I fondly recall my first ever Radio 1 event, it was a Radio 1 Roadshow in the late 70’s, either on Paignton Green or Torre Abbey Meadows in Torquay, I’m going way back to around 1978 here so you’ll have to excuse my slightly fuzzy memory….. I remember a couple of DJ’s on the stage, well, I say stage, it was more a fold down type platform that created a small stage area where the stars of ’78 were able to dance about like complete cretins for 3 hours, launching T-Shirts and ‘Goodie Bags’ into the crowd whilst someone span the popular singles of the day. There was no way I was going to get a T-Shirt, me and my father were stood about 200 metres back and despite me putting my hand up way higher than everyone else (I even wiggled my fingers), Jimmy Saville didn’t choose me to join him on stage to take part in some random, nonsensical game to kill 3 minutes between links (thank the lord)……ahhhh, the 1970’s don’t you just miss them…..like a hole in the head?
So, lets fast forward nearly 40 years and see just how much the event had come on…..at least, let’s HOPE it has!
We arrived at the event early, this was mainly to miss out on the excessive build up of traffic on the approach to Powderham Castle, it was also to ensure that we could get a good look around the site prior to the first acts kicking off at midday.
I’ll say now that the weather for the event was amazing, if being completely honest, I would have preferred a little more cloud cover and a little less sun as you’re always going to get issues with sunburn/sunstroke on a perfectly cloudless day such as it was for not only the Saturday but the Sunday too! Thankfully, there were loads of mature trees throughout the grounds and a nice cooling breeze that helped to keep you from burning, it was also great to see that the St Johns Ambulance crews were doing the rounds, ensuring that everyone had remembered to bring sunscreen with them and were happily issuing sachets to any forgetful souls who had completely overlooked it in favour of natty footwear, denim hot-pants and crop tops (and that was just the official photographers!)
At our allotted meeting point, we waited patiently for the press team to arrive and arrive they did, armed with brightly coloured wristbands, photo pit passes and a plethora of other badges, lanyards and just about anything else you can think of to make you feel all authoritative and special! After we had received our information for the next 2 days, we were asked to go through security and then wait in the press area for a run through of the acts and bands appearing at the event over the next couple of days. This is where I left my trustee photographer and had to spend the next 48 hours on foot whilst Julian was ushered from stage to stage via a golf buggy in order to ensure that he could reach them in time to shoot the first 3 songs (standard press privileges). Looking through the itinerary of the event, there wasn’t that many acts that clashed, for us, this meant that we were able to cover as many acts as possible, great news!
Inside the main arena area, it didn’t take me long to identify the 3 stages, the main stage was obviously the largest of the three and was set into the left side of the site, the BBC Introducing stage was nestled nicely in the middle of this and the In New Music We Trust tent, scrub that, it wasn’t a tent, it was the biggest temporary structure I think I have ever seen, it was MASSIVE, unsure how many people it could hold, I would easily say 5-10k but I could be way out!
Strategically placed within the stages were a number of bars selling a range of festival styled lager/cider beverages as well as wine and even cocktails (courtesy of ‘Cocktail Cocktail’) which as well as mixing up some killer concoctions, was blasting out awesome beats throughout the event thanks to a stellar line-up of DJ’s that were playing just above the bar area. The music spilled out into the main arena and many folk took to imbibing a few too many drinks and spent most of the weekend dancing themselves silly along to the summery vibes emanating from the bar.
So, 75 acts spilt across 2 days and 3 stages, so many to see, so little time to enjoy them so, head down, sunscreen on and off we go....
Saturday 28th May
On the dot of midday, Nick Jonas (of The Jonas Brothers fame) took to the main stage to officially kick off the 2016 R1BW event in front of thousands of people, his dulcet tones filling the arena and providing some stellar entertainment for the masses that had been waiting patiently for it all to happen.
Over on the In New Music We Trust stage (shortened to INMWT from now on…) we were treated to the super talented Craig David who dazzled the masses in the big top with a blinding set comprising of past hits such as ‘Rewind’, ‘7 Days’ and ‘Fill me in’. It was great to see him on top form and that he hasn’t lost an ounce of talent over the years, dare I say that he sounded even better than he did in his heyday?
Tom Odell had just struck up on the main stage so back there we went to catch his low key piano led set which culminated in him performing his latest, more upbeat offering ‘Magnetized’, it’s great to see how far he has come over the last couple of years and judging by the audiences appreciation, he is well loved throughout too!
We stopped off at the Introducing stage to watch a band called Spring King who recently supported Wolf Alice and will shortly be taking to the road alongside Kaiser Chiefs, quite a feat for an unsigned act. They opened with their latest single ‘Rectifier’, which laid a solid foundation for the rest of their set, which was really well received.
It was back to the INMWT tent to catch up with Twenty One Pilots who had flown in all the way from Columbus Ohio to perform at the event. They dazzled the audience with a range of tracks including a cover version of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ and their popular track ‘Stressed Out’ featuring Tyler on the bass guitar for the very first time!
We sauntered off to the main stage to find out if it really was ‘all about the bass’ and to also make sure that the video output wasn’t photoshopped, yes folks, Meghan Trainor was in the house and she did a fantastic job of keeping the tempo at fever pitch for the fans to bob along to. Highlights of her set for me included ‘Lips Are Movin’, ‘All About the Bass’ and her last track ‘No’ which featured a troupe of dancers dressed in pink bomber jackets.
The next act is no stranger to appearing at R1BW events after they played in 2015 alongside Ella Henderson on the INMWT stage, this year, they arrived mob handed with not one but TWO guest acts and were playing on the main stage! I am of course referring to the magnificent duo SIGMA who played a fantastic 8 track set including ‘Glitterball’ (the duet they did with Ella Henderson in 2015), ‘Changing’ where they were joined by the ‘madder than a box of frogs’ singer Paloma Faith and ended up with another mega collaboration with the remaining members of Take That for ‘Cry’, such a treat for everyone who was fortunate enough to catch them.
We stuck around the main stage for the next act who has continued to excite us with his unique style and cool approach to music, Jake Bugg pulled material from his back catalogue and delivered a perfect set consisting of some big hitters such as ‘Trouble Town’, ‘Gimme the Love’ and of course, his trademark track ‘Lightning Bolt’ which sent the audience into a frenzy!
We headed back to the Introducing stage where Devon born and bred songstress Rosie Lowe had just taken to the stage. She has such a unique style and her multi-layered music and vocals sounded amazing, you just can’t help but get wrapped up in her music. She played a brilliant 6 track set, highlights for me consisted of ‘Right Thing’ and ‘Woman’ which sounded just as amazing as it did when she cosied up with Jo Whiley on her Radio 2 show recently. Rosie’s debut album is available to buy right now, if you’re yet to own it, now’s your chance!
Chvrches are an act that we’ve seen a few times over the years and are one that consistently surprises us with their gorgeous blend of pop, electronica and stunning vocals courtesy of Ms Lauren Mayberry. They selected 7 fantastic tracks to play including ‘Empty Threat’, ‘Leave a Trace’ and their closing number, ‘The Mother We Share’ which has been a crowd pleaser since it was released, doing a great job of warming the crowd for the remainder of acts to play on the Saturday.
Jess Glynne is having an amazing 2016 so far and the thought of her playing in Exeter was too much to bear, to say that we were looking forward to her set was a bit of an understatement. Opening with ‘Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself’, she followed it up with a brilliant cover version of Clean Bandit’s‘Rather Be’ and closed her set with her floor filling classic ‘Hold my hand’ which had the audience singing along, word for word whilst Jess and her backing singers boogied the afternoon away!
It was at this time when we just HAD to take a break, we had been on the go since 7am and literally needed 20 minutes to take stock, review the itinerary and have some food, we knew that we would miss a couple of acts in the process but we are men who need our sustenance as without it, we turn into very short tempered, tetchy individuals!
Bastille have been firm favourites on the festival circuit for some years now and I recall how they owned the main stage at 2015's Boardmasters event in Newquay, well folks, I'm happy to report that they did exactly the same here in Exeter! Opening with 'Bad Blood', they went on to play a further 5 tracks prior to bringing down the curtain on their performance with the stadium sized 'Pompeii' which saw everybody mouthing the classic opening and singing along heartily to the chorus. These guys really know which buttons to push at large scale events and I look forward to seeing them again ver the Summer when they'll no doubt be playing in another field somewhere to thousands of people!
Bring me the Horizon bought their terrific blend of power rock to headline the INMWT stage on Saturday evening. This 5 piece powerhouse of rock and metal from Sheffield are doing SO well at the moment and have amassed a HUGE following on just about every social media channel known to mankind, having watched a few of their tracks, I can see why, they are so engaging and entertaining, you just can’t help but jump along to their infectious rock infused tunes. They managed to pump out 9 killer tracks including their classic ‘Throne’ which literally set the place on fire, awesome stuff from an amazing UK based act that YOU should be checking out right now!
Over to the Introducing stage to check out a Teignmouth trio called Tiny Folds, we've been following these guys for the past couple of years now and have enjoyed watching how they've grown in talent since their early days. They were tasked with the job of closing the Introducing stage, something that any band are not going to go into half baked, it was immediately clear that these guys meant business and it wasn't long until the huge crowd that had formed around the stage were jumping and singing along to their catchy choruses. They played a five track set, ending with their epic track 'Arcadia' which quite literally took every last drop of energy that the guys could muster but they did it and no doubt gained a shedload of new followers in the process!
It was back over to the main stage now to check out the final two acts of Saturday, up first were London based drum n' bass/dubstep duo Saul Milton & Will Kennard who are better know by their stage names Chase & Status. They performed staggering 11 track set with some amazing crowd pleasers including 'NRG', 'Blind Faith' and 'No Problem', a highlight from their set was when Slaves joined them onstage to perform 'Control', leaping about the place in their Harrington Jackets and Doc Martin boots, a bunch of lively revellers even kicked off a small circle pit that really livened things up a bit, not your standard expectations from a family friendly day out at Powderham Castle I'm sure you'll agree!
Chase & Status's set saw a lot of tired people in the audience, it had been a long day and I feared that people wouldn't have enough left in their reserve tanks to see them through the headline act, we would soon see....
Taking to the stage to close off the first day of the Big Weekend in Exeter, Mumford & Sons are no strangers to performing in front of huge crowds all over the world and by the looks of things they were MORE than ready to inject a little bit of oomph into the proceedings in order to keep people up on their feet throughout their impressive ten track performance. Highlights from it included 'Little Lion Man' and 'I Will Wait' which garnered an impressive audience sing-a-long during the choruses.
That was the lot for Saturday, keep on reading to see how Sunday went down....
Sunday 29th May
Arriving a little later than we did on Saturday, we had a proper ‘Groundhog Day’ moment as we had to acquire new permits for the Sunday, the press team arrived on cue and within a few minutes, we were off into the folds of the inner sanctum once again to await the opening acts.
Dev from Radio 1 was doing a great job of warming up the main stage for the arrival of One Republic at midday, overhead, there was a stream of helicopters buzzing away, probably bringing bands to the event or maybe Radio 1 DJ’s, who knows!
Bang on midday, One Republic were introduced and came bursting onto the main stage to the tones of ‘Seven Nation Army’ prior to kicking into ‘Love Runs Out’, they went on to perform a powerful set of crowd pleasers including ‘Stop and Stare’ and of course, ‘Counting Stars’ which saw the audience singing along word for word during the chorus.
I strolled back to the BBC Introducing stage to see the last couple of tracks from Leicester based James Cherry, his last track ‘On My Mind’ was really strong and I caught up with James after his set for a chat, this will be available in our ‘Introducing’ section very soon.
I stuck around at the Introducing stage as I saw that Essex based songstress BB Diamond was up straight after, she REALLY got the place jumping with her amazing blend of Pop and R n’ B, I reckon she also pilfered a few hundred new fans as the hoards headed to catch Panic! At the Disco, her music just echoed Summer with its light beats, tight synth and sub human bass levels that shook me to the core!
Sticking with PATD, we were there to watch them open up proceedings on the INMWT stage. These guys are a super tight rock band that hails from Las Vegas and their sound drew me into the tent, ear piercing vocals and amazing guitar work fed the audience all they wanted to hear in order to lap up every second of what they were throwing out there.
Izzy Bizu took to the Introducing Stage like a duck to water, her soulful vocal style won me over along with many of Panic! At the Disco fans who were wandering past having just left the INMWT stage. During one track, Izzy seemed to be completely lost in the music, eyes closed, eyes skyward, just letting it all wash over her, she also looked really comfortable up on the stage and most importantly, like she was having FUN!
The INMWT tent was filling nicely as the word on the street was that Mr Jack Garratt was due to play there in a few minutes time, I headed over just in time to watch him open up his set to a near capacity audience who stood mesmerised (as I did) for the next 30 minutes as Jack, a modern day digital one man band, went on a solo rampage, belting the hell out of his percussion equipment and somehow, making it all come together in perfect harmony, something I would struggle to do! We were fortunate enough to be able to review Jack’s show in Bristol recently and it was amazing to see him playing to a much larger audience in Exeter at the R1BW event where there was so much love for him.
Catfish and the Bottlemen are a band that I’ve been interested in for some time but just never got round to actually checking them out, I guess you’d pigeon hole them as indie rock if forced to categorise their music but from the 20 minutes I saw of them on the main stage, they were killing it! They played a track called ‘Pacifier’ which was lifted from their debut album ‘Balcony’ and this went down really well, especially for one kind gentlemen who decided to drop his trousers whilst stood on someone’s shoulders, I wondered for a moment if it was Jarvis Cocker, repeating his Brits invasion whilst Whacko Jacko decided to pretend to become the messiah on stage in 1996….
They played a new track called ‘Twice’ that was only recently penned so think yourself lucky to hear it as I don’t think they’ve played it many times live before! Having NOT taken much notice of these guys before, I’m definitely going to grab their debut and recently released 2nd album and do a whole lot of catching up!
It was back to the Introducing stage for me to check out the last couple of tracks from Brighton based alt rock 4 piece Yonaka, it was nice to see a mix of styles on the Introducing stage as the previous acts had all been quite soulful and lo-fi, these guys were everything other than this and took no time at all to raise the pulses of the lucky punters who had decided to stick around for their set. The guitarist struck me as being really hard working, stripped to the waist, he was delivering 100% during every song, the last one just seemed to much for him and he collapsed in a heap on the stage in a wall of noise and feedback interspersed with a massive cheer from the healthy crowd that had formed to see what all the fuss was about. I’m hoping to catch up with these guys SOON so keep your eyes peeled!
Back to the main stage next to check out Years and Years, we had the pleasure of catching their full show when they played recently in Plymouth and to see them so soon afterwards just cemented the fact that they are one of the UK’s most exciting dance/pop acts out there right now. Olly looked striking in his dungarees (additional airflow maybe?), it was mega hot by the time they took to the stage…..They played all their classics including ‘King’ and ‘Shine’ and even treated the audience to a confetti shower with Olly announcing that he was getting married, I wasn’t sure if this was to elaborate on the confetti moment or whether he is actually tying the not, more research required here folks!
Alice Jemima is another Devon based performer who I was really looking forward to, having seen her locally a few times, I was excited to see how she would sound with a couple of extra pairs of hands to assist her in delivering her product. From the off, she captivated the audience with her smouldering vocals and the addition of two musicians really helped to add a little more colour to her material. Highlights from her set for me included her sultry, lo-fi version of Black Street's 'No Diggety' which has to date surpassed 2.9 million listens on Soundcloud! Her latest offering, 'Liquorice' was exquisite, something about the beat, the vocals and the merciless sunshine that was beating down on us all combined to provide a spellbinding and intimate set that I for one was proud to be there to capture!
From one stunning local act to one from London who I'd heard of but never really paid much attention to, how things would change over the next 30 minutes!
Wolf Alice are an alt-rock act from North London who released their debut long player last Summer, having given it a few listens recently, I was instantly engaging with much of the material and for me (early 40's), it took me back to my heyday of the mid 90's, the power, the energy, the guitars all merged together to create a wonderful melee of sound that I have started an all out love affair with. The way that vocalist Ellie Rowsell can take the song from an almost intimate ballad to an all out attack on the senses in a nano-second had me intrigued. Joff Odie's guitar playing was off the scale, moving between his Fender Jaguar and Strat to provide killer melodies and riffs that were heavier than heaven, these guys are as entertaining to watch as they are to hear and really captured the hearts of everyone in the INMWT tent over the weekend.
I was asked as I came out of the tent what I thought and I said, "it was like turning up to the doctors for a blood test but leaving after having a complete 8 pint transfusion, life changing!", if you've never had the pleasure of having this band in your life, go seek them out NOW, you'll thank me later!
After a life changing set from Wolf Alice, we wandered back over to the main stage where Australian rapper, songwriter, and model Iggy Azalea was just about halfway into her set accompanied with a troupe of dancers, her DJ and backing singers. Her nine track set included a variety of cover versions by artists such as Steve Aoki (Beat Down), Ariana Grande (Problem) and Tinashe (All Hands on Deck) prior to closing with her latest offering 'Team'. Her performance was high energy and engaging from the get go, something the audience really appreciated.
Off to the Introducing stage once more to catch the next act. Kyko is the output of singer/songwriter Scott Verrill from South London, his blend of indie pop certainly brought some amazingly summery vibes to the event with an added dash of calypso in some tracks. I loved a track called 'Drive' (at least I think it was called Drive!), strong, solid and tight musicianship that produced something that you could really get involved in, ending with almost tribal drums. 'Native' was another firm favourite amongst the masses that had flocked in to check him out, if you didn't manage to see him, do go and check out his social media channels where you'll find all his material.
The 1975 took over the main stage for half an hour where they dazzled the audience with their unique blend of indie pop rock. Riding high from their second album which hit the top spot back in February 2016, they played an expansive set, covering current material and older offerings from their debut release back in 2013. One of my highlights from their set was the very agreeable 'The Sound' which had everyone up and bouncing (literally) along to it's great pop vibes.
Back to the Introducing stage once again for another local act that I've been a firm fan of for the past 3 years, going by the name Black Foxxes, this Exeter based trio seem to have found the magic formula over the past 12 months and have gone from playing local circuit clubs and bars to securing a slot at the R1BW and Download festival in June. I was forced to make a decision just before their set, watch a couple of songs and head off to see The Last Shadow Puppets or stay for the duration of what I consider to be one of the most exciting, innovative local acts that I have ever found, the local guys won! It was great to see so many fans in the audience, most were shouting up to lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Holley who was more than happy to wave and acknowledge them. Their set consisted of some truly ear splitting tracks including 'River' and an awesome rocked up version of David Bowie's 'Suffragette City' that I bet Mr Stardust would have been looking down from the heavens and nodding along to!
They closed with their latest release 'I'm Not Well', resulting in Holley casting his Manson guitar to the floor amongst a wall of feedback before walking off stage.
These guys are going to be HUGE, if you get the chance to catch them over the summer, make every effort to be there, their live shows are explosive and will fill you to the brim with killer riffs, tight bass and metronomic beats that will have you coming back for more and more and more.....just go check them out.....NOW!
Despite staying to watch the ENTIRE Black Foxxes set, I did still manage to catch the closing 10 minutes of The Last Shadow Puppets and upon entering the INMWT tent, I could see Alex Turner on his back, peddling into the air whilst Miles Kane was singing and playing his acoustic, an interesting sight to walk into! Turner and Kane then launched into another 60's tinged tune, full of heartbreak and promise, appealing to the mixed aged audience that had huddled together inside the massive Big Top tent to watch them.
Turner appeared to be gyrating and rubbing up against anything that he could find, like a horny dog who needed a bed to thrust into! Their final track was a cacophony of strings and guitar and a barrage of strobe lighting, very grandiose if not a little indulgent for an event such as the R1BW.
From the fans I chatted to after the set, they all said that it was very entertaining by all accounts and great to see Turner and Kane in good voice and playing well off one another.
I walked back over to the Introducing stage where london based songstress Emmi was just kicking off, I did feel for her as Ellie Goulding was in full flight on the main stage but evenso, I stayed to watch the first half of her set (local always wins in my book!). She was accompanied by drums, keys and bass, the latter must have been hot as he was wearing a full length jacket and a hat (maybe he feels the cold?) Emmis's vocal style was somewhere between Kate Bush and Florence Welch, her voice ranging from delicate ballad into a volcanic explosion that really added weight to her music. Highlights from her set for me included 'You Said you Loved Me' and 'Sleep on it' which showcased her tremendous voice. I'm going to contact Emmi soon for an interview, so watch this space!
I stuck around at the Introducing stage to catch an awesome 5 piece from Stockport going by the name Blossoms, I read a feature on these guys in 'Q' Magazine a little while back and was keen to see them in the flesh and find out what their music was all about. They took to the stage and immediately got the crowd on their side with their amazing blend of melodies, Manc swagger and catchy beats that just drew you in real deep. After only forming in 2013, these guys have done a tremendous job of gaining a massive following both online and in the flesh and have already made their mark ob various large scale festivals including Latitude, Reading & Leeds and have even performed in Austin Texas at the world famous SXSW event. Highlights from their set for me included their brilliant track 'At Most a Kiss' and 'Blown Rose', which are both included on their soon to be released debut album (available for pre-order from their website). I have a feeling that these guys are going to be HUGE, if you get the chance to catch them at a more intimate venue, make every effort to do so as it won't be long until they're shmoozing with the big boys on arena tours all over the world!
The Weeknd are an act that I'm not that familiar with but having watched a few songs being performed on the main stage, I can see why he was placed so highly on the running order. Playing to a packed out stage in intense heat and blinding sunshine was probably way more than you would have expected but he did just that, keeping thousands of people entertained throughout his 13 track set. For anyone not accustomed to his music, his album 'Beauty Behind the Madness' is available right now!
Glasgow based Catholic Action did a sterling job of closing the Introducing stage and again, I felt for the guys as they were competing with fellow Scots Biffy Clyro on the INMWT stage, even so, they played their hearts out and the audience that had stuck around to see them grew substantially as people leaving the INMWT tent wandered by and stopped to catch the remainder of their set. These guys have opened up for some amazing acts such as FFS (Franz Ferdinand/Sparks collaboration) and The Libertines (after being asked personally by Carl Barat). They played seven tracks including their latest single L.U.V. which is available NOW.
Off to the aforementioned INMWT stage for a band that I first saw back in 2007 when they supported MUSE at Wembley Stadium, I've always been a fan of sweaty, long haired tattooed men which is just as well as Biffy Clyro tick all those boxes! Walking onstage to the sounds of 'I Like to Move it', the audience were clearly up for a party and it didn't take them long to get into the spirit of things with the Scottish heavyweights breezing through their amazing back catalogue including the classic 'Mountains' and even managed to drop in a brand new track called 'Friends and Enemies' which, despite never been heard before, had the audience screaming for more. Such a powerful, energetic and moving performance, I bet that they will have seen a spike in record sales based solely on this show, I for one dug out my vinyl copy of 'Only Revolutions' and turned it up to '11' and prayed that the neighbours were out.....
Onto the headline act, the one band that were to close the entire festival. All other stages had closed leaving only one place to be at 9pm so off we ventured en masse to catch Coldplay do what they do best. If you take a moment and look back over their back catalogue, you'd be hard pushed to create a setlist comprising of just 11 tracks, there are so many to choose from, I certainly wouldn't be able to pull it off but recalling what they played, it appears that they managed it perfectly! Opening with 'A Head Full of Dreams' complete with an intro speech from Charlie Chaplin, they seemed to dive headfirst into their back catalogue, playing gems such as 'Yellow', 'Paradise', 'Fix You' and 'The Scientist'. Chris Martin looked to be really enjoying himself, telling the audience that he really enjoyed playing in England and especially Devon, which to him was the BEST county of them all! The stage was decorated throughout their performance with fireworks, paper cannons and a laser light show that would put a Jean Michel Jarre show to shame. Despite the capacity audience shouting for more, there was a strict curfew in place and Chris Martin and co departed the stage to rapturous applause at the end of their eleven strong set.
Looking back over the past 48 hours, it was hard to imagine how the BBC managed to keep it all together, planning an event of this scale must have been a mammoth task and to ensure that bands kept to their timings and any technical hitches were resolved as quickly as possible is something they must be used to by now! I thought that the event was brilliant, it brought people from all over Devon and beyond together in one central location to watch and listen to some of the best bands and acts in the industry whilst the sun did an amazing job of showcasing Powderham Castle and its surrounding areas in such a good light. People will look back at this event in years to come and remember just how much fun they had in 2016 and will no doubt use it as a yardstick to measure the success and quality of future R1BW events.
Thank you BBC for putting on such an incredible event, we look forward to the next one!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photos by Julian Baird Photography