When I heard the BBC 6 Music Festival was going to be held in Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse I was pretty interested. The Warehouse is of course the venue of the legendary WHP parties where I (and thousands more) have enjoyed lively rave-ups. I was interested in returning in a more civilised music festival context to nostalgically gaze upon the spot where I ripped the knee out of my jeans sliding across the floor during Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, the bit outside the toilets where the police accused me of stealing phones, the bit on the dancefloor where I got the photograph with the topless muscly guy during Hot Chip, etc.
The BBC 6 Music Festival line-up was great, but I was wondering how all the acts would be scheduled. Chic’s set at WHP last year was slightly marred by the fact that all 4,000 people in the venue wanted to be in the main room to see them. The crush was actually quite dangerous (more “Let’s Shuffle on the spot” than “Let’s Dance”), and this risk was surely a known problem to the BBC folk staging the event. As we enjoyed a Saturday afternoon cocktail in Manchester’s Apotheca, set-times began to appear on Twitter, and the rather crude solution to the crush-risk became clear – bands would play in both rooms of the venue at exactly the same time.
This was a bit disappointing as I am sure the adverts which were on heavy rotation on 6 Music didn’t say “see Bombay Bicycle Club OR Jagwar Ma”, but that was the choice that presented us as we arrived at the Warehouse. We opted to start off with some Jagwar Ma, the highlight being a brilliantly bludgeoning “Come Save Me” which, in contrast to the recorded version, cut out any nonsense and reached its fun outro about a minute after its intro. We then saw the tail end of Bombay Bicycle Club, performing a lovely “Always Like This” and a comparatively muted “Carry Me” (its epic sound on record perhaps being tricky to replicate live).
Next up was a choice of Lykke Li vs Jake Bugg, a rather unappetising clash (though you an get cheap laughs by jumping around shouting “Lightning Bolt” in the style of a chimney sweep – try it), so the solution was to visit the SIlent Disco and enjoy Giles Peterson playing “Never Too Much” (taking off the headphones and listening to people singing during this was very funny indeed). Soon it was time for the next face-off at the BBC 6 Music Royal Rumble, and it was Franz Ferdinand vs Wild Beasts. As Franz were going to be on for a bit longer than Wild Beasts it was decided to try and see some of the start of Wild Beats in Room 2 then battle into the Main Room. This tactic was rewarded with an early “Reach a Bit Further”, always a delightful live highlight with Hayden and Ben’s delightful call and response vocals. By this point however Room 2 was comically rammed, and despite being about 6 feet in height and about 50 feet from the stage I had to be on my tip toes to see anything but Wild Beasts’ heads. I can only assume most of the room couldn’t see anything whatsoever!
Heading to the Main Room to see Franz Ferdinand we found the balcony (I never knew there was a balcony!) which was a real result. Perfect lines of sight and no deadly crush! We had missed “Michael” and “Matinee” but happily got to hear the mighty “Ulysses” and the timeless “Take Me Out”. “Bullet” rather than “Love Illumination” would probably have been a better new song to end on, but it was overall an energetic and very enjoyable show.
Franz Ferdinand, and Wild Beasts
Next up a heavyweight The National vs a spindly James Blake looked like a grisly mismatch and I opted for The National to start with, reckoning Mr Blake would keep his very best tunes till last. The brooding champs from Brooklyn started slightly sluggishly but hit a wonderful stride with an amazing run of “Mistaken for Strangers”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Sea of Love”. Overall it was a great “festival” kind of set and by all accounts I missed a rampant “Mr November” during the encore. However I have no regrets as I got to hear James Blake serving up “Retrograde” and “The Wilhelm Scream” as his final songs.
The easiest place to actually hear and also see James Blake from!
After that it was back into the Silent Disco to hear Don Letts (finishing up with an actually very fun reggae take on the normally dreary “Fix You”) and get a picture with the fantastic Shaun Keaveny (he was fairly bewildered but we just harangued him “Shaun! Shaun!” and shook his hand)! Before leaving we checked in with Craig Charles in the Main Room – Mr Charles has perhaps the best show on 6 Music and he treated the audience to repeated shout outs about how good the station was in-between 10 minute long cut-ups of “What’s Goin’ On” and “Rock With You”. Tremendously good fun but also perhaps a tad challenging for the casual punter and perhaps also an act too far for our tired legs.
Above – Craig Charles.
Left – I taunted Mr Keaveny on Twitter that he looked like a dodgy Ryan Giggs.
Overall then I had a lot of fun – but I still think the whole thing could have been a lot better! I haven’t even mentioned the drinks selection at the bar but it was noticeably worse than at WHP, which seems odd (Pin Ups chap Mr Paul Smith ended up with a pounding headache from the filthy lager on offer). I am pretty sure that the folk in the BBC 6 Music office thought about the Victoria Warehouse first and the logistics second. The second room simply isn’t fit for purpose for live music – it’s too narrow and the stage is far too low. Arranging deliberate band clashes is also a pretty poor solution to crowd management. You expect a degree of overlap at festivals but bands facing off when there are only actually 2 bands to watch isn’t fair.
s it was I was mainly there to see friends and have a laugh and hear a bit of music if possible. On that level I was totally satisfied, but I still hope they go back to the drawing board for next year!