Nestled in the Leicestershire countryside, the 110 Above Festival of 2021 showcased the best emerging and established artists in independent music, offering a feverish dream lineup of special headliners and notable newcomers from Black Honey and The Snuts. to Baby Queen, Alfie Templeman, Olivia Dean, Fickle Friends, Yonaka and beyond!
As summer reaches its final weeks, looking back at the UK festival season in 2021 is like waking up from a feverish dream; many have spent months waiting for the return of large-scale musical events, while pragmatically expecting each to fail. So, coming home from the 110 Above Festival after four nights of live performances from some of the best emerging and established artists in independent music was almost fantastic.
If you’ve never heard of the 110 Above Festival, you’re going to wish it was, because the small event tucked away in the Leicestershire countryside is the most beautiful hidden gem in British music. With a capacity of just 1,000 and a site built to look like a quaint little village, it’s an intimate affair that makes you feel like you’ve just moved to the coolest place in England.
Built with the most dedicated fans of independent music in mind, the festival’s 2021 lineup was something special, with headliners Honey Black, Sport Team, the snuts, Inconstant friends, The amazons and Sundara karma. With such a stellar lineup of acts on the main stage, festival bettors were generally worried about conflicting schedules and were forced to pick a few of their favorite performers. But, one of the many beauties of 110 Above is that the two main stages – The Elizabeth Stage and The Commune Stage – never clash. The happiness of festivals.
Starting on a Thursday evening, 110 Above kicked off with a relaxed evening of intimate and stripped-down settings in the Old Town Hall; one of the most notable performances coming from the act of return The howl and the buzz. There is no doubt that the York-based band were chosen for the intimate evening of the festival: their sound is haunting, at times melancholy and strikingly beautiful. With a surprisingly affordable glass of red wine in hand, what better way to start a festival?
Returning to the main festival site on Friday morning saw a change of atmosphere, people were no longer walking around the park calmly, it was suddenly electric. Now at full capacity, 110 Above could really get started.
With the first sets of a singer-songwriter influenced by jazz Tilly Valentine and high energy Birmingham group The clause, it became clear that the festival was not just about the very popular headliners. On the contrary, as the weekend wore on, it was more and more lesser known artists. 110 Above is a cave of Aladdin’s music, filled with jewels. that of Newcastle Andrew Cushin was another revelation to come. With his buttery voice and cheeky Geordie stage character, there’s no doubt that the talented guitarist and songwriter will make a name for himself.
Around 9 p.m., the first headliner of the weekend took to the stage: none other than Honey Black. The set was everything you would expect and more from the bold, raucous and thrashing band from Brighton who recently scored a top 10 album with their second full album, “Written and Directed”. Highlights of the track came in the form of “I Like The Way You Die” and “Fire” and as singer Izzy Phillips jumped the barrier to sing among the audience before surfing in true rock star style. , the bar was set for each headliner to come.
Keep the energy as high as Black Honey left it, Sport Team took to the stage of the Commune as the final headliner of the evening. The ensemble was sweaty to say the least and left the crowd exhausted from chanting, jumping and moshing. But, despite the end of the first full day at 110 Above, the revelers were just getting started.
Saturday brought another stunning collection of sets, and for those who get up at 2 p.m., alt-rock duo VALERAS delivered a huge portion of pure badass attitude and impeccable vocals. And came Yonaka, which changed the atmosphere from badass to rebellious. Anyone who already knows Yonaka and singer Theresa Jarvis won’t be surprised to learn that the pop-punk group’s stage presence was a force to be reckoned with, and while he didn’t play a lead role, Yonaka was a highlight of the weekend.
Alfie Templeman provided a whole different energy, effortless, relaxed and sunny energy. With funky guitar riffs and licks galore, the young Templeman got the party started. Even though it was a synth-pop quartet Inconstant friends which really made everyone dance. On their first show in two years, Fickle Friends was ready to release new music and new rock-inspired sounds. The unreleased track “Write Me a Song” proved to be an audience favorite as audiences embarked on a pop-fueled mosh pit.
To close the Saturday festivities, a captivating set of The amazons. Booming guitars and fan favorites “Junk Food Forever” and “In My Mind” have left the crowds begging for more. And, never disappointing, the Amazons delivered the weekend’s longest encore. From a rendition of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” to an acoustic version of their own “Junk Food Forever,” the Amazons gave the crowd everything they had.
And finally, Sunday marked the last day of 110 Above. But, this little festival would not come out without storming the speakers. In the early afternoon, Deco stepped onto the Commune stage and gave everyone the energy they needed to dance throughout the fourth and final day of the festival. Filled with jazzy saxophone solos, disco inspiration and dance-worthy tunes like “Rain” and “Chances,” Deco made sure the crowd was ready for another full day.
After that came the performances of olivia dean on the Elizabeth stage and Baby queen on the scene of the commune. These two performers couldn’t be more different in their style, Dean with his heartfelt, soulful tone and Baby Queen with a brash demeanor and comedic lyricism, but what they share is undoubted talent.
Pale white also hit The Commune Stage with their flawless rock guitar and impressive musicality. The tracks ‘That Dress’ and ‘Medicine’ lit up the crowd in a way only good old rock music can and prepared audiences for the attitude assault that would soon come in the form of the snuts.
With a number one record in 2021 under their belt, The Snuts was the weekend’s most critically acclaimed act, but the numbers don’t matter as long as the music makes you feel something. The Snuts excel in both areas. As lead singer Jack Cochrane appears donning his famous black sunglasses, spectators discover the band’s boastful character on stage. True to their attitude, the Scottish band sings the daring track “Don’t Forget It (Punk)”, but it really is a joke. Proving that they also have a sensitive side, the Snuts end their set on ‘No Place I’d prefer Be’, which creates a sentimental and loving atmosphere.
To conclude the event, festival-goers had one last chance to party with DJ sets and small acoustic performances in the Scrapyard and Gopsall Pub until the early hours of the morning. Then the lights went out on 110 Above. This hidden countryside festival may be small, but it is powerful. So, a tip for 2022: don’t miss it.
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