This Is Tomorrow Festival – @Exhibition Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, May 24, 2019
Rushonrock’s Andy Spoors took in the opening night of Tyneside’s outdoor shindig.
With an impressive array of bands on offer, a Bank Holiday weekend and right on the doorstep of Rushonrock’s door, the This Is Tomorrow festival had all the ingredients for a fantastic recipe. Events on the opening night would however halt any chance of a fully baked treat for the North East to enjoy.
Newcastle has long yearned for a full festival within its catchment area. The Mouth Of Tyne has provided some decent acts over the last few years, but multiple mainstream acts performing over a long weekend has never really materialised. The announcement that Foals, Noel Gallagher and Stereophonics would headline their respective days was met with general approval and hope that the organisers behind This Is Tomorrow may have finally cracked it.
For the most part, this is completely true. But a farcical end to the set of Friday headliners Foals will certainly weigh heavy on the minds of those in attendance.
It all started so well – despite attracting negative publicity from residents for closing access to Exhibition Park’s family friendly facilities – and the site was well secured and impressively laid out. Billed as a ‘metropolitan’ festival, the atmosphere was refreshingly laid back, sets and sound checks mingling into a thankfully warm Spring evening. The grounds held three stages as well as a DJ tent, numerous bar tents and an array of food trucks.
The afternoon really stepped up a gear when alt rockers Nothing But Thieves took to the main stage, the somewhat listless crowd waking occasionally to show appreciation for the Southend-based quintet. Friday’s attendance should have been a good early test for the rest of the weekend, with swathes of empty spaces towards the front of the main stage that only began to fill for the headline act.
The penultimate act of the night saw You Me At Six attempt to whip the growing crowd into a frenzy. Lead singer Joe Franceschi orchestrated mosh pits, crowd surfing, sit downs and demanded clothes be spun in the air, all within a one hour set. It was difficult to tell how well received the band actually were, as although their participation was somewhat evident, the crowd remained relatively subdued in the retiring sunlight.
Audience aside, YMAS smashed through an impressive set, Franceschi and Co. strutting around the stage with all the confidence of a band that continues to hit their stride. The promise of new music late this year was gratefully received from those in attendance. Finishing with the anthemic Straight To My Head, they ensured that the crowd could return to the bar suitably warmed up for the main act of the night.
With the main stage crowd swelling in anticipation for Foals taking to the stage, noise levels finally peaked for the night. Some mic concerns aside, the Oxford outfit sounded great from the start, but the night would begin to unravel about 45 minutes into the set. After finishing Spanish Sahara, singer Yannis Philippakis informed the crowd they could not perform another song until the crowd stepped back from the security barrier.
Leaving the stage for ten minutes, it was evident that something was amiss, but when the band re-emerged and began to play the synth pop rock In Degrees from their latest album, there was hope any issues may have been resolved. Unfortunately that was not the case, as the band were forced to announce to the crowd, “They are pulling the gig”. Confusion and boos slowly seeped around Exhibition Park as the band remonstrated with staff at the side of the stage. Yannis informed the crowd they “would play all night for you, but they have said we need to pull the gig”.
A subsequent statement from This Is Tomorrow was released, stating: “Due to safety concerns with the front of stage barrier This Is Tomorrow Festival management made the decision to call an early finish to Foals set. This is entirely to protect the safety of crowds. The festival will take all necessary steps to remedy this situation for tomorrow.”
A baffling and quite frankly infuriating end to the night.
Serious questions will have been rightly asked why this happened. Safety inspections will surely have been carried out on the site, so the oversight is a bitter pill to swallow for those in attendance. If a legitimate safety concern was raised and it stopped any serious injuries occurring, ultimately the right decision was made. The anger and disappointment came from the fact that the situation could and should have been completely avoidable. The rest of the weekend proceeded as scheduled, some working repairs apparently adequate enough to appease inspectors.
Let’s face it, rock concerts, festivals or gigs in general, have never made for comfortable bedfellows with health & safety. A sour note on an otherwise relaxed and highly enjoyable night will hopefully be harsh learning point for the organisers. Hope remains that long term damage hasn’t been made to relationships with both the band or more importantly fans in attendance, as Newcastle will hope the event can go continue to evolve into bigger and better things.
Images by Adam Kennedy