The beating heart of Cheshire has a reputation for acclaim in the arts, and its music scene has fed that of its hive-city, Manchester, for decades. This tradition definitely doesn’t hinder a small town, family-friendly festival from billing an absolutely quality line-up, with the likes of the Happy Mondays, The Virginmarys and Tom Hingley heading the main stage.
Apollo Junction kicked off proceedings on the main stage, and their unique take on indie-pop-electronica was the perfect way to start the day.
Mancunians, Puppet Theory, followed with a set that carried an energy and edge that makes me certain there are great heights ahead of this band.
Critically-acclaimed The Rainband followed with their blend of indie hooks, moodier blues and thunderous drums. It was during their cover of Paint It Black that I found myself transfixed by the SG-wielding bassist’s digits and their ability to add such a dynamic range of compression. This is the first time I’d seen The Rainband perform.
The IPA needed a friend at that point, so I took advantage of the plethora of choice from the food stalls. Dinner was chosen with deliberation: jerk chicken with chips, rice and gravy (because this is the North).
Next came Shola Ama, who was a ray of light to break through the cloud cover with her blend of soul and r’n’b; uplifting as it is timeless. The beaming faces (including mine) singing along to her hit version of ‘You Might Need Somebody’ were testament to the joy and power that permeates her music.
Shola would typically have been a tough act to follow, but the Manchester Ska Foundation’s billing had been highly anticipated and – as if the Virgin Pendolino from Piccadilly had just pulled into Macclesfield station – hordes flocked to the main stage and the pitch was chock-a-block before they had even played the first note. I’m very familiar with them, but they topped even my expectations; Lee is a robust and inimitable frontman backed by the ultimate ska band. The entire festival was bouncing and skanking was modus operandi for all until the final beat.
Tom Hingley & The Kar-Pets then blessed us with belters from the Inspiral Carpets back catalogue in the kind of faultless performance that you can only expect as de rigour in special cases such as these. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and our conversation (also featuring a cameo from Lee of MSF) can found [here].
Hometown-favorites, The Virginmarys, were welcomed to the stage with a palpable adoration and pride. Ally did nothing to disprove his perceived divinity when he intervened and rescued a young’un caught adrift within the mosh pit that was inevitably to open up in the wake of their alt-rock tsunami.
Headliners: The Happy Mondays. Need I say more?
If the party wasn’t bouncing already, the Mondays took it up a notch. I was most excited to finally see Bez in action, but it was Shaun Ryder that blew me away, and I wasn’t the only one to comment at the time on just how impressive a figure he was. ‘Kinky Afro’ was later cited as the standout moment. I’d agree were it not for fact that the entirety of that final set of the festival had me captivated and completely in love with Macc Fest, everyone there and life in its totality.