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  • Matt Codd

Float Along Festival 2023 Review: The Alternative Festival That's Quickly Becoming the Main Event


The Murder Capital

New things always carry a variety of emotions with them. There is always a crossroads where excitement and eagerness meet trepidation and wariness, where the end result can easily go either way. In 2022, we got the first edition of Float Along Festival in Sheffield, and the excitement and eagerness won the day thankfully. Sheffielders, and some from wider afield, revelled in this new alternative festival, with a multi-venue format, and a lineup that any mainstream festival would envy. As a result, Float Along returned in September with a sophomore effort, which was even bigger and better than the first.


In music, there is always discussion around the “difficult second album”, the idea that when an artist breaks through and experiences success with their debut, it always makes the repeat much much harder. I suspect that this is also something that those in the wider music industry are wary of, including those organising massive festivals, maybe even more so. Like with artists and their albums, you will have spectators returning from last time, expecting an equally good effort and you will have new fans that missed out on being a part of the first experience and want to get the same version his time. However, with festivals there is also the added pressure of making the artists comfortable and make sure the venues are happy to host also. A lot rides on it going right.


Float Along Festival navigates the tricky waters of the difficult second attempt with supreme confidence and adeptness. The multi-venue festival made a tweak to the three venues lucky enough to play host to a stellar lineup, with Corporation taking the place of Network this year, alongside returning hosting duties for The Leadmill and Sidney & Matilda. The choice of these venues captures the essence of this festival perfectly, they are diverse, unique in the music landscape, offering revellers a new favourite to return to. Each venues offered two stages stacked with talent, it was almost impossible to see everyone possible, believe us, we tried.


But I believe our start to the day perfectly encapsulated everything that this festival is about. We arrived at Sidney & Matilda with the intention of catching Steve Lamacq regaling a crowd with stories of his extensive time in the music industry on the Factory Stage. With Sidney & Matilda laid out as it is, the Factory Stage is your first sight walking through the doors and with this, we saw a crowd already spilling into the yard area, waiting for the legendary DJ to begin.


We headed past this into the main area bar, still thinking we could lean against the wall outside to listen in or something. As we were waiting for our drinks (including a pint of the Floating Point collaboration from Triple Point which was excellent) we couldn’t help but be captured by the dreamy sounds emanating from the Basement Stage. We were coaxed down the stairs where we were greeted by the dreamy folk pop of Lilo, a band we hadn’t considered, or really heard before the day, but we couldn’t help but be enthralled by the duo’s emotive performance. It was a special moment and was the perfect showcase for what Float Along Festival offers to its visitors.


Work In TV

Another pillar of Float Along Festival has been the showcase of some of the best up and coming talent that the city has to offer, it wouldn’t really be a Sheffield festival without it. The BBC Introducing stage on the Factory Stage at Sidney & Matilda offered such an opportunity, showcasing local talent like the exceptional City Parking – a band that is sure to become intrinsically linked with Sheffield in the future, as Arctic Monkeys and Pulp are currently. We were also lucky enough to catch a storming performance from six-piece Work In TV. A standout set for the entire day for us, despite a few obstacles – mainly the fact that the band were rather hungover by their accounts. The Factory Stage offered the perfect stage for them though, it’s as intimate as they come in which you can’t help but be infected by the energy on stage. If you can get to a Work In TV show, it is a must.


Speaking of Sheffield icons, The Leadmill opened both of its stages to a wide variety of acts, offering the biggest stage of the day to any act lucky enough to grace it. The Steel Stage room was perpetually packed throughout the day, a testament to the quality of the lineup on offer across the venues. But it was, perhaps naturally, some of the Main Stage acts that demanded our attention the most. London based outfit Gengahr can maybe be classed as indie rock veterans at this point, having released 4 studio albums over nearly 10 years. But they use every ounce of that experience to deliver a captivating, transportive live show. A perfect band to book for this festival as the quartet move between and blend genres as seamlessly as the festival itself. A band with range and power in equal measure, jumping between the hazy bliss of ‘Before Sunrise’ to the funk-ridden grooves of ‘In the Moment’ and ‘Heavenly Maybe’, an irresistible song made to be moved to.


Gengahr

The Leadmill Main Stage of course played host to this year’s headliner, The Murder Capital. The Irish post punk outfit are heralded as one of the hottest bands around, one of the next great guitar bands and a pioneer in what is possibly the most exciting genres of music in recent years. They are already a ready-made headliner, especially following the success of their second album Gigi’s Recovery, which was released at the start of the year to critical acclaim, representing an evolution for the band, pushing back against the comparisons drawn with other post-punk acts like Fontaines D.C. and IDLES. There is so much to be impressed by across the stage, from all 5 members, you cannot take your eyes away for a second. They arrive on stage with a confidence and swagger that draws you in, their music is urgent, abrasive, and cacophonous and forces you to grapple with the plethora of ideas presented, while also being uplifting and anthemic at times. ‘A Thousand Lives’ is dark and hopeless, ‘Ethel’ is slow-burning and dramatic whereas ‘More is Less’ is immediate and angry and ‘Return My Head’ offers instant catharsis. Here we see a band not afraid to take their time, indulge in their music, take the audience on a journey, and leave them breathless at the end.


Float Along Festival has truly carved itself an indelible place in the Sheffield landscape in only 2 years. We were delighted to see the announcement that it will return next on September 28th, with super early bird tickets already on sale here!


It fills the gaping hole left by Tramlines’ move from the City Centre in an unexpected but a much-needed way. In a time of uncertainty for independent grassroots music, both within the city, and across the country also, Float Along Festival takes on added importance, supporting bands and venues that both need and deserve it. This year’s edition only serves to further cement Float Along’s reputation as a premier inner-city festival, not just in Sheffield and Yorkshire, but in the whole of the UK. We cannot wait to see where this wave takes us next.

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