We’re not in Kansas any more Toto…
Askern is a small pit village on the outskirts of Doncaster but reaching it by bus is akin to trying to walk into Mordor. Which one doesn’t just bloody well do. A 40 (!) minute bus journey on a rickety old banger with a raging hangover was not, perhaps, the best start to the day. Things didn’t improve upon arrival in Askern when my wife and I were met by a gang of hostile, and possibly feral, children, repeatedly screaming the question ‘are you westside?’ at my beleaguered face. If anything the day would only get weirder…
I arrived at the entrance to be told by the bouncer that two acts had already been on but I shouldn’t worry because ‘you haven’t missed much pal’. Classic Yorkshire humour. As I was coming in, I caught the final minutes of a song by a band called The Resistance and was surprised to find that they actually sounded pretty good. Perhaps the Donny music scene isn’t so uniformly terrible as I thought after all!
Walking through the field to find a place to settle was an odd experience. I imagine Askern is quite an insular place as it felt like we were crashing someone’s wedding. People sat in clustered groups, squeezed into camping chairs, glancing sideways at us as if we had suggesting reading a book instead of waiting for the film to come out. Not to worry, I thought, I’m sure they are a friendly bunch.
We sat down just to the right of the stage while a group of children called District played a mix of largely awful covers and stinking originals. They made sure we knew which ones were the originals by repeatedly saying ‘this one is by us… District… we are District… this one is by (long pause) District’. To be fair to them they were very young and they were spirited and people seemed to enjoy it so fair play to them. Everyone has got to start somewhere.
Next up were The Americas who started out quite promisingly, what with being genuinely adept musicians and all. The problem is while they were aiming for a mix between Lou Reed and Brian Jonestown Massacre, they settled up somewhere closer to Jet. Something no band, or audience member, wants. Their songs all sounded the same of course but there is something comforting in a small, local band rewriting the same song 14 times. Nobody wants to hear a dog miaow after all.
I will be making no excuses for The Kavaliers though who are comfortably the worst band I have ever seen. Barking bits of a Beautiful South song interspersed with your own terrible originals is not a good look and their woeful cover of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ was as embarrassing as it was misguided. Still, the Askern crowd lapped it up like it was a 99′ with a flake in it from Skeggy beach so they did their jobs. Oh and actually their drummer was good, so there is that.
At this point I went to the toilet. Normally this wouldn’t be a noteworthy event but I bring it up for the wonderful exchange between a group of Askern’s debonair female contingent.
‘Where are you going Jackie?’ scowled one.
‘I’m going to squat in’t bushes’ responded Jackie, clearly unwilling to brave the 3 man queue.
Speaking of old ladies piss, The Kavaliers had finally wrapped up at this point and it was time for Jackobins. The Liverpool band have played a lot of gigs and that showed in terms of presenting a polished and professional sound and while their style of heavy indie rock is not really my thing, they were, at least, adept at delivering it.
Ginger Tom sadly isn’t one lunatic with a long ginger beard swinging a cat around whilst shrieking, but instead an inoffensive indie pop combo. They are actually pretty good as well, easily the best band of the day so far and they took the event in good humour and seemed to enjoy themselves so that’s nice. They delivered a couple of covers that were far superior to any we had heard previously and their originals aren’t bad. If they could find a more defined sound for themselves there is definitely potential there.
As the sun began to depart it was time for the headliners. Fresh from releasing their fifth album Broken Glances back in February, The Pigeon Detectives rushed the Askern stage and were a ball of energy throughout. Frontman Matt Bowman left no inch of stage uncovered as he bounced from one side to the other. The band leaned heavily on their first album Wait For Me, ten years old this year, but also covered the rest of their back catalogue throughout their hour long set. Highlights including but not limited to ‘This is an Emergency’, ‘I Found Out’ and ‘Animal’. Between handing the crowd beers from backstage and climbing the rigging, Bowman makes for an engaging frontman and while there was a nagging feeling that he was enjoying their show more than anyone in the crowd, it was still a fitting end to a bizarre day.
Despite it feeling like a bizarre cross between Withnail and I, The Wicker Man and Benidorm, I reckon I would do the Askern Music Festival again. And so should you.
*Just a little sidenote to stop me getting my head stoved in – As I recently moved to Balby from Hyde Park, please don’t think any of this is meant in a nasty or superior way. It all comes from a place of love. See you next year Askern!