This year’s BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend was held in the scenic grounds of Exeter’s stunning Powderham Castle on the 28th and 29th of May 2016. It was headlined by Mumford and Sons and Coldplay, with other huge acts (such as Ellie Goulding, The 1975, Wolf Alice and Skepta) all playing over the weekend in the glorious sunshine across three main stages (the Main Stage, the In New Music We Trust Stage and, of course, the BBC Introducing Stage). I was lucky enough to have attended on the Sunday (and created a blog post about what I recommended you see across the weekend, which you can see here) and it was simply incredible. Bands and artists get roughly around 30 minutes each (which is PERFECT as they mostly play all their hits, which goes with the whole “radio appeal” theme), so you’re not left wondering when it’ll end as they’re playing tonnes of artsy album tracks and obscure b-sides, and headliners get about 50 minutes (although I’m sure Chris Martin could and would have gone on for a lot longer if allowed). DJs from the station, such as Greg James, Annie Mac, and Huw Stephens play short DJ sets in between sets which makes the waiting a bit more bearable.
Opening the festival on the Sunday were One Republic. Prior to the event I didn’t really know how much I knew of their material or how good they’d actually be. Not only is Ryan Tedder (lead singer) an extremely successful and incredibly talented song writer, he’s also an effortlessly brilliant front man with the most incredible live voice and captivating stage presence. They played songs such as “Counting Stars” and “Wherever I go” and also played huge hits such as “Apologise”, accompanied by Tedder on the piano. They’re back shortly and are touring the UK in 2017 (I believe) and I think it’ll be unmissable.
Panic! at the Disco opened the In New Music We Trust Stage. Panic! at the Disco played a nostalgic hit filled set and played classics like “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”, “Nine in the Afternoon” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. They also did a breathtaking cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which the crowd loudly (and proudly) sang along with. Oh, and Brendan Urie (lead singer) did a back flip off the drum platform, of course. Every time I see Panic! I’m hit with an overwhelming desire to listen to all my old “pop-punk” records and relive my Panic! days. Again, Urie’s voice is simply stunning live and he’s charismatic and hilarious too!
Catfish and the Bottlemen conquered the Main Stage for the second year running (having filled in last minute for Sam Smith who was on voice rest after becoming ill and having surgery) and this year it was in their own right. I thought they were a band capable of playing higher up on the list and later in the day, but their early afternoon set proved popular among eager punters. They played songs from their recently released second album, “The Ride”, and their incredible first album, 2014’s “the Balcony”. Van McCann further proved his effortless capabilities of fronting the band and remained grateful for the experience. The crowd loved it from start to finish with many singing and the odd person standing on shoulders. Catfish know how to get a crowd excited and they’re constantly playing second-to-none sets.
Years & Years are a band who don’t get boring. Olly Alexander (lead singer) is an energetic, bubbly and enthusiastic front man who knows how to get the crowd excited. It was a pure visual feast with the bands logo changing colour in the background throughout on a large LED screen and dancers- one of which was Olly himself! The band played songs off of their debut album “Communion” , such as “King”, “Shelter” and, with Olly on the keyboard, “Eyes Wide Shut”. There was also confetti and nothing gets a crowd going quite like confetti (which Olly noted himself).
The In New Music We Trust Stage saw Wolf Alice triumphantly play before Sketpa. Wolf Alice are everything you could want in a band. They’re one of my personal favourite live bands with their impeccable singing, no-fuss approach and captivating instrument playing. They played many tracks from their Mercury Prize nominated debut album, “My Love is Cool”, such as “Bros”, “You’re a Germ” and latest single “Lisbon”, as well as Grammy Nominated “Moaning Lisa Smile”. They’re fascinating to watch live, especially when they’re furiously jamming on their instruments, but they’re simply incredible.
Matty Healy (lead singer of The 1975) turned up to Radio One’s Big Weekend with dog Allen, who proved popular among the backstage crowd… It only got weirder from there! The 1975 played on the Main Stage, with a very drunk Matty Healy. They brought their incredible stage set up to Powederham Castle, as well as a stand in drummer (as George Daniel (drummer) is recovering from a broken shoulder). They played songs off their latest album, “I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It” (February 2016), such as “Somebody Else” and “A Change of Heart”, and their debut album “The 1975”, such as “Girls” and “Chocolate”. Matty was feeling particularly talkative throughout the set and spoke his mind on the BBC’s no drinking/swearing/smoking policy on stage (they run a “tight ship” at the BBC, apparently). He was especially sad about the swearing aspect. His vocals are starting to lose the shine they had at the start of the year, but with huge shows at Glastonbury Festival, Reading and Leeds and, of course, their headline show at the O2 Arena in December, I’m sure they’ll be able to get back to their best after some rest.
The Last Shadow Puppets played on the In New Music We Trust Stage. I’m a fan of both Alex Turner and Miles Kane respectively in their own rights, as well as when part of the ‘supergroup’, if you will, The Last Shadow Puppets and thought their last album, “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” was brilliant. I’ve been excited to see the pair play together live for a while now, but nothing (nothing) could prepare me for this. The band played with a stunning accompaniment of violins and other string instruments, which was not only exciting to hear, but lovely to see. Alex Turner, on the other hand, was, well, hilarious. He pranced around the stage, sometimes with a guitar other times not, and, at one point, was lying on the floor with his arms and legs up in the air reassembling what could be described as some sort of bewildered insect placed upside down and still attempting to walk, or something.
Blossoms returned to the BBC Introducing set for a short set (before the brilliant Catholic Action headlined). Blossoms are a hugely refreshing and original up and coming act. They were one of the best acts I saw over the whole day. Their songs are new, current and exciting and they’re championed by Huw Stephens and BBC Introducing. They played songs like “Getaway”, “At Most a Kiss” and “Charlemagne” all with a dreamy indie rock feel. With a perfected indie rock ‘vibe’, think The Kooks, The Courteeners and Catfish and the Bottlemen, and the brilliant gratitude of Van McCann- it’s a perfect combination. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; they’re about to become huge.
Coldplay headlined the Sunday night of the festival (and it’s not the first time they’ve done it). They pulled out all the stops with huge pyrotechnic displays (confetti, fire and all) and dazzling lights and graphics, along with ALL the hits. Singles, such as “Hymn For The Weekend” and “Adventure of a Lifetime”, from their triumphant latest album, “A Head Full of Dreams” (released November 2015), proved a hit with the Exeter crowd and dazzled young and old alike. The older classics, such as “Fix You” and “Yellow”, provided special moments shared by and across many generations. Their music is timeless and expansive of all age groups. I love how the music brought everyone together and provided a special experience for all. They covered Prince’s “Raspberry Beret”, which Chris Martin dedicated to Prince, and his parents- this was another special moment (one of many throughout the set). Chris Martin was born and raised in Exeter, which made this performance quite something to be a part of. Martin hopped from piano to the ultimate entertaining front man and provided the most spectacular of sets. It’s hard to imagine a better closing to the weekend.
Overall the day was jam packed with a vast variety of music and some the finest acts music has to offer and it was all (yellow..?) free! All of the sets can be found on the BBC iPlayer for a short amount of time. I look forward to seeing wherever it’s held next and I hope I’m lucky enough to bag tickets!