Story by Jacqueline Howell, Photos by Dave MacIntyre
Shiiine On Weekender (landing in mid-November for its second great year, with year 3/ 2017 already booking acts) boasts many great bands on its roster from the top of the charts when the charts were ruled by interesting music (early 90s) and with an eye to up and coming bands as well.
Echobelly’s addition to this year’s line up was both seamless – they had nine charting singles between 1993 and 1997 – and very welcome, as across most festival bills today no matter how diverse, female led rock bands (both returning and emerging) are rather thin on the ground, though the return of Echobelly, Lush, and the U.S.’s Belly this year are encouraging. The early 90s was far different and better than today’s music industry: women were a big part of the scene and very much held their own with some very big talents, egos and personalities of the boys of Britpop and Indie that hogged a fair number of magazine covers. The girls of British music tended to be beautiful, strong and adventurous, and millions of crushes broke out across the world that remain true.
Echobelly’s been back out on the road for a little while now, long enough to put together a forthcoming new album, the deliciously titled Anarchy & Alchemy. This will be their first release since 2004. Formed by members of PJ Harvey’s band and Curve, 1993 Echobelly came out of the gate with serious Indie bona fides. Heading up the band was vocalist Sonya Madan and co-songwriter & guitarist Glenn Johannson. Madan and Johansson have continued to work together as other original members have moved on to other projects, and they’ve also spun off Echobelly into the band Calm of Zero.
Echobelly’s new line up is greeted by the Shiiine On crowd with enthusiasm. Madan’s voice is still lovely, and the new line up sounds strong. There’s a best foot forward feeling when stepping out for a happy weekender, and a pretty good stab at unconditional love one hopes is reciprocal, as we all, sadly, must age whether onstage or in front of it, but it cannot go unremarked how unchanged Madan is. She looked 16 in 1993 and could pass for mid twenties today. It’s just another uncanny detail that helps the buzz of the crowd along on this Saturday, midway through a festival, the sweet spot. The 2 day hangovers of Sunday are far away, the decompression from the work week and travel are nicely marinating. And Echobelly is back, with new music and with sweet memories both. It’s a strong performance, one of those marvelous hours where the loved-up feeling between band, singer and crowd is actually visible, the energy palpable, the promise as real as it was back in the halcyon 90s. It’s a good time to have found your way to the barrier, to watch both stage and crowd, to be a natural people watcher. It’s a lovely time.
A fabulous crowd sing along breaks out the eternally catchy hit “Great Things”, giving the sweet light vocal a decidedly footballers’ thrust that is very entertaining. And so, the determined, easy, early 90s optimism so missing in the universe of music today is back again in a big way, echoing off the walls of the venue and the big top above. Don’t miss Echobelly on their next outings, and watch for 2017 announcements as they’ll no doubt be out on the road with the new album.