Live Review: Banquet’s Big Day Out 2012 – Imber Court, Esher

Due to the slow moving queue we arrived at the New Slang stage just as Tall Ships left and Johnny Foreigner began to set up. Despite their low position on the bill the tent soon began to fill and by the time the Birmingham four piece took to the stage the crowd was already becoming suitably sweaty. The erratic indie rockers may have calmed down slightly with their latest album ‘Vs Everything’ but their live show is still as  energetic as ever, with front man Alexei Berrow ending the set half way across the festival grounds after a handful of enthusiastic fans stole him mid-crowd surf. A mixture of tracks from all three albums kept everybody happy and successfully warmed the crowd up for the day ahead. (4/5)

The festivals layout meant we could walk to the main stage in less than two minutes, allowing us to catch the last few songs of MC Lars set. The beauty of Lars is that he personifies the geek in any indie rap fan, and the selection of literacy based rhymes on offer gets the already lubricated crowd bouncing in the sun. He may have benefited from playing a full band set considering the crowd but his cheery persona and lighthearted  pre-song banter kept everybody amused. (3/5)

It isn’t long before local heroes Great Cynics take to the stage back at the New Slang tent. Whilst todays setlist is pretty standard for the London three piece – plenty of songs from their debut LP ‘Don’t Need Much’ plus a couple of older  tracks reworked for the full band set up – they play flawlessly. They may not have drawn the biggest crowd of the day but it was heartening to see so many people singing along and it could be a sign that they aren’t too far from their big break. (4/5)

“Preach brothers and sisters, come pray at the alter of rock and roll!” screams the appropriately named Screaming Al, front man of Exeters finest exports since Tommy Cooper. The Surfer Punk N Roll five piece simply ooze energy and charisma. Within minutes Al was in – and on – the crowd, only briefly returning to the stage to play from on top of the organ. Pits opened up almost immediately and their thirty minute set flies by, leaving everybody involved both sweaty and out of breath. For me, The Computers were easily band of the day. (5/5)

Sadly the same cannot be said for Wheatus. Even the apparent sound problems couldn’t be blamed for their lack lustre cover of Weezer’s ‘My Name Is Jonas.’ They debuted a new track but it already sounds dated – the curse of the one hit wonder strikes again. Closing the set with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ – complete with a guess appearance by MC Lars – was their only saving grace. One hit wonders indeed. (2/5)

Next up is Alcopops very own Katie Malco on the acoustic stage. Her charming take on folky pop is usually a surefire winner in small, dimly lit venues but something is lost amongst the poor mic’ing and the noise bleeding from the mainstage. Her cover of Slipknot’s ‘Wait And Bleed’ was exceptional but many of the nuances of her own material was lost in the open air environment. (3/5)

The Lagan had already began in the New Slang tent and their own brand of Celtic Folk-Punk had truely got the party started. I knew of the band but I’d never have guessed the crowd would been so into them. It seemed that their position on the bill was a little dubious at first but after seeing them get the whole tent dancing it became clear that it’s well deserved. (4/5)

It’s no surprise that The Skints manage to pack out the New Slang tent after their intimate sold out show at the Fighting Cocks last month. Todays setlist seemed to focus heavily on the bands more reggae side with the majority of the songs taken from their latest album ‘Part and Parcel.’ Parly B joined the band for ‘Rise Up’ and  ‘Soundboy’ making the set very special indeed. It’s hard to criticise The Skints when they captivate the crowd so but, given that they are warming the crowd up for The Specials frontman Neville Staple, it would have been pleasant to hear more of their more upbeat numbers like ‘Lay You Down,’ ‘Ring Ring’ and ‘Little Wing.’ (4/5)

The highlight for many attending Banquets Big Day was always going to be the newly reformed Hundred Reasons. Having opted to watch The Skints set in full we only caught the last four or five songs of their set but it’s clear from the off that this isn’t simply a cash grab reunion. The band look as passionate as ever as they rip through their 2002 album ‘Ideas Above Our Station.’ Vocalist Colin Duran may be ten years older but he can still scream like he never stopped and its clear that no fan left disappointed. (4/5)

The last act of our day was the original rude boy Neville Staple and his band. “Look at you lot here, I’m old enough to be your dad!” Neville jokes inbetween songs. It’s easy to forget that The Specials front man is nearly sixty as he gets the crowd dancing to a mixture of Specials and Fun Boy Three hits as well as a cover of The Maytals ska classic Monkey Man. The fact that half of the crowd seems to be under 25 shows how timeless this mans music is. They leave the stage as the crowd chant for another encore, further reinforcing why this man is considered a national treasure. (5/5)

Credit should be given to Banquet Records for running their first festival so smoothly. I don’t know how many tickets were available but on the day it felt busy but not packed, a pleasant surprise in this day and age of overcrowded commercial events. The chilled atmosphere, good selection of food stands and sensible set times are all to be praised. Let’s hope this is only the first Big Day Out of many.

Words by Richard Heaven

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