Friends of Mine Festival - Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire
Starting off as a club night for new bands in 2004, the Friends of Mine Festival has evolved into a fully fledged affair set in the grounds of the truly gorgeous Capesthorne Hall outside Macclesfield. Really, you will not find a more beauteous spot to watch and listen to music than this place. With the Hall itself presiding over the proceedings like some stern-faced patriarch, the lush green lawns, flanked on either side by lakes, welcome the thousands of music fans upping their tents, putting on their wellies, cracking open the beers and celebrating big time.
Let's get one thing straight. FOM is truly a campers festival. Yeah, I know that all festivals cannot be truly appreciated unless you get to sleep with your face in the mud, but even the biggies, (V and T in the Park spring to mind) make some provision for those less inclined to sleeping rough. Not so FOM. Though there was a shuttle bus, it only ran at the beginning and the end of the event, so if you weren't camping, or had a day ticket (and you didn't have a car), you needed to rely on the Macclesfield taxi service, perhaps the really big winners of this festival. Far from the "five minute cab ride from the train station" yours truly was led to believe, it was actually closer to fifteen or twenty, so getting to and from the event left you severely out of pocket.
But exorbitant cab fares aside, FOM was a truly lovely festival. The absence of the countless throngs of the major festivals meant that it was bitesized and easy to manage, comfortable and cosy. The site was divided into two sections: one section containing the Big Top Tent, the other the Lake Stage and main Satellite Stage with Capesthorne Hall as its backdrop. Dotted around both areas were smaller tents showcasing new bands, like in the old FOM days, and this sometimes was where the real magic happened.
The lineup for this inaugural event was pretty impressive. For day one the headlners were The Lightning Seeds and Bernard Sumner's Bad Lieutenant at the Satellite Stage with the band throwing a few New Order songs into the mix. The real fun however was the excellent diversity of the unsigned bands. Highlights were the truly fantastic Naymedici with their mad Gogol Bordello-esque songs that had the Lake Bar tent bouncing. At the end of their set, as their PR system was shut down and the background "OK everyone show's over" music came on the audience began shouting "ONE MORE SONG!" non-stop until the powers that be finally relented and let the band play another number, the audience dancing and singing along like loonies. Shortly after that it was a two minute stroll to the Lake Stage where formidable Manchester band Where's Strutter put on a great set with their frontman jumping off the stage and immersing himself into the audience.
Saturday's crowd was even even more impressive. More people had arrived setting up their make-shift homesteads, children running around, fervent Frisbee matches around the tents. The weather wasn't too bad either with the sun playing hide and seek with the crowds. It was another day of pretty big name acts: Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and the laddish fun of Kid British drawing in the crowds. Dutch Uncles put on a great set over the Big Top tent and Cherry Ghost enchanted us with their beautiful tunes, at times drowned out by the funky goings-on by Fiction at the other end of the field. Then the evening brought out the big guns with legends The Buzzcocks and The Cribs headlining the Satellite Stage while Manchester darling Badly Drawn Boy played the Lake Stage.
Sunday got off to a bad start with acts cancelled due to the inclement weather and high winds, namely Leicester bard Jersey Budd's performance at the Bowl Stage. Yet Mother Nature did eventually relent and the sun came out for the most highly anticipated performances of the festival: Yuck and Young Knives at the Lake Stage, Manchester royalty The Fall and The Charlatans holding court at the Satellite Stage bringing in the biggest turn-out of the entire festival.
The Friends of Mine festival was, overall, a rousing success. Because of its diminutive size and family-friendly atmosphere there weren't the endless queues for the toilets, no rowdy hooligans and no endless miles of trudging from one end of the site to the other. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and the music non-stop. Bring on next year.
For photos of the performances, visit the Friends of Mine website at: http://www.fomfest.com/blog.php