Review: 110 Above Festival

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Indie’s best kept secret returned last weekend, as 110 Above Festival took place at Gopsall Hall Farm once again with a stellar lineup of the finest UK music talent. Known for its intimate and unique atmosphere, 110 offers a different festival experience for music lovers, and it lived up to the hype in 2021 after a year off due to the pandemic. We were fortunate enough to attend this year’s event, so here are our festival highlights and what we made of 110 Above…

Intimate is a word often used to describe this festival, and for good reason. If you’ve become resentful of the arduous and tiring logistics of the medium and larger festivals following years of festival-going, the first thing you’ll love about 110 is the ease of getting around the place. Due to the compact nature of the site at Gopsall Hall Farm, nothing is too far, whether it’s the journey from stage to stage to catch your favourite artists or trips from car to campsite to transport luggage.

Another thing you’ll notice about 110 Above, once you’ve quickly become accustomed to the site and know your way around, is the friendly atmosphere. By Sunday, you’ll have made new friends and will recognise almost everyone at the festival. Not only this, there’s not a bad egg around the place, from the security and food staff through to the festival goers and artists themselves, you’ll struggle to find anything but positive energy.

So, onto the music itself. Our Thursday highlights came in the shape of Tom A Smith and The Howl & The Hum. You may know the former better as Tom Mouse Smith, a young musician who rose to prominence online following a host of excellent covers. Tom has already toured with the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen and James Bay, but he is back with a new name, a new voice and a plethora of his own strong material. The Thursday set at the Old Townhouse was the first of two sets for Tom, as he played at the Gopsall Inn the following day, and he certainly made his mark as one to watch.

The Howl & The Hum subheadlined the Thursday night and brought their acclaimed and aptly titled album, ‘Human Contact’ to the live stage. With just two of the band members present, it was also a chance to see a different side to the band before they head out on their tour later this year. The likes of ‘Hostages’ and ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’ were a big hit with the crowd at the Old Townhouse, and the whole performance was exceptional in what turned out to be the perfect opening day set.

Friday was the first full day of music, with the likes of The Clause, Tom A Smith, Lauran Hibberd and The Mysterines performing throughout the day. Black Honey became the first Elizabeth Stage headliners, before Sports Team took to the Commune Stage for their first festival headline set, in one of the performances of the weekend. A long seven-hour trip didn’t put the six-piece off, having to soundcheck in front of the crowd before entering to a rapturous welcome with a soundtrack of ‘In Too Deep’ by Sum 41. The energy and charisma of frontman Alex Rice was expected but refreshing to see nonethteless, and it was a performance signalling a band going in only one direction. All the hits from their Mercury-nominated debut ‘Deep Down Happy’ went down a storm during the first main headline set of 110 Above 2021. You sense the bigger headline stages will soon follow for Sports Team…

Sports Team at 110 Above Festival – Credit: Jake Haseldine

So how do you follow up a Sports Team headline set? When you think the night has peaked and it’s time to settle down, up steps Deco at the Gopsall Inn for an 11:30pm secret set! The band performed a setlist filled with 80’s covers and acoustic takes on their own tracks, providing the perfect post-headliner tonic for the 110 Above crowd. Deco suported Culture Club at Scarborough Open Air Theatre the following day before returning to play their scheduled set on Sunday, which was also a huge hit. This week, they also joined the iconic Nile Rodgers & Chic in Scarborough as special guests, so it’s fair to say the band are enjoying a successful 2021! Listen to our podcast with Max from Deco HERE.

Saturday was a strong day for the Merseyside contingent, with the likes of Zuzu, Courting and Paris Youth Foundation turning in memorable sets. Alfie Templeman, Vistas, Fickle Friends and Yonaka also took to the stage throughout the day, before The Amazons stole the show with a sensational headline set on the Commune Stage. Already regarded as one of the UK’s top live bands, the Reading outfit were performing their first festival headline set in what was their first post-pandemic show. The four-piece left nothing out on the stage and even returned following the triumphant set for an encore of covers and another rendition of the popular ‘Junk Food Forever’, assuring the crowd ‘we’ll keep going until they throw us off’.

The Amazons headlining 110 Above Festival – Credit: Jake Haseldine

There was plenty to still look forward to on the final day of the festival. The likes of Coach Party, Luke Royalty, Deco and Jaws performed across the day, with Sundara Karma closing the event with a Commune Stage headline slot. It was the Elizabeth Stage headliners that stole the show on the Sunday however, with West Lothian chart-toppers, The Snuts taking to the stage. The rain didn’t put off a strong turnout for one of the most exciting bands in indie music, with the likes of ‘Don’t Forget It (Punk)’, ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Top Deck’ proving to be stand-out tracks from the set. Not only did the band strengthen their reputation even further following the stellar debut album ‘W.L.’, but they also showcased their credentials as potential main stage festival headliners in the very near future. You can read our interview with the band HERE.

So there you have it, 110 Above was a huge success in 2021! We’d recommend the festival to all music lovers, particularly indie music fans who are looking for a unique festival experience in the UK. You can be sure 110 Above will return to Gopsall Hall Farm next year with another outstanding lineup, so keep an eye out on the festival socials for ticket and lineup information!

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If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our Fantasy Pints Podcast, where we interview a different guest each week and ask the one common question – “if you could go for a drink with any three musicians past or present, who would you choose any why?” Latest episode below!

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