So in the shattered abscence of Guilfest this year, the only feasable (and cheap) alternative was indeed Redfest, in the midsts of Redhill and very, very surprisingly small, but the lineup was pretty good for £70 and it was sunny – for at least one day anyway.
It’s one of those strange festivals that only lets you in with your stuff the morning of the first day so bleary eyed at 9am we were stood in a, again surprisingly blisteringly hot, field assembling tents, which is always fun, and safe to say after that there wasn’t much to do but drink and play card games – the first band wasn’t on til 12 and i wasnt remotely interested in anyone before 4, it ended up in mass sunburn and more pain but it passed the time at least. By 12 pain had set in so I wandered down to have a look and caught the very end of a band named Of Fire And Fate, bizarrely the second i walked in i clocked a music classmate on guitar – if you’re into heavy screamy stuff they may indeed be worth checking out, I was still sleeping.
After a return and severe decision there were absolutely no worthwhile bands playing, it reached 4 and Arcane Roots were playing. They’re a very complex ununderstandable affair, one minute launching into heavy indie rock fueled area with sweet vocals and the next thunderous heavy death rock with a lot of screaming, both of which were very good and certainly gave a well needed taste of flavour, but it felt like they were playing us 2 different incarnations of themselves – like if Bowie had come on during the Spiders tour and done The Laughing Gnome for instance. With no time to muse on that, Subsource were up on the next stage and for anyone that has ever come accross the band, they are a must see kind of band – I had at Guilfest last year and been hooked on them ever since. They present a mix of dub-by breakdowns and heavy guitars all wrapped with a tough dance-y edge that naturally causes mass mosh wherever it hits, they played a short set but the entire tent bowed down at the command of lead singer/double bassist (an eccentric mix when tearing around the stage) Stu Henshall and it certainly went off.
Understandably after that it was much much hotter than before and shade was desperately dived into, handily in another dip in the talents – had it not been so hot the lack of variation and general talent that day may have bugged, i’m the kind desperate to get my money’s worth in musical education that generally sits around itching to get back to seeing bands over playing Spoons for the fifth time and the weekend wasn’t exactly that kind of affair, just a thought.
Anyway, it was about half 7 by this point and Dance A La Plage were on, if you’ve been reading this site long enough you’ll know i’ve been a bit of a fan for a while but have never actually got the chance to see them – one way or another through more tedious links and the discovery they were actually only from down the road meant not seeing them now was not an option anyway, but they were very very good. I got there just as one of their first singles, Matilda, ‘s intelligent indie pop had been burst into and the crowd were appearingly lapping it up. The band quickly dropped into a cover of Marley‘s I Shot The Sherriff with bassist on impressive vocal duties that effectively cemented the fact that they were very much brilliant to everyone in the crowd, at least, before continuing into newer tracks that reflect further promise of ace-ness (I am single-handedly on a quest to make that a word). The name is apt, the music is perfectly summery and live they were more than enough to kickstart a Friday night – top.
Next up Dog Is Dead were on, I weaved my way into prime photo position and they let the indie shimmers rip. They played all sorts from last year’s debut, All Our Favourite Stories, the entirety of which summons dancing around the stage regardless of whether you are playing keyboards and saxophone or not (Trev was definitely the one in high demand, the crowd behind me became a shouting rabble everytime he glanced vaguely over, he’s cool and can also play the saxophone with some incredible moves too) so everyone else soon took that on board and copied delightfully. Towards the end of the set, the older Glockenspiel Song and Two Devils were unleashed, both sound more so impressive live with a chorus of voices, interjecting with a one guitar – choir style approach and finally latest mega single, Teenage Daughter, with a healthy balance of funk and riffs closed the set leaving everyone in great anticipation of how tonight’s headliners, Dry The River, might top it.
I had no time to wait around though, The Other Tribe had been smashing up The Boileroom stage for the past half an hour and they were an affair never to be missed live, presented by the high pursuit running to secure places in the slowly filling up tent the second DID left the stage. I got mine and within 10 minutes was fully immersed in the sweaty crazy rabble trying not to break my camera while jumping as high as gravity would allow, then they played Skirts. Skirts is still undoubtedly one of the best summer sounding songs out there currently, channelling the standard TOT combinations of afrobeat percussion, swirling dance-tinged synths and squealy (in the best way) 80s vocals, even possibly BeeGees at moments, with even more grace and brilliance than usual to produce 4 minutes of constant explosion – naturally everybody went mental. After that there was time for a quick new one keeping standards at a high before latest single, Kisses, ended it all, a calmer answer to Skirts but nonetheless it instigated a lot of dancing, by which point the band too had joined the crowd – tribal warpaint by this point increasingly less visible smudges, and got up to look sincerely humbled when shouting their thank you’s and fleeing offstage, at least they said goodbye this time.
After much aching feet were picked up and recovered, I slunk back to the main stage to discover Dry The River were running handily a bit late down to techs tearing around the place and crept into the crowd to get a nice view of their set. Soon enough they emerged and ripped into their quite surprisingly, massive sounding folky rock. The thing that caught me about them was, from quickly listening to a couple of tracks the night before, remaining unimpressed and passing them off as “Mumford & Sons with less banjo” (the world didn’t need the original, letalone more wannabes), despite their at points very subdued sound, the entire band appeared like they were in a heavy rock band – particularly straggly haired bassist, ,leaping about the stage – and did their show with the energy and personality of a rock band, definitely much, much better than Mumford & Sons and I quickly found myself enjoying it entirely. The hits eventually came in thick and fast, again it shocked to see how many hardcore fans I was surrounded by, I’d assumed they were always quite a small underground outfit that were probably big enough to headline Redfest because it was admittedly a bit of a rubbish festival that gave new bands a chance without the golden oldie headliners that were favoured at Guilfest (not that that was ever a problem with me, some of the finest moments of life in fact) but in all honesty, live they blew others out the water and really were headlining because they had the power to headline. More of the heartfelt big ones were played and they were visibly cut exceedingly short for a headline set, much to everyone’s dismay, no encore was played but as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter, Dry The River were the least suspected to win me over as one of the best acts of the weekend, but they certainly did – it’s a shame their album doesn’t quite capture the same essence – seeing them live assured the real thing.
After that there wasn’t much left to do but to collapse into a tent, I’d desperately wanted to join the incredible looking crowds at the silent disco and catch the Subsource documentary (screening at 2am every night, or morning, depending on your views) but sheer pain and sunburn had overcome, besides the next day held some good musical promise.
The next morning was much the same of card games, recovery and shaming from whatever messes I’d avoided in camp when actually watching music (people at festivals still do that?!) until the sheer pain of sitting around struck once again and after listening to Escapists and Moulettes bring the house down from the tent, we went to check out some for ourselves. The mainstage was greeted just as Loveable Rouges were unleashing shitpop (everyone’s favourite genre) covers at unavoidable volumes of ukulele, friends disappeared in their grasps – it pains me, it really does – but cider and family were located and seats in The Boileroom tent away from the rain to watch Joel Baker “J O E L Baker, like bread” as he told us fifty times in a minute (nopromo) scatter acoustic musings around the afternoon, realistically his set was nothing new, it’s a 20 something and an acoustic guitar and there are about twenty of those to every chicken in the world (that’s a lot), but it was nice to hear someone who could actually sing quite nicely for the first time all day. Soon after that the inevitable call of more cider meant catching a bit of The LaFontaines happened, I was bitter on the basis they were replacing one of my top ever favourite recently split up bands, Sharks, but more so bitter because they sounded like Loveable Rogues again, just with no covers and more guitar – I’ve heard them described as Rizzle Kicks mixed with a heavy rockier band last relevant in 2003 whose name fails me currently and despite my actual like for Rizzle Kicks, that’s probably about the measure of it – the crowd seemed to enjoy it anyway.
Next we caught a bit of Eagle Prawn, a woman singing, a man on some kind of complicated very huge tuba with the strangest name, outfit and sound i’ve discovered in recent years and promptly had to leave the tent for killing ourselves laughing in time to see the end of To Kill A King (I’d forgotten about them and was slightly gutted to miss so much), they sounded very, very good indeed.
At long last a band I’d planned to see was on in the form of Red Kites, naturally it was a family affair and I’d last seen them play in my uncle’s backgarden a few weeks before so was quite intruiged to see what they had in form for an actual live show (I saw them possibly about 2 years ago in a sweltering cafe in the backalleys of Guildford with a very different line up, but it was too hot to notice much and they’ve released 2 incredible EP’s since).
Safe to say within 5 minutes I was taken aback with how incredible they really were, I’ve been listening to the new EP (New Life Ignites, avaliable on all good websites, kerching etc.) quite a bit recently and it really is very, very good but when performed it’s on another scale of complete force and emotion. They played a mix of the two with latest single Threads succeeding to draw in quite a crowd with it’s overly ‘nice’ twisting melodies and sharp riff that amount up to one explosive chorus that’ll remain stuck in your head for some time, making way for older track Hold Fast to unleash it’s power and cries of “na na na”‘ singalongs that make it feel like they should be playing on much bigger stages than this one and should’ve been for some time.
The band themselves prove this to be true with their onstage prescence, guitarist Liam Trevor storms around the stage effectively mesmerising everyone in his path with as much skill and talent you can possibly cram into one fretboard and backed up by the sheer combined talent of Craig Ferguson on bass and Andy Reeves on drums, meanwhile Jan Cees Samsom on keyboards/backing vocals/any other percussion left kicking about appears insane in the best possible of ways by parading around the stage with violent tambourine shaking and headbanging presenting only sheer enjoyment and the inescapable personality the band has. This is all pieced together by lead vocalist and guitarist Moteh Parrott who proceeds to sing every last lyric oozing emotion and a genuine heartfelt nature reflective of every experience the stories of each track cover, it’s visibly clear these are very much his own and that remains one of the untouchably brilliant aspects of the band, they are completely authentic and original in every sense. One of the band’s first singles, Beat In Time, is too given a completely heartwrenching rendition provided by a perfectly cut up delivery from Parrott and draws every person in the audience in only more before the equally catchy and quite genuinely awesome tracks from the new EP, Plans, was launched into cementing the high quality of passion and talent between the five before they left the stage. Everyone around me looked massively impressed and I certainly wasn’t left out either, a group of such incredible stuff deserve more in no time and I’m 100% certain there’s big things ahead. Onwards and upwards…
After a sudden jolt back into the world, I could see The Crookes had already kicked into Bear’s Blood and swiftly speedwalked to the second row to catch a glimpse of their still ultimately brilliant liveshow – if I’ve worked it out right this was the fifth time and it’s still impossible to flaw them. The band crusaded through their ever amounting catalogue, ripping into classics(well in my mind anyway) like A Collier’s Wife and Chorus Of Fools side by side with the dwelling Stars and Where Did Our Love Go?, both tracks from last year’s incredible LP Hold Fast, with complete ease. Naturally tracks like Afterglow and Maybe In The Dark saw the band tearing around the stage with admirable enthusiasm watching their crowd succumb to the English summer rain, George Waite‘s headbobbing is a constant thing at all Crookes shows and you have to appreciate how he hasn’t done his neck in yet, it’s a sacrifice well made for everyone’s enjoyment though – The Crookes are a dancing band, and it would be wrong not to.
My only confusion with them is how they have still remained quite so undetected by nearly almost everyone, the group haven’t come close to a bad track in their 3 respectable albums by this stage and when Little Comets follow half an hour later, the field is packed despite the now torrential soaked to the bone kind of rain, a band I think are brilliant but only having one great and one slightly under par album worshipped by the masses, it’s just a personal qualm but it pains me how they’re overshadowed by bands such as the latter, The Crookes are ace and you gotta trust me on it. They rounded up the set with Backstreet Lovers, still an absolute favourite, and a mass singalong of Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians leaving all those in the know suitably happy. I’d only really come for them and Sharks, and Sharks had split up but they managed to make my £70 seem utterly justifiable, when’s the next gig?
As previously mentioned, Little Comets followed and by this point it seemed like everyone had been swimming and lots of hiding in the cider tent was called for. The first half of their set was survived in the mass rabble non plussed by the rain as they thundered through tracks like Matilda, Jennifer and appropriately considering the melancholic tone of it all, Isles – a track of which still remains one of my favourites. They ducked and dived into a high proportion of the last album too with underlying sadness of Bayonne and the allround jumparound crowdpleasers of Worry and Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night, however bar the latter two, it all seemed a little hit and miss, the same had occured when I saw them (again with The Crookes shadowing) in April and although the crowd seemed to be appreciative of whatever was thrown at them, the band seemed quite distanced playing it and you couldn’t help but wish they played more of the debut, it was an incredible one at that and everyone around me left suitably disappointed when they didn’t play One Night In October, understandably so, it’s LC at their best, but this seemed maybe not so much. That said, it’s hardly rain fitting music, is it?
After this warm was searched for again and accidentally stumbling into a tent to catch the very last 2 minutes of Turbowolf (another one I’d forgotten about, better planning is definitely needed) that was enough to even make my mum, who i’d located by this point, turn to me and go “they were insane! just mental” and they really were, any opportunity to see them fully will be grabbed with both hands I assure you, it was a shower of strobes and incredible heavy sounds. Another tent brought us the start of Ryan Keen, another acoustic-y male type with a nice voice, just as he was asking the crowd to join him on a cover of Coldplay’s Fix You, I have no overly big of an issue with Coldplay so thought it might be nice, he was clearly skilled at guitar and did a whole patter about one he”d just designed before going off on a tangent of improv. before the song started to showcase it (nopromo) however by the second verse a worry became apparent, he’d left the crowd to sing alone relying on his guitar playing to give him enough of a voice. It didn’t overly impress from there on in, the dull carried on, luckily with vocals and became quite forgettable, which was a shame considering the feat of the headliner the night before.
After a quick realisation Lucy Rose had been missed (again) and Bastille were about to come on, I’d seen them at Guilfest last year and after going alone since no one would listen to my “they’re gonna be big you’re gonna love them” claims, as with Reading a month later when they’d blown into full public proportions and I was turned away from an overflowing tent, seeing them headline Redfest was set to be my I told you so moment, regardless of whether their debut had left me very much underwhelmed, besides no one else was on. They did naturally capture the crowd within seconds by starting with hits like Bad Blood and Laura Palmer, both admittedly great pop songs, and that set the tone for the rest – lots of screamy preteen girls. However the one thing I am constantly impressed with is their vocal approach, on top of Dan Smith‘s absolutely shining vocals the rest of the band’s backing only makes it quite unbelieveable, there’s an acapella performance of Overjoyed that just kills me everytime I hear it and with or without instruments, they are brilliant for that alone. Soon string sections were unleashed for Things We Lost In The Fire and the entire band were bouncing around the stage brimming with energy, getting the entire crowd to crouch down and pogo back up for their cover of Of The Night, utterly brilliant one at that. Seemingly all too soon, but by which point it’d been quite enough for me and then some thanks, there’s only so long you can listen to them before things start to blend, Radio 1’s latest darling Pompeii was set out on in the expected style, complete with To Kill A King back onstage performing backup vocals and egg shaking duties, humbled by the fact “we are even headlining anything” leaving the festival ending on a suitably indie pop but happy note.
Redfest certainly wasn’t the greatest festival for music, but it did showcase some amazing stuff and is the perfect size to catch breaking bands, how they ever got Bastille in the first place mystifies me, but it was very great. Though it wont be Guilfest replacement no1 anytime soon, get on it.
*There’s more photos up on http://www.facebook.com/DaisyEdwardsPhotography for those who care, meanwhile I’m off to Turkey with no internet and no guitars, shock horror, for 2 weeks now so it will be a bit dead for awhile, though fear not, when I return I am seeing Suede once again, along with BSP and Teleman, and it might just be quite good*