Askern Music Festival review: Razorlight, The Enemy and ex-Kasabian star Tom Meighan thrill crowds

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The weather wasn’t kind, the queues for the bar were long and there were a host of other headaches for organisers to contend with – but when it came to delivering its biggest and best music line-up yet, this year’s Askern Music Festival was firing on all cylinders.

Bosses have apologised for problems at Saturday’s event at its new home of Thornhurst Manor – but when it came to the action unfolding on stage, there was definitely no need to say sorry as thousands of music lovers enjoyed a string of hits from some of Britain’s biggest bands.

Razorlight, The Enemy, former Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan, 90s Britpop stars Space and up and coming indie pop band Lottery Winners delivered some stunning sets on the main stage, while indie icons, Cast singer John Power and former Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley were among those keeping out of the rain and the crowds entertained in the acoustic tent.

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At the start of the day, local acts including Dog Day Afternoon (which included a Freddie Mercury tribute, complete with I Want To Break Free mini skirt and high heels), The White Lighters, The Outcharms, Sam Scherdel and The Lilacs kept the audiece smiling before the big hitters opened proceedings in the afternoon.

Crowds thrilled to a number of bands at this year's Askern Music Festival.Crowds thrilled to a number of bands at this year's Askern Music Festival.
Crowds thrilled to a number of bands at this year's Askern Music Festival.

First up were Acoustic Odds, a band whose pub singalong of The Waterboys’ Whole Of The Moon, became a viral video, transporting them to festival stages up and down the country.

Delivering a set of 90s dance classics reworked into stripped back guitar pop worked a treat – you’ll never hear a more unusual but well received version of Underworld’s Born Slippy than the one Acoustic Odds have in their armour.

With a recent UK number one album under their belt, Greater Manchester band The Lottery Winners were a bit of a coup for AMF bosses and proved to be one of the highlights of the day, delivering a breezy pop set littered with feel good songs plucked from their album Anxiety Replacement Therapy.

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Clearly overjoyed to be taking to the stage and running high of energy and fun, the band were the perfect antidote to the grey clouds and heavy showers that became a feature of the whole day.

Then it was the turn of 90s Scouse stars Space, a band who never quite fitted in back in the day, with their brand of unsettling ‘queasy listening’ with songs about serial killers, perverts and death.

Despite giving off the appearance of an aged metal band, the group raced through all their favourites – The Female Of The Species, Neighbourhood and The Ballad Of Tom Jones – which featured pre-recorded vocals from Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews, per the original.

Then it was the turn of former Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan, whose inclusion on the bill sparked some contoversy after his conviction for domestic assault.

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Clearly wanting to move on from the problems of the last few years and his dumping from the band responsible for hits such as Empire, Fire and Shoot The Runner, a confident Meighan strutted around the stage like he owned it, delivering a powerful, defiant and energetic set interspered with kisses to the crowd, the occasional middle finger and Christ-like poses.

Meighan, who left the band in 2020 after a "sustained assault" on fiancee Vikki Ager which left her bruises on her knees, elbow, and ankle, as well as red marks around her neck, blamed the attack on alcohol addiction, an ADHD diagnosis and mental health issues.

He later married Vikki, who was present at the show.

Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘Love You’ adorned with a raised middle finger, Meighan addressed his conviction and told the crowd: “I’ve been through all sorts of s*** in my life in the last few years. Listen, s*** happens,” shouting ‘luv ya,’ to his wife at the side of the stage.

Away from all that were all the Kasabian anthems, which sparked the first big bouncealongs of the day, the likes of the aformentioned Fire and Underdog raising huge cheers and some serious pogoing.

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As the light started to fade, The Enemy were next up, and the Coventry rockers delivered a tightly-packed, punly powered up set which drew on their four albums, with their 2007 hit We'll Live And Die In These Towns getting the biggest reception.

There was even a short tribute to fellow Coventry musician Terry Hall following his death last year, the band drifting into a few bars of The Specials’ 1981 number on Ghost Town.

By the time headliners Razorlight took to the stage, the heavens had opened, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands of fans gathered in front of the main stage.

Frontman Johnny Borrell made up for a lack of onstage between song chit-chat with exuberance and energy as the band breezed through crowd pleasers like In The Morning and Golden Touch.

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An impending thunderstorm unfortunately cut the set short, with Borrell forced to sing the last few numbers Somewhere Else and America a capella with the rest of the band departing the stage for safety reasons.

As the crowds departed through the trees at a sodden Thornhurst Manor, beery singalongs of the band’s hits continued into the night, proving that music clearly was the winner on what was certainly a dificult day for those in charge.

And that was underpinned with a statement from the organisers after Saturday’s event, the first at the new venue following years at Askern Cricket Club.

A spokesman said: “Despite the evident challenges faced during the event, we think it’s fair to say that the music was absolutely phenomenal.

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"A massive thank you to all bands and artists who played at AMF 2023; you were all unbelievable.

"Music is at the core of who we are and what we do best.

"We hope that the exceptional performances brought you as much joy as they did to us, and we hope they served as a source of respite from any disappointments encountered elsewhere.”

We’re sure music fans will be eagerly awaiting next year’s line-up – and which big name bands will be gracing a field just off the A19 in 2024.

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