“Oh yeah, yeah, we have a system in place in case our [monstrously drunk] mate gets lost,” one punter exclaims, waving a can of K cider (8.4%, mind) enthusiastically. “We’ve stuck a massive green flag pole in the back of his trousers.”
Six in the evening may seem early for these sorts of shenanigans, but at Y Not not being paralytic at this time is a cause for celebration. Problems with the main stage on Friday (meaning the first three acts are forced to be scattered around the other stages) might justify the need for this excess, yet by the time King Charles arrives all boredom should have evaporated. While the singer/songwriter’s glaringly gay vampire getup appears too contrived to be taken seriously, the Vampire Weekendesque indie beats are danceable enough. The Pigeon Detectives also give it a good old festival try, but can’t compete with new ‘uns Little Comets who (indie-ly, obviously) rock out second stage ‘The Quarry’. Yet really it’s Big Gin headliners The View who draw the biggest, though still placid, crowd with Dundee dripped drawls and old indie pop tunes. While closing with old favourite ‘Same Jeans’ gets a rip roaring reaction, the lads aren’t on best form as they putter through an un-energised set. Hence Naymedici on Y Not’s own local, introducing stage, aka The Allotment, is obviously the better choice; fast boisterous folk punk, the way it’s meant to be! It’s just a shame there aren’t enough folk enthusiasts to get a real jig going.
While the Friday may have naturally been a bit wobbly on the atmosphere side of things due to first day pitch up rules (congratulatory campfire cans after a successful tent is erected is a must for all goers) as even the chart topping acts are sparsely populated, Saturday isn’t much better. Early afternoon bands hoping to make it big on the main stage such as The Good Natured and Foe are largely ignored while even edging into 5pm, the grass is still fairly green when facing Big Gin. Even festival darlings Summer Camp with their eclectic synthy pop can’t tempt a worthwhile audience, despite managing to play the rain away. It is clear where Y Notters are whiling away their hours; Y Not has one of the best Beer and Cider festivals to grace a small music event in the U.K. This is no exaggeration; one bar boasts around 15 selections complete with comfortable sofas and chairs to relax on; another tent has a more modest selection with well needed tables; another, The Hog and Barrel, offers the widest variety of cider, ranging from 6.5-7.5%, along with hay bales and live music to boot. As for the products themselves, they’re all local, delicious, refreshingly new (a GREEN cider?!) and cost £3-£3.50. And for those not into their yeast, there’s a sandy cocktail bar, a ‘drive in’ complete with American beer, bourbon and cars and many places dispending spirits. This may seem like too complete a description of boozers within a review of a MUSIC festival but the fact is, these quaint, atmospheric bars are the centrepiece, the crème de la crème of Y Not, rather than the bands. This is a sentiment seemingly echoed by many, as it’s not until the evening when punters crawl out of the bars/tents, stretch, and decide to see the first band of the day. Being drawn to King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys to provide this twilight entertainment is a no brainer; if their name doesn’t do it for you, their swinging jazzy blues will! The Y Not returners are definitely in the running for best band of the weekend as they nearly manage to fill the front half of the Quarry with dancing feet.
Pulled Apart By Horses have a hard job headlining the second stage after the grizzled biscuits and their King, but they pull it off with their hard hitting hardcore influenced ‘art punk’ and a certain amount of hair gel. Not long after, the biggest band of the weekend are to make their appearance on Big Gin. Despite their seemingly pallid indie pop, The Wombats do not fail to give the festival the biggest, bubbliest crowd of the weekend. “This song is about being young and not giving a fuck,” simpers vocalist Matthew Murphy, obviously knowing his audience, many of whom brandish ‘youth’ weekend wristbands before song ‘1996’. “We’ve got nothing left to play except some smooth instrumental jazz,” he jokes, playing a surprisingly good jazz interlude, to the crowd’s dismay. Lucky for them, the band launch into ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ before bottles can be thrown.
The night doesn’t end when the main stage lights blare up; another way the festival seems to inadvertently promote the drinking rather than the gigging is the diversity of nightlife on offer. What with the Quarry offering indie, The Allotment offering rock and the Flamin’ Goat offering fantastic dub/drum and bass and much more, Y Not really outdoes itself in terms of after hours getting down. This may be why Sunday brings us, yet again, sparsely populated stages; Irish rockers The Young Aviators bring feel-good tunes to a sunny early afternoon and about ten people. It’s a good thing cider saviours the Hog and Barrel is booming, as there’s nothing better than the banter of the overly sweary compère, a sweet pint and the acoustic crooning of Antonia Bee. Despite the hippy feel of this beer tent, names in the arena such as ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and ‘Sergeant Pepper’s fields’ and not one but two shisha tents, Y Not can’t match the atmosphere of Bestival or Glastonbury, despite being described as a mini version of the latter. For one thing, in spite of the site’s assurance of vegetarian/vegan stalls and its message of ‘let’s go green!’ there is not one single stall catering to vegans or even vegetarians. This is rather a poor show, almost as much as Hadouken’s later set, something that coldly affirms that the ‘rave’ electronica scene outfit should have stayed under that rock they crawled under a few years ago. Slow Club over in the Quarry are similarly disappointing, a festival cliché with songs such as ‘Give It Up For Love’ and lazy and dull romantic interludes. Their best effort is a cover of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’, but is still not fast-paced enough. Luckily rapper Roots Manuva takes over the show next with a stellar headline set (despite being late), while We Are Scientistsattempt the same over on the main stage. “If you notice, there is breath mist…but it is not cold…” nods frontman Keith Murray in an attempt maybe to bemuse the drug addled many, as their well put together rock lacks the pizzazz needed to wow the masses in its lieu.
And that’s Y Not Festival summed up in one. If you fancy going for the bands, you’ll be disappointed. Yet as the line-up is often a mixture of those struggling for NME to notice them mixed with burnt out former Radio 1 playlist under achievers, this shouldn’t be a problem. While the surrounding atmosphere of indie fans may leave something to be desired, the bars and nightlife do get the party going.