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Y Not 2017

Festival (28/07/17 - 30/07/17)

Derbyshire, UK
By

Rating: 1.5/5

 
 

 

 

Set in the rural countryside of Derbyshire in the UK, Y Not is a uniquely situated and diverse festival. Now in its twelfth year, the festival offers an array of musical acts spanning multiple genres from mainstream pop, to dance, rap, acoustic and heavy alternative bands, and its past success led to Broadwick Live acquiring the festival at the end of 2016, as part of its expanding festival business.

In previous years, Y Not has enjoyed the benefits of its end-of-July calendar slot, which has traditionally bathed the Derbyshire hillsides with glorious sunshine. This year however, the weather has taken an ugly turn, and the new owners struggle to deal with the adverse conditions. As well as the weather, the organisers have attempted a new layout, mainly related to the camping areas, and as we sit for 2 hours queuing in traffic to enter the festival grounds, teething problems are already showing. 

Due to the traffic, we’re still on the road outside the festival while Bad Sign perform. It’s a shame to miss the band, who were excellent at this year’s 2000 Trees festival, but at least they were able to play. On entry to the festival, we’re greeting by signs on the Main Stage advising that acts are temporarily cancelled due to rain-related safety issues, the open-fronted stage having no barrier to stop rain pouring onto the electrical equipment. Reports of performances being cancelled continue throughout the day as the rain shows no sign of stopping.

Luckily, we’ve come for the alternative bands, and under the tented shelter of The Giant Squid, the show goes on. Though the rain certainly doesn’t delight the punters, it works in SHVPES’ favour, as people pour into the tent for shelter. The screamed vocals and heavy riffs certainly give a different vibe to the pop artists performing on the other stages, but those in the tent don’t seem to mind. It helps when your execution is spot on and that’s exactly what SHVPES manage.

It’s a sign of an excellent band when you can endure technical difficulties on stage with no impact on performance and Grumble Bee tick that box. The trio may well be struggling to hear themselves on stage, but front of house things sound perfect, Jack Bennett’s heartfelt voice pristine and powerful against the punchy instrumentals. Grumble Bee keep going from strength to strength with every performance and with new singles “Red” and “Bravest Soul” sounding huge, we’re excited for more new material in the not-too distant future.

Vukovi are one of the tightest acts of the bill, the band flowing in complete unison throughout their set. Their brand of alt-rock is ideal for a festival; the pop hooks and up-tempo rhythms make for an easy listen and there are plenty of heads bobbing and feet tapping in approval. Midway through the set songs do start to feel recycled, but it’s fun and enjoyable and brings some much needed sunshine to combat the quagmire forming outside the tent.

When you see Heck on a line-up you know that at the very least you’ll be entertained; the band have built a reputation on their unconstrained performances and this is no exception. Half an hour before Heck are due to play, guitarist/vocalists Matt Reynolds and Jonny Hall are side-of-stage surveying the tent, checking out their boundaries. More than once their eyes set on the two scaffolding poles holding up the tent and sure enough midway through the set, Reynolds starts to climb one, much to the dismay of the security staff. Between Hall and Reynolds walking across the bar, stage diving and starting circle pits in the mud outside the tent, there’s a solid backbone of loud, in-your-face hardcore that’s somehow always brilliantly executed no matter how insane the performance.

Roam have the songs to be a popular festival band and their catchy pop punk should be a bit here, but the execution is too sloppy to fully captivate the crowd. Front-man Alex Costello is entertaining with his backflips and general high energy, but it’s not until the second half of the set that his vocals settle and start to produce. It’s strange to see the rest of the band largely static and not sharing Costello’s energy, making this performance a bad day at the office for the Eastbourne quintet.

In contrast, Young Guns’ alt-rock can be too middle-of-the-road to hold a festival crowd’s attention for a long set, but when you have the confidence and energy on stage to back it up, the crowd can easily warm up. For Y Not festival-goers, Young Guns are an ideal choice; their more recent material is more in-line with the mainstream rock acts across the rest of festival and as such, their set goes down as well. 

Although the mood inside The Giant Squid is positive, outside there are plenty of people suffering. A quick check of social media reveals complaints of wide-spread thefts in the campsites, burst water pipes restricting access to clean water, unclean toilets and no hay being laid out on paths to soak up the mounting rivers of mud. Y Not festival has been a safe haven for families to enjoy the festival experience in the past, something that differentiates it from mainstream festivals and makes it unique, so it’s even more distressing to read about a lack of security measures to prevent the general public being able to set up camp in the family camping areas, putting children in an unsafe environment.

After a day of torrential rain on the Friday, the site’s fields are churned to mud making it difficult for vehicles to enter or exit the site. With continued bad weather not helping the situation, on Sunday morning the festival has to be cancelled, the safe exit of all guests from the site becoming a primary concern. With the help of local tow trucks and helpers, Sunday’s itinerary is sadly filled with rescuing cars from waterlogged fields rather than enjoying live music. 

Over the past eleven years, Y Not has been a hugely successful and enjoyable festival, making 2017 a definite exception rather than the rule. Though the adverse weather has been an unwelcome guest for new owners Broadwick Live to contend with, it has masked other issues that can’t be solely attributed to the rain. Festivals can function in the rain and mud, as any veteran of Glastonbury or Download Festival will tell you, but it requires solid contingency planning and infrastructure to do so, particularly in upholding high standards of security and safety across the event at all times. As an ever-expanding festival company, Broadwick Live have enough tenure and experience to repair Y Not‘s reputation in the future, but if a repeat of this year’s experience is allowed to happen, it could mean a sad end for this otherwise popular festival.

2000trees

2000 Trees

Festival (07/07/16 - 09/07/16)

Cheltenham, UK
By

Rating: 4.5/5

 
 

 

 

This year was the 10th anniversary of 2000 Trees, a festival set in the south west of England that focuses on promoting new and underground bands from the rock and indie world. At a capacity of just 5,000 it has a uniquely intimate and friendly atmosphere and with such a pristine level of organisation, it’s clear to see how the festival has achieved a full decade of success.

The Main Stage is reserved for days two and three, leaving the smaller stages to host the opening day’s bands. The tented covering of The Cave stage was only just sturdy enough to contain the massive power of Black Peaks, who continue to dominate every stage they throw themselves onto. Rifling through songs from their superb debut album Statues with power, precision and captivating stage presence, it won’t be long before the band are headlining these events. The place to be for the remainder of the day is The Forest, a dedicated acoustic stage whose woodland setting, surrounded by lantern lights, hay bales and hammocks, provides a fantastic atmosphere as well as a great place to sit down, chill out and sing along to some striped-back favourites from the festival’s line-up. Black Peaks’ acoustic renditions are far removed from their ferocious on-stage antics but matched in quality nonetheless, as is multi-instrumentalist songwriter Grumble Bee, who got the crowd singing along to raw reimaginings of his Disconnect EP.

Day two brings the Main Stage into play but technical issues cloud the first few acts of the day, particularly Crooks, whose usually excellent live set is marred by mix problems for the first half of the performance. It’s disappointing to see a band miss the opportunity to show a crowd what they can really do and by the time the band and the sound engineers get into full swing, it’s time for the set to close. Over at The Axiom stage Press to Meco have no such troubles, immaculately voicing their fantastic three-part harmonies to the delight of the crowd. Despite all three members also providing the technically challenging, angular riffs and rhythms, their vocals are flawless throughout and one of the stand out bands of the weekend.

Actor Jamie Campbell Bower (known for Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter among others) proves that his gritty alt-rock band Counterfeit are more than just a fleeting side-project with a rousing set that sees the crowd frantically nodding along. Bower holds the crowd’s attention well, using his stage experience to establish himself as a captivating frontman and with throaty vocals and gutsy rock anthems to back up his swagger, the band sound right at home on a big stage. Basement are in fine form since coming out of hiatus, making their 50 minute set feel more like 10 in The Cave. Rattling through songs from their latest album Promise Everything as well as the best of their back catalogue, Basement were one of the highlights of an impressive day.

Having endured two days of festival life, the crowd may have wanted a slow start to the final day, but Heck had other plans. The band’s frantic noise-rock is somehow less intense than the antics of frontmen Matt Reynolds and Jonny Hall, who spend more time in the crowd than on stage. Heck must be a sound engineer’s worst nightmare as mic stands go flying and leads are stretched to their limits, but for all the high-energy antics, there’s a core of quality, tight music running alongside, filled with complex rhythms and angular riffs. For all the punishment given to their instruments, Reynolds took the most damage, managing to break his foot in his own circle pit toward the end of the set. Arcane Roots are more subdued, but no less impressive. The trio’s slow, drawn out keyboard-driven opener doesn’t make for the best introduction to the set or their new material, but it soon picks up with the remainder of the performance and based on the strength of their catalogue to date, there’s no reason to doubt the upcoming album will be any less convincing.

It’s easy to see how 2000 Trees has stretched to its 10th anniversary, with such a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and excellent line-up of bands. It’s great to see band members freely enjoying the acts wih the regular punters, further emphasising the community spirit and laid back atmosphere that makes the festival so unique. The organisers struck gold by adding hardcore legends Refused to the bill and there could’ve been no better way to see out the 10th anniversary party. Refused stole the entire weekend, the power of their set engulfing everything before it, making the other bands seem minor in comparison. It’s great to have them back following a lengthy hiatus and tracks from latest album Freedom sound huge on the Main Stage. Frontman Derek Lyxzen’s heart-warming thanks to the crowd for sticking with the band and coming back to see them no doubt resonated with the collective masses at 2000 Trees who, after another incredible weekend, will certainly be looking forward to sticking with this festival as it begins its second decade next year.

Slam Dunk - Grumble Bee

Slam Dunk Festival 2016

FESTIVAL (28/05/16)

Leeds, UK
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Slam Dunk Festival and some old friends of the punk and alternative scene came out to help celebrate the occasion. With such veterans as The King Blues, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Panic! at the Disco and [spunge] mixing with the fresh talents of Creeper, Issues and Moose Blood, this year’s line-up boasted a wide range of diversity and with such a wide-reaching appeal, it’s no wonder that the festival’s three dates sold out.

Australian four-piece With Confidence opened the Fresh Blood Stage with an assured and confident set of upbeat pop-punk songs, taken mainly from the band’s upcoming album Better Weather. Lead single “Keeper” gets the crowd warmed up with its infectious chorus and the full-spirited audience participation gives enough assurance that we’ll be seeing more from this band in the future. They’d do well to study the rise of Roam, who took their refined brand of pop-punk to the larger surroundings of the Key Club Stage this year, having occupied a smaller stage and crowd last year. Roam played the best of their most recent release Headrush and the live environment gives the songs more life and character than the slightly stagnated studio recordings. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable set filled with the band’s characteristic level of energy and leaves me wanting to give Headrush another try.

Another of the day’s Australian acts, Northlane threatened to crack the road that lay beneath the Atlas Stage with one of the heaviest sets of the day. Most recent album Node divided fans with its melodic, ambient direction compared to the band’s hardcore roots, but to prove they haven’t gone soft, the band threw their heaviest material at the crowd. Vocalist Marcus Bridge more than holds his own with brutal screams that are every bit as impressive as the technical instrumentation behind him. The Atlas Stage also played host to Issues, who tested their latest nu-metal/post-hardcore/R&B infused anthems on the crowd. New record Headspace is refined and accomplished and the crowd react well to the funk-infused bass lines, heavy guitar riffs and Tyler Carter’s ever impressive, note-perfect delivery.

Grumble Bee provided an opportunity for a break from the heavy acts of the day with a series of acoustic songs, although the superb delivery was no less intense than any of the full band performances. Jack Bennett, the multi-instrumentalist behind Grumble Bee, showcased stripped-down songs from his Disconnect EP and as an expressive and emotive performer, the environment suited him perfectly. The atmosphere couldn’t have been any different for Everytime I Die, who closed the Impericon Stage with the kind of ferocious, energetic and brutal performance that they’ve become renowned for. Every festival needs a closing act like Everytime I Die as theirs is the type of performance that you don’t forget in a hurry.

Unfortunately some acts had to be struck off the itinerary through the day as queues to enter the indoor venues became unmanageable. Crowd management is a vital part of festival safety and that should never be compromised, but it’s still disappointing to miss bands due to capacities being reached. It’s worth noting for future years that it may not always be possible to see every band you’re planning to, particularly if you’re heading to the indoor stages. This year, more so than others, the area inside the Leeds city centre site felt cramped and claustrophobic, particularly outside the Key Club Stage, where the exiting crowds had no choice but to merge with the spectators of the Atlas Stage, creating a mass of people unable to move, or unaware of how to avoid the problem.

The swelling crowds are testament to the success and reputation of the festival over the past ten years and despite the pockets of cramped conditions, this year was another success. With such a varied and impressive line-up there was plenty to enjoy and the packed line-up certainly delivered on their side of the deal.

Photo credit: Paris de la Moitié