After a long wait, Pikehall’s annual Y Not Festival finally went underway last weekend. Was it worth the wait? You betcha. 

Topping the bill this year were Welsh pop rock titans Stereophonics, Manchester icons the Courteeners and stepping up to a headline Sunday slot were, highlights of the weekend and Stockport’s finest Blossoms. A stacked line-up of indie and pop royalty it’s clear that Y Not has established itself amongst the best small budget festivals in the country rivalling even the likes of Reading & Leeds in quality.

Having last attended the festival in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16 it’s safe to say the festival has increased in both popularity, quality and efficiency. Still holding on to its small festival routes, many of the previous festival favourites such as the paint fights and Saturday’s costume day have returned. The smaller attractions this year have increased exponentially since I last attended and present a great alternative for those not fully invested in the music or for a bit of browsing while you grab some food from one of the many food vendors. Watch a film at the cinema, browse some of the vintage clothing stores, catch a comedy set from the likes of Mock the Week’s Ed Byrne or maybe catch a bit of Eastenders’ own Shawn Williamson do his famous ‘Barrioke’.

But of course, there was plenty of bands of all sizes to see on multiple stages across the whole weekend. For those with a Thursday ticket they were treated to a headline banger filled set from The Kooks. Friday saw the likes of Gabrielle, The Snuts and Sundara Karma were the highlights on the main stage afternoon slots for those after feel-good festival anthems; but not to be ignored over on The Quarry stage were Larkins, The Reytons and Sports Team, a good chance to catch a band on the verge of greatness on a smaller stage. Then as the evening started Manic Street Preachers filled the field and despite being hampered by some technical issues and delays provided some good singalong moments, (especially for the older generation of festival goers) in preparation for their Welsh contemporaries and Friday headliners the Stereophonics, who themselves played a set of classics and a lot of festival ready tunes to keep the crowd entertained. I, however, went to catch the headline slot at The Quarry from Manchester indie pop band Pale Waves. Who have started to really show their quality in recent years and have done a good job of escaping the slightly unfair reputation of ‘The 1975 lite’ and really showed their colours and calibre of a band reaching the top of their game with high class danceable bangers. One of the brightest bands coming out of Manchester at the minute and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them graduate to sub-headline slots in the not-so-distant future. As the night came to a close a DJ set from Nathan Dawe proved to be a surprisingly great highlight of the weekend.

Saturday rolled around and back on the main stage Y Not regular Mr. Motivator opened up the main stage although I have to admit, last night’s beer hadn’t quite worn off and we didn’t want to venture out the campsite just yet, until a little later when The Futureheads capitalised on the Kate Bush hype with the song everyone there came to see – ‘Hounds of Love’. Dodie provided a nice change from the typical festival style songs with a laid back and patient set accompanied with good vibes alt-pop dancey tunes. Sea Girls followed with a storming set of guitar heavy anthemic bangers getting the crowd nice and hyped for a night of anthemic indie music. Nothing But Thieves were up next with a set of recognisable but in truth fairly middle of the road pop-rock, but this didn’t slow the crescendo of the night as you might expect, in fact NBT proved to be the ideal festival sub-headliner for a festival of this size, and despite a bit of filler, when they hit, they hit well and set the stage for a big Courteeners headline. However, for those not into Manc-guitar rock there was a surprising headliner over at the quarry stage: Kelis, who I’m told was incredible. Sadly, her milkshake didn’t bring this boy to her yard on this particular occasion. I had an appointment with some lads from Middleton…

Courteeners have drifted from Manchester cult status to a countrywide sensation and while it’s true the band’s draw in the north west of England dwarfs that of the rest of the country, Liam Fray and co- do seem to have finally set their names’ in stone on the list of all time British greats and with that title they slip into a life of big festival slots for the foreseeable future. So, the scene is set. The ‘Manchester band’ of the last 15 years, a sudden torrential downpour, the parkas were out, the circular shades were on. Courteeners took to the stage and raised the spirits of everyone in that rainy Pikehall crowd. Proving they’re more than a one song band, the boys showed any doubters, a title which despite being a fan of the band, I admittedly included myself among, that they most certainly deserved their slot and even with a set being cut ever so slightly short Courteneers played what could be argued as the best set of the weekend.

Following Friday night’s DJ set from Nathan Dawe being a surprising hit, we were fairly hyped for Sigala. However, it seemed every other person at the festival had the same idea and the whole set got called off 4 songs in for health and safety reasons, we retreated to the VIP bar where the DJ was better than Sigala anyway and danced the night away to Pulp.

Finally, Sunday rolled around, having slept off a hangover and got enough water in me to quench the entire festival the blazing sunshine eventually reared its head from behind those clouds and we knew we were in for a good day. I went and caught the set of local Manchester band Room D opening the giant squid stage who drew a surprisingly large crowd and played a great set, watch this space. Enquired about the cinema showing the Women’s Euro’s final but sadly they couldn’t get the signal, this was disappointing, but we had some texts coming in from home keeping us updated and it eventually led to a highlight of the weekend. More on that in just a bit.

Jake Bugg pleased the crowd with his unique radio friendly hits but didn’t quite set the crowd alight like Easy Life whom I caught on the Thursday of Leeds Festival in 2019 and certainly didn’t expect them to be where they are now. More fool me though as the last few years have been massive for Easy Life and the only way is up. A surprising top artist of the weekend. After that set, I had wanted to catch Jade Bird’s set but upon seeing the queues growing for food decided I’d need that a little more. I got myself a lobster roll and headed back down to the VIP balcony at the main stage for a few pre-Vaccines beers then headed into the crowd for a set of classics, the aforementioned highlight came when The Vaccines had the pleasure of revealing that at long last, football had finally come home which was met with a huge chorus of ‘Three Lions’ from the crowd, which as a football fan, will always get me hyped. Then of course it was time for Blossoms. The band I’d mostly come to see, having seen them many, many times I was still excited to see them finally on a run of festival headline slots, it’s been a long time coming and you get the feeling that the Stockport lads might just be a couple of big hits and another top five album away from THE big festival slot.

Sleaford Mods were over at the quarry, whom I managed to catch the end of after the Blossoms set with the best light show of the weekend. I had to put the sunglasses back on… at night. Black Honey took the closing slot for the giant squid stage. Three good options for the last band of the weekend but for this Stockport lad, there was only ever one option.

The thing you can often forget about Blossoms is how many great songs they have, and they kept things nice and simple and played an hour of their very best work. In recent years the band have set themselves apart in their live performance. For my money there isn’t a band in the country right now who are as tight and efficient as Blossoms. They’ve clearly put a lot of work into their live shows, and it really, really shows as they delivered what was for my money, the best set of the weekend. Additionally, Tom Ogden is slowly starting to become one of the best frontmen around right now, seeming a lot more confident and having absolutely no problems commanding a crowd the size of a festival. No rain this time, just good vibes all round. Inflatables bouncing all over the crowd, a group of lads doing the Dirty Dancing lift… It might have been the last day of a long weekend, but spirits were still high and while Glastonbury got treated to a Spice Girls cover, we got one better with a cover of The Human League’s: ‘Don’t You Want Me’. Once the set finished, ‘Charlemagne’ rung out its final notes, the confetti had been fired and the fireworks covered the sky we took one final glance at what had been an excellent weekend and headed back to the car, we’re in our mid to late twenties now, we’re not teenagers anymore and I needed the comfort of my bed before crashing back to reality at work the next day.

Y Not Festival 2022 good times were had all round, until next time.

Written by Max Phillips
Photo by Ami Ford