Hull, the UK’s current City of Culture, has knocked it out of the park this year, with the high quality of arts and cultural events held. Big Weekend went down a storm. Pride was a dazzling celebration of equal love and rights, and the significance of LGBT+ events being held in Hull was greater, as its City of Culture status coincided with the 50th Anniversary of homosexual relations no longer deemed illegal. Most recently, Humber Street Sesh was a glorious accumulation of dance, acoustic and alternative music.
Naturally, like everything in the city, 2017’s Sesh was bolder than ever – 14 stages, 200+ performers, a silent disco, a fairground, and so much more. Aside from a stage within the Princess Quays Shopping Centre, everything was situated in the marina area. Admittedly, I had my doubts the organisers had bitten off more than they could chew; with over 30,000 people turning up, I pictured endless queues, difficulties to get anywhere near stages, and overcrowding. Yes, it was packed, but queues were remarkably short, you could get close to the stages easily, and no venues were crammed with people. For once, a festival had dealt efficiently and effectively with both an increase in venues and people, unlike others (I’m looking at you, Y Not and Hope & Glory).
Whilst poor preparation and outrageous organisation caused the premature conclusions of both the above festivals, the proof was in the pudding with Humber Street Sesh – you could tell the team had worked hard to make sure proceedings would run smoothly. For starters, the event took full advantage of living in the technological advanced 21st Century and had an official app. I found it extremely useful because I could plan in advance the acts I wanted to see and keep my eye on their start times on the day to make sure I didn’t miss them. When you first arrived helpers were handing out physical event guides (also containing set times and a map of the whole site). I’ve heard at other festivals security checks were minimal at best; letting people straight through to an event in a year where there has been a number of prolific terrorist attacks is far from ideal. Thankfully, at Humber Street Sesh the staff took the checks seriously, with pat downs and thorough bag checks. Liverpool’s Hope & Glory disaster, I mean event, was also held last weekend; both festivals experienced sets which were due to overrun, but whilst H&G booted acts off stages and trimmed down headliner James’ performance, Humber Street Sesh actually allowed their acts to finish, making up for lost time by setting up the next performer’s equipment and instruments extra quickly. Festivals could learn a thing or two from the professional manner everything was conducted at the Sesh.
My day at Humber Street Sesh began at the Humber Dock Stage, located in a cosy pub on the marina. At around 3pm Wake Up In Vegas (soon to be renamed, but at the time this review went to press the band were known under this name) performed – it was their first performance with a new member and was also the debut for a fresh set list. They started a little on the wrong foot, with shaky vocals initially, but as their performance progressed the group appeared more assured of themselves, and the boosted confidence improved their sound by a long way. Keep your eyes peeled for their new name and live announcements soon.
Wake Up In Vegas
All the stages were no longer than a five-minute walk away, and soon I wound up at BBC Introducing Humberside. Alan Raw has an ear for the best of undiscovered talent, and all the acts performing have a genuine shot of breaking it – it’s an old cliché to hype a band up and predict their success, but these acts do have a genuine, real chance of success. In fact, Grimsby’s MINT already have had a taste of success, when single ‘Elise’ racked up thousands of plays and made The Indie List Spotify playlist. They possess an incredible energy live that not many bands can; boisterous guitar rhythms, bouncy hooks and massive vocals from Zak (almost as massive as his awesome curly hair) went down a storm. Zak emulates the great 70s rock gods with his dynamic stage dancing, and is a brilliant frontman. MINT’s music will not only want to make you kiss strangers; so will their live performances.
Black Lime also took to the BBC Introducing stage that afternoon; hailing from the Hull area, the four piece rock outfit produced a set with consistently catchy tunes, and the earworm hooks stuck in my head all day. They’re one of the acts I saw which I had not heard of before, and I’ll certainly listen to them more now. Headliners for the stage FRONTEERS also originate from Hull; I loved their sweet-sounding vocals, and how tight the harmonisation was constantly from the two singers. You would not think any of the bands performing were unsigned, but sadly reality bites, and many were. It’s unjust the amount of generic, indie fill bands out there with record deals, whilst hard-working talented bands such as those on the Introducing stage have to promote/release their music themselves. If there is any justice, all the bands will get signed as soon as possible.
Humber Street Sesh liked to keep everyone on their toes, showcasing perhaps unexpected, diverse music around every corner – this was evident on the Rock Stage; after catching the tail end of Years Young (they sounded good from the limited amount of their set I saw), metal-core band Earthbreaker followed. This heavier side of rock music isn’t what I listen to normally, but I appreciated the clear talent their lead singer Jamie had, from his regular singing to the low notes his passionate growls reached.
As soon as I heard BlackWaters were on the bill at Humber Street Sesh, I knew Hull was in for something a little bit special. Back in April, I was wowed by the Guildford lads for the first time, before seeing them, this time as a fan, at Truck Festival last month. Here’s everything you need to know about a BlackWaters performance: you’ll end up sweaty and enticed into the mosh pit, and you’ll get very up and close to the band members who love nothing more than joining in festivities in the crowd. You’ll also have the time of your life. If you like the hecticness and atmosphere in Libertines and Slaves sets, then you need to get your priorities in check and see BlackWaters as soon as the chance comes along. They played on the Strummerville Stage in Fruit, an intimate small stage that I wish I’d stuck around at longer and seen other acts play on.
Every festival has a Main Stage, and it’s where I spent most of my evening at the Sesh. The first band I saw play on there were The Hubbards. They’re the best band to have gained popularity in their home town but not reach that same level of success elsewhere. They do have a strong, loyal following in their home city. It’s clear to see why the Hull residents have taken to the band so much – they oose delightful, chilled indie pop and delivered a lush, chilled dreamy set.
Several bands who have been taken under the wing of the ‘best rock n roll club’ This Feeling were at Humber Street Sesh, including Avalanche Party. Compared to the likes of Cabbage and Strange Bones by the promoters, they’re another band waving the flag for the new wave of punk taking over the UK’s underground scene. I enjoyed the set the more it progressed; it was a shame the crowd was pretty flat during their set. They were more apt to the more raucous, lively crowds forming at the Strummerville Stage.
The act after Avalanche Party had travelled a long way, even crossing the Scottish – English border; Fatherson is made up of three twenty-somethings from Glasgow and Kilmarnock. Their uplifting, euphoric songs sprung the crowd back into life, and they conjured up a truly rousing set, perfectly timed against a stunning evening sunset. The connection the band members have with each other, creating effortlessly beautiful music, is formidable and natural, likely due to the group being made up of long-time school friends.
The anticipation of the crowd noticeably rose in the time taken to set up equipment for the next performers – a lot of people’s highlight of the day, who they had patiently waited all day for, was King No-One, and they were on next. Everyone was elated once they finally took to the stage. The last 12 months have belonged to the band, following the warm reception to tracks ‘Alcatraz’ and ‘Antichrist’ from public and critics alike. They were a band in their element on the Main Stage, the crowd completely in a spell under their control, older fans gleefully singing along to every lyric and people new to the band immediately converted into fans. Equality is the emphasis behind the band’s name, and in a city which had just held a concert celebrating the LGBT+ movement, it was touching the band dedicated ‘Antichrist’ to equality. My heart was in my mouth when lead singer Zach climbed a speaker near the end of the set, but the risky move paid off and whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy. King No-One was slick, spectacular and scintillating, and I cannot wait to watch them at my local venue in Lincoln next month.
The overwhelming response to Humber Street Sesh was positive, and the discussion of 2018’s event has already begun, including debates concerning whether it should remain a one-day event, or be spread out over an entire weekend. One thing is for sure; in a summer where several well-known and new festivals were car crashes, Humber Street Sesh proved you can run a smooth festival even with unprecedented high levels of people in attendance. I hope to spend another summer’s day partying at the Sesh next year.