If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you’ll know that I’ve just got back from a weekend at the highest pub in England Tan Hill. Famous for those double glazing adverts with Ted Moult in the 70s and a big snow-in last winter, Tan Hill was the venue for the second British Sea Power-curated festival, Sing Ye From The Hillsides II.
The three day event is held every two years and there was a lot of excitiement amongst BSP fans when it was announced there was to be another one this year. It’s not your regular kind of festival. Firstly, all the action takes place in and around the pub with the bands playing in a ‘rustic’ barn round the back. Secondly there is no campsite as such, just barren moorland as far as the eye can see. Thirdly, BSP are the main event although this year more bands played and it had definitely increased in scale and felt more professional.
Bands start early evening and play until the early hours of the morning – there seems to be no real festival schedule as such. When you finish, you finish. There was a late bar every night and by late, I mean when the last man standing has staggered to his or her tent, the bar closes. My kind of licensing rules.
Daytime activity included husky dog racing, bird of prey displays, guided walks in search of the elusive black grouse and fun and games including eating donuts without licking your lips. If it sounds quirky and eccentric, it is – and that’s what BSP do best. It’s a quintessentially British event and if you can put up with the unseasonably freezing early May weather, and the back to basics approach to accommodation, there’s much to be gained from it.
As a longstanding fan of the band, it’s a real treat to see them in such a small venue. The barn where the bands played is tiny and very ‘intimate’. the crowd often spill on to the stage and the band often spill into the crowd as you can see in the photographs. Supporting band highlights included the excellent John and Jehn, japanese heavy metal outfit Bo Ningen, the irrepressable Tom White and the lovely Basia Bulat. Special mention to The Phantom Band for being the pickiest about their sound. Fifties rock and roll skiffle combo (really) Kitty Daisy and Lewis kicked up a retro storm on the Saturday night too.
I couldn’t stay for the Sunday night, but I’m told it was another evening of quality musical entertainment with iliketrains doing the business – surely time for a new album from them.
Full marks for the band’s determination to host Sing Ye II again this year – I understand that they didn’t make any money at all out of the first festival and the increased ticket price reflected their determination to remedy that, although I suspect after fees, travel and beer expenses it won’t exactly be a money spinner, although I’m sure that’s not the reason why they do this. This is a festival for the BSP music fan who’s interested to see other bands that they like and inspire them, it’s a simple ethos and it delivers in spades.
As festivals get more and more commercialised, Sing Ye flies in the face of all of that and is a blast of refreshing northerly air. Here’s to Sing Ye From The Hillsides III!
Big thanks to Tmoose for the use of the photographs – they capture the weekend beautifully and you can see more of them here.