Festival Review: Cotton Clouds

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On a gloriously sunny Saturday in August, 3,500 eager music fans descended on Saddleworth Cricket Club for the inaugural Cotton Clouds music festival. When I found out one of these oh-so-darling boutique music festivals was popping up a mere 10 minutes from my doorstep, I was one of the first in line for a ticket. A day long event in early August, curated by the Manchester nightlife stalwarts behind the ever popular Howling Rhythm club nights, featuring a showcase of local acts along with the bigger names of The Coral and The Sugarhill Gang which I could more or less walk home from without the classic festival pains of no showers and camping in a mud sodden bog. It sounded too good to miss; all the more given that 2017 hasn’t exactly been the most successful year for the festival circuit.

Fortunately, Cotton Clouds did not go the same way as the Liverpool newbie, Hope and Glory Festival. Far from it, and after hearing the lengthy list of issues faced in fields elsewhere this summer, it makes my gripes with Cotton Clouds (or Cotton Queues as it has now affectionately become known in my house) seem fairly insignificant.

So, whilst I don’t place queuing for ninety minutes for a beer particularly high on my list of priorities, there are reasons why I can let this slide. Despite spending at least a third of the day stood in a queue, the cosy size of the festival meant you never missed a thing, whether that was being able to soak up the vibrant family-friendly atmosphere or being able to listen in on whoever was playing on the closest stage.

First up to bless our ears were the Sheffield quintet The Everly Pregnant Brothers, who entertained us with their ukulele re-workings of classic tunes, including, but not limited to ‘Chip Pan’s On Fire’ (Sex On Fire) and ‘Stuck in the Lidl with You’. Food was a big theme for these guys, with the lyrics for ‘No Oven No Pie’ proving a touch too relatable as we stood for the fortieth minute in a stationary queue for the pizza van.

Next up were Oldham electro-dance-indie-rock outfit, The Whip. Once again, I wasn’t privy to much of their performance, as you have guessed it, I was stood in a queue; though, I do have to say they were a treat for the ears and, from what glances I made at the stage, they provided an energetic performance with a dazzling light show.

We then moved indoors to catch a bit of Yucatan’s set, having given up on hopes of getting any food. In the words of my fellow festival goer, we were both ‘Yucafans’ of their haunting and mesmerising set. Their self-description of creating ‘chiming, ethereal lullabies’ is undoubtedly the best way to describe their sounds. They have featured fairly heavily across a number of festivals this summer, and it’s clear to see why.

I’ve always held ‘Dreaming of You’ in very high esteem; it’s always been that song that if I heard during pre-drinks I felt guaranteed a good night out. Given this (and the fact that the queues meant I hadn’t eaten, and had purchased more drinks than necessary during the three times I made it to the front of a bar queue) I was very, very excited for The Coral’s set. The funny thing about The Coral though, is that their songs are either bonafide indie bangers, or seven minute long psychedelic jams. There’s very little middle ground, though fortunately on this occasion they favoured the former playing a pleasing, if a little stand-offish, set.

We finished the night with all-female rock band PINS, who played a wonderfully sharp, shouty and energetic set to a packed out tent. With girl bands such as Hole and Sleater-Kinney undoubtedly providing inspiration, PINS were a perfect way to end the night and to dance away all of our queue-related frustrations.

So, despite my persistent complaint of being stood in a queue, I would still highly recommend Cotton Clouds to anyone. Of course, there are things they really do need to sort out; whilst my complaints about bar queues are one things, being a local boutique event meant the families with their youngsters were out in force. With food queues taking over an hour, and no food to be taken in to the festival, this is one area where the organisers do need to improve on for next year; especially with rumours rife that the festival could expand to become a longer event in the future. We also adopted a tactic of ‘one go in this queue, one go in that one’, which did add a sort of sombre loneliness at times.

Other positives aside from the great general vibe and commendable music talent include very reasonably priced bars and honestly the nicest portaloos I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting; funnily enough, the only time I didn’t have to queue over the day. Overall, I really hope that the organisers build on their experiences from this year and either look at more food and drink providers or selling less tickets before they concentrate on an expansion. Either way, I’m proud to call Cotton Clouds my local and will almost certainly be in attendance next year.