Saturday 9th July 2022
Askern Music Festival has gone from being a plucky, single stage affair made up almost entirely of local bands, to an important date on the festival calendar. Securing Feeder, The Coral and The Lightning Seeds (as well as Mark Morriss, Chris Helme, Republica and Bang Bang Romeo among others) is genuinely impressive, and to achieve all this in a small mining village on the outskirts of Doncaster is something that should be lauded and celebrated. Unfortunately, I went too far with my lauding and celebrating on the day which has led to a particularly vicious two day hangover. Not to worry…
We arrive fashionably late, but still just in time to catch the end of Bang Bang Romeo‘s set. BBR are a band that have always worked best on a smaller stage, and songs such as ‘Chemical’ and ‘Shame on You’ get a little lost in the wind. A late set cover of The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ goes down well mind.
From there we have the pleasure of Bluetones front-man Mark Morriss, and as ever, he doesn’t disappoint. Bluetones classics like ‘Marblehead Johnson’ and ‘Cut Some Rug’ still sound great, but Morriss’ solo stuff is enchanting also, particularly 2014’s ‘Consuela’. The Acoustic Tent has a lovely intimate feel, with people sat on hay bales and just generally lounging around in front of the stage, but ‘Slight Return’ has everyone singing along, before a joyous cover of Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ ensures that everyone leaves with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.
Unfortunately, Republica are playing the Main Stage at the same time as Mark Morriss is doing his thing at the Acoustic Stage, but I do catch their spirited rendition of ’90s classic Ready to Go on my way back from the toilet which is a treat.
The Lightning Seeds are a band that I idolised as a kid, and I’ve never really seen them live (I caught their last two songs from a distance at some festival or other a few years ago). While I had high hopes for the Liverpool band’s set, I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by them. It’s easy to forget how many massive songs Ian Broudie and co. had back in the day, and their show is a true hit parade here – from the first trumpet blast of ‘Marvellous’ to the final glorious notes of ‘Three Lions’ (more on that in a second). The band lean heavily on their ’90s heyday with ‘Ready or Not’ and ‘Lucky You’ inspiring mass singalongs (particularly from me – I’d had a few ciders by this point), before ‘Perfect’ and ‘You Showed Me’ slow things down as the summer sun beats down. New song ‘Sunshine’ is a song that only makes sense on a big stage at a festival, but it is the final three songs that really cement this set as one of the best that Askern Fest has ever seen. ‘The Life of Riley’ is so evocative of a time and a place that it brings memories flooding back here, ‘Pure’ is still the best song Broudie has ever written, and ‘Three Lions’… well… seeing this band, play this song, surrounded by friends and loved ones in the glorious sunshine – wow. Truly a memory that will stay with me forever.
Coming off the back of their critically acclaimed tenth album Coral Island, The Coral are a band who are consistently able to keep writing tunes that keep them on big stages across the country. Happily however, James Skelley and his band are feeling reflective and so dip in to their self-titled debut album liberally with ‘Bad Man’ kicking things off with just the right amount of scouse lunacy, before a chaotic ‘I Remember When’ bleeds into ‘Simon Diamond’. From there, all the usual hits are performed with ‘Pass It On’ and ‘Jacqueline’ sounding great before the band finish up with a lively run through of crowd favourite ‘Dreaming of You’ – a song that is still brilliant even all these years later. That bassline. That chorus. Pretty special.
I will say at this point that the night becomes a little hazy, but I know that rum was involved and that we tried to walk the eight miles home in a misguided attempt to beat the taxi queue before a passing driver took pity on us.
Anyway. Feeder. The last time I saw Grant Nicholas and his band, it was their first gig following the tragic suicide of their drummer Jon Lee and it is a show that has always had a special place in my heart. This time, the band roar on stage with the heady confidence of festival veterans with a formidable back catalogue to choose from. The Welsh band play a greatest hits set that takes in classic singles ‘Feeling a Moment’, ‘Come Back Around’ and ‘Fear of Flying’, whilst still finding time to include some of their earliest work in the shape of a blistering rendition of ‘Insomnia’ and an emotional run through of ‘High’. The set finishes, as one would expect, with a triumphant ‘Buck Rogers’ – a song with undeniably terrible lyrics but an unstoppable chorus and an iconic riff, and the classic ‘Just a Day’ – the perfect festival closer. You will struggle to find a better song to finish off what has been another great day for the village of Askern, the event organisers, and the crowd.
This festival has come along way since the days of The Pigeon Detectives and dodgy local bands, it really is incredible what has been achieved here, and if it continues to grow, it will be exciting to see where Askern Music Festival goes next. Rest assured, I’ll be there regardless. Bring on 2023.