SCAN had a blast reviewing Highest Point Festival recently, which took place in Lancaster’s very own Williamson Park! Check out our review of the weekend:

FRIDAY

Image by Sian Howells

When we walked onto the site of the first ever Highest Point Festival, an hour before the gates were opened, there was an excited hush. The setting had everything, the sun, the view; all that was missing was the people. And as the soundchecks began on the stage at the foot of the glowing Ashton Memorial, the Bailrigg team knew we were in for something special.

Cut to an hour later: the bass was loud and the vibe electric. In between bouts of going wild in the crowd for Hospital Records, festival goers would sit on the grassy bank by the main stage, cooling off with their cocktails.

Some stood dancing here for every single set, while those who went to explore would have found The Dell stage hidden away under the trees. Like going through a secret portal, this stage provided a platform for slightly more experimental house artists such as Wilson Phoenix, who we saw flawlessly integrate ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ into his beats. Magical moments like this came so often that it was impossible to catch them all. As Wilson Phoenix was shaking up the woods, house legend Sasha was creating waves up at the Chris Glaba Memorial Stage.

The festival wasn’t just about music, however. When the time came for us all to recharge our batteries (metaphorically and literally; our camera was dead), there was a variety of excellent food and real ales on offer, including a vegan paella whose smell had captivated us from the moment we arrived. A token system was implemented for buying alcoholic beverages, which was essentially a fun way of making you forget that you were spending roughly £4 a pint, but for a festival delivering such a good atmosphere, it didn’t seem as if anybody cared.

As the sun was beginning to blissfully set below the peaks across Morecambe Bay, we enjoyed a ludicrous rendition of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Lancaster’s own Atomic Brass outside the butterfly sanctuary, before racing to the main stage to witness Fred V & Grafix deliver drum and bass euphoria.

DJs Danny Byrd and High Contrast closed Hospitality’s impressive bill, under the glow of the Ashton monument, in what was the record label’s first trip to the North West of England. They projected energy into the crowd, and the crowd gave as much back. I suppose they’ll have to come back next year!

(Words by Alex George and Dan Power)

SATURDAY

Ruby Beach, image by Becky Bowman

Following the release of their debut EP, ‘Leaves’, Ruby Beach hit the BBC Introducing Stage to perform an upbeat half an hour set of all original songs. Having been to nearly every Ruby Beach gig, from their humble beginnings at Pendle Live to their first festival gig at Highest Point, it is an understatement that their evolution has been impressive and consistently professional. The gig came off the back of their sold out EP launch earlier in the year at Yorkshire House, and subsequent features on BBC Lancashire Radio with Sean McGinty. Impressing Sean was a key factor in their rise to the BBC Introducing Stage on this fine Saturday morning, and they did not disappoint. Despite a significant clash with the screening of the Royal Wedding, the band drew a solid crowd of families, students and established fans. Emerging with their debut song, ’24’, frontman Chris Brown introduced the band as ‘being thankful to be there’ before launching into the set. There was something quietly confident about the elegance with which the band moved from song-to-song, only growing more self-assured as the crowd began to dance and sway to their music. Ruby Beach are becoming well-known on campus now, and they’re confirmed to play 3 Extravs this year, so keep your ears open for more sounds to come!

(Words by Becky Scott)

Arctic Lake took to the Chris Glaba Memorial Stage after a short interview with us for LA1TV and they gave a truly stunning performance! Every song builds to a beautiful crescendo and lead singer Emma Foster’s voice is gorgeous.
If you’re a fan of London Grammar or The xx, chances are you’ll love this band. Highlights from their set included ‘Living Under You’ and their new single ‘What You May Find’.
Rae Morris, image by Sian Howells
My personal highlight of the day was the stunning Rae Morris, who brought her stellar sophomore album Someone Out There to the park for this special (almost) hometown show. She expressed her gratitude for Sean McGinty’s support at BBC Radio Lancashire and shared that she used to play gigs at many Lancaster pubs before she became famous, including The Water Witch. She energised the crowd with bangers such as ‘Do It’, ‘Reborn’ and ‘Atletico’ and it was truly a show to remember!
(Words by Conor Giblin)

SUNDAY

On Sunday, the final day of the festival, I arrived as the family-orientated half of the day were packing up. Already at this time, a small queue had formed for the evening events.

As festival-goers were starting to arrive I had a look around the different stages where acts had already started performing. The Dell stage was a cosy location, hidden away at the back of the park. It had a garden party atmosphere, and attracted a few groups keen on the relaxed vibes and house music. It was very apparent that this day was going to get increasingly popular as we moved into the night.

There was a huge amount of variety in the stalls available, with bars, shops and food options. The prices were definitely out of my budget with £4 for a can of cider and £12 for glitter, however this didn’t stop festival goers getting bejewelled and merry, ready for the final night of the festival. After chatting to the crowd, many said they were very happy that Lancaster finally has a big music event like this: “It’s great to see Lancaster making the most of our resources and Williamson Park, and I can walk home so it’s great!” said one local festival-goer.

Building Giants, a Preston band, expressed similar positive views about the festival. Joe Flynn, a member of the band, said: “the venue itself is so beautiful especially with [the Ashton memorial] behind us”. That sentiment was echoed by fellow member Tom Woodburn: “this place is really under-utilised so it’s great that someone has put the effort in to put a festival on like this”.

At around 7pm, crowds started to pour in for DJ Woody who performed on the main stage and drew in fans with his mix of 90s rock classics. His rendition of ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream particularly impressed the crowd.

Now that everyone was gathered and hyped for the night, Haçienda Classical took to the stage and stole the show. The 50-strong orchestra and solo singers won the audience over; covering classics such as ‘Ride on Time’, ‘LFO’ and ‘I Feel Love’. The atmosphere rivalled that of major festival performances as hundreds congregated to dance and sing on the grass of the main stage. They even called for an encore when it was over.

While Haçienda Classiçal were the headliners, the night didn’t end when they did. The festival continued with a silent disco until the early hours. A good time was had by all and it’s clear that Highest Point Festival has put Lancaster on the map!

(Words by Siri Hampapur)