Photography and Review by Ken Harrison
Welcome to the 90’s and the inaugural Cool Britannia Festival, taking place at Knebworth Park, ‘the stately home of rock ’ for a weekend of 90’s rock and dance music. With the 90’s getting towards 30 years old, it is fast becoming the new ‘retro’ and the 90’s kids now have a perfect venue to go back to their youth with a stream of classic artists to soundtrack this weekend from a time when Britpop and Dance led the way, and Tony Blair was a fresh faced Prime Minister, with Britain under a wave of euphoria and optimism.
Opening the Main Stage was the premiere of ‘Britpop Classical’ , with classic Britpop hits backed by a full orchestra and rock band, featuring guest soloists including Saffron from Republica with ‘Ready To Go’, Peter Hooton (The Farm), ‘Altogether Now’, Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) singing Pulp’s ‘Common People’ plus a very special appearance from actor Phil Daniels to do his guest vocals on Blur’s ‘Parklife’.
Toploader and Dodgy follow with some classic pop and New Order’s Peter Hook brings his band, ‘The Light’ to the stage to play some classic Joy Division and New Order songs. Ian Broudie’s “The Lightning Seeds’ move into the evening with beautiful classic pop, followed by Feeder who rock the crowd with their anthemic tracks. Headline for the evening is Happy Mondays, with Shaun Ryder, Bez, and the gang closing the night with their late 80’s/early 90’s ‘Madchester’ sound.
Day 2 kicks of in a more gentle style with ‘The South’ (ex Beautiful South sans Paul Heaton) followed by cheeky poppers ‘Space’ and “M’ People’s’ Heather Small and some great soulful tracks. John Power’s band ‘Cast’ take the main stage next for more rock with Yorkshire’s ‘Embrace’ and Johnny Borrell’s ‘Razorlight’ rocking away until the early evening.
Faithless’ Maxi Jazz takes the crowd by storm with a blistering DJ set including tracks by Bjork, Aretha Franklin, The Clash, Rage Against The Machine and many others, finishing with ‘Insomnia’ the classic dance anthem, with Maxi addressing the crowd during the intro “They won’t let me leave until I play this’. This amazing DJ set was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend. Closing Sunday night and the Festival Main Stage line up is Birmingham’s Ocean Colour Scene with classics including ‘The Riverboat Song’ and ‘The Day We Caught The Train’.
Over the weekend at the Big Top, the legendary ‘Ministry Of Sound’ played host to some of the greatest DJ’s of the time with sets from Todd terry, Brandon Block, Dave Pearce, Jazzie B and many more, plus appearances by Black Box, N-Trance, Rozalla, Alison Limerick and more besides. Given the crowd’s reaction to ‘Maxi Jazz’ DJ Set, there would be plenty of room for more dance music on the main stage next time around.
As the first of what I hope will be many more ‘Cool Britannia’ festivals to come, this got off to a flying start, with a great line-up, and a fantastic vibe in a superb setting, which bodes well for the future of the 90’s festival scene. So if the 90’s is your thing (or even if it isn't) this is a festival that delivers, so keep an eye out for Cool Britannia in 2019, for another great festival experience.
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