REVIEW: Crooked Ways Festival 2013

by - Friday, June 07, 2013

Walking into Pontefract Racecourse amongst posh parents toting  Cath Kidston buggied children, hot panted teenage girls clearly awaiting their first festival experience and older men in band tees who just love live music, it all bodes well for Crooked Ways. The sun is shining and whilst the crowds are modest at best, a palpable anticipation is in the air. Unfortunately, in the time it takes to locate the press entrance, the glorious weather has cooled slightly and grey crowds are looming overhead, the perfect analogy for the day.

This is not to say that Crooked Ways is a disaster. In fact, they have  some pretty decent bands on their line up, who we shall go on to assess on their own merit. They appear to be selling lots of merch, and whilst they may have undersold tickets, the people that are there appear to be enjoying their festival-priced beer, cider and burgers. But if first impressions count, they have let themselves down somewhat on the essentials.

Forever Cult by Kevin Lawson (
Pontefract park is a fantastic setting for a festival, but none of the stages are signposted or named, making it quite a struggle to locate our first band of the day, Huddersfield’s very own Forever Cult. Previously a two piece, this is only their second gig with new bassist Matty, but they’ve already amassed more tunes and a more distinctive sound than some of tonights headliners. Keiran Clarke’s feral vocals, Aaron’s relentless drum fills and Matty’s brooding bass add a dark edge to what are essentially a collection of catchy slacker punk anthems; they come across almost like a brattier, drunker brother of hispter darlings Best Coast. With an E.P coming soon, they are set to be one of the finest local bands in the five towns.

Fenech Soler by Kevin Lawson (
Ten out of Ten goes also to Fenech Soler, who play to a crowd one row deep at the main stage as if their lives depend on it. Singer Ben Duffy’s cries of ‘HOW YOU DOING CROOKED WAYS!’ seem a little too Wembley-esque under the barren circumstances, but as a man who almost had his career stripped away from him after fighting testicular cancer in 2011, you can’t help but admire his enthusiasm and dedication. They make full use of the stages sound system, which in fairness sounds consistently great throughout the day. Although Fenech Soler may not have quite hit the dizzying heights of fame just yet, they have nailed synth pop for the indie generation – I wouldn't bet against them achieving the crossover they deserve very soon.

The Defiled by Kevin Lawson (
Any band that introduces a guitar solo with the countdown ‘1,2, Fuck You!’ are hilarious in my book. Whilst The Defiled are not my usual cup of tea (or shot of Jaeger, to use more appropriate terminology) they certainly bring the party, getting the somewhat sombre audience to mosh, headbang and thrust devil horns along to their unapologetic brand of heavy hair metal. Possessing outfits that would make Black Veil Brides shudder with jealousy, they are the first band to look as if they are having serious fun, treating the event with the good humour it deserves in the immortal lines ‘to all three of you who are actually here to see us, lets bounce.’

The D.O.T by Kevin Lawson (
A larger following are in place ready to watch The D.O.T back on the mainstage, although how many are there in hope of a cheeky outing of The Streets Fit But You Know It remains to be seen.
It's somewhat disappointingly inevitable that Streets fans, and indeed fans of The Music, will be holding this new venture up as comparison to the old day jobs of Mike Skinner and Rob Harvey, including me, so please forgive what I am about to say. But The D.O.T truly do sound like the Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living coupled with a guitar. And I love it. Not a million ways away from the last Streets album Computers and Blues either , The D.O.Ts music sits in that undefinable genre between pop, indie and clubland, which makes them such an attractive prospect in the current musical climate. Closer inspection would be needed to see how the lyrics stand up, but they certainly possess enough intrigue to make me want to inspect them further.

Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun by Kevin Lawson (
With a firm live reputation preceding them, fresh off the back of an American tour with Dropkick Murphys, it is no surprise that Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun’s sound falls neatly into the category of driving American folk anthems, despite their Cheltenham heritage. The Frank Turner comparison is inevitable, but what hits me more is a Gaslight Athem-esque sound, all blue collar lyricism and rousing choruses, represented best in Warriors and End Of England that get two dedicated fans down front singing along to every word.

Rolo Tomassi by Kevin Lawsom (

Singalongs are not the most natural reaction to metalcore outfit Rolo Tomassi, but they put on the performance of the day nonetheless. Eva Spence is the most compelling of frontwomen, effortlessly shimmying about the stage and retaining a strong femininity despite her guttural howl. They hit their stride midway through the set, and consequently the lather half  is a showstorm of limbs and riffs that show off the highlights of their latest album Astraea as well as old favourite ‘Party Wounds’.

This unfortunately is where it stops. With the festival looking sparse on the ground save for the drunken and middle aged, the best of the bands leaving immediately after their sets and the sun setting, I thought it best to quit whilst I was (relatively) ahead. Crooked Ways have a long way to go to secure true strong small festival status, and I would suggest that they might reach this by worrying less about tacked-on aesthetics (extensive merchandise and even branded crooked ways plastic carriers), and focus more on ease of customers, such as names on the stages, stage times for press and perhaps downgrading a little on the highly excessive staff. Not a complete waste of time by any means, but definitely more than earning of their wonky namesake.

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