If there’s one word to describe West London’s Bushstock Festival it would be pleasant; and that’s not a criticism, it’s a compliment. Reading and Leeds this most certainly isn't. With just 7 venues (one of which is a church) all located within relative close proximity to each other, a programme that finds most stages done and dusted by 11pm and a line-up that this year includes the likes of The Staves, Nick Mulvey and Benjamin Francis Leftwich, it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely that there will be any gurning off-their-faces loons in attendance. This is an event for the more discerning music lover, or for those who just don’t want to push their bodies too hard whilst experiencing a day of quality live music - and the emphasis is very much on quality - you're very unlikely to experience a duff performance at Bushstock.
Now in its 7th year, Bushstock is created by the people behind Communion music and has a reputation for putting on many ‘next big thing’ acts in intimate spaces way before they become household names. I’ve seen the likes of Bastille play in a small pub to less than 100 people, George Ezra opening the day in St Stephen’s Church and Josephine from Oh Wonder in her Layla days performing at this festival. It will be interesting to see if any of this year’s acts progress onwards and upwards to commercial success in a climate that is becoming increasingly difficult for new artists to break through.
This year besides plenty of new artists Bushstock adds some new venues (The Library at the Bush Theatre and the charity clothes store Traid) to the likes of St George’s Church, the outdoor Courtyard stage and the chandelier and mirror lined Edwardian dance hall of Bush Hall for plenty of architectural / environmental variety in which to enjoy the live music.
Whilst the beauty of any festival is stumbling across something out of the blue that you’ve never heard of before, it would also be a little strange if I didn’t provide at least one or two recommendations of lesser known acts on the bill for you to highlight on your timetable. So here below are five names I’ve picked for your consideration, all of whom have featured in past introducing pieces on Breaking More Waves.
Mirror Fury (13.00-13.30 Courtyard Stage)
There really is no excuse to not catch Carina Bragg aka Mirror Fury - unless she is ill, as she had to pull out of a show yesterday, so I'm hoping she's better for next weekend. After all she’s due to open the whole event, and the Courtyard Stage, where she will be performing, is also where the wristband exchange is. Need further convincing? Listen to her commanding and emotive cover of REM’s The One I Love below. Get there early.
Jade Bird (14.00-14.30 St Stephen’s Church)
I featured Jade Bird in a preview piece for Great Escape Festival last month and I’m putting her forward again here. With just a tiny hint of Ed Sheeran meets Dolly Parton about her, it’s still very early days for Jade, but her acoustic mix of country, pop and folk and songs about relationships going wrong will be a fine way to open up the day in St Stephen’s Church.
Joy Crookes (15.30-16.00 The Library)
“If David Lynch wanted a soundtrack for his Twin Peaks reboot, and Lana wasn't available (probably because she's still too busy putting on that red dress) this could well be it,” I wrote in February 2016 of the then seventeen years old Joy Crookes. Now that sounds like something not to be missed, especially when you slide in some sweet soul smoothness to the sound as well.
Fours (16.30-17.00 Defector’s Weld)
They had to be my fourth selection didn't they? “If E4’s teen drama show Skins was still running I’d be pretty sure that Fours would be cropping up there to soundtrack a sweaty, sexy disco party,” were my words in January 2016. OK they might be playing in a Shepherds Bush boozer in the later afternoon rather than a hip shaking club, but this four-piece are still worth catching for some indie high fives and grooves such as Fade To Love which has clocked up over 2 million plays on Spotify.
Liv Dawson - (Bush Hall 21.00-21.30)
I've seen Liv Dawson a couple of times now and she was listed in last year's Ones To Watch 2017 list on the blog. What strikes me about her is the way her songs are so full of yearning and her vocals so perfectly delivered, irrespective of if she's doing mellow dance pop like Open Your Eyes (below) or tender soulful ballads. Bushstock will be Liv's second show of the day - she's warming up for Bush Hall with an earlier gig at Wildlife Festival near Brighton.
Bushstock takes place next weekend in Shepherds Bush, London. It usually sells out, so get a ticket quick, by clicking here.