Bushstock (Shepherd's Bush, 2 June '12) // Words: Saam Das & Raman K
Last Saturday, one side of London saw annual hipster extravaganza Field Day, while the other end of London saw annual multi-venue folk extravaganza Bushstock. It was double trouble in another sense as we took two writers to the latter festival, boldly going where no FG writer had gone before. Our adventure is recanted in full below.
Beginning under the arches of St Stephen’s Church in Shepherds Bush, the soulful Mahalia kicked off our proceedings. Accomplished beyond her mere thirteen years, an obvious highlight is her cover of 'Mardy Bum'. Already one to watch but we look forward to seeing her kick on in years to come.
Nick Mulvey followed, showcasing a soulful acoustic set. His sombre voice and strings echoed Jose Gonzalez, notably in the tracks 'Trellis' and 'Venus Come To Share'. Lyrically reminiscent of Conor Oberst, he fully captivated the would-be congregation by his final piece, 'Cucurucu'. Since leaving the Portico Quartet, the undoubtedly gifted artist is boldly proclaiming his solo talent.
Over at the Defectors Weld, the softly spoken Rae Morris wowed a packed crowd in a slightly unsuitable venue. As I suggested in our Bushstock festival preview, Rae's performance could well be an "eye-opener". She certainly didn't disappoint with her melodramatic piano-pop.
Fink found themselves playing to a slightly less busy crowd - actually a welcome proposition considering the previously restricted view. Somewhat confusingly Fink began life as a one man trance DJ but here at Bushstock saw them play an acoustic set as a blues duo.
Raghu Dixit and his outfit were quite possibly the highlight of the festival, with a splendidly energetic performance complemented by their wonderfully colourful attire. Significantly influenced by their Indian heritage but with the odd Western influence - one song even had a distinct surf-pop vibe - the combination proved majestic. Possibly the only time that St Stephens Church has ever witnessed mass dancing amongst its aisles. Genuinely a must-see live.
Signed to Universal Records, Madrid's Juan Zelada was one of the more established artists on the Bushstock bill. His sextet brass band brought some uplifting swing-pop to affairs at Shepherds Bar. Juan’s energy and charisma hauled the crowds onto the dancefloor for an early afternoon jive. Unfortunately, the melodies and voice were generic and unmemorable. The result is lukewarm Americana flavoured pop, instead of the potentially adventurous Latin sax appeal.
A pleasant surprise came in Ellen And The Escapades. Ellen’s smoky vocals and tidy folk compositions were subtle and lingering. In this day and age, it is the kind of music that will probably only get noticed after ending up on the final scenes of some episode of a popular US TV drama. Folk of this kind has more relevance in the States, but really this Leeds band could foreseeably woo the fanbase of Mumford and Sons.
Despite featuring Alessi's Ark many a year ago now, it was only at Bushstock that I finally saw her play. Her Ark this time around composed a solitary companion named Georgia, and together they delivered quirky folk tunes. Over at the bizarre underground venue Ginglik, another duo Gabriel & The Hounds displayed their impressive dark folk-rock to a disappointingly uninterested crowd.
Back at the Shepherds Bar, Paul Thomas Saunders had assembled a band to bring down from his native Leeds, showcasing a quietly captivating sound that treads between widescreen dream pop and electro-folk. Unfortunately, they took their time in starting their set and then one of the sound engineers rudely barged past us, a combination of factors which saw us abandon ship and head to the Defectors Weld a few songs into their set.
Silent Devices were unfortunate to have one of the most poorly attended shows of the festival, perhaps unsurprising considering their ambient-post-rock conflab, significantly set apart from the folk backbone of Bushstock. Regardless, their performance was a welcome change of proceedings, which even inspired a wide-eyed young girl to press her face against the window to discover just who was playing inside.
Let's Buy Happiness were next on at the Defectors Weld, delivering similarly charming performances to the ones I'd seen at the Camden Crawl 2011 and The Great Escape 2011. Their anthemic soundscapes shined, with the likes of 'Fast Fast' and 'Six Wolves' sounding as good as they ever did, albeit amid technical difficulties. New single 'Works Better On Paper' arrives this Monday.
Daughter were possibly the most anticipated act of Bushstock, following a glowing recent live review. A year on from playing St Stephens Church first on the bill, their headline set did not disappoint. Despite obvious nerves from frontwoman Elena Tonra, the trio delivered their hauntingly atmospheric folk-pop adeptly. The first of many festival headline appearances, we suspect.
Our final stop of the evening was to return to Defectors Weld to catch the latter half of BASTILLE's headline set. Considering the relative lack of capacity in the venue, it proved surprisingly easy to get in, a significant contrast to the likes of The Great Escape and Camden Crawl. Their triumphant melodramatic pop went down such a treat that they were implored into reticently playing an encore of recent B-side 'Sleepsong'. Which was suitably enjoyable, and a nice end to a tremendously enjoyable festival.
Many thanks to Communion for putting on the festival, and Stayloose. Find more about Bushstock at bushstock.co.uk.