From the moment that you cross the border, it becomes clear that the peninsular of Gibraltar is a truly remarkable location. On entering the British Overseas Territory, you must cross the live airport runway in order to reach the city, the Rock of Gibraltar towers over the city and plays host to semi-wild Barbary macaques, and there are red pillar boxes on every corner. This almost surreal eccentricity provides the perfect backdrop for an equally unique festival.
The festival itself is fairly small. Refreshingly, it is designed around the pure enjoyment of music, as opposed to some of the larger, corporate-orientated festivals in the UK. However, the size of the festival didn’t impair the quality of line-up. Victoria Stadium played host to some of the biggest names in both the music and comedy industries. The star-studded headliners included Ne-Yo, Stereophonics, Travis, Jess Glynne, Europe and KT Tunstall to name but a few. The music was accompanied by the introduction of a comedy stage, which included stand-up performances from the likes of Simon Evans and Paul Foot. Featuring legends from virtually every genre, everyone was ready to rock the rock.
Atmospherically, this is a festival quite unlike any other. Salty breezes provide some relief from the heat; aeroplanes take off the other side of the stadium boundary; a bank holiday was even arranged around the event. Due to the size of the location, there is no camping, and instead festival-goers must book their own accommodation. This gives the event a feel of an open-air concert as opposed to the more traditional festival, and gives everyone a chance to fully recuperate between the two days, maintaining the crowd energy levels. Provisions had also been made to ensure everyone stayed safe in the sun, including sun cream stations, water points, and free hats.
Kicking off proceedings on Saturday, the Main Stage played host to a wealth of talent. Former member of The Wanted, Nathan Sykes, brought his unique brand of pop/R&B to the stage, with a voice fairly reminiscent of Rick Astley. Foxes followed with a beautiful and energetic set. Throngs of tween girls and their mothers gathered to watch The Vamps eagerly anticipated performance, and they were not disappointed. The band’s enthusiasm was infectious, and the whole stadium was singing alongside them.
Similarly, the Gibtelecom stage played host to some huge names. KT Tunstall provided fans with the perfect blend of new material and beloved classics. Toploader were another firm favourite, their upbeat numbers perfectly complementing the easy-going summer vibes. Rosario, winner of two Latin GRAMMY awards and all round Spanish superstar, brought the stage’s line-up to a close with a superb set.
However, the most anticipated performances of the night were Scottish soft-rockers Travis, and R&B megastar Ne-Yo. Seamlessly mixing classics such as ‘Sing’ and ‘Why does it always rain on me?’ with newer material, Travis had the stadium in the palm of their hands. Fran Healy engaged with the audience, even entering the crowd and encouraging people to share the microphone with him. Finally, it was time for the much anticipated appearance from the gentleman of pop himself. With over an hour of classic tracks, electricity was in the air as Ne-Yo danced and crooned his way into the hearts of everyone fortunate enough to be watching. A couple of lucky fans were even invited onto stage with the man himself during the performance.
After the stunning Saturday sets, Sunday had a lot to live up to. Luckily, the acts were possibly even bigger that the previous night. From The Fratellis and their distinctive brand of upbeat rock, to emerging dance icon Zara Larsson, it was set to be another fantastic day of music. Heather Small, the voice of M People, wowed the crowd with her iconic vocals, whilst Jess Glynne brought upbeat dance hits to the rock. However, one of the main events of the night was 80s rockers Europe. The Gibtelecom stage was packed out as people eagerly waited to witness ‘The Final Countdown’ and ‘Rock The Night’, in what could well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Combining new and old music with Joey Tempest’s unrivalled stage presence, this was without a shadow of a doubt one of the biggest performances of the weekend.
As half past ten arrived, the most eagerly anticipated band of the weekend was due to perform on the main stage. Stereophonics are one of the biggest British rock bands of the past 20 years, with a seemingly endless list of hits. Even an hour and a half set didn’t seem long enough. From old favourites to new singles, every song was more incredible than the last. Kelly Jones built a boisterous rapport with the crowd, even admitting that the band got drunk with fellow act All Saints the night before. Ending on the classic ‘Dakota’, it was a suitably sensational end to a truly fantastic weekend.
This Gibraltar Music Festival article was written by Bethan Brace, a GIGsoup contributor