Festival (28/07/17 - 30/07/17)Derbyshire, UK
By Mark Johnson
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.