by My Life Story has exploded and the Skyline arena is alive as we sing back at Wener our generation’s theme tunes: “Vegas’” “Inbetweener”, “What do I do now?” and “Sale of the Century’”

Tonight’s headline are Shiiine returners Shed Seven, amazingly twenty four years down the line but – with a new album out in 2017 – still very much on the scene. They always attract a large crowd here, with Rick Wittter’s sinewy snake-hipped dancing and a back catalogue of anthemic crowd pleasers. They may not be this reviewer’s first choice but they’re a great live band and perfect for tonight’s crowd.

This weekend however, is all about pacing and plenty of music takes place after the Skyline’s 10 PM curfew if you venture out to the other venues: Centre Stage, Jaks, Reds and Inn on the Green. Tonight Reds see Shiiine’s first outing for 1990s festival favourites anarcho-punk Back to the Planet, more Ska than I remember and great fun for those of us who like a bit of grunge with our dance. A quick peek at Mozza’s favourites, Bradford and it is off to bed, in preparation for day two.

SATURDAY

It’s easy to forget that the Shiiine experience isn’t solely about live music and that daylight hours bring plenty of things to do other than sleeping off hangovers: there are the exhibitions (this year a fascinating selection of black and white prints by engaging NME photographer Pete Walsh) and a retrospective featuring grainy gig shots of iconic Baggy dance band Flowered Up, along with press cuttings and original posters. Then there are pub quizzes and an interview with Steve Harrison, manager of The Charlatans and founder of Dead Dead Good Records; not to mention the Pool Parties and Crazy Golf.

Whilst previous years have relegated Cud to the 1 AM slot upstairs at Centre Stage, this year they are promoted to the Skyline, playing the much more reasonable – and less inebriated – afternoon slot. As ever, their performance is one of perfect pop, “Purple Love Balloon” an explosion of fun to start off Saturday afternoon; Carl Puttnam’s jerky hip thrusts and wildly eccentric stage presence charming his crowd. Cud are a fantastic live band and their current tour of set lists chosen by their fans – Just The Good Ones – is testament to the value they place on their audience; here inviting one of their stalwart fans to join them on stage, with only the logistical issue of getting up there, precluding a full fan invasion.

I hadn’t been aware of The Rifles before the announcement of their Shiiine performance and had been slightly surprised at their inclusion on a bill advertised on the basis of being a predominantly 1990s based music festival. A large crowd had gathered and I am assured by the bunch of lads I get talking to at the front, that I wouldn’t be disappointed. They are right and I’m not. The Rifles are a good twenty five years younger as a band than the majority of performers here, having formed in 2006, but their fast-paced Indie rock style fits well with their cohorts and they’re one of those bands you suddenly realize that you do know after all.. “Local Boy”… ahh yes, that song, that’s a great track!

Next up are Black Grape: Shaun Ryder has played at every Shiiine in one form or another and this year he and Kermit are back, although sadly no Bez this time. Black Grape’s 2016 performance was slightly shambolic but tonight’s set is tight and perfect for the Saturday evening crowd. Ryder prowls the stage, Kermit ever-smiling and exuberant and the crowd sing ecstatically along to “In The Name of the Father” as well as tracks from 2017’s Pop Voodoo. Ryder and co are loved by the Shiiine audience: we grew up on Happy Mondays and the Hacienda; on the excesses and the colour; there is something incredibly heartening and joyful about seeing Ryder now, free from the demons of the 90s and his unique stage presence and remarkable back catalogue unite us once more.  We are the generation who only need to hear the opening notes to “Wrote for Luck” and “Step On” and we are doing crazy dancing, transported back to student discos and smoky clubs.

There are always plenty of bands to choose from at Shiiine and whilst this reviewer didn’t catch Skyline headliners Ocean Colour Scene, reports are of course, excellent.  Reds sees dancing into the small hours with the a Post-Punk line-up of Brix and the Extricated, The Godfathers and Chameleons Vox, culminating of course with Steve Lamacq’s annual indie disco. The beer is flowing, the floors are sticky.

SUNDAY

Rise and shine campers! Finding the 11 AM pub quiz has been put back half an hour and all tables are full with eager competitors, we head over to Inn on the Green to see Uke2 play their usual late morning slot. They have become a bit of a Shiiine institution and after all, what’s not to love about three men playing versions of indie hits on ukuleles. The crowd sing along to Stone Roses and Oasis classics; yet again we are united by a love of great music and happy memories.

Lunchtime brings an early slot for Mark Morriss at Centre Stage, a solo slot this year after 2016’s Bluetones performance. Morriss is tired and hungover, asking the audience for Vitamin C tablets, dressed like a geography teacher and utterly charming. His deadpan, self-deprecating quips delight his crowd – a large gathering for the time of day, a fact which clearly astounds and pleases him – and the mixture of Bluetones classics and Morriss’ solo material provides the perfect antidote to a late night, easing us gently in to Sunday afternoon. Morriss’ set is one of the highlights of my weekend, his words and music both tender and invigorating and it would take a hard heart indeed not to laugh with a man who mocks his own moustache and references Absolute 90s whilst sending up his own band’s hits.

Heading over to Skyline, Deja Vega are playing their first set of the day. This band (another I had missed on previous years and was keen to discover) are a revelation, raw and loud, psychedelic and fiery, this three-piece make an incredible sound. I spot Miles Hunt watching from the back and he later name checks them during his set, noting that he needs to finish so that he can catch their second performance of the day – this is an exciting new act and I too am keen to hear more.

Next stop brings us a trip down rap-rock memory lane with Senser, a band redolent of festivals and squat parties, fueled by politically charged lyrics and heavy dance beats; “Age of Panic” and “Eject” going straight for the jugular with their still powerful lyrics: ‘propaganda written out on the pages daily, I see the system as it crumbles before me, I see the system as it dies’.

A quick return to the chalet (this weekend is brought to you fuelled by a lot of strong tea) and it’s out to catch Stereo MCs, a band highly anticipated by this reviewer after I re-fell in love with their high energy electro dance pop during their 2015 Shiiine appearance. Rob Birch is as lithe as ever in trademark baggy jeans and baseball cap and marvellous singer/dancers Cath Coffey and Aina Roxx bring the band bang up-to-date with their incredible style and irrepressible energy. This is a band you can’t help but dance to, the pace doesn’t let up and the hits flow – it could be easy to underestimate the impact this band has had, with their blend of hip-hop dance and electronica and my only regret is that they aren’t given a longer set.

However, the energy created by Birch is about to be harvested by Shiiine stalwarts Peter Hook and the Light, back for their third appearance and for whom an impressive crowd has gathered. Hooky seems to be on a constant tour and arrives in Butlins after a European jaunt culminating in Poland; but his band’s energy never seems to wane. We are treated to a crowd-pleasing selection of both Joy Division and New Order tracks with the former’s “Transmission”, “She’s Lost Control” and “Shadowplay” sounding as visceral and raw today as on those original recordings, now unbelievably almost forty years old. For this tour, Hooky’s son Jack Bates has been replaced by Yves Altana from Oscar’s Drum (Altana’s recent collaboration with Kitchens of Distinction’s Patrick Fitzgerald – a band who had originally been due to play at Shiiine – hopefully next time please). New Order fans of course get “True Faith” and “Blue Monday” as well as “Temptation” and “Ceremony’” Hooky in trademarked loose-limbed crouching pose, stalking from stage right to stage left, singing directly to his front row, the crowd bouncing high on the adrenaline created by the electrical charge of live music.

As final headliners, Orbital may have appeared to be an unusual choice for a weekend of guitar-based Indie dance and whilst the light show is undoubtedly top class, standing at the back, the vibe appears to be lacking. However, this is the kind of musical experience you need to throw yourself into and doing just that and heading down to the front, the atmosphere is electric, heavy bass beats, each track looping and morphing into the next; urging you to close your eyes, feel the music, lose yourself on this Sunday night.

And so to the weekend’s closing party, with Miles Hunt an inspired choice, this time bringing a solo acoustic set to those of us happy to stay up and sing along to a well-loved selection of Wonder Stuff classics. Hunt knows his crowd – acknowledging that this gang want to hear ‘the old ones’ and his Centre Stage crowd adoringly sing back every word, as we are taken back to the start with first Wonder Stuff singles “It’s not True” and “Unbearable” and so through thirty years of music by one of the most loved and iconic bands of the Indie scene. ‘Give give give, me more more more’ we yell back at our front man, smiles dimpling his face as he  gives us exactly what we are here for, giving us hope when he urges us to ‘have a word’ with the organizers for next year.

This festival is one which, maybe more than any other, truly unites bands and their music with their fans and is one where you just need to look around you, at the smiling faces and the happy crowds, to feel that connection. There are the lads I chat to before The Rifles, one laughing as he tells me ‘we’d never get on!’ when discovering that all the bands he loves, are ones I don’t, and so introduces me to his mate who shares my love of New Order and who has never seen Hooky play before. I am pleased when I later spot the same guy, catch Hooky’s t-shirt when hurled into the crowd and give it to his beaming, New Order loving mate. Then there is the guy who comes up to express jovial envy at my The The t-shirt on Friday night and the girls who tell me they are tired just watching me dance, at some point on Sunday evening, offering me their Fit Bit for a laugh. And there are all the smiling faces I notice when I glance around during a set, to see a crowd of like-minded individuals all singing the same line, to the same song, with the same joy.

This is the wondrous feeling of unity you get, the goose bumps emerging, when hundreds of people sing along with their musical hero as he utters those unforgettable words, the  anthem of a generation: ‘you know that I’ve been drunk a thousand times, but these should be the best days of my life’.

‘Life, it’s not what I thought it was’, but every year, for a weekend in November, it feels pretty much perfect.

Words by Sally Hamilton.  Videos by our friend and Shiiine family member, The Cobbie

 

Purple Love Balloon: Shiiine On Weekender Wrap & Photos

It’s near closing time. Paul Hartnoll, of legendary techno duo Orbital, plays a marathoner’s marathon slot Sunday midnight. Those with long drives in the a.m. have gone to bed, but the core who put this set on their must list are here, and the turnout is strong.

It’s a tremendous set, well worth the wait, with Orbital remixes and perfect oddities like the mash up of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”, two songs that uncannily mirror each other yet ironically clash with messages of fluffy love vs. swaggering anger, at one point playing Belinda backwards so the vocal sounds like an Icelandic pop marvel.

The inspired booking of Paul Hartnoll is not a fluke. The after parties at this music festival are programmed as well and more broadly than the main stage headliners, with a number of large rooms to fill out, and almost as many hours of music.

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Like the main stage from afternoon to late evening, the side rooms are well-rounded with a winning combination of heavy-hitters like Hartnoll, BBC Radio’s iconic Steve Lamacq, and last year’s Graeme Park and Dave Booth, who were there for the very first days of the one and only Hacienda in Manchester back in the early 80s, and going strong as hell today. The DJ and club culture that exists in this country is worthy of special mention for visitors from outside the U.K. In most of the U.S. and Canada, the once shimmering scenes have given way to an overabundance of hipsterism (a good excuse to go the economical dive bar route) and back to a landscape of worthy indie bands struggling to get a foothold in struggling corner bars. To be sure, the late-night offerings at Shiiine are a treat for the Canadians (who just go ahead and stay on their own time, bit of a cheat, that) as well as the diehards, those admirable zombies who always get themselves “home”, sometimes with a little directional help in the end.

We must rely on other reports for much of Friday (missed all but headliners due to travel delays) and for some bands we had planned to see, including The Black Jackals (Liverpool), Cellar Doors (San Francisco), and The Train Set (Crewe). The omissions of these and others in our pretty full photo gallery is due to these events & does not reflect a lack of interest.

We put together detailed reviews of some particular personal high points for us, notably Thousand Yard Stare, The Farm, Echobelly, and a side trip through some cover bands we enjoyed a lot. That said, there are so many highpoints we share with our Shiiine Family, and a more articulate group we’ve never met. We know that like you, we’ll be revisiting and discussing this weekend throughout the year. We’re also developing a podcast so look for that if you like those Canuck tones.

Those who would call us all nostalgists can note that social media chats mark tonight (Friday) as the one week anniversary of the time The Wonder Stuff took the stage, when they immediately ramped up the evening with a terrific high energy set, saying they were happy to be back, just as the crowd was happy to receive them. The Stuffies are so solid and it was a treat to see them at the beginning of the weekend this year instead of the end as main stage closer (we also didn’t want to be seen crying during “Size of a Cow” again). Next, Echo and the Bunnymen took us right into the evening with their entirely different groove, Ian McCulloch’s voice as clear and deep as ever. “Lips Like Sugar” is still sexy as hell, dark and lovely. All the headliners delivered as promised: Ash, Cast, Shed Seven, The Bluetones (photos at bottom of all of these performances) with even the reported unplanned stage departures of a few singers somewhat befitting the reputations of the artists who left their assigned spots. That’s Entertainment.

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Cud (or as a few fans have christened them, Magnificent Bastards) gave a terrific performance in the perfect venue that is Centre Stage (at a smaller festival this would be Butlin’s main stage, and here is where everyone floods after the Skyline stage closes at 10.) Back from last year, Cud, who formed in the mid-80’s in Leeds and have recently come back out of hiatus, touring with the also reformed Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (ahem, festival curators) is something different than most of the bands out there working today. There’s the rare and beautiful throwback punk feeling of slight danger about Carl Puttnam, who postures and uses the space in a way most singers today never do; not preening for cameras but communicating with an invisible god/demon/muse. A friend who knows music made a new discovery in this band, in communication with his own muse in an epic talk & drink session, and as we watched him fall in love, it was another facet of a long and memorable night.

How strange, how wonderful, how of the 90s the feeling of Saturday night is. But be advised, this is not nostalgia, but rather a grasp of the tail of something these bands were inventing and we were experiencing and defining ourselves by, in all our relative youths, then. It’s still needed, it bloomed but was soon extinguished (like the fad it wasn’t) cruelly killed by shallow media agendas, boy bands and belly tops, quite premeditated, too, because gender equality and musical diversity had been happening for a decade for the first time in history before our cultural Y2K disaster. And that achievement, that hope, and that feeling, that’s all we’re celebrating here. And in celebration there is new life.

And so to our Shiiiine Friends/ Family:

The friends we met, and re-met, well.

The ones we didn’t meet, who yet rotated around us sharing and being part of the same creation of happy memories as ours, with their own groups of friends, overlapping in circles – or never to meet.

The people who will duck under to not spoil a picture whether from a long lens or a camera phone, these observant and thoughtful people.

And those who instead, jump in front of it, giving you something else to see, and to photograph. (Was there really a leprechaun?)

The group who photobombed a passed out, sitting up man one afternoon near the Skyline stage, and another who created a massive dance floor huddle, that we photobombed ourselves. “Peace Sign!”

The musicians who came and joined this party, many who returned for year two, already family, from afar, are in it together, with all of us.

Musical artists roam and mix freely with their audience in the massive after-parties that make up the second festival once the main stage ends at 10:00 p.m. Centre Stage and Reds go dark, and alive, and everyone comes together in perfect rooms that are really the return to the 80s and 90s we crave and miss most of all: The camaraderie of youthful timelessness that extended way past your table of friends, bound only by a yellow flyer, a happy face, a flower T-shirt, a catchphrase, not yet co-opted; a beloved short-lived magazine, subtitled “Music & Beyond”, as it summed up life itself; a search, for our kind, in the faces of big, anonymous cities where our music was never so popular that it become uncool. If it never became uncool it is still intact. Deal with it, journalists.

But the 90s scene(s) once blossomed, triggered alarmist reporting about noise and drugs and the clucks of the boring and the critics shouting from the dull comfort of their homes. Dehydration, indeed. Club culture has had its casualties, but in truth, there was so much more that was good and authentic. Our youth was so much more and so different than any headline could reach for. Like everything worthwhile, and everything cool.

Worldwide, in our 90s, everywhere you could get a 12 inch record, an import or a bootleg tape or hear John Peel or read the NME, community could arise for 5 or 6 hours every Friday, Saturday or Sunday in the cities we grew up in, planted our flag in, ended up in, or tried for awhile, when we still believed adventures might lie in that garden patch we knew almost too well, former kids dreaming of archaeology in the back garden, innocent to the truth of the sewer lines below, or the fact of our dry suburban ahistory, our little world’s irrelevance. We still dared to hope in the early 90s,  were shortsighted then, tied to grueling jobs of youth and knew not how to jump a plane, a train, or a border.

But now we do.

Weekender people leave whatever their ordinary day to day life is and create something on a closed circuit that is yet a continuum from year to year, and from one great festival to the next. And Britain suffers no fools when it comes to music and to music festival offerings, or to the price of a pint. The competition is fierce, especially in summer, but even now, in November, the pull of home is calling (if you are so lucky to have that nagging pull, intact) and most of the land is marathoning through year end, an effort to put 2016 behind all of us. And so we lurch toward New Years Eve, nowadays with a bit of dread, since things sometimes get worse instead of better, for nations, for culture, for the fate of music, for our currencies we live by, or for our loved ones. Who could use a weekend away?

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But it was never truly easy, even when we had youth and a massive buffet of end of the century music offerings, to be present, to party, to cheer, or to hit the road. And it takes a persistence to row against the tide, to ignore the nagging mother within ourselves and to carve out a bit of the beautiful 90s here and now. Not because we are simply nostalgic, that’s not it, if you were there, you know that. But because we are relevant, we are right, and so is this music.

It was put away unjustly. It lives again in spite of industry, press, denied riches and the devils that have claimed the name “music” for so long, that create sounds in factories that are not good enough for our children, and are bad for the world. Musical heritage, musical life, is as worthy of a long life as any other art form. The trends & promotional cycles forever insisted upon by the uncreative money men are false, and everyone old enough to remember the early 90s is wise to all of it.

And so bands that have been quiet for a decade are back with regularity this year. They are here. No doubt, many are here due in part (or wholly) to the work of the organizers of Shiiine On Weekender, music lovers whose own path is circuitous and no doubt interesting. There’s real currency at work here, one that holds fast against the unseen pressures surely faced by all festival organizers to pull it all together. The currency here is invented out of credibility, trust, and maybe even fate. The journey is part of it, down to Minehead, and yes, down to Butlin’s. Location, location, location. And there’s a reality, an immediacy, to the whole thing that makes phones onsite a necessary evil to be put away when we find each other. Or when the battery dies. In that one way, and that way only, Shiiine On Weekender is retro.

This is a new but quickly established Weekender. The Shiiine On Family are in it together in an uncommon way. No one ever calls Beatles or Stones fans nostalgic, retro, or bald (even when they are) or implies that their enjoyment of these well-played records that to some of us are no more resonant than Muzak, is but a quaint attempt at reliving a flash in time known as “the 60s”. But for too many journalists, claims like this about our music reveals only the limits of their own ability to connect, their truncated imaginations and their stingy way with passion. A shame. And a detriment to the accurate reporting of all eras since the accepted peak of the late 60s. But enough about the absent. In our scene, a band as brilliant as Joy Division tragically dies, and another brilliant band, New Order, forms in a whole new way. Our artists are adaptable. We’re all adaptable.

We came here in year one because to see the first year’s bill was to think it was a made up wish list. Because one of our own important musical heroes was quietly added in an intimate gig that shattered us just as much as Peter Hook and the Light and The Farm did. Because we had just seen a mysterious and never to be seen again perfect Stone Roses cover band in Toronto, sharing wide eyed awe with a like-minded musichead across the room, a not-easily-impressed DJ turned Chef, no less. Because our work had been leading us toward what we’d only seen from “across the pond” forever, in strange happenings and signs. It was time to run, hop a time zone and take a leap. Right past that back-garden gate. And now we are among the addicted, loyal, devout – we’ve found our FC at last. We’ll be cheering at home and away. We are, like so many others we met or did not meet, open-hearted and discerning and we will not hear anyone celebrate the demise of “the 90s” as people were and still are quick to do, outside our culture. Tourists.

The 90s needed to come back, and so it has been on the return, without much help from the old powers that be that are crumbling like despots always do. 90s bands, tunes and culture has been steadily coming back to fill a massive void in music, culture and life different than the Beatles nostalgia trip of the mid-eighties, and with a whole lot less commercialism. It rolls on, like this weekend, on just the steam of passion, generosity, grassroots efforts, authenticity and the truth that sincerity is cooler than irony, after all. Everyone here belongs here.

See you next year.

With our thanks to Shiiine on Weekender, James & Steve, the bands we photographed (and a few we missed) The Cobbie & Mrs Cobbie (& Al!) Phil, Mark, Charlie and absent friends Gareth, Adam & Greaves – we returned to the scene of the crime and we found the irons. You were much missed. Weddoes in Toronto in April? 

Shiiine On Weekender’s 2016 Line Up: Indie Music & Beyond

With a full slate of music festivals and events designed to maximize the fleeting prime weeks of summer, true music lovers should not miss out a chance to keep the party going well into fall thanks to the organisers of Shiiine On Weekender, back for its second year 11-14 November at Butlin’s Minehead Arena in picturesque Somerset, U.K. (near Bristol). With Early Bird Tickets still on offer, this is a prime time to get a group together and plan a memorable weekend away.

We make no secret of our excitement for this newer weekender that is sure to make you remember family caravaning trips ” with a twist-  now alive with great music around the clock, a crowd of like-minded people and a laid-back and drama-free environment with minimal fuss.

Step On Magazine was thrilled to attend and cover Shiiine year one (which was also our mag’s first year) after getting word from a savvy friend in Canada who shares our deep love for Happy Mondays, 2015’s first major headliner, then touring and celebrating the 25th anniversary (!!!) of their masterpiece, Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches.

The line up looked too good to be true. It was very different from many bigger festivals that try to be too many things to too many people, then missing the mark with bloated line ups that make less and less sense. Worse, big festivals (particularly in North America) fail to honour so many solid 80s and 90s U.K. artists that are the backbone of this very notion of togetherness and festival ethos, who are still active and still well worth the ticket price. There are legendary names that deserve the call and that would raise the level of North American festivals exponentially.

There’s an extra effort missing with some other festivals at present, a thoughtfulness required, that goes beyond just the viewpoint of the accountant and comes, instead, from the heart. From the music loving soul who can also write the cheques. And here in Hacienda black and yellow was something altogether new, from people who’d been around the festival scene as fans and clearly felt the need for something else, and then, found a way to create it.

U.K. music fans know their music and are spoiled for choice in the busy summer months. The most mobile even jump trains or flights to great, big European festivals. A new player on the scene needed to offer something different, something a little bit bespoke, that didn’t need masses but the right mix to create an excellent party. And so they did. Shiiine On is an all-in experience that manages to be relaxing and exciting at once, at a pace you can set yourself: the more intimate setting (where festival-goers stay on site but do not have to camp out and lug gear) means they can sleep in until they hear the first strains of the early afternoon sets beginning, or get up for daily pool parties (yes, if you weren’t there you missed Bez’s legendary pool party in year one) see cinema screenings featuring 80s and 90s classics that continue the vibe of Indie, Dance, Britpop, and other iconic images, stories and sounds of the day, and become night owls again at epic club nights that keep the party going until very very late (including the bar).

Club nights for 2016 include Keep it Social, Cool Britannia, Burn Down the Disco and Madchester. To top all of this off, in the place of where might be head-scratching place holders at other fests, come the best in relevant cover bands to round things out to the full (2015’s Clone Roses set was a major highlight, regularly noted as the surprise of the weekend, or the major regret of those who did not get in before the club reached capacity). Clone Roses return for 2016 along with Oasis UK, joined by the TRIFECTA that thrills the 80s kid heart: The Smyths, The Cure Heads, and True Order (the last following last year’s barnburner of a set by Peter Hook himself (with his band, The Light, accompanied by legendary Manchester singer and ambassador Rowetta Satchell).

All this and we haven’t even covered the full artist line up. Here it is:

As visitors from abroad we were well-versed in the music but new to the notion of Butlin’s and to the way things work there. So by way of a brief trip guide for those unfamiliar, Butlin’s site is very informative but essentially the weekend works as an all-in package (festival pass to all performances and other offerings + accommodations) best suited for groups (though single rooms are available) and comes with or without a meal plan (and with optional cooking facilities). We suggest you skip all but your morning tea & biscuit before setting out for there is a local Spar onsite (open 24/7) the home of nightly post-last orders funny moments and quick, life sustaining eats, as well as many affordable restaurants on site and the all-important pasty shop which is almost 24/7 (we miss u). For U.K. visitors within 3-4 hours drive, taking the car is probably most convenient but can also be easily organized by train and coach (see official sources for more information/recommendations).

Minehead proper is just a 5 minute walk along the coast with many great pubs and friendly shops as an offsite option for socializing & mealtimes during the day. Butlin’s, to an outsider who had just recently been to Las Vegas for the first time, is something akin to that otherworldly adult playground but much much more walkable, social, friendly, and happily, without one single cheesy magician full of desperate repressed anger (that Vegas staple who charges as much as a third of this weekend for the dubious privilege). In his place, we have, instead, a delightful array of claw games, a big tent which covers the large, roomy, main stage area as well as a number of appealing different clubs for smaller stages and DJ nights, and indoor/outdoor places to hang and celebrate the scene that deserves a full 72 hours to remind us all how right we were in our youthful exuberance; how right we still are to love it and to preach the gospel of this music. The fine tradition of the memorable road trip awaits you and the kids would love to have a weekend with granny, we promise.

Fans, organizers, a few Canadians and visitors from abroad, and essential, iconic bands all came together to create something rare and great last year. Corporate Pop music and the years of digital noise and declining music press were blasted away the old-fashioned way. Our Canadianness permits us to be earnest for a moment: it was a real marvel. And worth every penny and every jet-lagged mile, in fact, way beyond those things. Like all music festivals and all travel ought to be. For 72 hours, a real village was built that made plain and easy for all the vibe promised so easily elsewhere that falls short when their chosen site, focus, line-up and scale is just to large and scattershot to please anybody.

Don’t take it from us. A testament to this claim is the many players from last year returning in some form or another who’ve made it something of a priority (or….is that… a new tradition?) and the festival-goers who immediately rebooked for 2016 before leaving the site. Bez’s pool party has gone down as legend, but there are still pool parties ahead, as well as music from returning artists The Wonder Stuff, a significant percentage of returning Happy Mondays in the form of Black Grape,  Love & the Family Tree (Gaz Whelan & Rowetta) and a Happy Mondays DJ set on Friday. Also returning to great acclaim is The House of Love (Terry Bickers played with his duo, Fij & Bickers last year) The Farm, James Atkin (EMF) and Thousand Yard Stare (who we’ll be featuring in an upcoming interview). The unusually civil and positive social media exchanges around this weekender by past and prospective attendees are worth noting as well. See you there. (More coverage and band profiles to follow.)

Jacqueline Howell & Dave MacIntyre.

Shiiine On Weekender’s website

Link to Early Bird Tickets and Butlin’s Information

Shiiine On Weekender’s Facebook page

Minehead Tourism- general area information

Headliners: Echo and the Bunnymen; The Wonder Stuff;  The House of Love; Shed Seven;  The Bluetones; Echobelly; Cast; Black Grape; The Farm; Paul Hartnoll (Orbital); (and more)

Read more of our Shiiine On Weekender coverage / view our photo galleries

Shiiine On Weekender Sunday: I Don’t Want To Fade Out, I Want To Fade In

Shiiine On Weekender –Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015. Day 4: Sunday

2:00 p.m. Stray observations from the weekend: we didn’t get to say goodbye to the hilarious fellow who was so excited for Shiiine that he bought his tickets LAST October, thinking it was for November 2014. You might have seen him during the Mondays in a very special shirt patterned with pictures of Las Vegas-Escort cards, with his mate, a festival warrior who popped back to work on Friday to close business on no sleep. Sadly, we all failed to meet at the specified pillar, is there a Jarvis Cocker couplet to be mined from this? Sunday allows time for one pitcher of “only cider” with mates and more bands to see together before we all go in different directions, even though one of them is clearly musing about returning to scoop up a certain lady pub manager he’s met, in what one only hopes will be shuffling steps toward the first ever post- Shiiine On baby.

Finally getting off raver hours to visit thud crackle pop the Pete McKee exhibition in my favourite non-musical corner of Butlins. Photos will tell this story best but this is an installation that’s taken over a space as a record store with playable records and cultural commentary as additional labels. There’s a listening booth with handwritten notes of what each record means to the artist, a how to listen guide, really. A how to remember guide for those of us that can. Oh yes, it’s another glorious day when Power, Corruption and Lies is spinning in a record shop with that cover displayed with pride. Tearing up for you see, we are all children of New Order’s divorce and sleep is on hold to boot. The chat with the guys in the shop reminds me that the loss of these outlets meant the loss of our generation’s news stands. McKee’s art, including the festival’s program cover, is an inspired match for this inspired Weekender, and so is the sign above the register that promises no Phil Collins is stocked.

3:00 p.m. Pete Fij & Terry Bickers are those musicians that fans will travel far and wide for. Fij, of early 90’s (criminally underplayed) British Rock outfit Adorable, and Bickers, of House of Love (currently reuniting for Spring 2016 gigs and who once had a song called Shine On), have formed a duo over the last 5 or so years resulting in the excellent album Broken Heart Surgery and a new album in progress (may I suggest “a smidge more reverb” as a working title?). These musicians’ hearts are stronger at the broken places and their music and harmonies are smashing. Fij’s voice is still that rich and distinctive croon that can take us anywhere on the dial, and slip just as well into fearless stadium power, if only the situation would demand it. We get to hear Adorable’s “A To Fade In”. It might be a new discovery for some, so we’ve included it here as our parting track of the epic weekend. And not to put too fine a point on it, we hear The Sound of Love.

6:15 p.m. Sunday’s main stage acts include Cud, The Frank and Walters, The Wedding Present and The Wonder Stuff. Each of these bands bring their own eager following to the mix, like the team sport music is here. Having heard raves about The Wedding Present from some dedicated & discerning fans, David Gedge does not disappoint. Guitar Strings are broken, and an impressive amount of guts are left on the stage. It’s a great, great show. It’s impossible to believe this is all coming to an end.

9:00 p.m. The Wonder Stuff come out swinging and have the crowd jumping instantly. Miles Hunt remains highly energized and it’s a win for ending the main stage day on a high for the crowd. No that wasn’t me sobbing and weaving through the crowd like a drunk girl at prom during “The Size of a Cow” of all things because, yeah, (and worse, mishearing the lyrics) these COULD be the best days of our lives. Dammit!

11:00 p.m. Like many headstrong revelers there’s travel at odd hours ahead so it’s time for one last disco at the Dance Stage. Big Beat/Electronic giants Lo Fidelity Allstars are tonight reuniting for a special Shiiine On only gig, before a packed house of diehards.  As their loyal core of fans that watched their rise back in ’99 know already, this band was AND IS as great to watch as listen to. YA HAD TO BE THERE. There’s a riveting bit of exorcism going on, of the sort that is heaven when it’s real, as now, and dross when it’s faked. A final hit of beautiful alchemy even here and now, at the final hours, done by no less than wizards (a title Noel Gallagher reserves for Johnny Marr). There’s only one way to handle the reality of the comedown, and that’s to strut out now as if you were Noel, Liam, Shaun, or Ian as best you can manage and not drain every drop dry until the breaker is pulled.

So we don’t yell at security: “You’ve ruined our night, if not our whole weekend, if not our lives!” by ending, Shiiine On. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender & North Country Boys (and all the lads) all the bands we got to see and photograph and the top  DJs most of whom we didn’t photo because we were dancing (Keep It Social, Cool Britannia Britpop DJs, Will Nicol, Graeme Park, Dave Booth, Derek Dahlarge) and everyone who took the ride with us then and now, you clearly all have impeccable shoes and haircuts, always. Three fingers up. See you later.

(We want to note that our coverage and omissions  over the weekend was due to timing and availability and was not meant to be exhaustive, but the more we went along the more we hoped to include in our reporting. This is our version of the 6000 different stories that went down. We also like the stories we saw that were in a single look exchanged, a toast, a stranger’s hug, not written down, not lived through an iPhone. The comments on Facebook have got it when they say “best weekend ever. No further words necessary”.  And we hear there are just as many great un-publishable photos as there are memories. We’d love to hear about yours and I know that Shiiine welcomes your (publishable) gig photos to their Facebook page.)

Words by Jacqueline Howell, photos by Dave MacIntyre aka the Canadians.

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