Stepping into 110 Above could be likened to the starry vortex of D.I.D’s debut, All Our Favourite Stories.
The Leicestershire festival transforms a small farm into home for its three day duration. Fairy lights are draped in every possible corner, tipis sit proudly inviting you in for a cosy moment, stores sell bright beads and soft clothing, campervans are painted in vivid colours, and cuddly lion toys peer out from bushes as guardians looking over the stages.
It’s the indie world’s best kept secret, and it’s steadily becoming an annual pilgrimage for music lovers who cheerlead the very best in up-and-coming. Placed at the tail end of a long country road that feels almost too long, causing you to question whether you’ve missed a turning, on arrival to get into the farm itself is a walk into a new world. Descending down a tree sheltered path guided by twinkling lights and the faint notes of catchy chorus in the breeze, with every step excitement builds and fizzes right in my heart. It feels like a homecoming.
The sound of jangly guitar fills the air, harmonies weave into the gentle wind, carried from one stage and acting as the pied piper down the lane to the other. The all familiar disjointed yet united chant of sing-along makes the biggest statement of the festival ethos.
That’s the thing about 110 Above, you’re surrounded by friends you didn’t know you had yet find through a shared band tee-shirt. When Marsicans played their slinky single, ‘Friends’, it pioneered a riot of love all craving the ecstatic energy of the four by simply living in that moment. Although the festival has almost doubled in size over the year, it still feels intimate. The growth has been catered to by adding a new acoustic stage, a country style ‘Gopsall Inn’, managed by a chicken who spent the day running across the stage, and the relocation onto the farm itself.
110 Above is a place where faces quickly become familiar and groups naturally merge. Artists join the crowds and support their friends from the thick of it, they help each other sound-check and set up, perform together even. It’s the perfect environment to know the real artist and hear the music in its purest form, aided by the cosy surroundings and the fact that the organisation is so cared for that no artists ever clash, and that there’s a rare quiet moment. It really is an encompassing world.
This means that there was little time for Marsicans to pitch up their tent for that night, as the Leeds boys spent the majority of Saturday riling the crowds. Little India braved the rain after their roof-raising set of anthemic hip-movers, whilst saluting the great British spirit as thunderstorms started to hit. Mainly because they’d taken a liking to Mertyl, the festival cow and real star of the show. Grazing by the ‘110 Above’ sign, the picture perfect lady lived every indie fan’s dream and spent the weekend being fussed in the artist area. She was particularly doted on by Sundara Karma, who made it their mission to free her and take her home with them.
Testament to the radiance of Anteros, the rain came to a sudden halt as the band took to the Commune stage. Laura Hayden’s cherry red towering heeled boots stomped out any dampened spirit, giving a stellar performance of deliciously bittersweet power pop that had us feeling like we were living on the moon. Debuting a jellyfish sting of a new song, and eating subtle grooves for ‘Breakfast’, Anteros didn’t stop for a moment’s pause. Bringing the party and leaving us leaving up on a high, craving more.
Arriving at the farm after a 4am (cough, 5:10am) wake-up call in Germany, Seafret were found making full use of the three bars. They’re getting help for their problems, they promise, whilst boasting their 110 Above cups – another personal addition that makes the festival so special. Taking to the Old Town Hall stage, the duo pushed any sleepiness aside to deliver their maritime capsule of melancholic songs. Enchanting vocals flirted with a rock grit and were complemented by salted acoustics and tender strings. With a Chelsea boot stomp to beat, they anchored themselves in the hearts of many.
Somewhere between the sultry goodness of RnB Goddess Mahalia and the tropical jubilance of Kyko, the sun began to shine and reflect from the glittered faces of the filling crowds as their vocals warmed. As Martin Luke Brown took to the main stage, a double rainbow appeared whilst he gave a fitting, almost magical rendition of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. It’s like the local lad bought it in his pocket, ready for the moment. Swooning songs of modern romanticism, carried by delicate piano made perfect timing for a steady sway and moment of reflection of the very sentiment of the festival.
Energising on orange juice cartoons and running riot in caravans, High Tyde don’t just put the high-energy on for their show. They’re firecrackers 24/7, bar when tip-toeing mud puddles to avoid messing up their Vans classics. The lads moved their way up the bill and gave a set to showcase it. Told that security had been put on a high alert, they ripped up the stage in their standard electrifying fashion, acting as a whiplash reminder that we’re young, free and reckless. So, why not grab a dancing partner and act like it?
110 Above wore the cover of summer evening best, with delicate smells of freshly stone-baked pizza and apple cider adding to the euphoria. D.I.D’s sound-check alone attracted an early crowd, their carnival tinged sounds floating through the air and tempting everybody off their hay bales. In the hall, illuminated by one open wall and a small window above the stage, D.I.D lit up like the precious gem that is their rare performance. Loyal to their locality, they were welcomed with unleashed hunger of a crowd desperate to her their adolescent soundtrack of twisted tales. All ecstasy hitting melodies and untouchable chemistry, the energy was an all-consuming rush.
As the whirlwind of the day came to its peak, adrenaline led the way to Sundara Karma’s headline set. Under a blanket of stars, the gleaming full moon was perfectly placed as a spotlight as they raced through the rip-roaring hits of Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect. Tightly packed, with arms raised in appreciation of Oscar’s majestic frontman qualities and the band’s enigmatic air of pristine, they were our royal family for an hour. Marking the occasion with a treat performance of ‘Indigo Puff’ and welcoming their new releases to the stage, Sundara Karma reigned over the night with rouge smoked eyes and wild hair. Charming, cool, and utterly gorgeous in their thought-provoking, timeless and epic songs of culture.
How lucky am I, to have a family that reunites once a year, for the greatest party?