Y Not? Festival
2nd-4th August 2013
The ‘small’ of Y Not’s slogan “Small Fresh Loud” rings instantly true as I approach the front gates of this young, independent Derbyshire weekender. Rarely can you see the entire perimeter of a festival without taking a literal bird’s-eye viewpoint, even from within the site itself if you find the right hill.
Unsurprisingly enough, the first act I see this weekend, Dutch Uncles, get a far smaller crowd than they deserve at the main stage. Beneath a brief bout of sunshine, they deliver a punchy set of xylophone-infused pop, with frontman Duncan Wallis looking fully immersed as he throws himself hither and thither like he’s dancing in his bedroom.
Later on, Chapel Club showcase a bunch of new, synth-heavy numbers from their second album ‘Good Together’ (plus a couple of oldies) over at the indoor Quarry stage. Despite the bold change in sound since their debut LP ‘Palace’ in 2011, the five-piece seem completely at ease dropping their guitars for much of the set. What’s more, singer Lewis Bowman no longer hides behind the mic-stand but instead asserts his lanky figure high above the crowd, standing on monitors and even fisting the air at times. It makes guitar/synth player Alex Parry all the more hard to believe when I ask him if his frontman still hates gigging, as he once confessed in an NME interview three years ago. “Yeah yeah, he hates it,” he tells me, “but in a funny way, we all kind of laugh about it.”
It would appear Bowman’s not a fan of interviews either, keeping a sizable distance for much of my stay in his dressing room until he’s goaded by his bandmates into answering some questions about the description on their Twitter account. “’The thinking woman’s One Direction’? I don’t know… we had something on there before, and I probably thought, ‘it’s been there a while, I’ll update it with something that makes us appear publicly like we’re fun-loving, happy-go-lucky guys.’”
Of course, Mystery Jets have no need to fabricate such an image, and, despite playing outdoors in the increasing dampness, are as fun-loving and happy-go-lucky as ever. That is until they are ordered off the stage amid an approaching thunderstorm, barely five songs in. There’s talk of a potential no-show from tonight’s headliners as the storm passes over, but then a miracle occurs. The thunder ceases, as does the rain, and then, under an eerily cloudless night sky, The Horrors make their way out in front of a drenched but still eager crowd.
Kicking off with ‘Mirror’s Image’, they rip through a strikingly short set, perhaps curtailed by the shaky conditions, with a disappointing lack of any new material. The seven songs they do play, fortunately, hit the mark every time as frontman Faris Badwan struts frantically about the stage in a fashion rarely seen this side of 2007.
The “Loud” of Y Not’s slogan becomes ever more apparent as Joe Spurgeon’s drums give a battering to those in my ears, a racket matched only by Badwan when he puts his mic to Josh Hayward’s guitar amp during closer ‘Moving Further Away’, creating some kind of spontaneous theremin with the feedback. The song is stretched out to somewhere approaching twenty minutes, and yet it’s hard not to feel like it’s all over far too soon. You’d expect more from a headline act, but under the circumstances you’d have to be a prize knob not to forgive them.
Day two sees garage-rock two-piece Drenge play an unfathomably noisy mid-afternoon set on the main stage that proves their worth far beyond being just “that Labour MP’s favourite band”.
They are followed by Swim Deep, who do an excellent job of diluting the crowd with every female, face-painted, hyperactive adolescent on site, drawn in by their offerings of saccharine ditz-pop and an especially awkward cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’.
On the Quarry stage, Temples do that unpredictable thing of being completely unremarkable on record but surprisingly good live. As shamelessly derivative as their songs are, the Kettering quartet play with more than enough energy and gravitas to create the illusion of flesh over their well-worn psychedelic bones.
“We don’t really try and do what some of these bands are doing, like try and get the crowd to do certain things,” Gary Jarman tells me backstage, both of us having just overheard Kids In Glass Houses order “at least 70% of the crowd” to kneel down for no apparent reason. It’s a rule that seems to have gone over the head of his bandmate and brother Ryan as, halfway through their set, he implicates the crowd in a pastiche of one of Freddie Mercury’s famous vocal call and response games. “Yeah, it’s too early [in our career],” he quips afterwards.
As different a headline festival slot is to what might be called a ‘normal’ Cribs gig – they were playing the modest 1000 capacity Coventry Kasbah only last night – it’s the most confident and energetic I’ve ever seen them play (this being my seventh time). The set is concise (why Y Not only give their headliners an hour is a mystery) but varied, encompassing singles from every era of the trio’s back catalogue. Album tracks are scarce but arguably provide the highlights. ‘Be Safe’ sees Lee Ronaldo make a virtual appearance along with the loudest sing-along of the night while ‘City of Bugs’ begins with Ryan letting out his inner Queen again, shredding through the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ solo, and ends with him hurling his guitar several metres as though actually trying to destroy it.
“This may be one of the best shows we’ve ever played,” announces Gary. The feeling is certainly mutual.
Not disheartened by a progressively brown and battered field, much like those standing on it, China Rats brighten day three with vigour that would better fit a sunset slot at Benicassim than a drab afternoon in Derbyshire.
Later, The History Of Apple Pie deliver one of the noisiest sets of the weekend in the Quarry tent. One of the most overlooked shoegaze bands of recent years, they win over an initially disinterested crowd, gathered primarily to escape the rain, showcasing the delights of their debut LP ‘Out Of View’.
The less overlooked Toy also bring a heavy dose of fuzz to an ever dryer, and more populated, Quarry crowd. An excellent, as yet unnamed new track gets an airing as well as a markedly looser version of ‘Motoring’, ditching guitar riffs in favour of feedback-laced improv.
As night falls, I’m reminded of why exactly I’m sticking through all the rain, mud and misery that comes with it: in an hour or so, The Darkness will be closing down the main stage.
They walk on looking every bit the rock ‘n’ roll anachronism you expect, together striking a wide-legged, hand-holding, Spinal Tap-esque pose for minutes on end as if basking in their own perverse glory. If that sounds like a criticism, it isn’t. Only the most humourless could take issue with The Darkness’ frivolous aesthetics as, once they launch into opener ‘Every Inch of You’, they’re as raw and real as hard rock gets.
The highlights are predictable, i.e. singles from ‘Permission to Land’, but no less enjoyable for it. Frontman Justin Hawkins teases us with the intro of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, strumming one chord and pausing for the inevitable applause, two chords, more applause, three chords – you get the idea. In the hands of any other band it would be wholly frustrating but, this being the weird pantomime of a Darkness show, we’re more than happy to play along.
Things only get weirder for closer ‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’, during which all band members (minus drummer Ed Graham) piggyback their way through the crowd with the help of some roadies, with guitarist Dan Hawkins still playing a more than competent solo, before crowdsurfing back over to the stage.
“To the person who probed my anus, is everything alright up there?” asks Justin. While the probing certainly wasn’t my doing, I’d assess that as long as his head stays firmly out of there, everything will be more than alright. For tonight anyway, The Darkness save Y Not from being a one-way ticket to hell… and back.
All pictures by Kristen Goodall.
All words by Will Dix. You can read more from Will on Louder Than War here.