Returning for its third year, now in the stunning surroundings of Leasowe Castle, Wirral’s Skeleton Coast Festival was looking and feeling better than ever.
Doubling as an intimate album launch party for Wirral kings of the castle The Coral and their phenomenal new album Move Through The Dawn, there was a special feeling in the air as the lucky few hundred filtered in.
Leasowe Castle really is a special building and it was clear from the get go the festival organisers had nailed it here, making use of the unrivaled spaces inside to host a brilliant Coral artwork exhibition and two stages – one in a chapel (yes you read that right, an actual chapel) and one in the chandlier clad main room, even as a proud Wirralian you had to look twice to make sure you were in Wirral and not Windsor.
Cut Glass Kings were the first band we could catch and as ever they didn’t disappoint. Taking to the stage in an aptly dimly lit, moody room. Not a second was wasted in a pummeling set of driving beats and whisky-stained riffs.
Paul Cross and Greg McMurray don’t half build a ferocious wall of sound for a duo. A wall that indoors is even more explosive and caprivating.
The soulful tones of the majestic Marvin Powell follow in the chapel – a venue and crowd seemingly handmade for Powell’s set. No electronics, no phones, no chatter. It feels like everyone in room is united- in artistic respect if not anything else.
Joined by Fiona Skelly of The Sundowners on bongos of all things, Powell was in his element here and delivered a special performance.
Back to the main room and there’s a buzz in the air as Merseyside’s worst kept secret The Mysterines are next. Clearly everyone in the room either new they were boss, had been tipped off by a fellow muso. These three aren’t an unknown to many in these 9parts and rightfully so. They’ve been off supporting Miles Kane on tour between hiding away working on new tunes, many of which filled tonight’s set. They enter to retro hip hop licks and one thing’s immediately clear, the new songs are massive; heavier, punkier, tighter.
Lead Lia Metcalfe boasts one of the most powerful voices on Merseyside – her raspy, punky bursts are on a whole different planet and I Just Hate To Love You blew roof off Leasowe Castle.
They’re a much talked about band in these parts and beyond and their potential is there for all to see. They’ve been practically smacking the music industry in the face for months and off the back of this showing they now seem equipped with a mighty set of tunes that stand up tall to deliver a knockout blow. Take notice, The Mysterines are special.
Tim Burgess & The Anytime Minutes came next, notably featuring the absolutely wicked Laetitia Bocquet of Average Sex. Tim’s new record As I Was Now is brilliant and he and his band seem to be having great fun playing it live. The duet sequences bring a very B-52’s flavour to proceedings, vigourous album opener Clutching Insignificance is a psych-jam gem with lashings of organ, whilst the pulsating, motoric ride Nik V has shades of The Cure’s formative days. Totally tremendous and all very Skeleton Coast-ey.
A fleeting visit to a now packed to the backdoor chapel to catch the last of a very highly talked about band – The Fernweh – was in order. Festival organisers Skeleton Key Records are big on these lot and even in a handful of minutes it’s easy to see why. Adding groove and a dose of feel good sunlight to a now dimly lit chapel.
Main event time. Their name up in lights. The kings of the castle – The Coral. It was packed, sweaty and absolutely mega. That special feeling earlier, here it is multiplied by ten. In the minimal seconds between songs you’re taken back by the fact you’re seeing The Coral in a castle, a stones throw from your home. What a feeling.
The set was nicely balanced – a few golden oldies, Invisible Invasion monster Something Inside Of Me and live rarity Bill Mccai early on were nice surprises. The rest was mainly made up of a selection of big hit singles and their most recent two records – 2016’s Distance Inbetween and the album of the moment, Move Through The Dawn (read our review here) – a record that’s clearly re-invigorated the band and adds a mixer to the old guard.
Stormbreaker and Outside My Window are monsters live, pure Paul Molloy wizardry. Over the years The Coral have been known to throw the odd gem of a cover in – Teardrop Explodes‘ Reward being just one of them. Tonight they treated us to a belting cover of The Yardbirds for good measure. An extended, extension of the expanded version of live favourite and complete blow out Goodbye followed, before James Skelly touchingly dedicated their biggest ever hit Dreaming Of You to Mersey music legend Tony Butler – a man who supported and championed them and many others over the years – who sadly passed away recently. The room went delirious as the bassline hit and Leasowe Castle’s carpet will forever smell of Estrella as a result.
Overall – easily the best Skeleton Coast to date and there’s been two belters to beat. It gets bigger, better and in terms of location more beautiful every year whilst not losing the community feel that makes it so wonderful. Big up to all the organisers, crew, bands and muso’s who made it possible. Here’s to next year, just tell us where and when!