For the second time in May I made the long drive from Norwich to Newcastle, this time for This is Tomorrow Festival, opposite the University on Exhibition Park, featuring a very impressive line up including Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds, Stereophonics, Foals, The Vaccines, Lewis Capaldi and Johnny Marr. This time my companion for the weekend was my very beautiful girlfriend Helen.
Being so central, there is no camping, but parking was very easy and amazingly we got in to the carpark a few metres from the main gates, despite arriving late on the Friday at 19.00. I guess most of the Geordie crowd either walked over from the campus, or took the Metro. After a seven hour drive it was a relief that SSD had organised everything perfectly and our media and photo accreditation were sorted out very quickly at the ticket office. Once again huge thanks to the team for that.
We managed to time it perfectly for me to enter the photography pit as pop-rockers You Me at Six entered the stage. A two thirds full arena behind me were already lively and the band gave their usual 100%, giving me some decent shots. Lead singer Josh Franceschi encouraged several people to crowd surf, and a gang of them soon formed around him, for a nice bit of interaction.
Helen and I then had time for a quick wander. The site is small compared to most festivals, with the main stage area taking up most of the room. But somehow the organisers have crammed in a VIP area, second and third stages, a vast bar and decent array of food trailers. But there was not much time to relax as next up were my all time favourite band, Foals!!
Foals are the main reason I decided to travel 225 miles, with this being the second time I've seen them perform live. It seemed a perfect booking for the festival, given their most recent album was launched a couple of months ago. Strangely us photographers were not granted the usual first three songs access in the pits, and were told we'd go in for the last three instead. I've shot thousands of artists over the last five years, but this was a first. I kind of liked the idea of being in the pits for the encore, but something felt slightly off about it.
Foals were their magnificent and usual selves, kicking off with monster anthems 'On the Luna' and 'My Number', gradually taking the set down with a few slower songs including the beautiful 'Spanish Sahara'. Then, 35 minutes into the set they apologised that they would have to leave the stage because of some loose rivets in the safety barrier?! Had the You Me at Six crowd surfing shenanigans earlier affected things? 10 minutes of confusion followed before they returned to continue their set. The flow had been spoiled, but the Geordies and myself were determined not to let it ruin things.
But my heart sank when Yannis gave us the worst news possible a couple of songs later. They were going to have to cut the set short due to safety concerns. We all had to leave early, and I was not going to fulfil my ultimate ambition in music photography; shooting Foals. Absolutely gutted and we left the site amongst many grumbling people.
A few people had booed, but Yannis and his band mates sounded genuinely apologetic and in the end they were applauded off.
On the Saturday we had a bit more time to explore, especially around the second arena. Unfortunately this needs to be criticised, as it seems an afterthought compared to the impressive main arena. The stage is tiny and I'd like to have seen a tent there instead, as you'd see at most other festivals, (and a sure fire way to boost crowd numbers when it rains!). A line of toilets almost next to the stage doesn't help. The area just seems cobbled together. For me, second stages are usually more fun than the main stage, with better atmospheres. Sadly not here. Kudos however to Pip Blom who we enjoyed see making the most out of the experience. Smiley Pip and her band are fantastic and I highly recommend you see them play and check out on Spotify. I saw them play a blinder three weeks ago in a packed club venue at Hit the North Festival in Newcastle
The Vaccines then played a storming set. This is the fifth time I've seen them, and the fifth time they have been great. Sing-a-long indie-pop at its best. The main arena was heaving this Saturday afternoon and they were the perfect band for the occasion.
Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds soon entered the stage to play a fantastic set. Of course, as good as they are as a band, the people wanted Oasis songs, and we got plenty, including Wonderwall, Stop Crying Your Heart Out, Little by Little, The Importance of Being Idle and the monstrous Don't Look Back in Anger. In my opinion the best song of the 90's. Noel Gallagher is an absolute master of a front man.
Sunday followed suit with another huge crowd. We arrived to check out Lewis Capaldi's 17.00 set, and what a perfectly programmed booking again, given his album had just gone number 1 in the UK and his hit single being at number 1 for seven weeks. Helen was in pop-ballad heaven, and I've got to admit I enjoyed his performance. He seems a genuine and humble guy and is a natural comedian on stage. The younger element in the sold-out crowd were singing along loudly to each song.
Johnny Marr then did his thing . He's great at it but the The Smiths songs he includes in his set are forever marred by his idiotic ex-bandmate and far-right sympathiser Morrissey. It's a shame because Johnny can't help this, but I can no longer bear to hear their music.
Stereophonics wrapped up the weekend perfectly with a humungous 2 and a quarter hour set of classics. Utterly fantastic to see them, led by the ever young Kelly Jones. And awesome to see a second drum kit magically rise from the stage's 'catwalk' towards the end of the set for an immense drum solo by James Morrison.
A quick nod to the event staff, including those on clear up duties. They did a superb job and there was never too much rubbish on the floors. Security were friendly but firm and the paramedic team were quick to respond to a couple of emergencies.
Published on 31 May 2019 by Paul M. Jones