Arriving at Y Not late on Friday afternoon my spirits were in need of lifting. A straightforward 130 mile drive had turned into a 5 hour nightmare with seemingly endless congestion and roadworks. Driving across Derbyshire’s High Peak offered the first glimpse of the festival site. Tents, stage structures, a ferris wheel and sun reflecting from vehicle windscreens gave the impression of a twenty first century nomadic encampment on the Eurasian steppes; it was an engaging and uplifting sight.
As I pitched my tent close to the main stage the first notes of music punctured the air. It was simplistic, brutal and crude and did not impress. Walking into the main arena a few minutes later the same simplistic sounds now seemed filled with energy and were clearly thrilling a burgeoning audience. Some performer’s music works better when performed in a live environment and Slaves are clearly such a band. Energy levels and audience enthusiasm at the packed main stage were maintained byYoung Guns with their brand of melodic rock and by Reverend And The Makers. These semi locals (Yorkshire) and charismatic frontman had no difficulty in getting the large crowd to repeatedly, “bounce” to their upbeat songs.
The end of the Reverend’s set saw a mass exodus of people. Super Furry Animals took to the stage in front of a half empty arena. Their plodding mediocrity drove even more people away; they are clearly a band with a small hard-core following that did not deserve their billing. After about 20 minutes I could take no more and followed the example of others, opting for the far more entertaining Public Service Broadcasting. This is a band continues to grow, in terms of numbers (there were 7 on the stage by the time they finished) and musical palate. A great 30 minute set was over far too soon.
Snoop Dogg was a new experience and I was unsure what to expect. Arriving on stage 15 minutes late for his one hour set, there was no big headline production, just Snoop walking to and fro across the stage. To me the sound was a little “muddy” but there is no doubt that he was a great success with the large enthusiast crowd.
Saturday began brightly, perhaps a little too brightly! The vision of hundreds of gyrating buttocks, simulating horse riding while whipping their imaginary beasts, as bodies moved to the call of the fluorescent lycra clad Mr Motivator was not quite the morning I was expecting.
Unfortunately that was as bright as Saturday got for a few hours as the weather deteriorated and the main stage offered a string as pleasant but uninspiring bands. Friday had seen many of the smaller stages devoid of punters and I had wondered whether these were merely token gestures for a crowd who were focused on larger bands. Whether it was the increasingly cold, wet, windy weather or the paucity of entertainment on the main stage, I don’t know, but walking around on Saturday afternoon there was a real energy evident in some of these smaller venues. Two performances stood out on my travels; singer songwriter Martin Luke Brown, and the ridiculously young RedFaces.
Special mention must go to the Giant Squid tent, a home for music of a louder, heavier variety. It was always packed with people, with a succession of bands delivering music with great technical ability and some real intensity and emotion. It was effectively a like a festival within a festival, attracting fans, journalists and photographers who were there just for that stage.
The lethargy on the main stage was finally lifted by Deaf Havana. By their own admission they had not played many shows recently and it showed in a very positive way. Although playing to a limited audience, here was a band clearly relishing the opportunity to perform and doing so with great energy. As their set finished, crowds were flocking back into the arena for Ocean Colour Scene. Playing to a huge crowd, they clearly appealed to a wide age range and their performance saw more audience singing, suspect dad dancing and people on shoulders than at any time during the weekend.
Basement Jaxx are all about groove and having a party. Employing a variety of singers, dancers clad in led lights and culminating in a spectacular firework display, they kick started a Saturday night party that for many continued into the night; worthy headliners.
Sunday afternoon brought a chilled laid back vibe and sunshine; perhaps people needed to recover after Saturday night. King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys made a valiant attempt to get people on their feet with their infectious swing but the psychedelic pop of Manchester band Blossoms best captured the mood. If you wanted vibrancy and fun on Sunday afternoon, the paint fight was the place to be. Attracting revellers young and old, even this reviewer was sucked into proceedings as the mayhem spread. The aftermath also brought an array of colour as participants drifted back to the music, clearly buoyed by their experience and thier new multi coloured appearance.
Until this point the festival had been a pleasing but unexceptional event. Sunday evening lifted proceedings significantly as a succession of performers brought intensity and energy to the stage. Although derivative and owing a great debt to The Feelgoods, the musicianship and stage presence of The Strypes never fails to impress. Following them were Augustines, a band who I hadn’t seen before. Songs that I had previously thought, “okay” were taken to another level by their powerful stage performance.It’s some time since I’ve seen Johnny Marr. His songs, mixed with a smattering of Smiths material and a version of 'I Fought The Law' may have lacked the intensity of previous performers but I was really struck by the tasteful quality of his guitar work; although I guess I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this.
On The Quarry Stage the Kim Churchill one man band delivered a great raw set – if only his recorded output wasn’t so over produced! He was followed by The Bohicas, a young band with limited variety but an urgency and vitality that cannot help but engage.
Finally we came to Primal Scream, for me the highlight of the weekend. Opening with 2013 they delivered a blistering 30 minutes before slowing to draw breath with a couple of laid back Screamadelica songs. Upping the pace once more with 'Swastika Eyes' was clearly too much for some. Two characters behind me of walrus proportions, one swaying on the other’s shoulders, tumbled onto my back. Picking myself up I realised that all was not well and began to make my way gingerly toward the exit. Leaving to the fading sounds of 'Movin on up' was pleasing yet frustrating premature end to a great evening of music that lifted Y Not above the average.
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