Every year, on the late May bank holiday, the good ship BBC Radio 1 sets sail and docks at a town, or city, somewhere in the United Kingdom for a weekend of musical shenanigans, attracting some of the biggest bands and artists in the world, all for the entertainment of the masses – it’s a two-and-a-bit-day festival, let’s not beat around the bush.
From Cardiff to Manchester, Londonderry to… London, mhmm, the ‘Big Weekend’ has continually attracted thousands upon thousnds of locals. Last year, in 2019, Middlesbrough’s Stewart’s Park was selected as the host, to both the shock and delight of many Teesiders who’ve been chomping at the bit for decent artists to come to the area for years. Last year’s festivities did NOT disappoint!
Despite myself only being there for the first full day (the Friday evening was for DJs and house music, and the likes, and I worked the Sunday) it was my first EVER foray into the festival ”atmosphere”, and it did not let me down! For Teesside, the weather was extremely admirable, though it did rain, torrentially, in certain spots; but that’s never stopped a Northern audience who generally have a disdain for coats and jackets in freezing temperatures anyway. Combine that with the fact we were all fuelled with highly-expensive pints of cider, beer and surprisingly delicious food – we were all going to be just fine. And, to make it even better, the day kicked off with the wonderful Mumford and Sons: result!
As the afternoon ebbed and flowed onwards I ended up dropping in on several sets from The Amazons, Lewis Capaldi & James Arthur. Fortunately Stewart’s Park isn’t a huge place to traverse on foot, so getting from one stage to the other didn’t take up a miraculous amount of time, as long as you managed to time the food and toilet queues right, that is!
The next full set of the day, and quite possibly the most unique, that I insisted on being witness to was that of Billie Eilish’s. Up until this point I had only really listened to the freshly released ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO’, but after this set I found myself fully invested, and excited to have this new library of music to listen to.
Billie, along with her brother and co-writer, Finneas, have this ability to write music that just ‘hits’ deep emotionally. Looking back over their catalogue there are songs to make you lose your god-damn mind, or songs to make you cry, in both the worst and best possible ways, and everything in-between. I believe that’s a quality that’s lost with a lot of modern mainstream music – versatility, and being unashamed to show it. I, for one, am glad that Billie has found her footing on the grand stage, and at such a young age too – amazing accomplishment.
By the time Billie’s set had finished it was time to adventure out again into the world of expensive refreshments and stupidly long toilet queues. It would not be until the last artist of the evening that I saw a full set intentionally: unbeknownst to me I had managed to see all of Khalid’s main stage performance, not that I particularly knew who he was, though Billie made an appearance to duet on a song that they sing together – that was very cool.
It was only as the sun set, and the darkness filled the skies, that it was time to finally see who I had my heart set on after years of near-misses and logistical sadness: Bring Me the Horizon.
Growing up, especially as a young teen, everyone seemed to have their niche – the ‘emo’ kids are always singled out for the music they listened to, and how they dressed. You can spot pop music kids from a mile off, as you could with those who preferred rap; those body warmer jackets really don’t suit you, lads!
Personally, I never quite fit into the mould of ‘emo’. I listened to hard rock and moderately light metal, but never dressed to show it. Gigs were never a ‘thing’ in my life, given that none of my family drove, or shared the same musical interests as myself. Live music is something that I have certainly appreciated more reaching adulthood, and enjoying those experiences. Especially more so now that I am slowly finding my own identity and as I become comfortable in my own skin.
Bring Me the Horizon has been my gateway into a world of music that I can enjoy, identify with and, more importantly, call home. Their 2015 album ‘That’s The Spirit’ was my first time becoming entranced with them, and appreciating what madness Oli Sykes & his brethren have in store. Hardcore BMTH fans see that album as a dramatic shift away from 2013’s critically acclaimed ‘Sempiternal’, and from their metalcore roots. In a way, yes, but it’s certainly not for the worse. I look at 2019’s ‘amo’ with delight. I look at ‘Sempiternal with delight, in a different way, and even select tracks from albums beforehand, I enjoy so many songs from their catalogue, and I think a lot of those tracks have lead me down individual paths emotionally, allowing me to appreciate music from a wide variety of bands and artists. I will always be thankful to my friend that recommended them to me. You changed my life.
BMTH’s Big Weekend set didn’t go back further than the past three albums, but it didn’t need to, mainly for poor Oli’s vocal chords if anything. ‘MANTRA’ opened up the set in explosive fashion, engaging and entrancing all in attendance in the black-and-yellow tent to put their best head-banging forwards. My hair wasn’t particularly long back then, but I certainly tried to go all-out in the moshing department.
Songs from Sempiternal, That’s The Spirit and amo peppered the setlist wonderfully, and before I knew it, their finale for the night was in full swing – Throne. Fun fact: Throne is my favourite BMTH song, so my poor voice box was now operating at maximum capacity: poor thing carried me through that song, and set, like an absolute trooper! I have never partaken in any recreational illegal drug taking activities, but this is what I imagine ecstasy to be, except it was ecstasy to my ears instead!
As this year’s late May bank holiday peeps its head around the corner it makes me think on the plans I originally had this year, which was to attend the now postponed Slam Dunk festival in Leeds. Obviously, with COVID, life is at a standstill in many ways. Though looking back it makes me see that I’m extremely lucky and grateful to have taken these and opportunities and ran with them when I could. This year I will watch the archived gigs that the BBC are playing across the weekend, including some from last year’s proceedings, but I will always be ecstatic and reminisce on the time that Big Weekend rolled into town.