A sold-out crowd of 20,000 descended on a usually sleepy Lancashire town ready to rock out. Here is our comprehensive review of Wet Leg, Fontaines D.C., and The Strokes at Lytham Festival.
On arrival, it was immediately clear that the crowd was a generation or two younger than for the Niles Rodgers/TLC/Soul II Soul show the previous week. Their 90s/00s peak era was immediately indicated by the spontaneous mass singalong to The Libertines blaring over the P.A.
The Lounge Society had already impressed the early doors crowd. One young festival-goer, who’d travelled all the way from Essex, described their set as “beautiful.”
Wet Leg at Lytham Festival
The buzz that Wet Leg earned from hitting the top of the album chart in April 2022, followed by a blinding Glastonbury set last month, had clearly made it to this sleepy seaside town. They started with a neo-riot grrrl indie number, Being In Love, before a mysteriously languorous follow-up in Convincing that suited the muggy summer evening.
The Carlsbergs were already flowing so the happily tipsy crowd was happy to clap along without prompting. Mainly in time too!
“Baby, do you want to come home with me?/I’ve got Buffalo ‘66 on DVD” gave fans of indie cinema a clue that Wet Dream look to the 90s for influences. Rhian Teasdale added to that impression with a cheerleading-inspired outfit in the colours of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Sunnydale High Razorbacks.
Her clear vocals rang out during Supermarket, rounded out with call-and-response yodelling duet with Hester Chambers.
The perma-smiles on stage and in the crowd continued as It’s Not Fun cut through the sea air crystally clear. The beautifully electric teal electric bass pounded the insistent foundation like it was a quality Clueless soundtrack song.
Ur Mum was an insight into the band’s lyrical ideology: “I don’t want you to want me/I need you to forget me…You’re always so full of it/Yeah, why don’t you just suck my dick?” Wet Leg were taking no shit and no prisoners.
Then, there it was, the rare transcendent moment. They didn’t need to prompt the crowd participation after the lyric “I’ve been practising my longest and loudest scream” because their popularity proceeded them. In fact, the scream was so loud that Chambers dropped to her knees, covering her ears in amazement.
The obligatory slow one, Obvious, still offered a cheeky surprise Drop-D, full volume playout, before grins during the “you’re so woke/Diet Coke” part of Oh No.
The reaction to the insistently metronomic, syncopated turn for Too Late Now was just a patch on what was to come for the final, highly anticipated song of the night. Fans were primed for Wet Leg’s iconic single Chaise Longue which featured in the Gossip Girl reboot. As they chanted the euphemistically tongue-in-cheek lyrics “I got the Big D” over and over, the Lancashire crowd was loving life and loving this band who won’t be third on the bill for long.
Fontaines D.C at Lytham Festival
There were not just cheers but screams as Fontaines D.C. sauntered onto the stage. It was clear that, like Wet Leg, they had also made it on the charts, including a number one album, Skinty Fia, in May 2022. Still, the reaction wasn’t enough for vocalist Grian Chatten who traversed the stage urging more volume and action.
It was loud, it was relentless, and the lads at the front were absolutely loving it while those in the corporate section looked on nonplussed.
Chatten mirrored Ian Curtis with his distinctive performance style before raising the mic stand high. He was moving even when the music stopped before Sha Sha Sha. The majority were loving it but a Lancashire voice cut through the air: “he’s definitely on summat.” To be fair, that droll critic was eventually entertained by the end of the relentless set.
The diction didn’t carry too well in the mix but anyone who didn’t know the songs by heart could still take in the compelling spectacle of Chatten’s rainbow NASCAR top darting around. He kicked an offending monitor aside to get a little closer to the fans who were clapping and bouncing along with glee.
Meanwhile, the band knew their role; being casually cool because all eyes were on Chatten. As the lights and volume went up during Televised Mind, it seemed that there was no-one left in Lytham who couldn’t hear this solid musicianship topped by a studied Brit Pop drawl.
The roar went stratospheric as Chatten jumped into the photo pit closer to the eager crowd but thanks to a leg-up from a friendly cameraman, he was back on stage in time for the next singalong.
By Too Real, the insistent bass was starting to creep into our very being as guitars swirled around our minds. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the new spectator sport of guessing which of the fans living their best lives on their friend’s shoulders would notice their 5 seconds of fame on the big screen.
Chatten mentioned a Lancashire link as he dedicated A Hero’s Death to his Grandad Ronnie from Barrow-in-Furness. Smoke bombs abound for the trio of songs that thrilled the fans: Jackie Down The Line, Boys In The Better Land, and I Love You. As they sauntered off for the last time, the Fontaines D.C. stage sign was lit up in the colours of the Irish flag.
The Strokes at Lytham Festival: “just ignore everything I say, always. Deal?”
The sound folks missed a trick by not returning to nineties and noughties classics as the rapturous reception to The Coral and The Streets earlier wasn’t replicated and the atmosphere was starting to drag during the final set change. Luckily, The Strokes were able to fix that singlehandedly. In fact, one Lancastrian opined that during their incidental intro music they were “already better than Fontaines”!!
The lights and graphics show was immense from the get-go, really showing that this was a band tailor-made for headlining these huge outdoor shows. The crowd absolutely roared along to the chorus of Is This It, thrilled to hear a fan favourite first thing.
The warm welcome for The Adults Are Talking from The New Abnormal (2020) showed that the crowd wasn’t just into the band’s iconic 2001 debut album. Nonetheless, the incredible love for 2001 hit single New York City Cops was undeniable.
Singer Julian Casablancas seemed taciturn at first but it wasn’t long before he broke out with sarcasm, accents, and local jokes for “you guys in the nice town.” “Let’s talk about politics. Where do you stand on the issues?” He laughed and declared “I’m kidding. I’m fucking with you,” but by then large sections of the crowd were chanting “fuck the Tories.” That was quite telling about the present political climate given that this part of Lancashire has a Tory MP.
Casablancas continued to lead with bangers and banter, even complimenting a cameraman on artistic shots during Bad Dreams. Hard To Explain got the crowd jumping before an unexpected interlude. One fan got a strong dose of ‘be careful what you wish for’ because her sign saying ‘Can I sing Ode To The Mets with you?’ resulted in her being brought up to sing it alone! Her protestations that she might not be the strongest singer and would prefer to sing-along were ignored as Casablancas stepped aside for the entire song, pointing to a “straight-up non-COVID cold” as to why he couldn’t share a mic with her. He grinned as he declared “I’m gonna get some blow and hookers backstage” before wandering around the stage whispering to bandmembers while the chosen fan sang her heart out.
Casblancas went full X-Factor by asking each band member for their verdict, ranging from “no comment” to “she’s fucking amazing!” via “A for effort, she brought it home.” These reactions cued faux boos and cheers in an area known for participatory pantomimes at Lowther Pavillion. Casblancas rounded out the experience with his best Simon Cowell impression to declare that despite the “tremendous effort…she’s not going to make it” to the next round.
So, normal Strokes service resumed. Casblancas gave an insight into his role: “you start a song and I sing. You wind me up and I go.” The band complied with Reptilia, to tremendous cheers. There was a mosh pit in the ‘cheap seats’ part of the crowd just behind the corporate section. I Can’t Win and Someday followed with equal fervour. The love was so strong that there was collective consternation when Casablancas announced there would be no encore in order to fit in as many songs as possible while respecting the hard curfew in a residential area. He chuckled at the reaction: “you want us to actually do it? You’re saying even if we had all the time in the world, it would be too early for us to leave?” The roar of confirmation was definitive.
The crowd continued to react as one, grasping every ‘oh oh’ and humming every melody line. It was quite a feat considering that this was a festival audience not a headlining concert. However, since they were only playing a handful of UK shows in total, hardcore fans had come from far and wide to enjoy this blinding set.
Effortlessly charismatic guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. led the band as they settled into a funky pop groove for Threat Of Joy. The lyrics declared “I’m gonna take my time” but, in reality, the end was near. Casblancas confirmed: “it’s the end of the line. It’s been a real pleasure…I guess people need sleep”
The final track, Juicebox, had the most striking stage visuals of the night. The rainbow graphics looked stunning against the dark night sky. Finally, the neon fingerless glove made sense as a silhouetted Casablancas traversed the stage one last time.
The Strokes didn’t play their biggest UK hit, Last Nite, but no-one seemed to mind. Except, perhaps, for the fan who had hoped to drum on the song, but that was never likely to happen after the previous lengthy fan participation section had torpedoed the “theatre of leaving and coming back.” So, just like that, that was it for The Strokes at Lytham Festival. 20,000 people streamed off the green on an absolute high.
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