The third and final day of Ramsbottom Festival saw us experience the full diversity of the musical offering that the festival puts on across the event with a mix of styles and genres that have something for everyone. The evening's topped off by one of the greatest festival performances I've ever seen by Ist Ist on the By The River stage.
First up for us is Jordan Allen on the Smaller Rooms stage, once First Buses are done with delaying our arrival, but we still make it in time to catch seven songs from an upbeat set including a new song called Rosie that he's introducing as we arrive. Premiered at Leeds and Reading, it boasts a chorus that's tailor made for this as he spells out Rosie whilst encouraging the audience to sing and clap along. Whilst the time slot he's been given so early in the day restricts his crowd somewhat, he and his band, as ever, deliver a set with the energy and passion they would had they a full bouncing venue in front of them which is becoming the norm for them these days. Previous singles Helter Skelter and Set In Stone bring the set to a climax to a rapturous response for an energetic performance that set the bar high for the rest of the day.
Next up is a trip over to the main stage to catch the highly-rated Animal Noise who had headlined the tent the night before. A three-piece band from London, they run through tracks from their recent EP Sink Or Swim including the title track and Bag Of Bones, but it's an unreleased track called Little Things that really grabs our attention. Their songs are heartfelt, honest and warm and a perfect early afternoon comedown from the excesses of the night before and the slowly growing crowd show their appreciation.
The next two acts we see really demonstrate the range and diversity of the music offering at Ramsbottom and how there is something for every taste. Gorilla Riot in the intimate By The River stage are a no holds barred rock outfit complete with big solos and all manner of studied poses and gestures. Before their final song Dirty, one of them tells us about waking up in a bridesmaid dress and on second song Most Wanted, they sing about someone wanting them dead with a chest full of lead. They're a band unashamed of their desire to make full on rock and roll music and are clever enough to swerve most cliches of that genre. A pleasant surprise.
Next up on the main stage are Sound Of The Sirens, a folk duo from Devon, who rely on just guitar, ukulele and foot drums to make a sound that fills the cricket field. Unfeasibly polite, they play songs from their new album and one called The Voices to support the It Affects Me petition about mental health in education. They get the audience up and joining in despite the urge to lie on the grass and soak in the sun with songs that hit just the right notes for a relaxing afternoon listening to music. The use of both Abbe and Hannah's voices which fuse together at some points and counteract at others means they sound original in a genre that can often feel repetitive.
We're then stuck with a clash so we decide to split Duke Special and Feed The Kid. First up, we head back to the Smaller Rooms stage where we catch the opening four songs of Duke's set. Ever the maverick, and teaming up with friend and long-time collaborator Chip on drums and a whole set of unusual equipment built around him, he's seated at the piano and twists and delivers fresh, revisited versions of early single Freewheel, Last Night I Nearly Died and Applejack (from his musical interpretation of an unfinished Kurt Weill play). Things get even weirder on I Let You Down when Chip escapes from his machine and starts to play a cheese grater.
We then hotfoot it to the pavilion to catch the second half of Feed The Kid's set. As ever, Curtis throws every bit of his heart and soul into the performance despite looking like he'd had a heavy night. Forthcoming singles In The City and Century are stand out tracks, a bubbling mix of blues, glam rock and soul that's almost too much for the confines of a hot and sweaty cricket pavilion and another new song called Back Seat Driver shows that they're in a rich vein of songwriting form currently. They attract the biggest crowd we see in there this weekend and they've got people singing along to previous single Red River.
The penultimate band we catch are Skies back on the By The River stage. The duo from Folkestone make heavy use of backing tracks to complement their guitar and drums approach, but it allows them to create some fabulous three minute bursts of some of the most addictive immediate dark-tinged electronic pop you're likely to hear in a long time. Alie takes lead vocal responsibilities although Jethro does contribute throughout and when the two combine it creates something that feels original and different and makes you want to dance. They insist we all take some of their stickers and use them to place on the person next to us. But that silliness aside, the reaction they get at the end of their set tells us the long journey from Kent was worthwhile as they've just won a whole new set of admirers.
Ist Ist already have a reputation for being one of the most fearsome live bands around, but their set to close By The River will have people reminiscing about it for years. Simply put they steal the festival plaudits with a set so powerful, so raw, visceral and all-encompassing that the gathered crowd can't do anything but submit to their onslaught. People are drawn in by the metallic sound of the aptly-titled opening song Brutalise and that assault on the senses, with the aid and assistance of the lighting man, continues throughout their forty minute set until we're too exhausted to fight any longer. People who've wandered in not knowing what to expect stand open-mouthed then submit.
"This one is fucking horrific" Adam says to introduce Rats before apologising to the mesmerised four year old sat right in front of him on the floor. He couldn't be more wrong though, it's a magnificent thunderclap of guitar, bass and drums exploding before our eyes in blasts of white light. Singles White Swan and Night's Arm are more vicious in the flesh than they are in binary, Things May Never Be The Same Again might just be Andy and Adam repeating the same line over and over, but it's a fearful ferocious recipe that has us involuntarily joining them in reciting the mantra. Animal, 1-2-1 and the final Left For Dead leave us staggering out of the tent, ears ringing, excitedly talking about what the hell we just witnessed. As well as stealing the show and the weekend, Ist Ist stole the hearts and minds and ears of anyone privileged enough to witness them.
The final word again has to go the organisers of the festival though. Ramsbottom is still an unspoilt jewel in the festival crown. Its musical line-up offers something for everyone, established names, up-and-coming bands and spread across all genres and it doesn't over sell tickets so there's plenty of space for both those with kids and those who want to party and there's a real friendly vibe whether you go with your gig-going crew, you bump into people you haven't seen for years or make new friends. Catering is a cut above the usual sub-standard festival fare and prices are kept to a reasonable level for the standard whilst there's always a volunteer on hand to help if you're stuck. The festival is always a highlight of the year for us and long may that continue.
Jordan Allen's official website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.
Animal Noise's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Gorilla Riot's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Sound Of The Sirens' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Duke Special's website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.
Feed The Kid are on Facebook and Twitter.
Skies' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter.