REVIEW: Bingley Weekender 2023


Pic: Matt Crockett

Since its inception in 2019,the Bingley Weekender has proven year after year to be a success. Hosting acts such as James, The Libertines and The Pixies, it has managed to become a much needed middle ground between the raucous, bucket-hat swagger akin to Tramlines, whilst still being a festival oriented around families.

As the line-up for 2023 was confirmed, consisting of headliners Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Ian Brown and Travis, the festival seemed more star studded than ever.

This year’s festival was different as it featured a Thursday night opening party, exclusively for weekend ticket holders, headlined by the one and only Happy Mondays. Before that however, was a brilliant set by pop-shoegazers The Boo Radley’s as they whipped the crowd up with a set mainly consisting of tracks from their 1993 break-through record, ‘Giant Steps’. 

As the rain came down on the festival, the opening bars to, ‘Kinky Afro’ washed over the audience as they were treated to what was perhaps the best performance of the weekend. Hits included, ‘24 Hour Party People’, ‘Loose Fit’, ‘Hallelujah’ and the legendary, ‘Step On’, all of which transported the crowd back to early 90’s Madchester. The festival grounds becoming an open air Hacienda. The on-stage chemistry of the group has not faltered, with the banter between Bez, Rowetta and Shaun Ryder being almost as entertaining as the songs. If there is ever a way to kick off a festival this was it.

The Friday featured sets from the likes of Andrew Cushin, Black Honey and Kate Nash, all of whom played brilliant sets. It was only with Jake Bugg’s early evening slot that the party seemed to slow down. With the crowd pleasers being played early, it unfortunately gave the impression that this was merely a support slot. Unsurprising when you consider who was to follow.

As Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds took to the stage the feeling of excitement in the largely bucket hatted crowd was palpable. Kicking off the set with 5 tracks in-a-row from his latest record, ‘Council Skies’ may seem like a bold idea at first until you remember just how deep Gallagher’s catalogue of songs is. Solo offerings such as, ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’, ‘In The Heat of The Moment’ and the truly beautiful, ‘If I Had A Gun’ had the crowd in a unifying chorus, but it was with the later half of the set (consisting solely of Oasis songs) was where he came into his own. The triple threat of, ‘The Masterplan’, ‘Half The World Away’ and, ‘Little By Little’ is truly a testament to Gallagher’s skill as a songwriter, with each and every one of these songs being met with true elation from the crowd. Surely no other songwriter can claim as many alternative national anthems than Gallagher? The encore was a one-two punch of, ‘Live Forever’ and, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, two of Gallagher’s best that sent the crowd into euphoria.

However, the Saturday of the festival was a tale of two halves. The Cribs played a blistering show that was a testament to their enduring legacy as one of the best indie outfits of the 2000’s. Playing hits such as, ‘Men’s Needs’, ‘City of Bugs’ and, ‘Hey Scenesters’ as well as some deeper cuts such as, ‘Don’ You Want To Be Relevant?’ (first time as an opener since 2008’s NME tour) it was a true homecoming for the band as they were warmly received by their fellow Yorkshire-folk. Following this was an excellent set from fellow 00’s rockers, Razorlight. They held the crowd in the palm of their hand as they went from classic track to classic track, before closing with a brilliant rendition of, ‘America’. Arms were aloft the whole way through, with the crowd singing every line back to the band with true passion.

It was with headliner, Ian Brown, that the wheels unfortunately fell off. Throughout the day the crowd was a sea of bucket hats, Stone Roses shirts and adidas, all clamouring to see their hero live. The first sign of what was to come was when no musical equipment was wheeled on stage, just a laptop located at the side. This might not be the show the crowd was expecting. It wasn’t long before Brown swaggered on stage as an instrumental rendition of, ‘The Feeding of the 5000’ kicked in. What was to follow was one of the most bizarre headline slots one could ever hope to see. There was a total lack of Stone Roses songs, forgivable as this is a solo show with Brown out on his own. But what can’t be forgiven was the lack of care that Brown showed to the crowd. Singing like a man who had his electricity bill to pay rather than one of the most revered songwriters in British history, it was a shock to see the crowd leaving in their droves at around the halfway point. For many, the resurrection was over and it was truly heart-breaking to see an artist that means so much to so many no longer be adored.

The last day of the festival is always a slower paced affair, with hung-over thoughts of the next week at work plaguing the minds of festival goers. With this in mind, Bingley Weekender booked their last day to perfection. A mid-afternoon slot from the brilliantly named Everly Pregnant Brothers was exactly the tonic the crowd needed to perk themselves up for one last day.

James Bay wowed the crowd with a set of pop tinged crowd pleasers. Tracks such as, ‘Let It Go’ and, ‘Hold Back The River’ took on a new emotion in their live setting, with the crowd belting every lyric with a true sense of catharsis. The highlight of the Sunday, however, was to be found on the Discovery Stage as, Tribes, performed a blistering headline slot. Competing with both James Bay and the rain, the band were still at their best with each and every song being a captivatingly brilliant slice of indie-pop bliss. New track, ‘Dad I’m Not A Tough Guy’ was a particular stand-out, with it’s jangle guitars and elegant, emotive vocals combining wonderfully with the warm sun that was beginning to come out, it was tailor-made for a festival setting.

Closing out the Sunday, and the festival as a whole, was, ‘Travis’, who played a blinding set filled with crowd pleasers such as, ‘Sing’ and, ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’, the irony not being lost on the festival goers who had had to endure the wet conditions all weekend. The crowd were more than receptive to them, lapping up each and every song. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a mosh pit at a Travis show. As the final bars faded way the festival drew to a close.

Bingley Weekender is the benchmark for local festivals. The weekend was packed with massive artists as well as some of the most exciting up-and-coming acts, couple this with one of the most friendly atmospheres you’re likely to experience at a festival of its size and it is nothing short of a triumph.