Photography: Georgia Flynn / Georgia Flynn Creative

Skeleton Coast

Leasowe Castle 1/9/18

Returning for its third successive year, SKELETON COAST lives up to (and far exceeds) the teasing taglines of being their biggest and boldest adventure yet. It brings a summer of contrasting climates to a close in an equally contrasting live music venue, Leasowe Castle, a 16th Century building that is so elegantly haunting it furthers the unconventional mystique of the day.

There is a relaxing aura around the site as fans effortlessly slip between the castle’s two stages, past the merch stand crammed with Coral memorabilia, and outside for a quick breather between sets. You feel like you’re gatecrashing an exclusive wedding that has somehow convinced THE CORAL to provide the music. The preliminary bands accentuate the feeling of exclusivity. Here at Skeleton Coast it always feels like you’re witnessing something special.

The Chapel Stage is left exactly like it would be on a wedding day. It’s only lacking the bride and groom. Its church benches and white walls create a quiet atmosphere of sentimentality and, when musicians take to the stage, they absorb this. When seats become full, audiences take to the floor, complementing to the room’s tranquillity. Skeleton Key artists will mainly take centre stage here today, as is currently the case with NIAMH ROWE of The Sundowners who captivates with her rich and soaring acoustic performance. RITUALS are also impressive, with frontman Ryan Sandinson’s vocals drawing similarities to Nick Cave and Lou Reed. His dark delivery lolls around the chapel in harmony with his band’s catchy bass riffs and haunting keys.

On the Main Stage, CUT GLASS KINGS are providing a rollicking performance, with the two-piece drawing obvious similarities to Royal Blood thanks to their heavy rock sound. The scratchy, Velvet Underground-esque guitar licks for TIM BURGESS & THE ANYTIME MINUTES fuses well with the harmonising vocals between Burgess and Average Sex vocalist Laetitia Bocquet. The guitarless pair provide a catchy melody among their finger-clicking and dancing, yet attention from the audience does seem to fade.

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Merseyside three-piece THE MYSTERINES manage to get the crowd’s undivided attention. With no social media presence or online music to stream, the band seem like they’re living in a parallel universe, and hype has only snowballed through traditional word-of-mouth. Unlike the infamous Alex Turner line “don’t believe the hype”, you certainly should be doing the opposite for The Mysterines. There is little chat to the crowd, but this only adds to the enigma, and you can’t deny the trio of lacking stage presence. The projection of frontwoman Lia Metcalfe’s voice is so powerful, if you close your eyes you could believe it was Patti Smith. Their rocking half-hour set is so rousing and charged you’re left almost breathless and counting on one hand the few bands that have delivered a similar experience.

To finish off the night, a patient crowd finally set their eyes on Wirral godfathers The Coral. Complete with aviators and hat, James Skelly and band take to the stage to exhibit their stalwart status. Their contribution to the British music scene has been huge since their eponymous debut way back in 2002, but personally, being too young to have been immersed in their pomp and swift rise to success, it is easy to forget what this band means to so many people, especially in their hometown.

In this small wedding function room, the sheer love for the band becomes overwhelmingly clear. Throughout the set people of all ages, groups of friends and couples dance and swing their arms around each other amid chorus chants. Shoulders are mounted for the hits. The genuine indie classics Pass It On, In The Morning and Dreaming Of You will always go down a treat in any Coral gig. Goodbye, elongated in their encore, sounds climactic, spiritual almost. Yet what is more interesting is how well the new songs fare. Reaching Out For A Friend and Stormbreaker, taken from eighth album Move Through The Dawn, show the band on top form. Additionally, new and instantly catchy singles Sweet Release and Eyes Like Pearls are lapped up and sung back by the crowd as if they were features of their greatest hits album.

The whole idea of Skeleton Coast Festival is to focus on local and emerging talent and to bring attention back to Wirral. Fans leave the castle with beaming smiles; Dreaming Of You is hummed in their minds, but in the days to come they’ll be cueing up that new tune from the new album and wondering the name of the bands that preceded The Coral. And most undisputedly, new voices will sound the question, ‘Who Are The Mysterines?’

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