Monday, 1 June 2009

Love Music Hate Racism @ The Britannia Stadium 30th May 2009

Article by Danny Hill

Photos by Gig Junkie

Since its establishment in 2002 the Love Music Hate Racism organisation has held a countless amount of festivals, gigs and club nights across the country, culminating in last year’s festival in London’s Victoria Park, an event drawing in a massive crowd of over 100,000 revellers. Bands such as The Libertines, Doves, Bloc Party, Hard-Fi and Kasabian have all pledged their support to the cause over recent years. Although Saturday’s sun-drenched 11-hour event at The Britannia Stadium didn’t correspond with the overall populous of previous events, it was not without significance. Being, as it was, the largest music festival that Stoke-on-Trent has hosted in its history.

One the main reasons for LMHR’s inception are due to some alarming electoral successes for the British National Party over recent years. In the event of the party’s bid to win seats in the forthcoming European elections next week the timing could not be better for LMHR to make a stand in a city known significantly for its predominant white working class demographic and - unfortunately for the majority of non-racist residents of the city - one of the BNP’s main constituencies.

So, how did it all pan out? Magnificently, as it happens. The gods were clearly on the side of the organisation officials as thousands of music lovers of all ages, races and minorities mingled peacefully with Union representatives, Socialist Worker sellers and socially dedicated musicians, all basking under the intense heat. The main stage was constructed in front of Stoke City’s away stand facing the famous Boothen End - where some sweltering music lovers rested nonchalantly in the shade, nursing bottles of Carlsberg or ice-creams. Others rested on the temporary pitch covering with ready-made picnics or enjoyed games of football, enjoying the music and sunshine.

Over to the northern car-park more of a carnival atmosphere prevailed, with numerous stalls and funfair rides available for the throng of the shirtless and bikini-clad. This was also where The Sugarmill stage was situated, which would go on to feature heat finalists from the Road to Britannia: Ryan Whitmore was one of them (aptly covering Stoke City’s anthem Delilah, to the confusion of one or two from outside the area). One Horse Race also performed; The Decision, Heart of the Sun (with a new bass player in tow) Bleached Wail and many others would all go on to grace the tiny car-park stage.

Overall winners of the competition The Fears kick-started proceedings on the main stage, confidently whipping up the large crowd into an adrenaline-charged frenzy with infectious songs like Perfect Reason and Victim.

Red-faced with exhaustion and overwhelmed following their energetic performance, the lads good-heartedly gave us the chance to chat in the all-too-posh Stanley Matthews suite.

‘I wasn’t sure it’d be as easy grabbing the audience’s attention as in The Sugarmill,’ said bassist Andrew, ‘but once we got going it didn’t seem any different. Everyone was singing and clapping along. It was amazing. It’s given us the hunger to go out and do it again.’
‘It was a great experience,’ vocalist Oliver Davies commented, ‘if only to see how a gig of this size is put together and how all the backstage pieces work together. Wee were overwhelmed by being treated as a professional band, being used to lugging our own gear around. Respect to those super, speedy, hard-working roadies!’
Guitarist Craig Parr added: ‘Playing for such a good cause has added something to our music. Cultural diversity is a cause we strongly believe in, not just within our city but nationally as well.’

Comedian Eddie Izzard compered the event on the main stage, offering listeners generous slices of his idiosyncratic, acerbic wit laced with political messages. In addition, filling time between performances a number of dancers performed to the masses; a riot of colour, energy and good-will, ensuring there was never a dull moment. Fellow Stoke lads The Sport followed their local peers with a short but ultimately sweet set, including the anthemic stomper Holiday. Also adorning the main stage throughout the day were Manchester band Kid British (soon to be headlining The Sugarmill), New Beautiful South (minus their originator Paul Heaton), Beverly Knight, former Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, former Sugababe Mutya Buena, Get Cape Wear Fly (a massive success on the day), Pete Doherty (who only performed four songs!). Reverend and The Makers headlined the event against schedule in place of the strongly influential keyboard player Jerry Dammers, the once-leader of Britain’s greatest multi-racial group The Specials.

Things weren’t exactly running to schedule on The Sugarmill stage either, as the majority of the bands, due to Spandex Ballet’s (don’t ask!) late arrival, artists were performing half an hour ahead of schedule. This was all before an Austrian band who I didn’t catch the name of stank the place out! New local band Tequila Lips headlined on the evening, and I hear that The Sport returned from the main stage for another short set on the Sugarmill stage, too.

The event has come under criticism from some parts, with claims that the festival’s acts were not big or good enough. Although a band like Kasabian or The Enemy may have added a few more thousand heads through the turnstiles, what some forget is that Saturday’s event was more about integration, equality and adding awareness and weight to a virtuous political ideal. In that respect, the event was exceptional.

As the day wore on the stadium’s capacity increased, ensuring the party atmosphere continued well into the evening. And as the pop stars each clamoured and screamed and sang, reinforcing their unanimous message throughout the course of proceedings, the memorandum was clear: Love music, hate racism.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

It sounds like it was a great time. It's a shame that music festivals and the like get such a hard time from local governments when it brings people together so well.
I like how you made sure to point out Heart of the Sun had a new bassist in tow X-D