PHOTOGRAPHY Katie Willoughby
WORDS Harley Cassidy
Y Not Festival, held in the Derbyshire countryside, burrowed somewhere between the Peak District and Pikehall has grown in size and stature since it's coming of age in 2006. Best known for it's assortment of large scale to small scale bands, it's refreshingly cheap ticket prices and the fact that there's something essentially for everyone, it's no surprise that this year sold out.
This year's line up featured crowd-pleasers in the shape of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Madness, The Coral, Editors and so forth and if you were to witness Noel's Saturday headline slot, you would have seen him give a rather heartfelt shoutout to the "This Feeling" tent, otherwise known as the Allotment stage, in collaboration with Jack Daniels and rock and roll club night, This Feeling.
The This Feeling club nights have been rather prodigious over recent years, with founder Mikey Jonns working tirelessly to give up and coming bands the opportunity to live through their dream, tour around the UK, get their music onto a bigger platform both through social media and online articles and ultimately to group together like-minded people in order to form a community. This sense of warmth and compassion has fallen quite flat in the digital age, we don't really need to form communities anymore to meet people like us, so would it be trite to suggest that This Feeling is like a family? Either way the energy and talent in the tent was palpable. It would be impossible to write about every band that played the stage, pretty much all to packed out audiences, so here's a rundown of the highlights of the weekend.
Firstly, let's talk about Friday night headliners Black Honey, who have truly grown into their right as not only a band but as performers too. Izzy Baxter is completely captivating; she seems more confident than ever and can play a woozy, coy, dead-eyed Lana Del Rey just as much as she can a narcotic Debbie Harry. My main favourite feature of the band is that they give off this cool, Americana persona even though they're from Brighton. I mean you could definitely imagine Izzy driving down Sunset Boulevard in a vintage Chevy, wearing a beret and smoking a fag. Madonna is a personal highlight live, all 60s psych-rock, surrealist vocals and attitude, whilst the songs off latest EP, Headspin, go down a treat too.
Keeping in the vein of This Feeling's frontwomen, Bang Bang Romeo also gave a truly memorable set. In fact, scrap that, because lead singer Anastasia Walker doesn't even have to be put into a female functioned category to prove that she had enough fire and more than enough vocal to take anyone on at the Allotment stage. Bang Bang Romeo already look the part with fringed jackets, feathered shoulder pads and silver hair (and that's just the guys), but none of it even seems necessary when you here Anastasia sing. It's the kind of bluesy howl that makes Alabama Shakes so special, aside from the fact that Bang Bang Romeo's set was more like a performance piece. There's comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, but I doubt even Stevie Nicks could of walked off stage, into the crowd and generated a kind of sit-down singalong/moshpit the way Walker does so early into her career. Pure passion has ensured that Bang Bang Romeo will be a stand out band at every festival they play.
The tent was also met with vigor by Glasgow's Baby Strange, a black-clad trio who have been criminally underrated since they appeared three years ago. They have that wonderful Scottish snarl to their songs, including "Friend" and "Pure Evil," which bristles like the early-Clash. Despite their angsty persona, the indie bangers under their belt are some of the most profound this weekend.
Also performing are Broken Hands and I vividly remember the last time I saw them live because frontman Dale Norton was wearing a lab coat and dancing like a tripped out Axl Rose. On paper that could sound slightly deterring, even terrifying, but live, it's pretty mesmerizing. Once again, the Canterbury four-piece brought their bold, engaging sound to Y Not; every song has the potential to be a mini-anthem and their focus on writing music about space and transcending makes them all the more intriguing.
This Feeling favorites Hidden Charms were given something of a weak slot, (they were playing the same time as Catfish & The Bottlemen), but if you thought that would deflate them, then think again. They've been building a steady rise and fanbase for quite some time now, no thanks to their slick, blues-infused psych pop and swinging sixties style. There's more to their varnished sound than generic indie rock and their tightness makes them a compelling live band. Similarly, Paves showcase a penchant for that era too. Luke Shields seems to be a frontman who is very conscious of how his music should come across; thoughtful, honest and ultimately, uplifting. His bare vocals leave the crowd clapping and cheering; the band in general seem unassuming yet tenacious, stripped back yet brimming with full-throttle energy making them an interesting contradiction to watch close up.
Then we have Cabbage. How does one explain Cabbage? Or I guess the trick with understanding Cabbage is that you can't really explain them. Without a doubt one of the most entertaining bands anyone has seen or witnessed in years, especially if you're into Fat White Family, they're never going to be known for a pristine quality of sound or a polished, well-rounded appearance, but rather for a loutish charm that knows no boundaries. Lee Broadbent is the wild-eyed debaser of the group, yelping the band's chaotic, country-tinged blues left, right and center. If you can peer past their shambolic nature, you can see that, in fact, Cabbage are a group of very concsious young men, aware of the times they live in and the pitfalls of society - especially for young people. They sing about the NHS and the demise of Donald Trump (hear, hear) and seem to have no interest in any music agenda, instead going via their own trajectory. Everyone's personal highlight.
How White Room haven't gained more attention yet is beyond me and anyone who has ever seen them live. For a start, they incorporate the ever enigmatic tambourine into their live shows, a main staple for the true Rock and Roll frontman. But honestly, their songs are pure, youthful excitement, you see it everytime Jake Smallwood steps on stage, looking and sounding like a young Alex Turner, drenched in sweat and euphoria as he clambers around the stage.
Speaking of shamanic frontmen, The Vryll Society's Mike Ellis is ridiculously interesting to watch, too. He has this Tim Burgess kind of groove going on and doesn't take his sunglasses off once during the set. The band in general have a Northern swagger to their songs, a cosmic scouse groove that makes it really, really hard to stand still. Even if you're sober. "Beautiful Faces" is simply ethereal and every guitar line is soporific, it's like they're feeding off the audience - The Vryll Society better be ready for lift off. Eyes were also drawn to Cardiff's brash Tibet who have a talent for Britpop songwriting and the fun, high impact punch of Asylums, who look like a bunch of cartoon characters laying down some heavy indie.
Finally, Sunday headliners The Shimmer Band have already gained something of a cult fanbase within the This Feeling crowd. Their swirling, distorted sound is so fast-paced that it's hard to keep up with it all. They described their song "Shoot Me Baby" as an "overflowing, exploding, white-knuckle gut-shot of a groove" which also neatly sums up their whole set. Shoulders are sat upon, moshpits are formed and no one gives a shit about Madness playing the main stage as the purveyors of the future are in all this tent.