Stendhal 2024: Festival Review and Photos

July 8, 2024

We once saw Lankum at Stendhal when they were called Lynched. Another time, in 2021, we watched DJ Próvaí moonlighting as Losta Plot, unmasked and insecure.

Every year, you steer for Limavady and Ballmully Cottage Farm, looking for surprise and fresh reveals. Happily, this is also an option for 2024.

Problem Patterns, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

It’s the first year that Problem Patterns have featured on the bill. Last weekend, they played three shows at Glastonbury and their self-belief is untouchable. This Friday, they wail and clang and provoke immense joy. They abuse Keir Starmer in his first day of office, dedicating ‘Terfs Out’ to the incoming PM.

The little bandstand is unable to contain their mission. Instruments are constantly swapped, allowing each member of Problem Patterns to hurtle off the stage and into the crowd. Most of those present are believers and outsiders – ablaze with punk rock and queer testimony. Fans and bands members collide on the grass. The microphone is shared out and essential phrases are amplified. How great is this?

Problem Patterns, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

‘Big Shouty’ won’t be limited and ‘Y.A.W.’ is necessarily fierce. Bethan strikes out for ‘Lesbo 3000’ while Alanah’s bottomless contempt on ‘Mediocre Man’ is manifest. The regular PP supporters understand the ceremony, but there is also value in the faces of the uninitiated – perplexed, even hateful bystanders. No matter. Beverley delivers ‘Letter of Resignation’ and the band sets us a team challenge to remember the Health Service horror of ‘Who Do We Not Save’.

Problem Patterns, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

There’s a looming event – August 17 at Belfast’s Custom House Square, when Problem Patterns will play with Stiff Little Fingers, The Damned and The Skids. They will perform there as punk rock peers, as pertinent as you need.

Stendhal is regarded as a family-friendly festival, which surely helps with the economics of the weekend. But this same demographic has complained in recent years about language and content from the performers. So, the new festival guide points out the acts that might be contentious, upsetting or sweary. Problem Patterns issue their own disclaimer during their set, but over at the Wooly Woodland Stage, Cherym are officially dangerous and family-unfriendly. They mark the occasion with language like sailors on shore leave. They even get the audience to say “fuck” often and relentlessly, dropping f-bombs on bourgeois concerns.

Cherym, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Hannah is enjoying the havoc, even if the bassist Emer is missing due to ill-health. But there’s a very able replacement (Becca), and ‘Listening to My Head’ is a picture of marital collapse that never loses its fever.

The Breeze have a fine album to share with us and an afternoon spot on the Henry McCullough Stage. Stevie is quiet with his manner but assured in the music and he is minded to dedicate ‘Look There’s a Rainbow’ to the people of Palestine. Chris sits on a chair and sings with a basso profundo voice about worrisome stuff, like Skip Spence on a distant orbit. ‘Black Sky White Earth’ chugs beyond the landscape of Americana into a motorik highway that might lead anywhere.

The Breeze, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Props to Karl Devlin in the Craic Inn, singing ‘Goodnight Irene’ in Irish. Surely Lead Belly would have approved.  Moon Landing brought trumpet, hits of bliss and a violin bow, angled against guitar strings. A salute also to Parker, getting obstreperous under the branches with crunching guitars and the rebuke of ‘Generic Indie Bands’.

Virgins, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Virgins are loving their own moment as the darkness settles and the stage lights burn magenta. The music is glowering and theatrical. Rebecca holds her place in the haze, a young Miss Havisham, tilting her hands at intervals, singing high, strange, imperious.

Becky McNeice, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Becky McNeice has a lonesome, withdrawn voice that cuts through the noise and the grandstanding that often passes for great emotion. Previous live shows have lived out that experience as you hold out for each little inflection. The framing is sparse and urban, not unlike Arlo Parks, while Becky tunes like ‘Flatline’ and ‘Phases’ are tremendous pieces of writing.

Alicia Raye, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

The great change is that Becky is now packing the self-esteem and the humour. She’s brought friends like Alicia Raye onto the site, a mobile support unit. Young Spencer is also here, fit to join Becky with ‘TBU’, upping the respect, flipping the lonesome spirit.

Andy White, by Stuart Bailie

The damp climate of Saturday impinges on the tone. Andy White is here with a big hat and a spoken word album, Good Luck I Hope You Make It. So, he revises an old Gil Scott-Heron tune, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ in this new version of due comeuppance, the fightback does not involve face recognition software, Dave Grohl or verification codes on your phone. Surveillance capitalism is a dirty business, and it doesn’t want you to dance without The Man’s say-so. Therefore, you must.

The Andy show, supported on keys by old pal Rod McVey, crisscrosses from this new output to the vintage declarations like ‘Religious Persuasion’, ‘Reality Row’ and ‘Visions of You’. Much of this is poignant in that Belfast has changed in many ways and yet there’s a residual stuckness that constrains the soul.

Chubby Cat, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Chubby Cat puts another tilt on the narrative, bringing music from Cork to a new home in Belfast, seeking chances and creative space. The latest tune, ‘Oh Honey!’ is love at the point of surrender, delighted and jittery. This art might carry better in the darkness with lights and overload, but Cat has reserves of presence and Stendhal understands the gist. ‘21st Century Panic Attack’ has the beats, the fear and the computer-generated menace. The Cat method is to tread lightly and feel keenly.

Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

There are pleasant interludes from Polar Bolero and Nathan O’Regan, although the latter overloads every syllable in gospel-soul and the attention falters. There’s a no-show at the Craic Inn from Alice Faye. The fellas from Gomez are remembering their debut album and a good few of the crowd can bluff their way around ‘Get Myself Arrested’.

The Wood Burning Savages, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Paul Connolly and Dan Acheson from The Wood Burning Savages are back in the woodland, celebrating the programming work of the Nerve Centre and introducing some recent songs that have been delayed by illness and tough circumstance. Still, the pair muster the good grace and acoustic guitars. ‘It Takes a Bomb to Raze a Village’ is the inverse of community spirit, the Military Industrial Complex grinding out people for the benefit of share dividends. Paul mentions BAE Systems and the likely payload: “surface-to-air, and dust to dust”.

The Wood Burning Savages, Stendhal 2024, by Stuart Bailie

Elsewhere, he sings of cops in Texas, militant incels and landlord blues. “The NHS saved my life,” he affirms, alluding to his health issues in 2023. Connolly has plenty to say about the Northern Ireland Legacy Act, about bad faith and low behaviour. These are aggravating themes, but Paul’s style is to seek illumination on the far side, in the work of people, together. The new republic of Limavegas agrees.

Stuart Bailie


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