Festival Review: 110 Above

The pint-sized festival transforms Gopsall Hall Farm into an indie haven that regularly boasts one of the season’s biggest lineups.

With a capacity of just a thousand people, 110 feels almost like a secret as it stretches into life under the heatwave sun. It also feels like a homing ground: not only have an impressive number of the punters racked up seven years of consecutive attendance, but countless bands are also making return visits, tripping over themselves to gush about how special the place is.

First up, Friday kicked things off with a round of female talent. Welsh newcomer Macy put in an impressive bid to be a main pop girl of the future, while in the Old Town Hall Lees set her angelic vocals to keys reminiscent of her Church upbringing. On the Elizabeth Stage, snarling rock singer Casyette brought her usual energy despite a perplexed crowd (granted, songs like acerbic anthem ‘Prison Purse’ are a slight divergence from classic indie).

Following her, Saint Raymond gave a solo performance without the rest of his regular band, including the emotional ‘Alright’ in tribute to a late fan. The set was a relaxed affair, sympathetic to the wearying heat, and a needed break before the raucous shindig that came courtesy of The Reytons.

Over in the Old Town Hall, Larkins were up next with their typical fare of groovy dancefloor-fillers, ending on the anthemic singles ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ and ‘TV Dream’. After them, and as Rachel Chinouriri headlined the Gopsall Inn, The Academic took the coveted sunset slot on the Elizabeth Stage to mix a run-through of hits with a handful of tracks off their upcoming album.

Round the corner, Hinds filled the Commune Stage with their infectious energy and even catchier Spanish pop, with lead vocalist Ana Perrote pitching herself over the barricade and into the crowd for the final song. Back on the Elizabeth Stage, the largest crowd of the day had gathered for The Amazons: the first headliners of the weekend, who played out to the triumphant fan favourite ‘Black Magic’.

Saturday arrived with another belter. Opening the Commune Stage, though, Courting seemed disappointed with the sun-dried punters’ energy levels: frontman Sean Murphy-O’Neill made a frustrated plea for “some enthusiasm”, making jokes with his distortion pedal and even descending into the crowd with a cowbell to drum up a reaction. However, besides a handful of teenagers, there were few takers.

Re-opening the Elizabeth Stage a while later, Casey Lowry wandered onstage with a juice carton to explain that the heat had caused his set’s delay. He also shared that 110 was the first festival to ever host him five years ago; he’s remained a constant feature ever since – “like a stain on a fucking sofa,” he grins. His repertoire of tongue-in-cheek tunes had drawn a sizable crowd, but he also found their response lack-lustre, spending as much time complaining about the quality of the dancing as he did actually playing the music to dance to.

Over in the Old Town Hall, Manchester three-piece The Hara had no such criticisms. They faced a similar predicament to Cassyette’s the day before: that the barnful of printed shirt clad indie fans killing time before Kawala made for a less than textbook audience. No matter, though – after leaping from the speakers, instigating half a dozen mosh pits, and executing a surprisingly successful crowd surf, frontman Josh Taylor had them well convinced.

The next band on was Bears In Trees – a complete 180 from The Hara with their petrol station sunglasses and nostalgic (if you can call any emotion towards 2015 nostalgic) inclusion of a ukulele. Vaguely reminiscent of The Wombats, their catchy tunes and quirky lyrics have built something of a cult following among Gen Z, and it didn’t take long for their cheerful set to fill out the rest of the barn.

Before a buzzing crowd and backdropped by the melting colours of sunset, Baby Queen appeared totally at ease during her set – admitting she was far more sober than during her last appearance on the farm. Following her, The Night Cafe’s last minute cancellation meant that Spector had been upgraded to the Commune Stage – much to their own delight. The set was a joyful showcase of the band’s fizzing, inoffensive indie sound – made more lively by the crowd, who could finally take advantage of the sun going down to get some dancing in. They carried on dancing for Everything Everything, who rounded off Saturday with their eclectic pop spinoff that makes the band so unique.

Sunday saw some more lineup changes, with replacements for Tamzene and The Mysterines, as well as exciting newbies Uninvited. The day was still a success, though, starting with solid performances from Flowvers and Dancing On Tables. Birmingham’s Shai Brides, meanwhile, were offering out stickers to advertise their Gopsall Inn set. Their new wave, synth pop sound did reward them with a decent turnout – or else everyone there just loved a good sticker.

Up the hill, there was time to catch the abrasive punk of Grandma’s House before Pixey took over the Elizabeth Stage, her sunny pop tunes tailor-made for the blue sky afternoon. In her wake, The Sherlocks’ indie catalogue was good fun if not especially distinctive; Swim Deep, replacing The Mysterines, were more of the same. Vistas did manage to stand out though, commanding a remarkable crowd with their anthemic feel-good tracks.

From the number of band shirts roaming the farm, it appeared that Sea Girls were the clear fan favourite of the day – if not the weekend. The Royston Club might have been a close second, though: their rowdy singalong in the Gopsall Inn had the barn bursting at the seams, and for many the Wrexham four-piece were a festival highlight.

Back on the Elizabeth Stage, Alfie Templeman was proving himself as a rising indie great; ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’ was a particular hit, sending many of those reclined on the grass running towards the stage for an impromptu dance.

Continuing the afternoon’s winning streak, The Pigeon Detectives then arrived to close The Commune Stage. Their performance was well worthy of a Saturday night, with vocalist Matt Bowman tearing about the stage like an excitable puppy, swinging his mic in windmills until a roof beam intervened.

When it finally came time for Sea Girls to appear, the wait was proven to have been worth it. It seems incredible that this was their first ever festival headline, given that their songs are practically purpose-written to be sung back to them. The setlist was packed out with earworm hits, moving from big hitters like ‘Sick’ and ‘Violet’ to the closing, impossible not to dance to, ‘All I Want To Hear You Say’.

As the weekend wrapped up, it became obvious why the festival is such a soft spot for its resident artists, and why it always secures its impressive bill. After their own sets, artists stayed on to watch and support each other, many taking the weekend as a welcome break of their own. The controlled crowd sizes also keep something of a community feel among the punters, who could be heard discussing festivals past over pints from their vintage souvenir cups. 110 is a special site, and if you love indie it’s the party you’re missing out on.

feature image: Ami Ford

Author avatar
Caitlin Chatterton

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