The Hu @ Electric Ballroom 11/02/2020

A few years ago, one evening I started browsing through music videos on YouTube and came across Mongolian rock band The Hu. I remember thinking how different these guys were and that I doubt they would ever tour the UK, but i was proven quite wrong. In 2019 they played in the UK and then announced a Spring European and UK tour for 2020. All the shows had sold out.
I was lucky enough to attend their show at the legendary Electric Ballroom in Camden, London on Tuesday 11th February. It was a cold evening in which I was warmed up when entering the venue to a packed out room with eager fans awaiting for the music to start.

Up first was support act , the American heavy metal band, Fire From The Gods who put on a great performance full of energy and built up the crowds anticipation for The Hu. Fire From The Gods will be performing Download festival this year on The Dogtooth Stage so make sure you check them out.

During the interval the crowd were mingling, drinking and loudly chanting ‘HU! HU! HU!’ When the time had come for The Hu to enter the stage the four main band members stood along the front of the stage with a backing band behind. The band had initially formed back in 2016 and have since gained a huge following online with 624k subscibers on Youtube alone! The members are Jaya, Gala, Temka and Enkush. The band were dressed in Mongolian attire with leather and top knots.

The traditional Mongolian instruments were amazing to see with the horsehead fiddle, Mongolian guitar, Jaw Harp and the Monglian flute. The craftsmanship on the instruments were quite incredible. The band bring together traditional Mongolian music with their throat singing and combine it with heavy metal.

The opening song is Shoog Shoog followed by other songs off their debut album The Gereg. The band also performed Black Thunder which has become widely recognisable after being featured on the hugely successful 2019 Star Wars game Jedi: Fallen Order.

The members didn’t appear to have a good grasp of the English language knowledge apart from “Thank You”, but honestly it really didn’t matter as the audience could still relate to the band during their set.

They are one of the most intriguing bands I had ever seen as they have created such an unusual yet enjoyable style of music based on throat singing. They put on a great show and I can highly recommend checking them out if you have not already.

Review and Photos by Kane Howie

A1 @ 02 Islington Academy-03/11/2019

Sunday 3rd November was a day that I had waited to experience for a long time. I was going to see a music act that I had been excited to see perform live since I was around 10 years old! That act is nineties and noughties boy band A1.

The band originally formed as a quartet in the late nineties. Consisting of band members Mark, Ben, Christian and Paul, they had seen huge success around the world after releasing well known singles Everytime, Summertime, Like A Rose, Same Old Brand New You, Caught In The Middle and the huge hit Take On Me – a cover single of the well known classic by Aha! A1‘s version of the track actually went straight to number one in the UK music charts while Aha only reached a number two position! In that time the band had also released three albums.
Sadly, around five years into their expanding career and shortly after the release of their third album ‘Make It Good’, band member Paul Marazzi had announced his departure from A1 due to personal reasons. The fan base were left feeling concerned for the future of the band since the news broke.

Thankfully, remaining band members Ben, Christian and Mark had come to a decision to keep the act going under their original band name as trio. Since then they have seen a huge increase in fans over in Norway and Asia. They have also since released a few more albums and worked on their own solo material too.

Just a short time ago, in mid 2018, former singer Paul decided to reach out to band member Christian during A1’s brief period of appearances in the UK at the time and had asked arrange to meet the guys to catch up, in which they all did. Thankfully for both original and new fans, the band decided to reunite as the original line up and hit the road once again. So A1 The Reunion Tour was announced including shows in three UK locations. The guys had purposely chosen to play at smaller venues with just a few select dates as they weren’t sure just how well the Reunion shows would be recieved in the UK as they hadn’t fully persued their careers there for a number of years. Oddly enough, due to popular demand a fourth show was added to their UK dates, which to the band’s surprise, later meant that all of their UK shows had completely sold out in just four minutes!

It’s very clear that the guys of A1 and their management team were keen to really make the reunion work, they seem happy and enthusiastic about the future of the band. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to meet and interview them before they went on stage at their second London show, the Islington 02 Academy. Honestly, all four band members seemed very comfortable with each other and quite at ease and excited about all of the reunion shows in general. It appeared like Paul had never even departed at all. Upon first meeting the band, our photographer and I were greeted by management and taken to the VIP lounge where the meet and greets were taking place before the show. And there they were, all four original members of a band that I had admired for years just standing by the bar smiling for photos.

It wasn’t long until the two of us were introduced to the band and then taken downstairs to their two small dressing rooms to conduct a full interview. Now, I have only done a handful of interviews before as I’m usually too nervous to bring myself to actually do them, let alone perform in a professional manner. And in all honesty this is the one I was most anxious about doing. However, I’ve never been made to feel so welcome, calm and relaxed at a show that I have attended and reviewed. Ever! I have never met a nicer group of people! Christian provided us with traditional Norwegian spiced Christmas biscuits and bottles of water, I had discussed parenting and the wonder of baby wipes with Paul, Mark made sure we were comfortable by moving things around to make room for us to sit down on the leather sofa within the dressing room and Ben was talking to us as casually as you would speak to your best friend while doing his hair for the upcoming show.
Fortunately, I was able to record the chat I had with the band as I asked them a variety of questions about their reunion, performing again as four members on stage and the potential of new music and future tours. I have used our photographer’s photos to create a video showcasing the live show and the interview that took place. Very kindly, both management and all members of A1 were happy to allow me to publish the audio recording for all of you to hear. The audio clip video and images will be linked in with this review, but here are a segments that I have picked out to share with you!

I expressed how excited that fans (including myself) were to see the original line up back together and once again performing live too. So of course I had to ask them how they felt about the big reunion.

Q: So how are you feeling about it being back as four?
Ben: “It feels great! It’s a bit like riding a bike, it was a bit strange at first, Christian, myself and Mark had continued on for ages and ages and it had been about fifteen years since you joined (looking at Paul), initially it was a bit like oh, ok it feels a bit familiar and a bit weird, but like no time had passed really.”

Q: How are you feeling about all of your reunion shows?
Mark: “Really good!”

Ben: “Really Great! The fans have been frickin brilliant because we’ve been tryingto work out what to do with the set, it’s funny, we’ve had big songs that were different in different countries so one song has been number 1 in the Phillappenes and over here (UK), they’ve never heard of it. So we just thought lets do everything! Everybody knows the words to pretty much every single song and that’s the beauty of Spotify and things like that now.”

Paul: “We knew it was going to be big as it sold out so quick.”

So now over twenty years on since the beginning of A1, of course I was curious to know how being in the band differs now compared to back in the day.
Christian: “One of the biggest differences is that before, we would literally wake up to a sheet coming in under the door of our hotel rooms saying what we are going to do that day, starting at like 6am! Then we’d have dinner while doing other interviews getting ready for another gig and then fly to the next country. Now we are much more in control of our day. Generally we now have more control over our lives and what we say. We also have a better attitude this time around as there was a lot of pressure and money invested in us, so there was a lot expected from us.”

Ben: “Now, no one expects anything”

Christian: “Everything is just a bonus now and we are having a lot more fun. We are better songwriters now and better musicians than we were twenty years ago.”
Just like any other A1 fan, I of course have my favourite tracks. I expressed to the band that I remember spending a lot of time in my bedroom during my early teen years playing ‘Caught In The Middle’ on my acoustic guitar, but there is one song of theirs in particular that will always have a special place in my heart, their ballad ‘Like A Rose’. So I was intruigued to see if the band members themselves had any preferences of their own.

Christian: “To me, it’s always ‘Everytime’. It was one of the first songs that broke us internationally, I remember so clearly when we wrote it and the thoughts that we had. I remember this dream I had in my head thinking wouldn’t it be so awesome if one day this melody and these lyrics that started in our little heads, if someone on the other side of the planet knew them, and that’s what happened! We had the biggest dream come true moment!”

Q: What else have we got to expect from A1?
Ben: “The Boys Are Back tour next year, a new album, then booking in more and more concerts and we love doing the full hour and a half concerts with all the songs that fans want to hear. They don’t just wanna hear the hits, they wanna hear all the album tracks, all the B sides and everything like that.”

Christian: “It’s quite mind blowing that people still want to hear us all over the world. Over the years A1 has become a bit of a side project for us, but now it’s taken over as the main project for all of us.”

So there you have it, it’s official. There’s still plenty more of A1 to come!

The Reunion Show
As the gig was completely sold out, this meant the venue at the London o2 Islington Academy was completely jam packed with excited fans! Both newcomers (including partners that had clearly been dragged along to the event, admit it you know you had a great time!) and original fans from all twenty years ago.
Originally, a support act was planned to get the crowds ready for the main event! However due to unforseen circumstances there was a cancellation of their appearance. However many didn’t mind as this meant that A1 were due to come on stage earlier in the evening.

Around 9pm, the lights dimmed, a screen at the back of the stage displayed a variety of graphics and a gentle accapella tone could be heard, Yep! This was it! Time for Ben, Paul, Mark and Christian to open their long awaited reunion show! The band opened their show by performing before even appearing on stage with their beautiful ballad ‘Forever In Love’. As the track faded out they appeared on stage with lots of enthusiasm as they continued on to perform one of their biggest hits ‘Same Old, Brand New You’ with original chorepgraphy while under bright flashing lights, which was quite something to see!

The band went on to perform ‘Be The First To Believe’ and ‘Summertime’ before taking a moment out to talk to the audience and welcome back Paul to the line up. He proved to be very popular with the audience and all were glad to see him return. He was applauded and met with screams and a lot of appreciation. Marazzi then introduced a song of his choice that he was really looking forward to perform back with the rest of the band. And he made a good choice (yes, slight pun there), he chose the title track from their third studio album ‘Make It Good’.
All four members interacted with the fans with such ease, continuously checking in with everyone there, asking where fans had travelled from, encouraging interaction through choreography, the works!

Of course we got to hear all of the hits as expected which included ‘No More’, ‘Everytime’ (which was met with a room of swaying lights from torches on mobile phones), ‘Ready Or Not’ and many more, but when the band had told me in their interview before the show that they had tried to fit in everything, they weren’t joking around. I’ve never been to a live show for a band where they have managed to perform as many tracks as A1 did there that evening. One clever way to fit in so many of their songs was to perform a medley, but no ordinary medley. They titled this selection of tracks ‘The Songs We Never Did’ a play on words referring to their track ‘The Things We Never Did’. This medley included ‘Here Comes The Rain’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Make It Through The Night’ (which was brought to an abrupt, yet amusing end as singer Ben decided he “didn’t like that one much”), ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Living The Dream’, When I’m Missing You’ as well as a the more upbeat songs ‘Hey You’ and a snippet of a personal favourite album track of mine ‘Scared’. You see? They really did put in a lot of effort to get everything in, which of course went down very well with the audience there that evening.

For the majority of the medley,the four members were sat on stools, and one band member decided to share what we were all thinking during this segment of their set. Yes, Ben Adams made that very obvious musical link to Irish based band Westlife. In his own words he announced “I can see why Westlife like to do this!”. This simple and amusing statement was met with a huge roar of laughter from the crowds stood before him.

What was great to see was that the band performed the songs that the UK fans know very well and love too, however to show how they have progressed as musicians they also showcased some of their material that was released in other parts of the world which included their singles ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You Again’, ‘In Love And I Hate It’, their latest release – the beautifully written ‘Armour’ and also a brand new track which was exclusive to their UK reunion shows. The new song ‘Can We Go Back’ is very personal to all of the band members as it is a song about looking back on past fond memories. This composition was so exclusive that we were politely asked not to film or record them while performing it.

In an attempt to round off the night’s performance A1 performed one of their biggest hits to date, ‘Caught In The Middle’ before then exiting to the right side of the stage. I say an attempt to bring the evening to a close, as everyone there that evening had realised that there were a couple more very well known A1 hits that hadn’t yet been mentioned. The entire audience were very much in demand of hearing more music as the room was taken over by fans chanting “We want more!” and “three more songs!” As we had anticipated Paul, Mark, Christian and Ben returned to the stage once more to perform an encore segment of their set. This segment included the stunning ‘Like A Rose’ and most likely their biggest hit to date ‘Take On Me’ which brought the show to an actual close.

This show had everything that I had expected it would, great music at a huge variety, fantastic lighting and graphics on stage, amazing audience interaction, nostalgia for many and most importantly four happy, energetic and very talented band members that fans clearly still adore twenty years on! All A1 band members, management and their families should feel incredibly proud of these reunion shows, not just in the UK but all around the world. And I for one am so excited to hear new material from them in the future! Thank you A1 for being “The Same Old, Brand New You”.

Review by Kimberley-Anne Simmons

Photos by Kane Howie

RFM SOMNII – REVIEW

Wit so many choices when it comes to festivals around the world, it can be hard to make up your mind about which deserves your cash. If you like sun, beaches, big scale events and some superstar names, there can be nowhere finer than RFM SOMNII.

This one goes down on a magical and seemingly endless 33km beach on Portugal’s coastal resort of Figueira da Foz. The teary by town is great to stay in and it is easy to get to from local airports. Once you arrive you will be blown away by the scale of the main stage. It literally grows up out of the sand, towers down on you and hurts your neck as you crane to see it all.

The speakers stacks that hang down next to it are giant, the screens awesome, the whole experience will blow you away, even before you hear the music. The music comes from big name EDM stars such as the main man Alesso, plus Dutch titan Afrojack and DJ Snake. Their sun kissed sets bring big drops, singalong moments and plenty of the sort of synths that get hands in the air.

The crowd is young, keen and good looking. They come from all over Europe and are not afraid to get stuck in dancing. They lap up the newer additions for this year who come in the form of hip hop and reggaeton acts like  Tyga and Ozuna. Their different sounds keep things fresh across the weekend, as do the extras.

Primarily these include the new for 2019 Casino, which is great place to go and lose loads of money but have loads of fun. A safer bet are all the myriad food and drink stalls that keep you fuelled under the hot sun. RFM SOMNII, then, is a mega festival on a mega scale that is mega fun, and should be on your to do list.

Slamdunk Festival 2018 – Midlands

After national rail disruptions and flash floods in and around Birmingham it didn’t stop the hauls of music fans descending on the NEC Birmingham this bank holiday weekend for Slamdunk Festival 2018.

It was time to go see The Audition who more than six years ago disbanded but this festival weekend the pop punk heavyweights reformed to play a nostalgic set at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival.

Band members Danny Stevens, Seth James and Tim Klepek who are the original members of the band were joined by Cartel’s Kevin Sanders and Jack’s Mannequin’s Jon Sullivan to perform on the Monster Energy Stage; which sent fans back to their teenage years singing along to this band in there bedrooms.

So it’s back to the Monster stage to see the Scottish rockers that are Twin Atlantic. Now Dressed in a dark floral shirt with striking red trousers and jacket, vocalist Sam McTrusty came out on stage playing the intro to Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator which set the fans into a craze.

His impressive vocal range shone throughout the entire set and had fans singing at the top of their lungs to the likes of Make A Beast Of Myself and No Sleep.There set was energetic and anyone in that room could be seen to having a good time.

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes were about to take to the Jagermister stage and if you’re a former Gallows fan you’ll know vocalist Frank Carter is renowned for his on-stage antics, and well his new band have got the same reputation.

Frank and co. did not disappoint by the second song Frank decided to go for a walk in the crowd and this wasn’t going to be the last time Frank “Took a walk” which would get the whole crowd involved.From the first notes of Juggernaut the band were whipping across the stage back and fourth and The audience quickly followed suit; with hit tracks Wild Flowers, Snake Eyes and Devil Inside Me creating absolute pandemonium inside the NEC with what I would say were the biggest circle pits of the day.

Even though chaos was breaking out onstage and offstage vocalist Frank regularly interacted with the crowd and promoted a safe environment in which everyone could have fun.

Following Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes were PVRIS who last graced the Slamdunk stage back in 2015 on the tour circuit of their debut album White Noise and here we are seeing them again touring their second album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell.

Justin took his place behind the drum kit then soon after Alex, Lynn and Brian took to the stage; it was dark and backlit creating a moody, somewhat spooky atmosphere. They opened up with Heaven, which was the debut track from AWKOHAWNOH album back in 2017.

SETLIST:

Heaven
St. Patrick
Half
You and I
What’s Wrong
Winter
Anyone Else
No Mercy
My House

The PVRIS CVLT (as their fans are known) were singing along to every word and in all the right places knew when it was time to jump and dance along which seen vocalist Lynn Gunn climbed down from the stage to be among the fans along the barrier during the track No Mercy.

Following a mammoth line up on the Jagermister stage it was time for the Headliners who were none other than Good Charlotte and well what can I say cannons exploded with streamers; which resulted in the Main Arena looking like it just got “TP’d” as it all hung from the ceiling. The fans crowd were hit with flashing lights and the heat from the pyrotechnics as the band jumped into hit song The Anthem.

The band ploughed through their extensive back catalogue to take fans on a trip down memory lane with tracks The Story of My Old Man, Keep Your Hands Off My Girl, Predictable and Girls and Boys.They also through in Life Changes and Actual Pain which has only just been recently released, yet the fans seemed to know all the words already.

Each song showcased the tightness and experience the band had with Joel Madden’s powerful voice, his brother Benji’s and Billy Martin’s impressive guitar skills, Paul Thomas’ catchy bass lines and Dean Butterworth’s strong drumming.The night was coming to a close and the famous track Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous marked the end of an impressive live performance, closing Slam Dunk Festival 2018 with a crowd united through their love of stellar live music.

We also managed to catch the sets from Crown The Empire, Dream State, Devil Wears Prada, Knuckle Puck, Sleeping With Sirens and more. All photographs from these artist can be found on our social media sites.

 

Bestival 2017 – THE GIANT REVIEW!

Thursday

Bestival. The summer finale. The big kahuna. Bestival has been my homecoming for the last twelve years and this is the first time I don’t have to catch a ferry to get there. No lies – it feels weird. There was something sort of magical about catching the ferry with everyone, the anticipation, the journey, knowing that you were really going on an adventure. The short drive from the motorways to The Lulworth Castle estate just isn’t the same. On the other hand, the hefty hiked Red Funnel ferry prices I certainly will not miss, nor the uncertainty of whether your entire party will actually make it onto said ferry (my brother missed it once due to an accidental detour round the M25 at rush hour. He didn’t make it onto the island for another twelve hours…).

Anyway, we’re here – the sun is trying to shine and we’ve just driven through a very castle-y looking gateway to get into the carparks. Now, first thing to mention – the carparks are at first thought, extremely pleasingly close to camping. Trussed up with all our camping gubbins we head through the bag and ticket check which isn’t too busy at this time in the morning, though the searches aren’t super through (maybe I just have an innocent face?) there are police and sniffer dogs quite clearly overseeing operations. In fact, we watch some scallywags being unceremoniously marched offsite whilst we queue.

Grabbing our wristbands, we head into the campsites in search of high ground in Rainbow Rave (we’ve checked the weather… no-one wants to be downhill…). After a quick set-up and drinks we head into the arena to see what’s what. To my utter dismay there seems to be only one route through the campsites into the main arena and it’s a valley, with a great stonking near vertical hill either side. My foreboding barometer is going wild… I know what this will look like in the rain.

As we traverse the site we pass Slow Motion which doesn’t look entirely set up yet, there are men still hammering things… a very sad looking tiny cousin of The Wishing Tree, and then we are into the main arena, greeted by The Lovebot and the two giant astronauts which flanked last years’ Space Port. It’s very weird seeing all this out of situ on the IOW. Taking in the site it’s considerably smaller and a lot more cramped in than Robin Hill, it’s also pretty damn hilly, with The Temple and Bollywood up at the top, presiding over everything.

We decide to tramp our way to The Castle in search of The Feast Collective for some late lunch and find it tucked away in a small field behind, alongside the kids and crafty area. It’s cute, but it’s pretty remote/removed from everything else. The Feast Collective itself is one of my favourite additions to Bestival’s lineup over the last few years, I mean the food is great all over site, but this is always something special. Today we hit up The Rac Shack for Poutine, which is absolutely epic (who doesn’t love chips, cheese and gravy?!) but there’s just so much on offer it was pretty hard to choose. The music is loud, the fairy lights and foliage give it atmosphere and everyone is chowing down on a world-tour of amazing food. You can wrap your chops around crispy duck Bao, buttermilk fried chicken, Indonesian street food, vegan maki rolls… we’re spoilt for choice. Another notable addition – plastic Bestival beer cups, much less drunk hazard and probably the cheapest souvenir on site.

After food we take a quick tour around, the main stage area isn’t open yet (and looks like it’s still being built) we take a quick peek over the site from the top of Oberon’s Observatory and then make a pit-stop at the Old Mout cider garden for a boogie. Our friend manages to split the ass of his jumpsuit during a dance-off, and proceeds to can-can with his pants hanging out. We do some karaoke, have a go at their tiny zip-line and join in a very ill-advised and danger-laden conga around their small stage. It’s a nice little area complete with swing seats and the most useless periscopes ever, but we’re in search of different feels so it’s onto a firm favourite of mine – Caravanseri. It’s a different layout, a little bigger, but with two distinct sections – the tent/bar area and the stage area. As the rain begins to pour we dart into the Carousel tent for a dance and shelter, here it most feels like we’ve returned. The twinkling lights, the DJ’s, the laughter coming from each little caravan pocket of seating, the glitz and glam of this otherworldly little circus. It’s hard to describe, to put into words… it feels like I’m made entirely of fibre-optics and being at Bestival again is lighting up all the pathways. There’s something about being surrounded by other people setting themselves free, embracing the moment as if nothing else exists. I mean, that’s the point of all this, surely.

Drunk on freedom and well… vodka, we set off for The Box (for Besti returners… the artist previously known as The Big Top) to catch a bit of ‘Oh My God! It’s The Church’ who are bonkers and brilliant. As instructed, we sinners crouch down low as the Reverand yells “The church has one last thing to tell you… I have to praise you!” before jumping about like loons on the drop of Fatboy Slim’s classic track.

We take a hike up the hill to check out The Temple – a beautiful neon beacon in the night, it’s all lasers and light with bass thumping heavy in our chests. After a brief (excuse the pun) encounter with a very friendly, ginger-bearded, shiny-hot-pants wearing Santa Claus and some pretty crap Kevin-and-Perry style raving, we flop down on beanbags in the shisha tent next door. It’s cosy and calm but all the drinks taste of chai no matter what you’ve ordered and the staff seem to be a little bit squiffy themselves.

Friday

…and so it pours. There was never going to be any escaping it this weekend, and luckily we packed accordingly. After fetching our friend who spent last night in her car just outside of Bestival due to arriving after the midnight curfew, we wait out the stormy morning weather in the tent, playing some very revealing drinking games and then head into the arena during a relatively dry break. It’s clear the valley between the campsites is already a problem, we stick to the sides but watch a number of people go down hard as it’s really slippy. One other thing we’ve noted so far is that there seem to be really few toilets around in the campsite, and they don’t seem to be being cleaned or emptied as regularly. A shame considering decent loos were something Bestival has been known for over the years.

We catch a little of Sinkane’s set in The Box, it’s a pretty decent crowd and he has an incredible voice, the jazzy, disco sound is just right to blow away the blues of a wet afternoon. Over at Old Mout we witness the greatest Karaoke ever – a guy who knows every single word of Men At Work’s ‘Land Down Under’ wins himself a tambourine, and the admiration of all who heard, and then the crew of Coppafeel proposition us for photos posed with a giant wearable boob, and tell our friend how to check his pecs.

Over on the main stage Dub Pistols are bashing out the electric feels and looking way too cool to be there, but next up we have Bestival legends (and my personal heroes) The Cuban Brothers. Throwing shapes on stage we have Archerio and Kenny (the bastard) alongside Juan Erection who busts big flares and flips, whilst Miguel tell us all about his #sexyfavours. I’m sure its incomprehensibly weird to anyone new to the Cubans but you learn to just roll with it, promise. After a quick costume change into their signature fringed lycra, Miguel apologises for Arch “…it’s a big guy in a gold suit with a tiny penis… it’s like a shittily wrapped christmas present…we’re giving to you” before Arch drops freezes and Kengo performs insane head-spins. Despite the expected de-pantsing of Miguel and the frighteningly small Swan pouch pants, the Cubans are never not entertaining. You know, in a nightmare-inducing way.

Soul II Soul bust late 80’s hit ‘Back To Life’ and we are instantly transported into nostalgia, they are every bit as vocally strong as they ever were and it’s clear that despite the iffy weather, the crowd are absolutely loving every second of it. Over at the Bramble FM Roadshow (a tiny caravan stage behind the castle) a comedian is making terrible historical jokes about Cholera, so we catch some of Ray BLK’s incredible vocals on the main stage, ‘Doing Me’ and ‘Chill Out’ are just awesome to hear live, it’s beautiful and serene. Over in The Box, Romare is all big visuals and mixed up beats. From the same label as Mr. Scruff (also playing this weekend) it’s a stay-n-sway chilled set, and everyone in the tent is moving.

Closing the main stage tonight are English indie-rockers The XX, with an incredible, forceful yet intimate set replete with hits old and new. Check out our full review HERE!

After the high of The XX we’re not ready to finish the night there, so head into Caravanserai to catch some acts at Cirque Bijou, and we are beyond impressed by the extremely talented @_thathoopgirl who even managed to spin her LED lit hoops ON HER TONGUE. We also loved the slackline twins and Slightly Dubious Science, despite the bubble failures. Heading into The Ambient Forest for a roam we quickly deduce that this is a considerably smaller space than Robin Hill, with about as many people trying to get through it. There are some trails with serious drop-offs, not a single security guard in sight (other than at the entrance) and nowhere near enough lights on paths to be safe. It’s a long chalk from the beautiful and eerie forest we knew at the previous site. I did love the cosy fire-tent at the top, and there were some hilarious attempts at umbrella limbo in The Frozen Mole, but to be honest it didn’t really work overall. It felt really separate to everything else, where the previous Ambient Forest was full of pathways to other areas and an adventure in finding secret happenings.

Over in Club Dada, we catch the New York Brass Band (who are actually from North Yorkshire… go figure) in an extremely sweaty but friendly tent, under the soft light from strings of old lampshades. They play amazing big band covers like Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’, with the entire crowd singing along. We join in for Bob Marley cover ‘One Love’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ but head for the sides when they drop into the rowdy LMFAO ‘Party Rock Anthem’. One of my favourite things about Bestival is all of these individual pockets of joy all over the site.

Saturday

Well things overnight have improved a little – it’s actually verging on sunny so we’re donning our best sparkly outfits today. After a cracking breakfast of avo-on-toast from The Breakfast Club and a couple of cans of G&T (I don’t care how hipster that sounds, it was glorious) we’re heading into the arena. Witness The Fitness is giving yoga-bods their daily dose of zen, there’s glitter in the air and the true colours of Bestival are showing in everyone’s fabulous outfits.

Over on the main stage, UK rapper Nadia Rose is cute but fierce in her pink shellsuit jacket spitting ‘Skwod’ to a bouncing crowd but we’re charging The Box for Disney Rascal. Dressed in an eclectic mix of costumes from Disney movies the band play ska/pop punk covers of all our favourites. There’s ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘Kiss The Girl’ but the mashups are the real stroke of genius; Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ flows seamlessly into ‘Hakuna Matata’ whilst Bob Marley’s ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ becomes Toy Story’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’. As if that all isn’t Disney enough for you, the show is halted so that guitarist Peter Pan (aka Chris) can propose on stage to his girlfriend, who is dressed as Absolom from Alice in Wonderland. It’s surreal and adorable. We loved you Disney Rascal, please return!

Just as we decided to head out in search of food, the heavens opened with the biggest downpour of the weekend yet, and the realisation that we’ve all opted for trainers instead of wellies, sets in. Arse.

Luckily for us a second exceptional cover band is up next – The Smiths Ltd. with a very realistic (though definitely less politically sassy) Morrissey frontman. The entire tent is singing at the top of their voices for ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and honestly, it’s a pretty damn good replacement for those of us that never got to see The Smiths themselves. Bonus points for not having to listen to Morrissey whine about the world mid-set too. Oh and I have to give special mention to the dude in the crowd wearing the ‘Rizla Fedora’ – you sir are a king among men. For everyone who didn’t encounter this top cat, he had glued packets of rizla and filters to his hat in a help-yourself buffet of cigarette rolling genius.

With a small break in the rain, we traipse through the pooled mud and grab ourselves some stomach-warming Katsu curry and then watch a strange pop-up mariachi band on the stage underneath the Astronaut rainbow, who play covers of Five’s ‘Keep On Moving’ and The Spice Girls’ ‘Spice Up Your Life’. It’s bonkers and brilliant. At this point it’s becoming clear we’ll have to trek back to the tents for wellies due to the increasing danger the arena is posing underfoot, and as expected – the valley between campsites has become deadly slick and there aren’t really any other options for getting up or down it safely. It also takes an incredibly long-time to get back to the tents which is a shame because it means missing even more. Here’s hoping next year a second entrance to the main arena can be organised, cause death valley is not my idea of fun festival times.

After some fortifying beers and more appropriate footwear, we are back in the arena for Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. Towering over everyone else on stage, Rory Graham (aka Rag ‘N’ Bone Man) strides on with confidence, wearing a red and black varsity jacket. Starting off with ‘Wolves’ and letting us know “I feel very lucky to stand in front of you beautiful people and play today”, the crowd is already absolutely taken with his flawless vocals. Bowling through old and new hits, Graham jokes “That was a song about people with big heads and big egos… I dedicate it to Donald Trump… the orange prick” to much laughter and clapping across the arena. ‘Human’ and ‘Hell Yeah’ just top off a stunning set, marred only slightly by the crappy weather.

With the cooler temperatures and intermittent downpours, The Feast Collective is ram-jammed with bodies but we manage to commandeer some table space for dinner (I chose a Prawn/Chips/Samphire box of joy from Shrimpy’s – amazing) but no sooner than we had finished, security guards were clearing the tent due to a ‘health and safety issue’. Talking to the Bestival team we discovered it was a national grid issue – it seems the weather is a pain in the arse for everyone this weekend!

Over at The Port (which is considerably smaller and a bit sad compared to it’s original conception) Fatman Scoop and Jaguar Skills are delivering beats and laughs, but we’re back at the Castle stage for Dizzee Rascal. The much needed injection of energy coming from Dizzee helps us forget the dire weather for a while and we get down to ‘Dance Wiv Me’ like it’s 2008. Dizzee shouts out to the dude dressed as Batman and busts out the one we’ve been waiting for: ‘Bonkers’, and it is just that. The arena erupts in a muddy, bouncy, frantic mess. Which is precisely the kind of release everyone seems to have needed today. Yelling into his custom yellow mic “Put two fingers in the air and shout peace!” Dizzee notes that there’s a “…lot of bollocks going on the world right now but we all came together.” to a huge roar from the crowd who’ve battled death valley to be there.

Unfortunately due to rain and the state of the arena, there’s no safe way for the night parade to, well, parade. It’s a sort of sad little gathering in front of the castle, until the Portsmouth Batala Band get on the case with their rolling drums. It’s a shame the parade couldn’t have marched around the castle walls, away from the mud – it would have looked amazing.

Back on the main stage we are ready for A Tribe Called Quest’s final ever show. Following the death of bandmate Phife Dawg last year, this show is above all else a tribute act and a way to say goodbye. Despite a dodgy start the show goes on to be one of Bestival 2017’s highlights, and to be there, to be part of the history; amazing. Read our full ATCQ review HERE!

Embarking on the grueling walk back to the campsite we see an unfortunate person with what looks like a dislocated knee being attended to, and I can’t help thinking that the weather gods really have decided to smite this new site. On the other hand, we also watch a girl ride an inflatable unicorn down death valley with wild abandon, so it’s obviously not too awful for some!

Sunday

After a hairy night of holding onto the sides of the tent in fear of ending up in Kansas, we pop our heads out to see that the campsite is looking decidedly emptier. It seems a lot of people have packed up this morning/been forced to evacuate wind-trashed abodes. Robin Hill campsites were blessed with the shelter of the valley and cliffside but here we are open to the elements and it shows, there are broken tent-poles and piles of scrapped polyester strewn around the place. Another bugbear for this new site/year is the toilets don’t seem to have been cleaned or emptied at all this morning, they are very full, stinky and gross – not something we’re used to experiencing at Bestival to be honest.

After hiding out for most of the morning, trying to muster up the courage to brave the walk in, we top up with all the booze we don’t want to carry home tomorrow and head to The Box for a little warmth with Weymouth Ukeleleans who are dressed in Hawaiian shirts and playing T Rex’s ‘We Love To Boogie’. It’s a bit of a culture shock to be honest.

At The Port we catch a gospel choir singing Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ to a meagre and beleaguered crowd (well, except for that stag party down the front who are clearly already half cut and loving it), and over near The Feast Collective we get in on a small bluegrass band playing washboards and roping in audience members for percussion.

On the main stage L.A. Salami is part spoken word, part soft lounge jazz. He has a fantastic voice and it’s a shame the crowd is so sparse, the arena is a picture of devastation with churned up channels of mud knee deep. The area near the corner toilets looks like the bog of eternal stench, and if you get too close, smells like it too.

Too many T’s are drafted in to fill another spot and joke about the “The great British summertime” as the wind picks up again. In a perfect twist of fate, three songs in to their set after declaring “We’re gonna do our debut album, it comes out on Friday… front to back, in it’s entirety” the show is halted due to rising winds and some dangerously flappy stage-side screens. It’s 1.20pm and the winds are driving in hard. We get word that the Ambient Forest has also been closed for safety, and within half an hour the call goes up for the arena to be evacuated entirely. By 5pm the screens have been strapped down, most of the site has been bathed in hay and we’re back on track, but by now it seems the damage has mostly already been done.

The information about the arena being back open went out via the app and Bestival social media… only one problem… how many people still have charged phones, data, or signal left on Sunday afternoon of a festival? We also heard reports of some security staff telling people that the whole thing was closed and the arena wouldn’t be re-opening, prompting many to give up and leave early, I suppose with the high risk of drink driving – had they spent the morning in full festival mode.

On the main stage a po-faced Loyle Carner calls out “I’m really sorry I can’t play this show… but I can do you one poem if you want?” before playing to the meagre 20 or so people who actually made it back out. Luckily people begin to filter back in and a couple of acro-yoga performers get entertaining in the mud, even roping in a security guard for a go. They’ve gathered a pretty massive crowd and are epitomising the true spirit of Bestival – no fucks given. It’s awesome.

Circa Waves up next and they’re just what the doctor ordered. The wind has died down and the sound is cracking, calling out “…this the last song of our festival season… thank you for coming to see us…” they are lifting the spirits of the growing crowd, now a sea of mud, glitter and laughter. There are also rumours that Simon from The Inbetweeners is running around in the mud naked, as they’re filming for ‘The Festival’ here this weekend. I can only imagine the terrible, perfect portrayal of British festivals that will be…

Up next with a last minute fill in for the absent Justice, are masters of the electro – Soulwax, and OH MY WORD their set is infuckingcredible. 3 giant metallic boxes house 3 drummers, playing all manner of weird and wonderful toms and cymbals, the beats are so strong it feels like the ground is shaking beneath us. The whole crew are decked out in bright white lab coats which are pulsing bright under the flashing strobes, and a spinning silver cyborg head on a mic stand at the front flashes like a disco ball.

Pushing and prodding at giant NASA-esque synths, Soulwax seem as lost in the moment as we are, but there’s time enough for them to joke “…to be here, on this stage… because Justice didn’t turn up… we turned up in the rain with our studio…” before dropping ‘NY Excuse’. It sounds like a wry dig at Justice and we wonder if they know something we don’t about the bands’ absence this weekend. As a giant version of the android head rises from the back of the stage and spins in tandem with the small one, the beats continue to ramp up to a point where every single body in the now fuller arena is going all out mental, this is hands down the best show of the entire weekend and I can’t believe so many people are missing it. It’s a travesty!

Yes it’s cold tonight, but the wind has died down and the rain has thankfully abated in time for the almost-didn’t-happen finale of the Pet Shop Boys. With an amazing laser-filled extravaganza absolutely saves the day with a proper, justified ending to the festival, instead of the wash-out it certainly could have been. Check out our full Pet Shop Boys review HERE!

Turning around to watch the fireworks show go off from the top of Lulworth Castle, we hug each other and say our goodbyes to the summer (hah), it’s a perfect moment only spoiled by the knowledge that we have to make the trip back to the tents once more. We take one last detour to Anna-Mae’s Mac N Cheese, passing The Temple and The Port which are both still going heavy with the remainder of the Bestival 2017 survivors. The campsite is a tent graveyard, broken poles like the bones of destroyed carcasses stick into the sky and we all duck as a loose pop-up whirls past our heads, escaping into the night sky. The toilets still haven’t been cleaned and seem to be taking on a presence of their own, a la Foul Ole Ron. If you know, you know.

However bad it is, I know that moving this festival was a crazy feat, there are teething problems here for sure, but the feel… the spirit of Bestival is still alive. Tomorrow I will rejoice in clean toilets, sinks with running water and a bed that I didn’t have to inflate, but the Bestival blues will hit just as hard after that, as any other year. I love you, you weird wonderful place.

The tragic news of the death of Louella Michie doesn’t hit the papers until Monday, and leaves extreme sadness – she was just someone who was there, like us, for freedom and fun. Bestival had all the measures in place that they should have, but it’s hard to deny that UK drug culture has been on the rise again in the last few years. It’s a tragic and sobering end to what was a rocky, but great first year for Bestival in it’s new home.

 

All photographs © A. McHardy for SFG – Do not use without permission

Slam Dunk Festival Midlands 2017 – Review

SlamDunk Festival 2017’s lineup promised to pack a punch and after spending the day at the NEC Arena watching one great band after another, the festival proved itself successful in delivery. 

Attending both as photographers and a music fan's, we shot and watched the likes of Blackpool derived ‘Boston Manor’, to Texas natives, ‘Waterparks’ and we was not disappointed.

I began my day with ‘Crossfaith’ who unleashed their energy across the Jagermeister stage; with great anticipation from the crowd and an epic countdown intro it only added to the hype. Kenta Kole (Lead singer) came onto stage waving a large flag and beckoned everyone to jump up and down before going into XENO.

Jagerbomb was the third song from their set and the crowd opened up and bodies flew forward keeping the security on their toes.

Crossfaith

Photo: Sophie Jones | Love And Light Images

They also encourage participants of their show to ‘put their middle fingers up’ in salute during the ending of their set. Overall from the start their set packed a punch and was full of engery and if you didn’t get to see these guys you really did miss out.

Setlist:

XENO

MONOLITH

JÄGERBOMB

KILL

OMEN

HELL

LEVIATHAN

 

VUKOVI

Photo: Sophie Jones | Love And Light Images

Vukovi were one of the new exciting acts gracing the smaller stages around the venue and what a treat it was for those that caught their set. The band have made themselves unavoidable after dropping their riotous debut album earlier this year; making quite a racket on the music scene. Armed with their heavy riffs, super-charged tempo they had the crowd singing and dancing along to each track they played. Front woman Janine Shilstone’s came out singing “La Di Da” and played well into the camera’s creating some great shots for the photographers who were down there.

 

Boston Manor

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

As previously mentioned Blackpool lads, ‘Boston Manor’ made full use of their slot during the festival over on The Key Club stage. They proved themselves to be tough contenders for the main stages sometime soon, after they pummelled themselves through their set, much to the crowd surfers delight.

Bury Tomorrow

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

‘Bury Tomorrow’ played the Jagermeister stage in their usual style. Screaming and growling for photographers, and telling the audience to crowd surf as much as possible during their set. 

 

Don Broco

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

‘Don Broco’ also playing the Jagermeister stage encouraged their fans to ‘get the fuck down’ before then telling them to jump back up from the arena floor as the music kicked in. 

Cute Is What We Aim For

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

‘Cute Is What We Aimed For’ provided fans with a much needed throwback, to their old teen favourites including ‘The Curse of Curves’. Happy fans even got to meet lead singer Shaant Hacikyan who was very grateful and humble to his long time loyal fans.

Deaf Havana

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

Deaf Havana were also lucky enough to score a slot on one of this years main stages, playing their set as the night began in a run up to the headline acts. 

 

Madina Lake

Photo: Sophie Jones | Love And Light Images

After a four-year hiatus Madina Lake return to play the Impericon stage at SDF17.The crowd waited with anticipation and one by one each member came out before quickly dropping into their first track but it wasn’t long before Nathan Leone flew over the top of the photographers heads landing in the crowd and he did this more than once. It was a comeback performance that everyone should of seen and Nathan made it a very up close and personal experience for those who attended their set.

Enter Shikari

Photo: Hollie Turner | HollieVFilm

Enter Shikari finished up the festival on the Jagermeister stage with a bang. Lead singer Rou Reynolds, flailed his arms about in an 80’s style conservative outfit. This band were definitely the band of the festival for me. They exploded with instruments, energy, and a colourful, laser themed set that was like electricity to be a part of. 

Shikari’s summed up how I and thousands of other gig goers felt about this years Slam Dunk in one lyric ‘this is all I need to feel alive…’ 

I thought the queuing system was better this year; faster and the bags check were more thorough so I felt a lot safer considering recent events in Manchester. The performances were good and the sound, lighting etc were good; although on a couple of stages due to technical issues it resulted in sets being shorter. Also the atmosphere was great and I felt safe the whole time, which is important in my opinion, the staff working at the venue were friendly and helpful! Only thing id complain about is I’d like to have had a map like previous years with the stage times on the back which weren’t given out like before” – Freya

Once again Slam Dunk didn’t disappoint this year; It’s the only place where you can bump into people you’ve just seen or will be seeing on the stages, its so laid back and causal. The loyalty and passion of the crowds is always a warm sight from hardcore fans in the pits to newcomers searching for a new sound or act to listen too. Acts like Crossfaith that are building a huge fan base due to their wild style and high energy its easy to see why people turn up every year. Acts like I Prevail, Madina Lake and Enter Shikari who are legends in the industry are the types of diversity a festival needs and Slam Dunk give you that and is a perfect introduction to a festival if your just starting out” – Sam

“ Getting into the festival and security was so much faster and efficient this year and the lay out the venue was good and easier to get around given last year stages were far apart; Only part of the layout I didn’t like was at the main stage it was only accessible from the one side. Some acts were late on stage and I think their needs to be more people helping between sets to strip and set up the gear. I think some acts needed bigger stages like I Prevail as it was there first time in the UK. Also I wish there was more food options next year as there wasn’t much choice.

The staff were very friendly and helpful given what has happened recently; I felt very safe and I even twisted my foot at the show and the second I fell down everybody helped me back up and made sure I got out safely; when I got checked out they were kind and helpful so big up to the staff. Overall id give a 9/10" – Jak

 

Review: Sophie Jones And Hollie Turner
Photographers: Sophie Jones And Hollie Turner

V Festival 2016 Review

This summer has been something of a festival adventure for me. From the Valencian coast to the Garden of England, I’ve experienced a whole mixture of music, workshops, performers, and events, but V Festival is by far the biggest festival yet, and definitely the most commercial. The style of the festival has definitely changed since it’s conception 21 years ago. Although Kaiser Chiefs took the MTV stage, and Jake Bugg played a beautifully executed set of Country Rock and Roll on Sunday, the presence of typical rock, indie bands or simple singer-songwriters seemed almost banished from the premises, different from the days when Kasabian, Paul Weller and the Courteeners would take the stage. The festival this year boasted iconic pop headliners instead, with Justin Bieber taking the Saturday slot in Hylands park and Rihanna closing the Chelmsford site on Sunday, their 90,000 people capacity can definitely be seen packed across the various stages.

 

 

V Festival is one of the main chapters of the British festival season. It’s increasingly popular, features a lot of various stalls from sponsors, and a tonne of fairground rides. For a festival this size there are only two campsites, which though both incredibly large, are meticulously separated at ticket purchasing. When buying a V festival ticket You can choose to camp in either red or yellow, and if you have friends in another campsite or make some there who happen to have chosen differently, too bad, the security will probably bite your head off for suggesting you pay them a visit. This being said, the campsites themselves are pretty well organised, lit and have their own food vendors to satisfy their chosen ones, not to mention your fellow neighbours are friendly enough. Contrary to many rumours of tent burning, I saw absolutely no mindless violence or foul behaviour, but maybe that's because they were all in yellow camp, so I guess I’ll never know.

 

V is technically only a two-day festival, but with the vast majority of punters arriving on the Friday, the Arena is open, which at this point fairly clean, and the Radio 1/MTV stage showcased the likes of the incredible DJ EZ and Eric Prydz, who although had an incredible light show, played a set perhaps a bit too house inspired, and the silent disco is open until 1am to subdue the crowds and simultaneously adhere to the residential sound level of the Chelmsford area.

Smirnoff House

Saturday rolled around, and boasted a whole load of dance acts, such as the Smirnoff house stage, where Tinie Tempah’s DJ (if you could call him that) somehow wowed the crowds with his repetitive mix of hits. On the live music front, however, Rick Astley made a comeback with an incredible live performance. A big turnout and lots of fun, he threw in a cover of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk before ending his set with his beloved classic Never Gonna Give You Up, he certainly didn’t let us down. Also on the MTV stage, John Newman blew away expectations with new track Olé, as well as some classics and his Rudimental beginnings, also throwing in a surprising lone acoustic song written only a week previous, and performed for the first time on that stage. Emotional messages for loved ones graced the lyrics of the song, and although widely unexpected, it was a touching moment in an otherwise jam-packed show. Saturday also saw the likes of pop princesses Jess Glynne and Zara Larsson play, as well as the actual Tinie Tempah, and the elusive Sia’s strangely captivating stage show, which although fifteen minutes late was incredibly entertaining.

Performers at Sia

But really we need to talk about Justin. Rumours about a cancelled set were floating around on the Friday, and when he took the stage Saturday evening it was clear to see why. Looking desperately hungover, and clinging onto signs of life in his various backup dancers, any energy was almost non-existent and he’s half-hearted miming to about half the set was not fully appreciated by the crowd. This, paired with the fact he kept treating the whole show as another stop on the Purpose world tour; and calling the crowd ‘London’ over and over again, made for a pretty disappointing set, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, advise him to take an Alka-Seltzer next time and put it down to illness.

Justin Bieber

One thing that V festival has upped it’s game on is the food vendors around and inside the arena. After some freshly ground coffee, a chicken Caesar Salad with soft poached eggs and (my favourite) a four-cheese Mac N Cheese topped with Jerk Chicken, I can safely conclude you will be able to find something amazing to eat, which you’re going to need to keep you going as you power walking through the absolutely massive festival site.

Sunday came around even quicker than expected and brought with it a lot of more guilty pleasures. All Saints made their reunion on the main stage, and my childhood was made in the few minutes it took them to perform Never Ever and Pure Shores. Following on the Girl Band theme of the day, Little Mix also took the main stage, though opening with Salute and rocking khaki leotards, took a very Destiny’s Child turn, which, alongside a bubbly, high energy stage presence, worked for them massively, as well as bringing Lethal Bizzle on stage with them, driving their fans wild. The main stage also saw the likes of Travis, which though nostalgically fun, didn’t really fit with the other artists, and Example, who seemed to be experiencing some technological issues around his sound, but was fun to watch all the same.

All Saints

Little Mix

 

Over on the MTV stage, Big Sean brought the fire and got the crowd going, ending with his signature ‘I don’t F**k with you’ – a big favourite among the Adidas, flower garland-wearing crowd. Katy B also hit the MTV stage, performing a few of her old tracks, as well as some new ones. Jake Bugg played the MTV stage shortly after, which although backed up by only a band, some simple lights and a colourful backdrop, blew the smaller crowd away with his faultless voice and mesmerising lyrics. David Guetta was the second to last act on the mainstage, just before Bad Gal RiRi herself closed the festival, taking inspiration from the art deco style of the 80’s with her stage show, and seemingly channelling Michael Jackson from beyond the grave, she gave a show-stopping performance. A set which combined the Dirty Diana/ Billie Jean styled tunes of ANTI Desperado and Love on the Brain amongst my favourites, alongside a lot of fan favourites, including a medley of Run This Town, Live Your Life, and Love The Way You Lie. Although the mass amount of crowd around us were rather uninteresting and seemed content at watching the show through a smartphone, her voice, performance and crowd-pleasing setlist was enough to make us move and put the biggest, guiltiest smile on my face.

 

Big Sean

The crowd and general atmosphere of the whole festival was pretty boring, a lot of the festival goers seemed a lot more interested in their image than the acts, which was a bit of a first for me. Because the Lineup at V is so commercial, you don’t really get to stumble across many new bands or acts, as I’ve been lucky enough to do at other, smaller festivals. The smaller stages boost either DJs, already established artists or other acts such as comedy – which although enjoyable – doesn’t scream the festival atmosphere I enjoy. Where I appreciate that  V is one of the most expensive of the British festivals and therefore needs to pack in a crowd-pleasing list, it's lineup is actually pretty small, and doesn’t hold nearly as many artists as one of its main rivals, say Reading + Leeds, who still manage to support and showcase new bands.

I knew from the get-go that V wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, and with this in mind, I did still have a great time. It’s sheer size and sponsorship means that they get some big names, and they know how to accommodate them, the stage show for each performance fairly mesmerising and well planned. There’s also a fair amount of things to see and do (provided you’re willing to pay) but if as long as you like the music, walking, camping, and are adamant that you want to be surrounded by like-minded Instagram happy crowds, then V is the one for you, and you will definitely have fun.

Boardmasters 2016 Review

BOARDMASTERS 2016.

 

Boardmasters is undoubtably Cornwall’s biggest festival. Much like it’s partner, Nass, Boardmasters thrives off its love for music and sport. This year I had the pleasure to head down to the beautiful coastline of Newquay to soak in the sun, the surf and the music.

For anyone who has yet to go to the festival, it is located over two main beaches, Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay. Surfing competitions including Men’s and Women’s Open and Men’s and Women’s Longboard (LQS1000) located at Fistral and the music located at Watergate, with this year’s headliners being Chase & Status, Deadmau5 and James Bay. Other sports include BMX and Skateboarding which took place over the course of the weekend at Fistral as well as music ranging from Eliza & The Bear to Rat Boy at Watergate.

Walking into the festival arena on Friday, it was clear that it was something special. With the main stage to my right and the never ending sea on the horizon to my left, the atmosphere and energy was a completely different level to that of a city based festival. The air was fresh, the sun was out and the music was loud. With a buzz of people heading down from all over the country to go and embrace the popular festival, the diversity of families, students and children meant this festival was welcoming for all. One of the first acts which caught my attention was Nahko and Medicine for the People who really captured the alternative melodic music scene which is ever increasing down in Cornwall. Having played London’s KOKO in Camden a few days prior, the Oregon-native and percussion heavy artist drew a surprisingly huge crowd for such an early time slot.
Another up and coming band which caught my attention were the blues rock ’n’ roll trio Smokin’ Durrys. All three bands members spent their university lives down in Cornwall and where brought together by their love of classic rock and blues music. After their performance at Boardmasters, they are hoping that because of the positive reaction from their set that they are in the hopes of securing a slot in next years Truck, Y Not and 2000 Trees Festival.
As the day drew on all I could hear around the arena was the anticipation for Catfish and The Botttlemen. Having played Truck and Y Not Festival this year, they have definitely been one of my favourite acts of the summer and their crowds do not disappoint. Having been announced for Lollapalooza, Berlin as well as touring USA with Mumford & Sons, it is clear that they could easily be headlining festivals next year.
Chase & Status however proved that they deserved that headline slot. Drawing the biggest crowd of the day making the perfect end to the first day of the festival by playing some of their most classic and popular tunes.

I headed down to Fistral Beach for the majority of Saturday to witness the Surfing Men’s Open competition. As you walk down to the beach the paths are crowded with stalls selling all kinds of food and surf related clothing and merchandise. The sun and the clear blue sky, the clear water and the plan trees made Newquay look like California.
The beach was packed with spectators, photographers, and families, all soaking up the beautiful weather proving why Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the UK. The men’s open consisted of over 50 surfers battling it out for the grand prize. The semi-final consisted of Heat 1 between Shane Campbell and Tomas Fernandes and Heat 2 between Angelo Bonomelli and Bruce Mackie. With 0.57 difference Bonomelli managed to take lead in his heat taking him to the final alongside Campbell. However when it came to the final, an interference on Bonomelli’s second wave meant that Shane Campbell with a final score of 13.50 took the winning title of Boardmasters Men’s Open 2016. All scores from the other surfing events as well as video highlights from the 5 days at Fistral can be found on the official Boardmasters website. (http://www.boardmasters.co.uk/surfing/results)

 

By the evening I had made it back to the arena at Watergate to continue with the music, starting with Gabrielle Aplin. Famous for her feature in the 2012 John Lewis advert with her Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover of ‘The Power Of Love’. Her music is a lot more relaxed than the rock headliners of the Land of Saints stage, Maximo Park, but none the less her music brought a beautiful innocence and relaxation to the festival. Her voice so pure and strong for a 23 year old, drawing a huge crowd and performing songs for her first 2012 EP Home and her 2015 Album Light up the Dark.
Kaiser Chiefs undoubtably had a staggering, if not bigger crowd than Chase & Status. They are a band who have been around for many years but have proven they can bounce back with strong force. Bringing all kinds of characters together to enjoy the classic Brit-pop band, they played songs such as Ruby which drove the crowd wild.
Headlining on the Saturday of Boardmasters was Deadmau5. (I have never heard so many people pronounce his name incorrectly at a festival). His electronic dance music brought a beach rave element to the Newquay Festival. Having been a fan of his music for a long time, his set did not disappoint with a spectacular light show which took you into a trance with his melodic tracks. With many waiting impatiently for Craig David’s set after, it was much to his disappointment that he had to cancel his appearance due to a flight cancellation which left his fans upset. Nevertheless, Example performed his heart out to make up for this over at the Land of Saints stage.

 

 

 

Boardmasters had a range of different stages including Unleashed which centred around DJ and dance music, The View which turned an old metal camper into an acoustic stage and the forever famous Keg and Pasty Stage, which essentially summed up the Cornish atmosphere brilliantly.
The final day of the festival had a more rock and alternative lineup with Primal Scream performing main stage and James Bay finishing the night. With the previous headliners bringing electronic music to festival, having the folk-pop style of James Bay on the final night proved to be an excellent finale. Boardmasters is one of the most beautifully located festivals in the UK, and it is definitely worth the travel to far ends of the UK to visit.

 

 

 

Y Not Festival 2016 Review

After receiving the award for 'Best Medium Sized Festival' of 2015, Y Not Festival stopped at nothing to raise the bar this year. Returning to the festival for the second year in a row, I had high hopes that it was going to phenomenal, with headline acts this year including Editors, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Madness along with many more huge acts covering every angle of music. Once again situated in the beautiful fields of the Peak District, the festival itself has grown a huge proportion in comparison to last year. With thousands more people attending the sold out festival, it can only mean the food's greater, the crowds are better and the energy is bigger. The arena itself has transformed, keeping the traditions of the Y Not sign, the Helter Skelter and the Saturday paint fight, we now had the addition of a few new stages including Arnie's in association with 'British and Irish modern music institute' and The Neon Coconut featuring acts Craig Charles and Mike Skinner.

On Friday there was an already huge excitement for the day's lineup. We had the main stage feature the forever returning Lancashire Hotpots who never fail to put a smile on the crowd's faces. Not only were the acts gaining a crowd but the events surrounding the arena, away from the music, were just as popular. An indoor cinema which across the weekend show cased popular classics such as The Goonies, Star Wars IV – VI and Ghost Busters proved to draw a huge crowd throughout the entire weekend. The first act which is got the chance to see as well as photograph was Everything Everything who took to the main stage. Having been a fan of their music for a few years now, as well as catching them at Leeds Festival last year, I was expecting them to be as awesome as ever. Kicking it off with the song ‘Blast Doors’ from their 2015 album, ‘Get to Heaven’, Everything Everything picked up the energy of the crowd almost as fast as Mr Motivator.

 

 

Later on the main stage we saw an outstanding performance from The Cribs. With resemblances to The Sex Pistols and the Smiths, the Yorkshire trio played some of their biggest tunes from ‘Men’s Needs’ to ‘Different Angle’. On the Giant Squid stage we had YAK who have been becoming increasingly popular with the younger crowds over the last year, playing across the UK. This stage is notorious for having the heavier rock and alternative bands. DJ Fresh headlined the second stage Friday night, but it was safe to say he was definitely placed in the wrong slot on the bill. His crowd was without a doubt the biggest of the night, filling and bursting out of the small tent, with many spectators saying he could have easily headlined main stage at the festival. It is reasons like this that you can see how big Y Not has become even within a year. The festival will grow and grow, as all I could hear throughout the weekend was how incredibly the atmosphere was. Headlining the main stage Friday night were the Editors a band which I was not too familiar with. Walking into the pit and seeing their industrial sized props and elaborate stage setup could only mean that these guys were pulling out all the stops. The crowd was a big as that of DJ Fresh with the intense build up of energy as the minutes drew closer to the Editor’s appearance. Opening their set with ‘Sugar’ the energy transgressed from the instruments directly into the crowd. With fire blasting from the stage and a wall of sparks cascading down from the roof of the stage, the band was a spectacular start to the weekend of strong headliners.

 

 

Waking up on Saturday the energy of the festival was low. The sun was shining but after a fantastic first night at Y Not, the crowds were definitely in the need to recover. That’s why, year after year, the first act on the main stage was Mr Motivator. GMTV star Derek Evans knows how to wake everyone up with his classic 90s spandex and crazy wake up moves. For a man of 63, he has the energy and the motivation of a man more than half his age.
With the tradition of the paint fight, the performances from acts Blood Youth, and HECK, Saturday was off to a crazy start. After seeing HECK a few times over the last year, they have never failed to surprise the crowd, as well as the security. Matt Reynolds pulled out all the stops, as much as he could, since his leg injury from 2000 Trees Festival. Jonny therefore took this into his own hands and went as crazy as he could for the both of them. Some of the best acts of the weekend appeared on the main stage on Saturday, including Eliza and the Bear and Catfish and the Bottlemen.

 

 

 

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds were the headliners for the night. After seeing a lot of    impressionable ‘Gallagher style’ haircuts throughout the day, I was sure that he was going to draw one of the biggest crowd’s of the weekend. The majority of his set included songs from Oasis including ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. As impressed as the crowd were, even Noel Gallagher himself was proud of the crowd saying on his Instagram @themightyi ‘If you were in that crowd last night at Y-Not then I salute you!! One of the best We've ever played for’.
 

 

 

The final day of the festival brought us a lot of cold windy weather but that did nothing to stop the crowd’s high spirits. With performances from DJ Yoda, SIKTH, Blossoms, The Hives and Madness, the final day of the festival had some of the most diverse range of music going. The Hives were undoubtably one of my favourite acts of the festival. They could have easily been up there with Madness and Editors to headline the festival. Their crowd was also one of the roughest I’ve seen on main stage all weekend, as no one can beat the crowds for HECK, they’re simply too rough. After being in the photo pit for less than a minute for The Hives I was already drenched in beer and bruised from crowd surfers. They opened with ‘Come On!’ and finished with ‘Tick Tick Boom’.

Madness were personally not as strong as The Hives from a younger generation’s perspective. Yes, they encouraged a huge crowd by playing classic such as ‘Our House’, ‘House of Fun’ and ‘Baggy Trousers’, however it was definitely from a slightly older generation who preferred Madness over The Hives. Still Madness were a throwback which grew a heartwarming atmosphere amongst the crowd. Covering songs such as ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC, they encouraged the rocker loving youths in the crowd to join in on the fun.

 

 

Overall it is clear that Y Not festival has increased and grown to an ever improving festival. Taking considerations from the public, they have made this year as popular as the last. I hope I can watch as this festival continues to rise. If anyone has yet to visit the Peak District to take part in Y Not then I can be sure to you that it ill be worth it. A family safe festival full with music of all genres. I look forward to 2017.

 

T in the Park 2016 Review

T IN THE PARK kicked off on the Friday with an absolute belter. The sun was shining, The Stone Roses were headlining and un characteristically there wasn’t a mud puddle in sight – of course that didn’t last. Of course it wouldn’t be T without its trademark mud and after dodging it on the Friday the patchy rain hit hard throughout the next couple of days – festival goers brushed it off as nothing and cracked on. Situated at Strathallan Castle close to Perth, it was the festivals second attempt in its new location and 26th year overall. The festival bill was a strong one, a splutter of genres merging together throughout the three days. Blending together the new, the old and the loved by all, every age group was covered with a stella line up. 

With other headlining performances coming from Calvin Harris & Red Hot Chilli Peppers plus support acts including Major Lazer, LCD SoundSystem, Disclosure, Chase & Status, The 1975 and more, it was bound to be a good weekend of music.

The Stone Roses hit the main stage on the Friday. The bands merch floated around the festival site like nothing else and as the day progressed it began to get difficult to be difficult to spot anyone NOT in a signature bowl hat. The bands ‘second coming’ was surely seen as the whole weekends highlight. Performances by the Manchester group aren’t quite as sparse as they have been in the past with their reform back in 2011, but its impossible to ignore the effect the bands presence has on its crowds. The Stone Roses were bred for the festival set up – it is surely the definitive way to see the cult band. The band played a full set of tracks from their self titled debut album, favourites from the much under-rated second album ‘Second coming’ alongside a few new tracks including the new single ‘All for one’. The crowd followed every word of every song sung by Ian Brown, tambourine in hand, who finished the act by waving on the Scottish flag to applaud a fan base at T that he has become very accustomed to.

Disclosure opened up for The Stone Roses – a difficult transition however they easily held their own and as soon as the opening track ‘White noise’ was belted out, they had the audience in the palm of their hands. Disclosure are always capable of surprising people wherever they sit on the bill and if this set was anything to go by their headline act at Reading/Leeds festival could prove to be something huge.

Elsewhere on Friday, festival favourite whereever she goes, Annie Mac packed out the Radio 1 Dance stage with a typical fun and bouncing set.  In contrast Rodrigo y Gabriela performed at the same time in the King Tuts Tent with a smaller crowd who enjoyed the spanish infused heavy guitar riff style of music they are most famous for.  

Huge crowds swamped over to the main stage to watch Calvin Harris headline the Saturday. Quite the regular at T, Calvin is just behind Biffy Clyro for most appearances at the Scottish festival. Quite the transformation from the geeky looking artist of 2007 to the huge international DJ and producer that he is today. Its been a undeniably huge rise from the Scot who is now considered to be the face of modern dance music. He played a typically impressive set, reminding everyone just how many huge tracks he has notched up under his belt. Track after track of number one hits alongside new song Hype which included an appearance of fan favourite Dizzee Rascal.

 

Saturday's lineup also showcases Bastille, Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah, Kaiser Chiefs and more.  With health issues in the past year, Jess Glynne is one that I was very much looking forward to seeing.  Her amazing soulful and powerful voice fills the main stage with hits like 'Dont Be So Hard on Yourself', 'Not Letting Go' & 'Right Here'.  She sounds just as good live as she does on the radio, its a great performance to head into the evening.  Prior to Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah fresh off his new album knows how to get a crowd going.  His music is perfect for the festival atmosphere and having seen him numerous times before, I know exactly what to expect.  Hits like 'Mamacita', 'Pass Out', 'Written in the Stars' have the crowd singing throughout the entire performance.

 

Over on the Radio 1 stage, The 1975 close out the day as the rain dies down and the sun sets over Strathallan Castle.  There is nothing fancy about this performance, just a great selection of tunes which have a die hard crowd singing along to almost every track they belt out whist competing with the echoes of Calvin Harris on the main stage.  This isnt an energetic performance by all means, but its worthy of the headlining spot for this stage.

 

Red Hot Chilli Peppers topped off a superb weekend with a headline act reminiscent of their last 2006 headline appearance. Even strangely leaving hits, Californication and Dani California off the set list didn’t make for a disappointing show. The Chilli’s in full form played a huge set filled with crowd pleasers, new singles, Chad Smith solos and the occasional handstand back onto stage from Flea. The strong set was played with swagger from frontman Anthony Kiedis backed up by plenty of energy and gratitude towards the crowd from the rest of the band.

 

One of the most unfortunate festival appearances would have come from LCD Soundsystem who barley drew a crowd to the Radio 1 stage.  Major Lazer however drew a huge crowd to the Radio 1 stage with their mix of dubstep, reggae and house music.  With Diplo flying all over the stage mic in hand hyping the crowd up at every opportunity, its an entertaining set bringing all sorts of dance moves and hands in the air reactions.  Comeback king of 2016 is surely Craig David, armed with a DJ Booth and mic in hand, this is a talented performance as he single handedly mixes the music and sings.  Singing over tunes like Justin Bieber's 'Love Yourself' and mixing it with his skillful rapping, his set ensures the crowd is bouncing for the entirety.

 

Its fair to say that this years T in the Park was a marked improvement on last year.  Most of the issues that were encountered have been resolved and the event is well oiled engine that ran smooth over the entire weekend.  Regardless of the wet weather and the muddy grounds, the performances across the weekend leave us feeling satsified & happy.   We look forward to another year at the castle in 2017!

 
Photos by Kristian Lissimore

T IN THE PARK 2016