Culture, Manchester, Music

Review: Cotton Clouds Festival shines on debut

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By Neil Harrison
Featured image: @CottonCFest


Better leave a space in next year’s summer festival diary. If the inaugural Cotton Clouds festival was anything to go by, then this relatively small one-dayer is destined for bigger and better things. In light of some of this summer’s notable festival failures, a few teething problems at Cotton Clouds’ very first outing ultimately didn’t come anywhere near to spoiling what can rightly be considered a roaring success.

With three stages set against the stunning Peak District backdrop, Saddleworth Cricket Club proved a perfect choice of venue, at least for this first time. An ominously stormy start to the day thankfully made way for Cotton Clouds to live up to its fate-tempting name and by the time the first round of bands had taken to their respective stages a rare sunny afternoon was shaping up nicely.

Photograph: @LiveLive_Mcr

Across the day a somewhat eclectic main stage line up delivered few low points, with solid sets from The Whip and The Coral as well as a top notch display from promising local newcomers Gardenback. A late addition to the line up, the genuinely exciting Rogue Emperor, featuring former Elbow drummer, Richard Jupp, and Doves’ Martin Rebelski, were superb. A brilliantly surreal end to proceedings was ensured as The Sugarhill Gang closed the party in show-stopping style. Every single tune was a full-on dancer and almost everyone (at the hip hop legends’ repeated insistence) had their hands up in the air at least once or twice, to the apparent delight of the rappers.

Elsewhere, Colour Me WednesdayNev Cottee and the excellent Yucatan lit up the laid back groove atmosphere of the Tim Burgess curated Tim Peaks Diner stage. But the real star of the day was the Jimmy’s stage, curated by the Northern Quarter venue. Headliners, PINS were on top form, bringing the stage’s day to a fittingly raucous close, while cocksure punkadelic Doncaster trio The Blinders swaggered, spat and stripped their way to what was easily the highlight set of the day.

Photograph: @LiveLive_Mcr

As mentioned, Cotton Clouds wasn’t without its mild birth pangs – hour long queues for food and beer caused some frustration while the downtime between  bands highlighted the scarcity of alternative stuff to see and do. I know Clint Boon was on the decks and all that, but a few extra stalls selling festival tat or a hook-a-duck wouldn’t have gone amiss. One more quick gripe about the size of the Tim Peaks and Jimmy’s stages: Forget the boutique-chic please guys, if you’re putting on mint bands people will want to see them! All that said, outside of the Jimmy’s tent, the atmosphere was relaxed, fun and very family friendly. Despite the event selling out, there was still loads of room to sit and chill in the sunshine while Nick Heyward was on.

In all, the setting was stunning, the music was banging and whoever organised the weather did a sterling job. So a little room for improvement to be sure but judging by its successful maiden voyage there’s no reason why Cotton Clouds shouldn’t go on to be a massive staple of the north west summer festival scene in years to come.

Look out for more at Cotton Clouds Festival

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