A summer night in Holywood and there’s something in the air. Parking up you hear bass notes and walking towards the Holywood Rugby ground you can’t help but see the smiles on faces and the feeling of a very proud community. And proud they should be, despite funding cuts Holywood have curated another fabulous line up for this year’s Holywood Harmony Live Festival. A weekend of music which kicked off yesterday when I had the joy of watching Rews, Toploader and headliners Reef.
Unfortunately, because of work commitments, I have to admit I missed most of Rews set only catching the last few notes as I walked into the marquee but Shauna Tohill and Colette Williams bounce between London and Belfast and I highly recommend you keep an eye on this pair. After playing Glastonbury last year, the sky is the limit for these two. I’ve a feeling this summer will be epic. They are a highly energetic alternative rock duo who’s debut album Pyro has been on my playlist since its release.
Next on the lineup are Toploader who, without giving away my age, have been part of my happiest memories from the 90s & 00s (shout out to the Diceys crew!) and I’m glad to say they still can make my smile, sing and dance. Having released album Seeing Stars in March, the guys are currently working the summer festival circuit and they have there set list perfected.
Last night they treated the Holywood Harmony audience to a taste of some new songs and their signature positive vibe and infectious melodies still remain (my favourite song from the newest album’s being Roll with the Punches). However they didn’t disappoint those that came to hear there biggest 90s/00s hits, the crowd loved Achilles Heel and, of course, we very happily Danced in the Moonlight even though the sun hadn’t yet set. Throwing in some fun covers including Elton John’s Rocket Man. The band left the stage glistening in sweat from the summer heat and to a well deserved rousing round of applause.
During a brief intermission we heard from another talented duo. Two local teenagers Charlie and Aidan who had won a talent competition to perform at the festival. Starting out a little shaky and nervous, the guys confidence grew with the warm reception they received and they rocked the stage with two original songs and a cover – another pair of talented rockers to keep an eye on.
Reef did not disappoint! How you describe the energy, the talent and the eclectic sound of Reef’s set last night is almost indescribable but I’ll try… the guys are maybe slightly more aged (in fact, it’s drummer Dominic’s birthday today) but the guys are back in the charts currently with new album Revelation. If you haven’t listened to it yet you are missing out.
My favourite track being Gospel track How I Got Over which went down a storm in the marquee last night, with everyone reaching to the sky and thanking/praising these legends. Reef are gospel, soul, metal, country, rock and pop. They are feel good music with fantastic guitar rifts and rasping vocals. They worked their way through there new tracks and the crowd loved every single one.
But, of course we all waited patiently for one song in particular. I knew the roof would come off when they performed their best known hit Place Your Hands (if you don’t know this song, have you been living under a rock?!) and my guess was correct. We bounced we sang we placed our hands and the crowd just grew and the songs kept coming.
Reef played for an hour and half non-stop. Interacting with the crowd climbing barriers, posing for photos and ultimately rocking the foundations of Holywood. I adored the whole set as the atmosphere was amazing but I couldn’t finish this review without highlighting their new track My Sweet Love (which features Sheryl Crow) on the Revelation album which got a fantastic singalong from the audience and which has a fantastic guitar solo. Overall Reef sent us home with ringing ears and singing hearts, both signs of a fantastic gig. I hope they come back to play in NI soon and congratulations to Holywood Harmony Live for a fantastic night.