Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Bushstock 2015 - Review

Last Saturday Breaking More Waves hit the streets of West London for the 5th Bushstock festival, another multi-venue, single access wristband event, that is defined by a well curated line up and a value price (super early bird tickets were just £15, rising to a final price of £30). Here’s what we learnt over the course of the day:

1. As far as festivals go, Bushstock is as untaxing on the body as they come.

We spent the first three hours sitting down in venues; under the giant paper lanterns in St Stephen’s Church (pictured) and then on the beanbags, sofas and rugs of The Common Room Stage. Plus as an added bonus all of the stages were within 5 minutes or so walk of each other - tired legs and feet were not a consideration.

2. Despite what you might think or have read Bushstock isn’t just a ‘new-folk’ festival.

The event was run by Communion Records, purveyors of all things folky, and the event has a past reputation for acoustic / singer songwriter leanings, particularly within the church venue. However, the event has diversified to cater for all sorts of different music. During the course of the day we caught scuzzy fuzzy rock ‘n roll of the indie format (Honeyblood) and the dirty sweaty attitude laden garage pop type (Misty Miller) and even electronic shenanigans from Strong Asian Mothers who provided samples of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, brass, laptops, an indoor firework (just the one), a brown suit jacket, shout outs to the internet and a general sense of anything could happen and humour.

3. Fashion Tip 1: Beards are on the way out.

Over the course of the last 6 or 7 years we’ve noticed the slow growth in men sporting facial hair, particularly at gigs and festivals. When we first attended Bushstock the face to beard ratio was particularly high. Last year we noticed a definite decline in the beard presence and this year it was even smaller. Maybe there’s a correlation between the more diverse line up that Bushstock now provides and the beard count, but we suspect it’s as much to do with fashion and trends and that beards are just about to become deeply uncool again.

4. Fashion Tip 2: Headbands may be on the way in.

This is a longshot, as we only saw one person the whole day wearing one, but Samm Henshaw’s guitarist looked the part rocking his starry headband on the new-for-2015 outdoor courtyard stage. Maybe the upturned umbrellas that hung from wires above the area were a sign to keep the rain away (see below), and if it was, it worked. Henshaw’s music moved clouds as well, a mix of classic old school soul and rock, with the slender vocalist not afraid to encourage some feel good sing-a-long and clap your hands in the air moments.

5. Frances could be the next Rae Morris or even the next Adele, but she’s more likely just to be Frances.

One of the most fully assured and composed performances of the day was from new artist Frances who played a solo piano set in the church that managed to combine that most complex of things - a sense of broad scale and ambition, but with as much intimacy as there was power. Closing tune and current single Grow melted the heart with ease.

6. If Bushstock continues to diversify musically then so do some of its artists.

The best example of this was Lucy Rose, whose set under the chandeliers of Bush Hall was fuller and more robust than her soft acoustic playing of the past – no longer new-folk Lucy, but almost indie-Lucy, complete with guitar licks and some minor head banging, albeit in a fairly genteel way. Unfortunately a slightly muddy sound, particularly on Lucy’s vocal didn’t allow the set to sparkle; there will be better gigs ahead for her.

7. When evening comes, sometimes you just need to dance.

Thankfully Liverpool’s All We Are (streaming below) were ready to provide the slinky grooves. Clearly relishing the opportunity to play Bush Hall, the trio were the musical equivalent of a cup of coffee, slowly lifting and invigorating the crowd with their smooth blend of layered indie, funk and ethereal guitar pop including a cover of Caribou’s Can’t Do Without You. Each member of the bad contributed not only with their instruments but the vocals as well. “This one’s for all the lovers,” they proclaimed at one point, before they continued their flow, slowly turning the heat up further. 

8. If you took every band that organisers Communion had ever had any involvement with and mixed them all up, the chances are they’d sound a lot like The Beach.

With the shortest set of the day (just 4 songs due to earlier soundcheck problems) the large crowd that had gathered to see The Beach may have felt a little short changed, but the reception for the songs that came across like Ben Howard having a go at an anthem suggested a developing fan base already. Extra marks for starting the set in the church with a song that features the line “I found god and it wasn’t enough.” 

9. Lisa Mitchell makes adorable music.

From the opening notes of set opener Wah-Ha, which found a number of couples suddenly putting their arms around each other, Mitchell’s mix of delicate acoustic and keyboard led pop made everything about life seem that little bit better. Just lovely.

10. This year’s Bushstock seemed busier than previous years.

At past Bushstock festivals we’ve seen hardly any evidence of venues being full to capacity at Bushstock, despite being sold out, but this year whilst experiencing no problems ourselves, we did see a number of ‘at capacity’ notifications on Twitter for some stages, suggesting that perhaps more tickets had been sold than before?

In summary

High on quality, low on hype, Bushstock once again delivered. Highly recommended - 
Bushstock shows that not all festivals have to be tiring.

All We Are - Keep Me Alive

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