When Reef came to Holywood
In the quiet town of Holywood there is a special moment every year when one portion of it is transformed into an incredible mini Glastonbury for three nights. This year’s Friday night kick-off saw the Harmony Festival, spearheaded by the inimitable Garry Jackson, his wife Mari, and the glorious Marie Nancarrow, play host to not one, not two but three amazing acts.
First up on stage was the High Energy Rock Pop Duo and downright fabtastic Rews, a group of two women (Shauna Tohill & Collette Williams), one drum, one guitar and oceans of talent. Their infectious joyful style of rock was the perfect start on a hot and grooved up evening of entertainment. The chunky sound, well balanced harmonies, delicious vocals and boundless energy would have many four and five piece groups jealous. They played a fantastic set, kicking off with “RIP up my heart”, “Can you feel it?”, “Let it Roll” and “Violins”. They constantly bantered with the crowd that gathered in astonishment of what had been conjured onto the stage. On through “Miss you in the dark”, “Death yawn”, “Your tears” and the very infectious “Shake Shake”. They rounded off their set with “Get there someday” and “Shine”. If you have never seen or heard them before, do yourself a massive favour by checking them out. This duo should, nay - deserve, much more exposure.
Then came the wondrous Toploader. Again this was a group on stage that should not have worked. They were a three piece tonight with the drums, guitar and the odd bit of keyboards. But by the rare sunny skies that smote Holywood with rays of joy, they nailed a five piece sound. The crowd were really thronging by this stage and delighting in the delivery of great tunes belting in with “Balance”, “Higher State”, and Punches”. Tickling the audience’s fun settings they continued with “Achilles Heel”, “Turn It Around” and pounding out a fantastic cover of “Rocket Man”. This was a night for enjoying music and, boy, was it plain to see both the audience and Toploader were thoroughly enjoying themselves. On they kept giving a tight delivery built on pure energetic pop rock with “People”,, “Shifting Sands”, “That’s All”, and “Just Hold On”. And of course, they kept the one song everyone was really waiting for till last, as how could Toploader appear on stage without pumping out “Dancing in the Moonlight”? What a performance and what a bunch of lovely guys.
On towards the darkening of the light as dusk came low and Reef landed on stage with an immediate presence no one could take for granted. They are just one of those bands who can just walk on stage and you know you are in the presence of something special.
This is pure funk soul infused blues rock that jiggles your soul, rocks your head and makes you move, even if you don’t want too.
They landed straight into it with “Naked”, “I Would Have Left You”, “Stone for Your Love”, “Consideration” and “How I Got Over”.
The crowd were going insane with a religious like experience as they danced as if Gary Stringer were an old time Baptist evangelist, and they had the spirit flowing through them taking hold of their bodies and grooving them round and round the floor.
Next came “My Sweet Love” and “Don’t You Like It” before they tore into what has to be one of the greatest funk blues songs ever written –“Place Your Hands”. A definite experience to see Reef deliver this amazing track right in front of your eyes.
The whole band would consummate professional musicians and just kept delivering an incredible show as they interacted with the audience, coming right up to the barrier hugging, fist bumping and pick people out. They knew exactly what the fans wanted, acknowledgement be that through a wink, a nod, a handshake, a chat or a selfie. All done while not missing a single beat. Gary, Jesse, Jack, and Dominic infected everyone with such joy. On came the unstoppable music with “Come Back Brighter”, “Precious Metal”, “Stay With Me”, “Summers In Bloom”. They finished off their set with “Revelation” and the jubilantly depreciative “Yer Old”.
And, of course, they couldn’t not do one last song, which was the perfect choice of “I’ve Got Something to Say”. What a beautiful way to finish off the night.
All three bands played their hearts and souls out, with a style of music that heralded summer had come early. The whole experience was unique in a way that can only seem to be delivered at the impeccably named Holywood Live Harmony Festival. Everything was in harmony on that single unique Friday night. To top it off, Garry, Mari and Marie, the powerhouses of the festival, were constantly in amongst attendees chatting and keeping the smiles going. This truly is a friendly community festival. If you haven’t been then promise yourself a unique experience in 2019 and go.
Review by Ivor Whitten
Photography by Darren Mcveigh