After the storming success of the 2017 festival, MaccFest was back with a vengeance on July 21st 2018, with a great line-up of bands and more festivities than one could possibly take in.
A decidedly family-friendly event, there was more going on than just music. A stage dedicated to entertaining the kids was laid on once more (we didn’t get a chance to check out Mr Bloom’s set unfortunately) and several dance ‘tents’ (they were nifty inflatables) and a fun fair were also provided so that no one ever had the chance to claim to be bored.
We were there for the music, though and that was provided by a great line-up of artists from all styles of music and various eras.
Opening proceedings were unsigned acts Apollo Junction, Puppet Theory, and popular Manchester troupe The Rainband. Unfortunately, the early kick-off (you’ve got to fit so much in) meant the crowds were still pouring through the gates and discovering the site but the field soon filled up and they all went down well.
The ‘odd one out’ act of the day (last year was The Brand New Heavies) was Shola Ama, popular for a short while in the nineties, she sang to a backing track (making the turnaround thankfully brisk) and delivered what she was famous for: covers. She succeeded in getting people moving, but was somewhat out of her depth for an event like this.
Which is the complete opposite of The Manchester Ska Foundation. Having played the first year of MaccFest, they knew what to expect and delivered their feel good ‘everyone knows this one’ brand of fun and literally had the place bouncing. And we’d only just really gotten started.
Tom Hingley and the Kar-Pets are unique. A tribute act for Manchester legends Inspiral Carpets led by their most famous singer (and the one who voiced their most famous tunes). Fabulously engaging, Hingley made his way down to the stage barrier and sang to the people, just like those classic tunes Saturn 5 and This Is How It Feels did all those years ago.
One would think that would be a hard act to follow, but local lads The Virginmarys do just that with ease. With a massive crowd of ardent fans flocking to the front of the stage, the band storms through an hour of blistering rock n’ roll. Even those unfamiliar with their hard rocking sound couldn’t resist taking notice. Drummer Danny Dolan proved how versatile he was with his sticks, contorting himself into uncomfortable looking shapes but delivering a colossal sound. Vocalist and guitarist Ally Dickaty effortlessly commanded the attention of the adoring crowd and certainly made it a successful homecoming gig for them.
Top of the bill were Happy Mondays, famously lairy act now somewhat tamed by age. That didn’t stop frontman Shaun Ryder dropping more f-bombs than is comfortable in front of a crowd containing children (hey, let’s not kid ourselves that they don’t hear worse at home). Their set is filled with recognisable hits, and Ryder manages to get through them with the help of his auto-cue and e-cig. The energy is provided by dancer Bez and singer Rowetta, who prowl the stage and never less than enthralling. Sadly, the limited space meant bassist Paul Ryder and guitarist Mark Day were stuck at either end of the stage behind some metal poles. Day’s face when he sort the set-up was a picture in itself. Even though Ryder’s occasional chat between the songs would go off-piste, a good time was had by all and people were genuinely excited to see the band in such a setting.
As a festival, it’s not so big that you feel you’re miles away from any of the action (and there were two large video screens if you couldn’t be bothered leaving your deck chair) and everything was very accessible and non-corporate. That said, the food vendors not being allowed to sell soft drinks did put a little more strain on the bars (which appeared to sell out of most of the draft before the headliners appeared).
After basking in what feels like months of glorious sunshine, there was always a risk that the weather would break come the big day, but thankfully, although there was clouds in the sky, this year’s festival was rain free, and the audience – made up of a healthy mix of music fans and families – had a great, and most importantly, safe time. Roll on next year!