REVIEW: Hardwick Live, Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield, County Durham

Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill
Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill
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With Split Festival in Sunderland no more, and Evolution in Newcastle and Stockton Weekender not taking place either, Hardwick Live is one of the few remaining North East festivals to survive the cull.

And it flies the flag for this musical summer tradition with flair.

Crowds before the heavens opened. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Crowds before the heavens opened. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Unlike other events of this ilk, it manages to retain a family-friendly vibe and there were plenty of music lovers, young and not so young, enjoying this year’s bill.

Testament to its popularity, the event, now in its third year, sold out.

The grounds of the hotel were taken over by thousands of welly-clad festival-goers, there to soak up the sounds across three stages.

In between acts, there was plenty to keep you entertained with fairground rides and quirky stalls, including a Pimms van and a gin palace.

10cc. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

10cc. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

There was a strong Indie twang to the line-up this year with sets from James, Razorlight, Cast and Embrace, with a nod to rock thanks to a lively performance from 10cc.

Ahead of the main acts, you could dip your toe into a variety of genres, including a classy set from folk rocker Scott Matthews and indie eight-piece Randolph’s Leap.

As the headliners fine-tuned their guitars for their sets, the heavens opened. But by that point, no one seemed to mind as they danced in the rain, a sea of pacamacs, umbrellas and out-stretched arms.

Yorkshire indie-rockers Embrace took us back to the 90s with All You Good Good People and the anthemic One Big Family which did indeed bring everyone together as we rode a collective wave of guitar pop nostalgia.

10cc. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

10cc. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Charismatic frontman Danny McNamara looked every inch the indie idol with his floppy tresses and leather jacket as he led the crowd through the band’s tracks which were practically tailor-made for a swaying festival crowd, such as the shout-heavy Save Me and the more chilled vibes of Come Back to What You Know.

I’d forgotten just how many catchy tracks Razorlight had released, but they all came flooding back as Johnny Borrell belted them out with his distinctive lilt, such as Someone Else and the classic sing-a-long America.

James, who formed the soundtrack to many people’s youth with tracks such as She’s A Star and Sit Down, put on an electrifying performance - quite literally - as a thunder and lightning storm threatened to upstage them.

The rain failed to dim the headliners though as the reunited rockers stormed through their hits. Sometimes, and its rallying call to thunder, has never sounded so fitting. In keeping with the deluge of water, lead singer Tim Booth even braved a crowd surf.

Embrace. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Embrace. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

By this point we were practically knee deep in mud in weather that verged on apocalyptic, but we had to try out the Dome before leaving.

The green that’s usually home to the festival’s hot air balloon this year housed a giant inflatable rave cave.

In keeping with the venue’s legendary club night - To The Manor Born - there was a pick ‘n’ mix of DJs taking to the decks including Joey Negro, Mark Lowry and Michael Johnson.

The weather may have been disappointingly British, but The Dome brought a flavour of Ibiza and its super clubs to Sedgefield with pumping tunes and strobe lighting.

Hardwick Live may be one of the few North East large-scale music events left, but even a thunderstorm of biblical proportions couldn’t dampen its spirit. Long may it reign.

All pictures by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill.

Embrace. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Embrace. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

Razorlight. Picture by Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill