Review and Images by Jonathan Taylor
On yet another weekend of live music during festival season next up and returning for its third year is Cotton Clouds Festival. With the Peak District as it’s picturesque back drop Cotton Clouds Festival takes place in the beautiful rural surroundings at Saddleworth Cricket Club, in the borough of Oldham, 11 miles North East of Manchester.
The diverse line up of live music includes the likes of Peter Hook and The Light, Ash, Reverend and The Makers, The Wailers and Tim Burgess, through to local and emerging talent including the likes of The Mouse Outfit, Saytr Play, Good Cop Bad Cop and Dirty Laces. The festival is set across three stages, accompanied by a locally sourced craft beer stall, bars, live art, children’s activity workshops, and a range of eateries.
As the gates open at midday, the persistent rain that had been prevalent all morning showed no sign easing. Regardless of the heavy down pours, it is a Friday, the working week is over and the British weather is not going to dampen spirits.
Owing to the well organised stage times and close proximity between the Main Stage, Tim Peaks Diner curated by Manchester music royalty Tim Burgess and The Spinning Room tent at Cotton Clouds festival there are not the usual issues of navigating line ups and band clashes.
As the stages open the festival goers are treated to the electro grooves of Alabama 3, the energetic indie pop of Manchester’s Saytr Play and the hip hop, jazz infused rap collective The Mouse Outfit. Northern Ireland’s guitar royalty Ash take to the Main Stage where they play there back catalogue of hits spanning nearly three decades including such hits as ‘Shining Light’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Girl From Mars’.
The opening day is brought to a close by Manchester Legend and founding member of Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook and his band The Light. Along with his solo material, the set is an anthemic masterclass and the crowd are in fine voice in accompaniment to such classics as ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. A very fitting way to wrap things up on this dark and rainy evening in the beautiful North.
During Cotton Clouds the weather is a game of two halves and though the carpet like quality of the cricket pitch which is home to the festival has now in parts been reduced to an expanse of soggy mud, the sun beats down for day two of proceedings.
Across the three stages, the diversity of music is prevalent with likes of Hey Bulldog, The C33s, Patawawa, Secluded Sea, Liines and Hyde Park Brass entertaining the crowds. Up and coming Wigan based band Dirty Laces take to the stage in Tim Peaks Diner and prove in no uncertain terms that rock and roll is alive and well in the next generation of music makers. Oh My God! It’s The Church take to the main stage mid-afternoon and offer something completely different in terms of entertainment with their blend of risque comedy, comical preaching and musical covers, which some might suggest was not entirely appropriate for what is billed as a family friendly festival. That said, they without question lifted the ‘spirit’ of the crowd in the beautiful sunshine.
Manchester icon and front man of The Charlatans, Tim Burgess does what he does best in his festival home Tim Peaks Diner and delivers Charlatans classics and solo offerings to his dedicated fan base including gems such as ‘White Shirt’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ off The Charlatans debt album ‘Some Friendly’.
Arguably the highlight of the weekend is the performance on the main stage by Reverend and the Makers. As front man Jon McClure rightly states, there set is filled with, “banger after banger” and they receive the biggest response of the weekend so far with masterful storytelling and energetic classics including ‘Bassline’, ‘Open Your Window’, Black Widow’, ‘Out Of The Shadows’ and ‘Heavy Weight Champion Of The World’.
To close what has been a diverse and outstanding weekend of live music, The Wailers grace the stage and perform tracks by their much missed front man and reggae legend Bob Marley. Classics tracks such as ‘One Love’, ‘Is This Love’, ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’ bring a real sense of solidarity and unity to this gathering of people and is the fitting end to what has been a perfect summers evening.
In terms of longevity, Cotton Clouds as a Festival is still in its infancy. But, since its beginnings three years ago it is inevitably gathering momentum and growing in stature. Judging by the events of the past two days, and it is clear to see why it has been nominated for “Best Small Festival” & “Best Family Festival” two years-in-a-row at the UK Festival Award and no doubt will continue to be an established fixture on the calendar of any music loving festival goer.