Right To Roam 2022 showcased 70 acts over 2 days spread across 4 venues.
Many of the team on At The Barrier were born and raised in Bolton; myself included. I’ve been schooled there, and worked there, and spent plenty of time in the nightlife the town offers. In recent years, Bolton’s stature (at least for me) has waivered. Lots of the places I loved have now closed down and the place doesn’t have the soul it used to.
When Right To Roam was announced, I was truly excited to go and see bands in my hometown. Could the town that is my home deliver on a big festival on a big scale?
In short…yes! Right To Roam 2022 was a resounding success. Not only was the music and art varied and eclectic, the whole weekend was well planned and immensely friendly.
FRIDAY 8th July – DAY ONE
With so many artists taking to various stages, it is sometimes hard to know where to place yourself. The first port of call was Bar Four in the renovated vaults of Bolton’s Market Place.
Joe Thompson is an incredibly young singer/songwriter. Taking to the small stage armed with a red Gibson SG, Joe played his way through 30 minutes or so of songs that he had penned himself and a few covers. Covers included Wonderwall and a couple of Beatles numbers in I’m Only Sleeping and Every Little Thing. Whilst covers are a go to point for young singers, it is Joe’s own compositions that make more of an impression on this writer.
Anywhere But Here has a jolly intro which juxtaposes with the seemingly melancholy of the title. Like No Other Man has little disco licks in the guitar motifs and Should I, Should I Not ensures warm applause from the gathering crowd. The standout track from Joe was one of his own compositions called Tinman. It evokes a little of Syd Barrett’s work (think about Vegetable Man / Bike). Joe plays the part brilliantly and is appreciated so as his set ends.
If Joe Thompson was inexperienced on stage, the next act was far from it. Jack Horner aka Leon The Pig Farmer is a beat poet who is an ex-serviceman who began writing verse to help him deal with a PTSD diagnosis. Leon has an assertive take on spoken word with fast firing rhythmic verse and a sharp outlook on both his mental health recovery and other social topics and observations that catch his eye.
Topics aired included Manchester trams, experiences in the army, his father, stepfather and mother, and swipes at social media and ‘Flight Twats.’ The charm of Leon’s delivery and observations ensure that emotions swing firmly from side to side on the pendulum. One moment you will find yourself laughing; the next moment brings deep introspection. When one can affect you in that way, I feel it truly says something about your art – it is supposed to make you feel. It also shows the diversity of what was to be on offer over the next two days.
Casper Mason returned attention back to the music. Armed with just a black acoustic guitar, he showcased his raspy tones; most notably on a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark.
Over at The Octagon, Bolton’s premier theatre, Jess Guise was wowing the crowd with her wonderful charm. Guise were first on At The Barrier’s radar a couple of years ago when we heard her EP, The Fun Part (read here). Playing solo as Guise, her short but sweet set culminated in Brother In Arms; a track originally on The Fun Part. Pre track introduction saw Jess asking the crowd if there were any Dire Straits fans in? A seemingly hard no was the call, but Jess regaled the crowd with a poignant tale of her brother and her dad and how they came together when their father died. What’s more, the guitar that Jess is playing is her dads. It is a really passionate song, and Jess Guise is one singer who should definitely be on your radar.
Another singer that should definitely be on your radar is Manchester’s Chloe Glover. Her emotive and evocative songs of personal experiences of drinking, stage fright and social issues are delivered with phenomenal gusto. Chloe’s smoky, bluesy voice, soars in amongst the theatre. It is a real pleasure to witness an artist going full pelt and delivering every single word with aplomb. Blood On Your Hands talks of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and Sober recounts Chloe’s move towards sobriety. Whilst the subject matter is heavy, Glover’s stage manner is warm and comforting. With a second EP due in Autumn, Chloe Glover is certainly an artist to keep an eye on.
Whilst Chloe Glover is readying her second EP, Will Varley has spent years honing his craft. On his second gig of the day in Bolton, he takes the stage to warm applause and a hush from the crowd that his presence requires.
From the offset, Wil Varley shows what a stunning singer he is. His moves between roaring rasp to whistful whisper in a heartbeat. ‘How you doing everybody? This is nice…in the theatre,’ remarks Varley in true hammy fashion. Throughout his set, Varley’s wry wit is a vital part of his repertoire. A lot of his songs could be seen as a little on the melancholy side; there is a bleak outlook in quite a few of them (not quite the death count of Richard Thompson though!) Acknowledgement of the current political state is given and Varley’s jibe at writing a song for his four year old, and her wanting a Barbie Doll instead make for great patter.
With three acoustic sets in the books, it was time for Lottery Winners to take to the stage and step things up. Hailing from Leigh, Bolton, this is very much a home game for the quartet. They draw a raucous crowd and endear themselves with their playful banter and jovial manner that starts in the soundcheck as they play about with A Little Respect.
‘Anyone seen us before?’ says Thom Rylance as the band take to the stage proper. ‘Get ready for the same jokes!’ is the follow up. Opening with the immensely catchy Headlock, the band spend the next hour or so preaching to the converted. People are on their feet from the off.
At every opportunity, Rylance gets the cheap pop in for ‘Bolton.’ It is great to be a part of this kind of atmosphere; wholly unique and truly full of love. A young boy in the crowd named Charlie is at his first Lottery Winners gig and Rylance checks in with him periodically. Gig memories are made of moments like this and that young man will forever be a fan. As the band play Favourite Flavour, the crowd sing along with the cheery melodies and sway around enthusiastically.
‘I’ve got bad indigestion – I’ve had to many Carrs pasties,’ comments bassist Kate Lloyd on the local pastry based delicacy. Rylance mentions that he could do with a Rennie; cue the crowd obliging with an array of antacids being thrown towards the stage! Hopefully they won’t be added to the prohibited list at gigs – artists have needs!
It is Kate Lloyd that takes centre stage on Sunshine; another cut from 2021’s Something To Leave The House For. It shows the versatility and diversity in how the band approach their music; a real breath of fresh air.
The pace changes as Rylance and Lloyd stay onstage for the tenderness of Overthink Everything. Mobiles are aloft with lights flickering and the crowd oblige by singing the song back at the duo. It is a beautiful moment and one that those in attendance, especially the band, will treasure.
With the little stripped away part of the set out of the way, the band are quorate again for a real slice of fun. Robert Lally takes the mic for a little covers section. ‘What do you want to hear?’ he asks; cue the chorus of requests. The band settle on a mashup of Smells Like Teen Spirit/Never Gonna Give You Up. Smiles are plastered ear to ear for everyone. A huge singalong for The Beautiful South’s Amsterdam as well.
Lottery Winners are true hometown heroes. They have grafted for years and are making waves in amongst the music world. Their music is highly listenable, fun, summery and joyous all at the same time. It is clear that their connection with their audience is strong and they will only go from strength to strength with their capabilities. An amazing end to day one of the festival.
SATURDAY 9TH JULY – DAY TWO
As day two of the festival came around, I’d earmarked performances from The Yacht Club, Hallan and GHUM for the part of the day. Sadly, the acts couldn’t make it due to illness and thus I had to embark on a voyage of discovery rather than planning.
First up were local trio, The Mochackers. As a unit, they were tight. They played a solid set choc full of songs that hit plenty of ticks in the indie column, but the punky delivery of the vocals was more reminiscent of Buzzcocks. Their cover of Time Bomb High School to close their set was a nice way to end as the temperature in Bolton slowly crept up.
Over at The Alma, Bolton’s home for all things heavy, Disguised On Mars were another trio. Heavier than The Mochackers, Their songs included Mr Moonshine, Blue Moon and Last Night I Thought Someone Hugged Me, which was definitely not a Smiths cover according to the band!
Basic Switches took to the stage at The Octagon. A small crowd gathered to watch the layers of music be built around looped guitars and keys. The coalesced sound was avantgarde to say the least and if someone like Thom Yorke had been on stage doing it, he would have been lauded for risk taking; kudos to Basic Switches for getting up there on a big stage and doing what they do.
Back at The Northern Monkey Taphouse, Lincolnshire indie mob The Rills blasted their way through a set of indie corkers. Chanelling Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines with a little more agression reminiscent of IDLES, the band poured all they had into their set. So much so, they broke the drums! With Mitch Spencer holding court on the mic as the drums were fixed, he showed just how much charisma he and this up and coming band have. They have toured with some rather big bands and have tour dates throughout the year. They are a band to take in if you have chance.
Whilst The Rills veered more towards the indie/post punk side of things, The Empty Page turned up the grunge. Again, a trio, the band blasted through a short set of impassioned numbers. In previous years they have been championed by Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson and they certainly made their mark on Right To Roam. Kel’s charm in speaking to the audience was typically northern and heartfelt. Her introduction to Dry Ice cited it as a song about clubbing and the sights and smells hat you encounter on nights out. The band finished with When The Cloud Explodes in emphatic fashion. What made the set more remarkable is that they had a stand in drummer for the show who had just learnt the parts; it really wasn’t clear – he fit like a glove.
In an afternoon seemingly dominated by trios, Total Victory smashed the trios apart with a double trio! The sextuplet ramped up the volume with their three guitarists alongside bass and drum, and the Mark E Smith inspired vocals of Dan Brookes.
Brookes’ opening gambit was that the band haven’t played live for three years, so they’re opening with a song they haven’t played before! A gamble somewhat, but any ring rust didn’t show. For thirty minutes, the band put on one of the most energetic performances of the weekend. The three guitars were really well mixed in the sound and the mix of post punk / post rock stylings all shone through. The bass and drum chugged things along as Brookes spent most of his time out in the crowd singing at the gathered masses.
Several people ventured forward, including a young lad who had his camping chair firmly up front for the show. Like Lottery Winners, these are the moments that you remember as a youngling! A bombastic rendition of National Service was a real highlight of Total Victory’s set; be sure to head into their back catalogue as it is well worth discovering. With ears ringing, the bands set was brilliant to watch and brought smiles to all in attendance as the sun started to set on the festival.
With the end in sight, Manchester post punk group IST IST were set to return to Right To Roam for the second year running. In a set that began in a swirl of synth, the young quartet delivered their brand of gothic tinged indie rock to a growing crowd at The Octagon.
It is hard not to think of Depeche Mode, Editors, Joy Division and bands like Bauhaus where IST IST are concerned. Influences are rife, but the band have brilliant songs that they bring to life brilliantly. Interaction with the crowd is brief, but the music does all the talking. Extreme Greed brings the crowd to their feet. The drums drive the track alongside the clanging bass. What is great about the song is the catchy element of the song. It offers light amongst a largely darker song. This mix is hard to pull off well, but IST IST nail it and rouse the crowd before the main event of the evening.
Jane Weaver is a consummate pro. She has been around the music scene for a long time in various guises and it is clear that many of the days crowd are here to see her.
Her band are slick as they play through an hour long set that takes in many points in Weaver’s career. A blast from the past is how she describes Mission Desire from 2014’s The Silver Globe; a brilliantly psychadelic piece of music that sees Weaver’s ethereal vocals bounce of the walls of The Octagon. We’re brought more up to date with the title track of her 2021 record, Flock. A false start ensues. ‘We’re only human!’ exclaims Weaver. Too right. All is forgotten during another otherworldly performances.
‘Thank you Bolton…not been here for a while…it’s good though!’ says Weaver as she cuts between sporadic keys and red tambourine throughout songs. She deals with the awkwardly placed PA well and makes a good connection with the crowd. As the set draws to a close, she airs Sunset Dreams from the EP of the same name. It has recently made its first appearance on vinyl.
To close the set, and the festival, the crowd are treated a wonderful rendition of I Need A Connection. Synths throb as the song moves through its psychedelic make up. When Jane Weaver sings, it is so powerful. Not powerful in a way that pins your ears back, but in the way she phrases words and melodies in her delivery. The power is in restraint. Her vocal on I Need A Connection feels like it could easily sit as part of one of Chemical Brothers’ 90’s releases. It is a perfect way to end the festival.
Right To Roam 2022 was a resounding success. I, personally, am already looking forward to next years festival. All the signs point to this happening. There is so much talent out there that events like this are vital for their growth. I would just also like to add how amazing the crews, security, ushers, volunteers, helpers, and anyone else involved in the festival were. They made the event work so smoothly and deserve an abundance of praise.
Roll on 2023!
Check out Jane Weaver’s I Need A Connection below.
Right To Roam: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
If you would like to keep up with At The Barrier, you can like us on Facebook here, follow us on Twitter here, and follow us on Instagram here. We really appreciate all your support.
Categories: Live Reviews
Great review, Dominic!