Festival Review: Float Along Festival, Sheffield [23rd Sept 2023]

By John Hayhurst
By October 2, 2023 Live, Reviews


Festival season is almost over, but in Sheffield they have other plans – the 2nd Float Along festival highlights some great new alt bands and The Murder Capital play the iconic Leadmill Main Stage

Words and Photos – John Hayhurst

I love the anticipation of a metropolitan city festival where I really only know a couple of the headliners, I get serious FOMO for most of the day as you spend your valuable allotted time at one venue, whilst thinking about who you are missing on the other stages.

There are 3 venues at this one, Corporation, Sidney & Matildas, and the legendary Leadmill – with 2 stages at each venue. Part of the reason for coming was to support such an iconic venue that is still at risk of closure as new owners take over very soon.

It is always a good sign that Steve Lamacq is here, and even if he wasn’t being interviewed, he would probably be here anyway such is the talent that the Strange Days team have managed to assemble for the afternoon and evening.

I’m starting at Sidney & Matildas for the bizarre world of John MOuse and he is suffering from the dreaded ‘technical difficulties’ being first on this small stage today. Finally he manages to get things moving and ‘Dancing with my Neighbour’ starts the journey that includes lyrics/poetry such as “I watched you play with my cat but you still throw shit over my fence”. Apparently Gruff Rhys told him he needed more Welsh Words in his songs, so he wrote a song about it, that didn’t include any Welsh Words. ‘Le Pigeon’ then has a comical dance routine amongst many of his repertoire. A good start though, it was busy, and he was in the unbridled position of there being nothing else on at his early time slot.

It’s roughly 10 minutes walk from Corporation to Sidney & Matildas and then a further 6 minutes to the Leadmill, so we quickly realise that we won’t be doing much Leadmill to Corporation journeys if we can help it. Consequently we base ourselves at The Leadmill and the only time we would be back at Corporation would be for Benefits much later on in the evening.

Sister Wives are first on here and this Welsh female four piece (who are now based in Sheffield) are ready to stun in their matching black and white outfits and great vocal harmonies. Singing part Welsh language, part English, makes this an interesting listen and a far cry from the heavy indie or shoegaze bands that will play on this stage later in the day.

Nightbus are our early surprise of the festival, having only heard 1 track before on a Spotify playlist we quickly delved into their Cure like guitar/synth and bass work. Despite their bass tuner breaking down, it all sounded great to our ears, gothic eerie vocals from Olive Rees that includes a Siouxsie like shriek, making the whole thing sound like it could easily have been made in that post punk late 70’s era. There is a grim reality of this being the soundtrack to the current state of play in the country, but it isn’t depressive, in a similar vein to New Order/Joy Division there is a definite atmospheric dance element to the derelict soundscape. More of this please!! – they would be a superb support for The Murder Capital coming up later on the main stage.

Gently Tender after that is exactly what we get and whilst it is acceptably nice, it didn’t really stretch the boundaries like Nightbus had just done in the previous hour. All the same that Alt Country/Americana vibe is warm, safe and friendly, and with Celia Archer from The Big Moon on keys and vocals, what’s not to like. Reminded me occasionally of Mumford & Sons, but thankfully without the annoying banjo.

In the big room at The Leadmill for 86TVs, and we are not totally surprised to see that the room is only half full (at the start). The band are new and only have 1 track available to stream right now, but if they had advertised it as Felix and Hugo White from the Maccabees new band, then they might have got a few more people in. The two brothers are complimented by their other brother Will and drummer Jamie Morrison, who also wins the loudest shirt of the day award. They play with an over abundance of confidence, like kids on too much sugar, but it is totally infectious. Knowing that we don’t know any of these songs they still manage to get the crowd clapping and dancing like they were their greatest hits, even slowing the pace with an acoustic ballad towards the end. It was like stadium rock squeezed into a small venue, but with on stage theatrics from a band who are professional beyond their years, this might be a new group but they already know how to command a stage, and it won’t be long before the rest of the UK catches up.

Off for a break, some food from the many outlets gathered near Corporation and then for a tasty slice of Benefits, we need some angry shouting to release any remaining pent up energy left for the home straight on this Saturday night. Kingsley Hall is in fine form with his angsty punk poet shoutathons ‘Empire’ is perfect tonight, even finding time to ironically wish someone goodbye as they leave the room early – he quickly apologises and steps back into the track without missing a beat. Tonight we get an extra helping as Therapy drummer Neil Cooper is a stand in too. The show was immense, ground breaking and satisfyingly different from the usual fodder at festivals. Hard to describe the feeling, just go and see Benefits I guarantee you will find it something to shout about!

Walking out of the Corporation in a slight daze we head back to Sidney & Matildas for Lime Garden. Realising that the clash of all clashes was about to happen, we scheduled about 10 minutes or 3 songs of Lime Garden before it was time to get back to the Leadmill for the main event (The Murder Capital). Sadly we found the stage was running around 10 minutes late and Lime Garden, one of my favourite new bands in the last few years were just tuning up and sound checking, I took one photo to prove I was there, and then we had to leave. It was busy and they will be back for their tour next year when the debut album comes out, plus I thought I would catch them at Live at Leeds (In The City) next month too.

The Murder Capital are one of my most loved bands over the last 10 years and I’ve seen them around 15 times, this would be my 5th time this year alone and I can honestly say they are still as intense as they have always been. Tonight they run with a few tried and tested crowd favourites to start with, ‘More is Less’ we find frontman James McGovern on the barrier threatening to dive in, he doesn’t – which is unusual, but I think they have started to pull a little away from that predictability. Particularly the mid section of the show is heavily based around Gigi’s Recovery’s slower tracks and meanders a little in a Radiohead fashion before ‘Return My Head’ and finally ‘Ethel’ to get back to full capacity rock’n’roll performance levels.

Tonight we are blessed with one of the first live performances of new single ‘Heart in the Hole’ which feels a little more pop based but mixed with a stirring chorus, not a serious change of direction but perhaps a little more radio friendly than other singles.

By the last song James strips off the shirt, and whilst I fully expected him to dive in the crowd for ‘Feeling Fades’ it didn’t happen this time around. They are still the best, and it was fitting that they headline this festival and play The Leadmill again – how many more incredible performances will there be on that stage – who knows?, with new owners there is still that risk of closure and re-purposing the building. This is a very sad state of affairs and one that many grassroots music venues face, we must continue to support them and go to these events to support live music.

Our Float Along festival experience ended there, we tried to get in to see Leeds band English Teacher but Sidney & Matildas was packed and there was no way we would get a vantage point, we couldn’t even see Lily Fontaine’s wonderful big hair from the back of the room – they sounded great though!

For only their 2nd year the Float Along festival was another massive success. It is one now firmly in my calendar, when festival season is over it is these 1 day city based festivals that keep the live music scene alive and these smaller vital venues going, they are critically the best way to discover your next favourite band.

Super Early Bird Tickets are available at only £27.50 for Float Along 2024 here and we are definitely booking to go again next year.