WORDS AND IMAGES PAUL DIXON
So 2023 is the 15th (Crystal) anniversary for Nottingham’s biggest and most spectacular music festival, Splendour. This being my 3rd year attending and always a date I eagerly pen into the diary when dates are released.
Any festival that can pull in an expected 30,000 visitors over a 2 day event is unquestionably popular and well organized! Held at the beautiful Wollaton Park, the event featured a diverse range of talented artists, each leaving their mark on the ecstatic crowd.
This year, however, the horrendous adverse weather was a factor I’ve not encountered here before! You’d be excused if you had landed from overseas and assumed England had a monsoon season. Social media awash on day 1, in particular, with hundreds of images of soaked and sodden festival goers…battling the elements and smiling their way through. As such and in the fear I may ruin my camera equipment, day 1 was a no go for me this year. I’m a long time Madness fan but even the lure of a rousing Baggy Trousers or Night boat to Cairo was persuading me otherwise.
Day two broke and, for me, kicking off the day was an exceptional performance by “Vicky McClure and the Dementia Choir”. The stage was graced by the powerful presence of Vicky McClure, an acclaimed actress known for her roles in “Line of Duty” and “This Is England.” However, on this occasion, she showcased a different side of her talent, leading an extraordinary choir comprised of individuals living with dementia. The heartwarming performance was both uplifting and emotional, demonstrating the transformative power of music and its ability to connect with the soul. The set was underpinned and led by a friend called “Katie Owen” on the decks… Katie is fast becoming a staple for most festivals up and down the land now!
As the day progressed and in between heavy bursts of that unrelenting rain, the festival-goers were treated to a blast from the past with the awesome “Clare Grogan” and her “Altered Images” taking the stage. The band, best known for their iconic hits from the ’80s, effortlessly transported the audience back in time. The crowd couldn’t help but dance and sing along to classics like “Happy Birthday” and “Don’t Talk to Me About Love,” creating an infectious atmosphere of pure nostalgia. Clare even treated us to a few of her more recent and impressive songs too!
Back over to the main stage and for me one of the hotly anticipated artists I’ve never caught live before…. “DYLAN” (Natasha Woods and English musician, singer and songwriter). The crowd whilst primarily the young and Tik Tok inspired, also held a good mix of twenty-somethings and older! This set was one of the highlights for me. This artist is absolutely going to be selling out stadiums with crowds singing back these anthems to be. Assured, talented and gifted. Her emotive lyrics and soulful voice resonated with this huge crowd, thus creating an intimate and emotional atmosphere that left a lasting impact on all who were fortunate enough to witness it. The crowd responded in particular to superb versions of “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “you’re not Harry Styles”! Even I was singing back! Think Taylor Swift with awesome guitar vibes!
Up next and the other act I’ve been desperate to photograph and catch live were “Confidence Man”….. an exhilarating and joyful set of indie-electronic vibes. Formed in Australia in 2016 but now getting the recognition their electrifying music truly deserves. Their infectious energy and dance-inducing beats had the entire audience moving to the rhythm, creating a vibrant and euphoric set. Their ability to draw the crowd along for a journey through music that builds throughout the set to an absolute crazy, dance crescendo of thousands of unified and synchronised party participants.
Costume changes galore with nods to David Byrne and Madonna and her cone boob era! If you get chance to see these guys at least once in your life….you must! Take a listen to the immense “Feels like a different thing” and “Lovin U is Easy”. Post set one of the crowd ( a proper muso ) made a proper and hard to challenge claim…. “that set was akin to being back in the Hacienda in Mcr”!
Taking the “Confetti” stage by storm was the unique “Jake Shears”, the enigmatic frontman of the Scissor Sisters. Armed with charisma and an enthralling stage presence, Jake and is band delivered a sensational performance that pushed the boundaries of music and artistry. His unique blend of pop, rock, and theatricality made for an unforgettable show, leaving the audience in awe of his undeniable talent. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a dazzling track suit and style of dancing quite like Jake’s but it makes for a performance you cannot take your eyes off! Jake thanked the crowd for braving the weather and commented on how great it was to be in Nottingham. The set was a sublime mix of old and new… with many, many top hits. Cheers Jake I was shattered chasing you around the stage to catch some half decent images!
My final act of the day (the weather took the most sinister and all engulfing turn to that monsoon type rain straight after their set) was “The Kooks”. The indie-rock veterans, never fail to deliver an energetic and crowd-pleasing set. They unleashed their signature blend of catchy melodies and anthemic tunes, captivating everyone with hits like “Naive” and “She Moves in Her Own Way.” The Kooks’ performance showcased why they have remained fan favorites throughout the years, and the audience was left wanting more.
At this point I had to make a choice…. Do I risk my camera gear and get soaked to the bone or do I cut my losses and head home. The rain looked like it was set for the evening and hundreds of people were heading for the exits…. Home it was.
Whilst it wasn’t the wistful and hazy days of years gone by at Splendour, it was a joyous and more fun due to the hard nosed determination of the rain lashed public, to enjoy and celebrate music!
Overall, Splendour Festival 2023 was an extraordinary celebration of music and emotion. From Vicky McClure and the Dementia Choir’s heartwarming performance to the energetic sets by Altered Images, The Kooks, Jake Shears, Dylan, and Confidence Man, the event showcased an incredible diversity of talent and left a profound impact on all who attended. Splendour Festival continues to impress year after year, solidifying its place as one of the UK’s premier music events.
FOLLOW THE KOOKS
FOLLOW JAKE SHEARS
FOLLOW CONFIDENCE MAN
FOLLOW ALTERED IMAGES