Askern Music Fest Review by Rob Johnson
Before we get to the music, it would be remiss of me not to mention the infrastructure, as it did come to define the day in some ways. Askern Music Fest is a growing festival entering its fifth year but its first year at Thornhurst Manor – a much bigger site. While there is no denying that Askern Fest 2023 was beset with problems: long queues for the bar and toilets, issues with getting in and out of the site, a lack of drinking water – it is also true that much of this was due to the terrible weather and the lack of internet access causing the card machines to falter. Mistakes were made. I’m confident the team running the festival behind the scenes will learn from them. All that can be done is to try to enjoy the day despite the issues. Which is exactly what we did.
We arrived during Space and the Liverpool band were in exuberant spirits despite the rain. Tommy Scott and his group of Britpop survivors know how to throw a party, and songs like ‘Neighbourhood’ and ‘Avenging Angels’ are perfect for a mid-afternoon festival slot. While having a recording of Cerys Matthews singing her part to ‘The Ballad of Tom Jones’ feels like a misstep, ‘Female of the Species’ and ‘Me & You vs the World’ still sound great all these years later.
Former Kasabian singer Tom Meighan is up next and delivers a set that confirms that he is one of the most engaging and compelling frontmen in the business. A mixture of solo tracks such as ‘Shout It Out’ and ‘Deep Dive’ and Kasabian classics goes down a treat with the crowd, and the sun even comes out during ‘Underdog’ and then it’s blue skies for the rest of the set with ‘Empire’ and ‘Shoot the Runner’ sounding as big and impetuous as ever and ‘Club Foot’ and ‘Fire’ closing things out nicely.
Coventry heroes The Enemy have always been a band that makes the most sense in a live setting and so it proves as they provide the best set of the day. From the first notes of ‘Aggro’ through to the final impassioned chorus of ‘This Song’ the band give absolutely everything, roaring through most of their first album and a smattering of songs from elsewhere. Tracks like ‘Away from Here’ and ‘Had Enough’ are designed to be played to rowdy crowds and Askern delivers on that front despite all the teething problems. It’s a testament to the quality of the band’s set that all the infrastructure issues are forgotten in a sweaty haze culminating in an exemplary run-through of ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’. Indeed.
Razorlight close things out and while ‘Golden Touch’ leads to the biggest singalong of the day, the terrible weather conditions affect the sound quality (which was otherwise excellent all day) and when the thunder and lightning really kicks in the band is forced off stage, but not before Johnny Borrell leads the crowd through an acapella version of ‘America’. Fair play to the lad for persevering through a freak set of circumstances. It’s a real shame that the set is cut short because songs like ‘Rip it Up’ and ‘In the Morning’ still sound as insistent as ever and the band seemed very much up for it before the weather intervened.
All in all, Askern Music Fest 2023 was a great time despite the problems. I’m confident the event will return next year bigger and better than ever.