Underneath The Stars Festival 2023: Preview

We have a quick browse of what’s on the schedule for the 2023 Underneath The Stars Festival.

underneath the stars

The Intergalactic Brasstronauts at UTSf 2022

Hard to believe this is the ninth year of the Underneath The Stars festival (we would be celebrating double figure but for that which must not be named putting the kybosh on all things 2020). With the heatwave of the very first year and the torrential thunderstorm that shut things down (briefly) a few years back, fingers are crossed for the former this year. After the 2021 return with a single outdoor stage, last year saw the indoor two stage set up back so there’s a hint of the familiar again for repeat offenders of which there are many.

Familiarity doesn’t seem to extend to a Damien O’Kane set in the programme this year. Always a personal highlight (his set on the open-air stage in 2021 was a belter) his presence will be felt somewhere sometime, highly likely in some shenanigans in the Kate Rusby set. Kate herself looks like she’s back to headlining the final night – last year she switched to the Saturday night slot which is never anything less than a highlight; the communal Blooming Heather seems to have found its place as the perennial UTS festival closer.

Salford comedian, Jason Manford is likely to be knocking around as it’s become his go-to festival. Last year saw him singing onstage with Kate as well as being the subject of an insightful (and funny) sit down ‘audience with’ slot where we got a preview of his latest stage show with the ‘songs you remember from your schooldays’ section.

However, avoiding the more obvious headliners, here’s our recommended handful of acts (who’ve also featured on the ATB pages of late) who we recommend should definitely not be missed:

Underneath The Stars

Talking of repeat offenders, UTSf has a lot to answer for. Encountered at the first UTSf, the BAR STEWARD SONS OF VAL DOONICAN have been on our go-to gig lists ever since. Big festivals (cough – Cropredy, cough – twice) and small arts theatres, they’re unmissable. They provided the feature image for our 2021 festival coverage (much to the disgust of one reader who found them unpalatable and hard to avoid anywhere in the field…). Expect to hear a choice selection of ‘hits’ (The Lady In Greggs, Jump Ararnd, Walking In Manpiss…) and a smattering from last year’s Rugh & Ryf album – Where The Sheets Have No Stains and Goat Yoga are already set to be Doonican classics and plenty will be hopeful of getting the nod to join the boys onstage for the Goat Yoga audience participation. Shit hot!

And talking of shit hot, a musician who’s been feted by the likes of Powerplay (Rock & Metal) magazine, ELLES BAILEY has been on our radar too! We’ve featured her Ain’t Anything But and Shining In The Half Light albums on our pages over the past few years and been suitably impressed but have managed to avoid any live encounters…yet. The diaries finally line up and we’re excited that we’ll be grabbing an encounter of her blend of Americana and Blues to create a bit of a rocking first night Friday. To steal the film title, it might get loud but it is Friday night after all.

holy moly

Along with MOLOTOV JUKEBOX, Saturday afternoon will be rife with energy and fervour as we get the chance to see and hear HOLY MOLY & THE CRACKERS for the first time since they released their Solid Gold album. Whether or not Conrad Bird will be back touring after taking a break from the road, blowing his trumpet and celebrating with a G&T, the Crackers are still set to kick up a Rock and Soul fueled storm with a set that should hopefully showcase some of their mighty new material. Visually, they’re a whirlwind and could even rival The Commitments as the world’s hardest working band.

BETH NEILSEN CHAPMAN was on the ATB pages last year with the curve ball that was her Crazy Town record. We suggested that the stereotypical view of BNC had been blown away by new wave rhythms and a “slamming band” that we hope she retains for the festival. Throw in the ‘Grammy nominated’ tag and a reminder that this will be one of just a handful of Summer appearances across the UK (including trips to Scotland and Wales) and there’s a sense that this set should be something special. A musician who’s had her fair share of trials and tribulations, which have fed into her songwriting but one who’s also embracing life and should bring an uplifting and inspirational vibe to proceedings.

And finally, band we called “feisty, neo-trad warriors” when reviewing their For The Night album, ELEPHANT SESSIONS are certainly that judging from their appearance we caught at a Cambridge Folk Festival past (and they’ve been hand-picked in our CFF ’23 preview too). One of those bands who seem to be chugging along with a folky trundle and then take off with a flurry of notes and a bounce that’s guaranteed to have a festival tent rocking and even the committed chair dancers tapping their knees. Oh – and we DO like folk music played by bands who have a drummer!

Here’s Elephant Sessions cutting a vibe…

How hard is it to pick just five from almost thirty bands when you also have the exquisite musicianship and harmonies of Lady Maisery, the irresistible joie de vivre of Skerryvore and the returning Cut Capers plus the contemporary appeal of The Lottery Winners and Scouting For Girls who might be more likely to appear on the Tramlines and Leeds/Reading stages. And that’s not to mention, The Magic Numbers, Newton Faulkner (another returnee) and the chance to discover something new from The Ollam, Alligator Gumbo, Rum Buffalo, Haiku Salut, and oh so many more.

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