Over the bank holiday weekend, the 17th annual Audlem Festival took place in and around the quaint South Cheshire village. For many, Audlem may not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking of places to host live music, poetry and community events, but from the evening of the 25th all the way through until Monday 29th May, that is exactly what happened.
The festival was more than just an opportunity to showcase local emerging music, with exhibitions, poetry readings and the traditional bank holiday Monday carnival all taking place within the festival's weekend. But live music is the ultimate attraction for most of the festival goers, with eight different venues hosting a wide range of musical outfits and genres.
Arriving at the festival on Sunday evening was like walking into Audlem for the very first time. Music bounced off the walls of houses that lined the narrow streets, as the sound of beatboxing ethno-inspired didgeridoo-accompanied trio The Uptown Monotones, reverberated all around. The Lord Combermere patio was crammed with people, many over spilling onto the pavement, just to soak up the three-piece's performance and their music flowed right through the festival site.
A scenic walk along the canal path brought you to the Shroppie Fly, a picturesque pub perfect for stumbling across on a summery walk through Audlem. But on Sunday, the Shroppie Fly provided the perfect outdoor stage (complete with bar and barbecue for all) for The King's Pistol. Throughout the festival, the Shroppie Fly hosted acts such as Montparnasse, Tom Seals, James McGrath and others, but when the trio stepped up to perform their set, they blew everyone away. The band have a dark sound, combining Americana, English folk and elements of rock 'n' roll for their newer tracks, to create a uniquely mysterious sound. They performed tracks from both of their albums (lovingly recorded to tape and released on vinyl), including 'Paperback Road', 'Host Of Bones' and 'Wedding Song', closing their set with the as yet unreleased 'Black Jesus', to which they received a rapturous applause.
Back along the canalside and over on the outdoor FatPigeon Live stage, near the Bridge Inn, were The Good Habits. This stage had also seen its fair share of musical talent, with acts such as Oli Ng (full band set), Chris Tavener and Heidi Browne. The three-piece performed a variety of popular covers that attracted passersby instantly, with songs such as Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy' sitting comfortably in their set.
Later in the evening at the Lord Combermere, it was the turn of Nixon Tate & The Honey Club to wow Audlem crowds. They packed out the pub, with many taking a chance on the band having never heard of or listened to their music before. From the audience's reaction, I'd say that no-one walked away disappointed that night. The four-piece performed a tremendous set of originals, including 'Wolf & Crane' and 'Heady Redwood Days', taken from their 'Roses & Bones' EP, as well as newer tracks such as 'Never Be A Boy' and 'Porch Light'. Frontman Tate seemed confident and relaxed, laughing off his use of music stand and lyrics for 'Steal My Heart' — a song they'd only managed to rework before their sound check. Like vital components in a music machine, everybody, every instrument, makes this band likeable and unstoppable. Concluding the evening with 'Grubby Kids' ("this is dedicated to my sister and my brother-in-law... they're both in this song but they don't know it") and gaining participation from everyone in the room, Nixon Tate & The Honey Club brought the penultimate day of Audlem Festival to an incredible close.
The final day of the festival began at No.11 Cheshire Street, a hidden away alley stuffed with independent and friendly businesses, with an hour-long acoustic set from The Taskers. A four-piece rock outfit who like it loud, The Taskers are no strangers to tearing up a stage, but as it was 10:30am and they were a member short, the band kept it relatively mellow. Performing tracks selected from their five-year history as a band, including 'Trials', 'Raptors' and a hair-raising rendition of 'Seattle', taken from their current album 'Wolf Party', The Taskers stopped those passing through, in their tracks. The band looked aghast as they were called back for an encore, choosing to perform their version of Neil Young's 'Rockin' In The Free World'.
Later in the day, much like the days that had gone before, the streets and venues would be filled with the sounds of music, noise and laughter, with sets from Phil Maddocks & The Outdoor Angels, Rainbreakers and Megan Dixon-Hood to name a few. The 17th Audlem Festival had been a resounding success and as everyone returned back to their everyday lives, the events of the weekend would surely be in their minds for weeks to come.
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