Words + Photos by Frank Ralph

This weekend saw some incredible live music in one of the most spectacular settings you could imagine as Futuresound Events hosted 4 days of music at the iconic Piece Hall in Halifax.

We were there for 3 of those days and we witnessed an anthemic hometown show from Embrace, massive party sets from Terrorvision and The Levellers as well as an astounding show from Elbow.

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Friday began with a joyous and uplifting set from Hope and Social. All 6 of them in matching blue jackets (like a crack team of Pontins entertainers) which, in the scorching heat may or may not have been a regret for them – especially when they all went for a jog around the stage during one of the songs.

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Hope and Social

Next up Sleeper took us all the way back. Pretty much every man my age had a crush on Louise Wener back in the 90s and they were in attendance en-masse singing along to every word. The likes of In Betweener and Sale of the Century had everybody singing along, and their tribute to Blondie, Atomic (as featured in Trainspotting) was absolutely fantastic. Louise, wearing a Super Her t-shirt looked every bit as cool as I remember her, and they were a joy to watch.

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Reverend and the Makers suffered from some kind of technical issue and took to the stage late, but John McClure wasn’t going to let the difficulties spoil the occasion and between taking photos of the crowd to show his mum they played some great soul and ska infused music. Heavyweight Champion is one of those songs that gets everyone bouncing and plenty of lager was spilt during it, but the highlight for me was probably Miss Brown which saw some high knees flung around by McClure who was by this time regretting his choice of wearing M&S knitwear as he was “sweating his tits off”.

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The headliners Embrace are local heroes, and everything was set up for this to be an iconic hometown show – and it didn’t disappoint. With the band taking a moment to savour it all you could see they were taken aback by the welcome they got. If there was a roof on the Piece Hall they would have taken it off.

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The show set off with a bang as the confetti canons exploded in time with the first note of All You Good Good People. They played the whole of their debut album Good Will Out in order, to celebrate its 21st birthday, and the occasion was made all the better by everyone knowing this album inside out and singing along feverously.

Come Back to What You Know and Last Gas were personal highlights and as two smoke bombs were set off in the crowd the atmosphere went up a notch and helped cement this show as a legendary moment for the band in their hometown.

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Saturday was a much livelier affair with a much rockier line up, which included my all-time favourite live band Terrorvision from just ovver t’hill in Bradford.

It won’t come as a surprise then when I tell you they stole the show by a mile with their energetic show, but the energy of every band on stage was fantastic and in the baking sun meant there were a lot of sweaty, red people milling around with their shirts off all day.

It didn’t feel as busy as the previous day had, but I think that was because each band seemed to have their own set of fans and they kind of swapped positions between stage and bars throughout the day, so it never seemed to be full. Eureka Machines from Leeds brought a bagful of spirit to the stage and had a bunch of passionate fans cheering them on through what was a great set.

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Ferocious Dog’s Celtic folk stomp brought a whole new crowd to the front, one that included at least one clog dancer who was going hell for leather for it on the Piece Hall’s stone floor, and an extremely rabid fanbase raising their drinks to the sky and having a rollicking good time. This is what music is all about and it was a pleasure to watch. Drink, drinking songs and friends. What else do you need?

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Therapy? were a bit darker and heavier than the rest of the line-up and stood out for it, but their hit packed set, where most people realised they knew more Therapy? songs than they thought they did went down really well. Bassist Micheal McKeegan (aka The Evil Priest) bounced around and got the crowd riled up as frontman Andy Cairns gave them his wild psychotic eyes throughout.

Die Laughing, Isolation and Trigger Inside all sounded massive but it was the closing part of the set that included Teethgrinder, Nowhere and a raucous Screamager that really sounded huge. It was a different experience to see them in the broad daylight, but it was an excellent one.

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Bradford’s Terrorvision, for my money, could have easily headlined this event and they put a proper shift in to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves – taking the stage to I Like to Move It they set the tone for a special show.

Hit followed hit followed hit and from the start of Alice What’s the Matter to the close of Oblivion the crowd sang and danced their hearts out. There will definitely have been some sore calves and knees the following day after all the bouncing on stone that occurred during their hour-long set.

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Many bands commented about the venue throughout the weekend, but none nailed it more than TV whose Halifax What’s the Matter t-shirt had ‘Peace All’ printed on the reverse. Shit ‘ot! It also came with a complimentary stick of rock as they had played Blackpool the night before.

Do Terrorvision rock? Course they bloody do!

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When I was in school everybody was into The Levellers, except me. I could probably tell you 3 or 4 songs at the most, but I was genuinely looking forward to seeing them. The show was huge and the songs I didn’t recognise I enjoyed a lot. I particularly enjoyed the fluorescent didgeridoo player’s solo before One Way (one I do know) as it brought a really epic feel to the proceedings.

Today’s event was titled A Beautiful Day Out after their hit of the same name – it couldn’t have been a better or more aptly named day as even Halifax could’ve been anywhere on the Costa Del Sol rather than, the usually overcast, West Yorkshire.

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Sunday was a much more relaxed, civilised affair (although nobody told Bill Ryder-Jones that) it was also a bit cooler than the other days which gave us some respite from the heat.

The Dunwells from Leeds sounded really good, with a sound built on acoustic guitar, cello and a kick-drum – they also have big choruses that instantly get hooked into your psyche. As a band they’ve been together for 10 years, and we are told it’s taken them that long to write one happy song All Time High which sounded wonderful.

Frontman Joseph Dunwell admits being a huge Elbow fan and his only hope for the day is to not make a fool of himself in front of Guy Garvey. If Guy was watching he’d have been impressed with them. As we were.

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Barns Courtney was the most energetic performer of the day by a mile with iconic posturing and stage presence, and the songs to back it up too with Glitter and Gold being a stand out. A healthy mix of rock and roll swagger, Jagger-esque stage presence and anthemic tunes he showed himself to be an enigmatic frontman and even staged a video to show his American label how popular he is.

Genuinely a surprise to me as I’m not sure what I was expecting.

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What I wasn’t expecting, as many of the crowd weren’t, was an absolute shambolic car crash of a set from Bill Ryder-Jones. Although I really enjoyed the music in parts, he was clearly out of it, blaming his previous day’s Glastonbury experience and spent most of his half hour set apologising for the state he was in.

It was hard to watch.

Unfortunately, he’d lost the crowd a long time ago and it wouldn’t have mattered what he played or for how long he was playing it – the crowd wanted him gone.

He did promise to donate his fee for the show to charity, so hopefully he remembers to do that. More importantly, I hope he gets the help he needs to deal with the problems he openly admits to having. I’m sure he doesn’t enjoy letting people down in that way.

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Villagers followed him and were pleasant enough. Maybe a bit too pleasant, their sound was nice and drifted into the atmosphere beautifully but ultimately passed by without leaving much behind them. They dedicated Courage to their favourite UK venue the local Trades Club in Hebden Bridge and tried to encourage a sing along going during the gentle glide of Nothing Arrived, but only got a half-hearted response.

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It was left to Mercury Prize winning Elbow to bring the amazing weekend of music to a close and they did so in superb style. Guy Garvey led the charge and had the crowd in the palm of his hands from the start.

They were the band most of the audience had been waiting all day for, and it was clear that quite a few turned up later in the day purely for them, or had been making the most of the food and drink stalls dotted around the venue until it was time.

The unassuming guys in the corner of the pub appearance of the band is enduring and a complete juxtaposition to the huge sprawling anthems coming from the stage. They created magical moment after magical moment.

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Elbow may be happy with one day a year like this, but we enjoyed 3 and we’re already looking forward to repeating it next year, and if this weekend proves anything it’s that the renovated Piece Hall is not only the perfect venue for music events such as this, but it’s also helping Halifax thrive and prosper once again along with the people of this beautiful town that are putting live music, craft ale and records back at the heart of it. The Lantern’s, The Revo’s and Loafers of this town.

As a punter it’s a beautiful experience to sit in the sun and watch a show in this setting and I can only assume as a performer that it is one of the most memorable places that they’ll ever play in. This is hopefully the beginning of something that builds and builds over the years.

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See the full photoset from the three days at Piece Hall here.

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