Review: Skeleton Coast Festival 2018

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Returning for its third year, now in the beautiful surroundings of Leasowe Castle, Wirral’s Skeleton Coast Festival looked and felt better than ever.

Doubles as an intimate album launch party for the Kings of Wirral Castle The coral and their phenomenal new album Move through the dawn, there was a special feeling in the air as a lucky few hundred entered.

Leasowe Castle is truly a special building and it was clear from the start that the festival organizers had nailed it here, using the unparalleled spaces inside to host a brilliant display of coral artwork and two stages – one in a chapel (yes you read that right, a real chapel) and one in the main room clad in chandeliers, even as a proud Wirralian you had to double-look to make sure you were in Wirral and not in Windsor.

The kings of cut glass were the first group we could catch and as always they didn’t disappoint. Go on stage in a dark, poorly lit room. Not a second was wasted in a string of catchy beats and whiskey-stained riffs.

Paul’s cross and Gregory McMurray don’t half-build a fierce sound wall for a duo. A wall which inside is even more explosive and caprivating.

The soulful tones of the majestic Marvin powell follow into the Chapel – a seemingly handmade venue and crowd for all of Powell. No electronics, no phone, no chatting. It feels like everyone in the room is united – in artistic respect if not something else.

Joined by Fiona skelly of The sunsets on bongos of all things, Powell was in his element here and delivered a special performance.

Back in the main room and there’s a buzz in the air like Merseyside’s worst kept secret Mysteries are next. Obviously everyone in the room, whether new bosses, had been warned by a muso colleague. These three are not unknown to many in these 9 games and rightly so. They left to support Miles kane on tour between hiding and working on new tracks, many of which filled tonight’s set. They’re going into retro hip hop tracks and one thing is immediately clear, the new songs are massive; heavier, more punk, tighter.

Lead Lia metcalfe has one of the most powerful voices in Merseyside – her hoarse, punky outbursts are on a whole other planet and I just hate loving you blew up the roof of Leasowe Castle.

This is a group that is talked about a lot in these regions and beyond and their potential is there for everyone. They practically punched the music industry in the face for months and after that show now seems equipped with a powerful set of tracks that stand tall to deliver a knockout blow. Be careful, the Mysterines are special.

Tim Burgess and the minutes anytime came next, notably featuring the Absolutely Villainous Laetitia Bocquet of Average sex. Tim’s new record Like I was now is brilliant and he and his band seem to be having a lot of fun playing it live. Duet sequences provide B-52 flavor to debates, vigorous album opener Clutch Insignificance is a psych-jam gem with organ hits, while the pulsating and driving ride Nik V has shades of that of the priest training days. Totally terrific and all very Skeleton Coast-ey.

A fleeting visit to a now crowded backdoor chapel to catch the last of a much-talked-about group – The Fernweh – was in order. Festival organizers Skeleton key records are big on these lots and even within minutes it’s easy to see why. Add groove and a dose of sunshine to a now dimly lit chapel.

Time of the main event. Their name in the lights. The kings of the castle – The coral. It was packed, sweaty and absolutely mega. This particular feeling earlier, here it is multiplied by ten. In the tiny seconds between songs, you’re surprised that you see The Coral in a castle, just a stone’s throw from your home. What a sensation.

The whole was well balanced – some old walleyes, Invisible invasion monster Something inside of me and live the scarcity Bill mccai at the beginning were nice surprises. The rest was mostly made up of a selection of hit singles and their last two records – 2016 Distance between and the album of the moment, Move through the dawn (read our review here) – a record that clearly reinvigorated the band and adds a blender to the old guard.

Storm breaker and Outside my window are the monsters alive, pure Paul Molloy witchcraft. Over the years, The Coral has been known to throw the odd gem out of a blanket – Tear explodesReward being just one of them. Tonight they gave us a belted blanket of Garden birds for good measure. An extended extension of the extended version of live favorite and complete blow out Bye follow-up James skelly touchingly dedicated their greatest success of all time Dreaming of you to Mersey music legend Tony butler – a man who has supported and defended them and many others over the years – who sadly passed away recently. The hall got wacky when the bassline hit and the carpet at Leasowe Castle will forever smell of Estrella.

Overall – easily the best Skeleton Coast to date and there have been two belts to beat. It gets bigger, better and better in terms of location every year without losing the sense of community that makes it so wonderful. Big up to all the organizers, the team, the bands and the musos who made this possible. Let’s go for next year, just tell us where and when!

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