Midstock Festival is part of the Midlothian annual cultural extravaganza Midfest. Among a whole host of bands we’d never heard of it was the addition of Dalkeith’s most famous musical son to the bill that ensured that Team CB took a step away from our usual musical stomping grounds to check out what the festival had to offer.
Things didn’t get off to the best of starts. You know when you come up against a weapons grade jobsworth? Well such was the case before we even arrived on site, when the helpful chap on the gate looked at our wee white van and told us “you’re not bringing that thing in here”.
We’d washed it and everything.
Alas, there was nary an alternative parking space to be had for miles around. Luckily just as we were on our third orbit of Dalkeith town centre a miracle gap appeared and we grabbed it, got organised and headed into the festival arena.
The delay only cost us about an hour and a half. Apparently we missed the Ooh La Las getting chucked off stage for swearing too, which sounds more exciting than it probably was.
Still, after missing the first couple of bands we made it in time to catch Volts. Now tribute bands are a subject that divide opinion, especially at festivals, but given the all ages and musical tastes crowd at Midstock the Edinburgh AC/DC tribute were a great pick by the organisers and they were going down an absolute storm. By the time they finished their stomp through the ‘DC classics with Thunderstruck even the weather gods were smiling and the rain that had threatened early on decided it had somewhere better to be.
Dalkeith country park is the perfect setting for a music festival. The main stage was set up in the shadow of the big house and there was plenty of space in the arena to spread out. For the peckish there was a great array of food stalls to choose from (just as well as you weren’t allowed to bring a picnic) and beyond that there was the usual array of funfairs, rides and a very well stocked bar which did a roaring trade all day.
After Volts had got the crowd going came one of the most apologetic band announcements we’ve ever heard, along the lines of “every music festival has a pop section” and “these guys are best friends with Little Mix and Pixie Lott”, complete with assurances that they were going to be the next big thing in the coming 12 months.
Now, we’re not exactly an authority on boy bands, thankfully, but we do kinda have a rough idea of what harmonies should sound like, and what choreography should look like. Alas it appeared that Rewind had the same rough idea, and it wasn’t long before we headed off to, well, just headed off really.
Just in time too, they did unspeakable things to Sex On Fire. Ohh, the irony when, after an attempt to get the audience to join in, one of the band shouted “I don’t see any singers”…
After Rewind had retreated it was down to Fatherson to get Midstock back on track, which they promptly did with style. To us they seem to be another decent Alt-rock band who exude musical “Scottishness” in a very, erm, Scottish way. Judging by the buzz before they arrive on stage it’s clear that the Dalkeith crowd have been waiting for this one, and the massive sing along that accompanies their set is testimony to their popularity.
It was time to see what The Flavours had to offer next, and what that turned out to be was a crowd pleasing set of pop and rock standards. When they first came on we did kind of think “pub band” but that’s not entirely fair to them. OK, so they play other people’s stuff but they do it with a great deal of panache and frontman Steve Davidson had no problems filling the big stage and he soon had the crowd right in the palm of his hand. The setlist was pretty much what you’s want for a mid afternoon slot at a family festival, Something old (Footloose) Something new (Happy) Something borrowed (All of ’em) and nothing blue. Of course
After The Flavours bid the appreciative crowd adieu it was time for something we were genuinely curious to see. Our knowledge of electronic dance music isn’t much more developed than our boy band experience, but DJ MC Mallorca Lee’s Ultrasonic Anthems set certainly had us intrigued. He goes on to serve up a set packed with “House, Trance and the Harder side of Dance” and, to be fair, it was actually quite good. One bloke (in a smurf hat), backed up by a lot of technology and years of experience, was all it took to kick Midfest into life and he soon had the young ‘uns bouncing.
He also mostly managed to stick to the family friendly brief, but it’s probably in his contract everywhere that he gets to say “make some fucking noise” at least once in a set.
While DJ MC Mallorca Lee (May not be his real name, well apart from the Lee bit) was doing his thing we wandered off for a look around we came across one of those neat unexpected discoveries that stick on the mind after a lot of what you’ve seen fades away.
In this case it just happened to be a bloke in a bow tie with an acoustic guitar, and as far away musically from DJ wotsit on the main stage.
It turned out the dapper chap’s name was T-J Connell and it’s fair to say we were impressed, belting out everything from Pharell Williams to Del Amitri as he entertained the new arrivals at the festival’s main entrance.
Back on the main stage next it was time for things to get serious. The Hoosiers are a fairly big deal and judging by the way the arena had filled up (5,000 folk according to the security guy we spoke to) this was a band that people weren’t going to miss. Given their “indie-pop” label we weren’t quite sure what to expect, and we certainly didn’t expect them to be quite this damn good. For a three piece they make a fullsome racket and they pulled out the stops for one of the sets of the day. The big singles were there and went over an absolute storm, it’s hard to believe that Goodbye Mr A and Worried About Ray are really 8 years old. Although The Hoosiers may not have enjoyed that level of chart success of late they proved that live they are well worth checking out, Cops And Robbers seeing them doing a very good impression of a rock band.
“This is a new song but don’t go to the bar, the song is relatively short”
Believe me Irwin, we’re not going anywhere. In reality there was only one name that brought Midstock onto our event radar, and looking at the lineup we didn’t expect anyone to come near to topping that. But as The Hoosiers took their bow there was a rare moment of unanimity in the Team CB (and friends) ranks…
Fish is going to have to go some to top that !!
All day we’ve been seeing people in Fish and Marillion t-shirts milling about, looking slightly bored and clearly just filling in the time until the legendary frontman takes the stage. The crowd down the barrier has been predominantly young folk all day, but as 19:45 approaches the entire “Down the front” demographic changes, with today’s younger generation mostly vanishing a more mature audience taking their place… mind you many of that more mature audience were the kids down the barrier themselves 30 years ago.
Things get underway with Pipeline, but in truth we’re all here for one reason. Tonight is the last time that Marillion’s breakthrough will be played “under the sky” in the UK. Fish has come home, Misplaced Childhood has come home and this is going to be something truly special.
The Midstock lineup is a strange place to find an old bloke playing prog rock, as the big man acknowledges “This is much weirder for us up here than it is for you”, followed by a disparaging “Did you see that wee rave god earlier”. Fish knows his audience too, commenting that the look of the crowd down the barrier has changed, with the “shine” from hundreds of bald heads reflecting back like some strange light show. Well tonight, he promises us, hair will grow, waistlines will shrink, bad backs will sort themselves out and “diddies will firm up” as we’re transported back in time by 3 decades.
Well for 50 minutes at least.
As the first strains of Pseudo Silk Kimono ring out place springs to life, we’ve had sing-alongs before but this was the whole crowd down the front singing along to an entire album.. word perfect (mostly).. after 30 years. The towering form of Fish has lost none of his intensity over the years, and his dance moves haven’t improved much either.
Misplaced Childhood was a landmark album and this was as good a send off as you could wish for. Kayleigh, Lavender, Childhood’s End, all unforgettable, and you can probably imagine how Heart Of Lothian went over with this crowd in this place.
Once the album play through was complete there was time for one more song, and Market Square Heroes gave us all a last opportunity to jump about in a way that most of us probably regretted the next day. The Farewell To Childhood tour may not hit the venues of the UK for a couple of months, but this preview at Midstock proves that catching one of those dates is a must.
The age demographic down at the barrier reverted to it’s former level next with the older generation heading for the bar, or home, while the younger generation took their place for the Brit award winning high preists of the Scottish indie scene The Fratellis. The security in the pit were clearly expecting a rough time, with the photographers corralled off to one side in case of crowd surfers.
I hope that these expected crowd surfers knew not to come over that side, landing on a lens hurts.
Although for us Fish was the highlight of the day by some distance, there is no denying that from the organisers, and the event’s, point of view The Fratellis were the perfect way to bring Midstock 2015 to a close. They may not exactly be our “thing”, but the response that Jon, Barry and Mince got proved they were the perfect big name band to finish with and the reaction they received from the crowd genuinely knocked anything that had gone before into a cocked hat.
Credit where it’s due, the Fratellis ripped the place a new one and this was a proper headline performance form a worthy headline band.
We thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of Midstock, given that it’s only in its second year the organisation and running of the whole event is first class. Of course there are things that can be improved, there always are, but based on what we’ve seen in 2015 this is one that’s only going to get bigger and better.
See you next year guys.