Krankenhaus 2023

Last year’s Krankenhaus was very special. It was tied up with the unreality of the COVID years. I personally found the festival cleansed me. I was never going to judge this year’s festival against last years. Even though by every metric, this was a better festival, there was no way it could have the emotional impact of last year’s festival.

This year was about making the festival sustainable. The biggest change was a switch from a four day festival, to a three day festival. This new format worked better. The four day format had two shorter days. Three full days meant the festival was busy throughout and also meant on the Monday, we weren’t fighting with the Bank Holiday traffic returning from a day in the Lake District.

There was also a big increase in numbers and a more sensible ticket price, with a ‘supporter’ tier which included a meet and greet with Sea Power in the ‘salubrious’ backstage area. I have to admit I had some trepidation about the increased numbers, however, I should not have worried. With a few minor tweaks to the layout of the festival site, I hardly noticed the increase. The festival site was busy, but comfortable and the barn, full, but not overcrowded. 

Like previous years, the micro festival had a DIY charm. Based at Muncaster Castle on the edge of the Lake District. The Sea Power and Muncaster Castle teams work hard to make everyone welcome, creating a nice laid back and friendly atmosphere.

For this year’s festival the courtyard had been altered, with the introduction of a much bigger bar area under the covered barn. The range of food options was improved in both in quality and options. I never had to wait too long to be served and the prices were reasonable.

With the increase in numbers and non-Sea Power fans there was a chance that the DIY ethic might have been lost or not appeal to the new audience. But I spoke to so many people over the weekend who were not Sea Power fans, who absolutely loved the welcoming and safe vibe, many saying they want to come back. This is a credit to the organisers. 

The festival had the usual mix of talks, fell walks, train rides, dog shows, birds of prey, oh and some music.

As is customary, the festival was opened by Peter Frost-Pennington and along with castle staff, the family were helping throughout the weekend. One of the major reasons why this festival is so great is you feel like they are welcoming you into their home.

On Friday night, for the first time in the festival’s history, a big storm hit the festival site. While the barn offered protection from the thunder and heavy rains, the courtyard looked like it might wash away. Luckily, I hadn’t been drinking and was able to drive back to me B&B in the town. But the road to the town was flowing with water coming off the hills and the road was flooded. Next day, I feared the worst, but the Penningtons and their team were helping cars that had become stranded in the fields and shoring up the festival site. By late afternoon, with the sun out, you wouldn’t have known there had been a massive storm the night before (which apparently only hit Muncaster and not the rest of the Lake District)

This year’s lineup was strong, with headline sets from Deefhoof, The Go Team and Sea Power playing Do You Like Rock Music in full. Highlights were too many to mention. I liked something in every performance. But there were a few standout performances.

Despite some technical issues constraining their set, Bodega blasted through their set in double quick time to make sure no one was short changed, winning many new fans. The Lovely Eggs fun filled set warmed up the crowd for a truly epic Sea Power set that built until it felt like the roof was going to come off the barn. Their performance of Lately was stunning. Bo Ningen put in another stellar performance. When Bo Ningen announced with 20 minutes left of their slot that they were going to play their last song, I knew we were going to get a special set. There are few better live bands than Bo Ningen. A real surprise for me were Haress who created stunning layered, textured music. Hamish Hawk continued to cast his charms. Gwenno’s set, with full band, also impressed. But there were no weak performances this year. Sea Power’s closing set, was also notable for a marriage proposal for Sea Power’s drummer, Tom. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

In some ways, it isn’t the music that makes this festival special. While, the festival has managed to curate good lineups. This festival is about community. Yes, it is a Sea Power fan’s festival. While there were loads of friends and familiar faces. What was so nice about this year’s festival was the number of people who were not Sea Power fans who universally loved the friendly atmosphere we have built over the last few years. I spoke to several families who had brought their kids to their first festival and their kids loved how they could meet the bands and their parents felt it was safe to let their kids a little bit off the leash. This is the testament to the success of this year’s festival. Just like the Penningtons have welcomed us to their home. This year, Sea Power fans welcomed new fans to our festival. I’m already counting the days to next year’s festival.

Day 1

Opening the music part of the festival were Queer Freedom Drone Ensemble playing some transcendental, mediative, drone music, featuring Tom, Sea Power’s new drummer. The ensemble featured many familiar faces.

Playing their first festival, Cruush, played St Albans earlier in the year. At the time, I was impressed, thinking that I would be hearing more from them. I was really good to see their fine shoegaze, dream pop sound on a big stage. It won’t be the last time.

Warrington-Runcorn Newtown Development Plan’s electronica was not to my taste but many in the audience found this set to be one of their favourite of the weekend.

Stepping in at the last minute, Rachel Aggs played an infectious set of guitar-driven danceable lo-fi music.

Sex Swing

The DSM IV had played the 2019 festival and really didn’t work for me. This time, their performance clicked with me.

Excellent performance from Baba Ali.

I’m a big fan of H. Hawkline’s low-key music. Just him and an old tape machine. At times he was sublime.

Bodega were the only band to experience sound issues. Rather than getting annoyed and going into a huff. Being the professionals they are, they shifted songs around and blasted through another brilliant fun set, so we didn’t feel short changed.

I was looking forward to Deerhoof’s, but after Bodega, the set just felt flat.

Day Two

Simon Armitage

Lost Map Presents Weird Wave. Johnny knows how to work a crowd.

WH Lung impressed again.

Rozi Plain

Jeffrey Lewis and the Voltage

The Lovely Eggs are glorious fun.

Sea Power’s set was EPIC……

I’ve never been a fan of The Go Team. After Sea Power’s epic set, they had a mountain to climb. They didn’t work for me. But I was in a minority.

Day Three

Morning talks about Goth with goth royalty in the form of John Robb and Simon Price and the Lovely Eggs talking to Shaun Keaveny about their TV show.

The annual dog show with Shaun Keaveny

Brìghde Chaimbeul

Hayden Thorpe and Jack McNeil.

Unknown to me. Haress were a big surprise.

Personal Trainer are fun. The perfect festival band.

Cosmic Bingo featuring Utopia Strong and Bo Ningen

The Utopia Strong

When Bo Ningen say they are playing their last song and you look at your watch and there’s still 20 minutes of their set left, expect it to be epic. It was.

Hamish Hawk bringing his charm and wit to Muncaster

The Waeve, featuring long-time Sea Power friend, Rose Elinor Dougall, and her partner, Blur’s Graham Coxon.

Gwenno with band was brilliant

Sea Power closing the weekend playing Do You Like Rock Music.

Other photos

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