PARTY IN THE PEWS 2024 – WHAT HAPPENED?

For many in the local area, Party in the Pews is a staple of their festival schedule, set in the beautiful surroundings of Macclesfield’s Christ Church.  
 
As always Jo Lowes has programmed an amazing celebration of music, which delivers as it does every year. Unfortunately, the sad news for Party in the Pews fans is that this was the last Party in the Pews Festival. But you can be sure that Jo will have some extensive plans for further projects in the area. 
 
If a quiet, gentle, Sunday was the ideal experience for Sunday’s festival goers, then the first two performances on the main stage certainly wouldn’t allow  
 
anyone to rest easy. As the Church began to fill up, the first band I caught was Horsemeat. Their music is a perfect fusion of Post-Punk and Alternative Metal, with some progressive elements, which the band have dubbed “Prunge”. Horsemeat delivered a blistering, surly and unbelievably thrilling set, unravelling like a juggernaut at full speed.  
 
A familiar face on the festival circuit is Jack Horner, who appeared as one-half of the sonic psych-punk duo The Dirt. The band do not disappoint as words are weaved over wife Sachiko’s guitar, punctuated by Jack’s electro percussion.

Horner is an incredibly physical performer, delivering poetry that is both unbelievably passionate, brazen and unashamedly honest. Filling the space with his call to arms, forcing the listener to consider the hard truths we see played out in our world.  
 
Despite the venom in his words, there’s the greatest feeling of unification in them. There’s no backing down when Jack has you in his sights! 
 
Following The Dirt were Hollows, delivering a dynamic performance which was raw and full of angst. Vocalist Sean wanders bare-chested towards the end, using the space, standing on the pews, before writhing on the floor to perform the end of their final track. We’re treated to some new tracks in the shape of, “Talons”, “talk” and “History” (being released on June 31st). The tracks will be included in their EP (Running with Scissors) due for release in July. 
 
Another familiar face on the Manchester circuit is WeatheredMan. Simon Bradshaw is well-known as an award-winning producer and songwriter, but on Sunday he stepped onto the stage with drummer Rob Hough (aka The Noise) and laid down some pretty epic garage rock which was alive and throbbing with all the effervescence necessary to move us.  
 
It was a performance full of fuzz and grit and included the most incredible drum solo I think I’ve ever seen or heard. Afterwards, Simon said, “I feel genuinely lucky and really really privileged to be part of what is the most fun, most unique festival I’ve ever been involved with”. 
 
It was a treate to see James Walsh play on the main stage. He’d said: “A town like Macclesfield, is maybe slightly in the shadow of its bigger city neighbours, and it’s good to see it sort of getting more and more on the map.”  
 
The crowd enjoyed singing along to the Starsailor hits, a set which also included an infinitely beautiful and delicately performed cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”. 
 
Deja Vega are a band I’ve wanted to catch for a really long time. “Mr Powder” was a high point and the trio played to an ever-growing crowd of grateful fans who sang along. Jack is a particularly expressive and intuitive frontman, exuding charisma and exuberance to a very receptive audience. What followed was a perfectly animated, frenetic and uplifting performance from the band. 
 
Chatting to Slow Readers frontman Aaron Starkie just before they took the stage, he said he was excited to be playing somewhere new, adding, “It’s not our first time on sacred ground.” The band having previously performed at Manchester Cathedral and Salford’s St Phillips. Over the next 90 minutes, what unfolds on stage is nothing short of incredible. Once again proving them as one of the most accomplished bands in the Northwest.  
 
The band have an amazing power to stretch time in moments throughout their set and it’s impossible to take your eyes off Aaron, who delivered a beautifully moving and vulnerable performance.  
 
There were some amazing moments, such as Aaron climbing onto one of the pews to sing along with the crowd on early single, “Feet On Fire”. This evening Christ  
 
Church is full of many long-standing Slow Readers disciples, one of whom I met ticking off close to his 150th time seeing the band. The love and support for the band is heartwarming. If you’re a fan, you’ll know how to greet a fellow fan, so amid the chants of “Readers,” it’s clear the band is as much a community as anything else. 
 
 
The perfect way to end a festival, for now at least, which has been held over the last few years in the picturesque redundant Anglican church. 
 
There were also some great performances on the Red Lantern stage from bands such as Pale Strangers, Liv and the Howies and Van Royale.  
These bands are well worth checking out if you can! 

WORDS BY RUTH MURRAY

PHOTOS BY SIMON LEE

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