Updated: Jun 7, 2019
As the luscious grass of Stewart park returns back to its former glory, the people of Middlesbrough are left with colourful, music-filled memories of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The mighty three-day festival saw over 70,000 people pass through the park gates last weekend, each dancing with anticipation ahead of performances from some of the biggest names in music.
What better way to kick off a party than with the thunderous tones of grime godfather, Stormzy? The soon-to-be Glastonbury headliner tore up the packed-out 1 For New Music tent, setting the infectious tone for the rest of the beautifully surreal day on Teesside.
Over on the mainstage, London four-piece Mumford & Sons offered an alternative start to the festival with their folk-fuelled opening set. The ‘Sigh No More’ veterans treat the ever-growing crowd to a fusion of classics, including fan favourites ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘The Cave’, what a way to start the day.
As the day progressed, a little rainfall failed to dampen the beloved Boro spirit, as Radio 1’s treasured presenters introduced an ever-revolving wealth of live music. The excitable crowd were greeted with an array of diverse performances, from local legends Sam Fender and Dylan Cartlidge to global sensations such as Billie Eilish and Khalid; an eclectic feast to satisfy all music-lovers’ cravings.
Yet it was the arrival of the evening which brought with it a certain, elevated hype. That momentous transition from day to night which brings with it a fuzzy cloud of anticipation and energy. Brace yourself, the loss of daylight means that fellow revellers can no longer see the neon facial masterpiece that is smudging its way across your left cheek; all inhibitions are lost. The perfect climate for Foals to take to the main stage and induce a long-awaited festal frenzy.
The Oxford musicians have had quite the year already following the release of their fifth glorious album, ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1’, a musical venture which has seen relentless support from the BBC Radio 1’s marketing and promotional teams, leaving Foals fans throughout the North East ready to embrace the record in all its live, powerful glory.
Following an introductory post-apocalyptic voice recording; “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost”, the ‘Antidotes’ artisans tore straight into one of their newer tracks, ‘On the Luna’, a jerky, infectious new wave banquet. Suitably hyped, the crowd at frontman Yanis Philippakis’ feet erupted into blissful chaos as the opening chords of leading track, ‘Mountain at My Gates’ filled the arena; cue the first mass singalong of the evening.
In true Middlesbrough spirit, revellers’ excitement built with the passing of each track, mirrored further by Philippakis’ undisputable, raucous energy. For a band who are on the brink of releasing their sixth album, the Oxford collective never fail to pay homage to their early catalogue and humble beginnings.
“We’re going to play a song off our first record, it’s called Olympic Airways. This one goes out to Radio 1 for supporting us from the beginning.”
Met with rapturous praise, the nostalgic sound of early Foals rang through the Teesside air and straight into the heads and hearts of the crowd below, yet the band showed no mercy as they erupted into their next classic, ‘My Number’, bringing with it a ferocious burst of confetti which danced through the air like rhythmic pink blossom.
Yet one of the Foals most admirable attributes is their ability to turn on the breaks, submerging the sea of people below in ethereal torrents of dreamlike reverb. Notably, ‘Spanish Sahara’ is one of those tracks that has the power to bring the nearby world to a halt, inviting them to bask in its soulful, soothing sounds. After a welcome trip down memory lane, the four-piece snapped back to the present day with the fresh wit of their intoxicating recent singles, ‘Exits’ and ‘In Degrees’, both of which have become firm favourites amongst Foals fans despite their recent release.
Yet it seemed as though frontman Yanis harnessed his wild charisma for the closure of the set, as the familiar biting guitar riffs of rock number ‘Inhaler’ tore through the sound system, leading to yet another boastful torrent of colourful confetti.
“Thank you so much Radio 1 Big Weekend, Middlesbrough. You guys have been absolutely outstanding.
“This is our last song, it’s called What Went Down, we’re Foals.”
Removing his denim jacket to reveal a flamboyant, masterpiece of a shirt, Yanis Philipakkis led the crowd into the last tune of the evening, the perfect end to an electrifying set. As rogue confetti littered the surrounding air, the band’s pace quickened, accompanied with Yanis’ distinctive, hoarse rasp that sees him emit every inch of his soul into his vocal performance. There’s an undeniable energy around Foals, a lasting essence that lingers through the air long after they have left the stage.
It can often be difficult for bands with such an extensive discography to select the perfect set, yet Foals managed to cram in all the vital ingredients necessary to deliver a belting 50-minute performance including tracks from all of their albums, respect.
On behalf of Middlesbrough, thank you to BBC Radio 1 for enlightening our little town with such a vibrant, incredible weekend, and thanks to all the artists who took the time to brighten our Bank Holiday with their harmonious creativity.
When can we do it again? #UTB