Bushstock Festival (Shepherd's Bush, 1 June '13) // Words: Raman K & Saam Das
Sun and music descended upon Shepherd's Bush last Saturday, as Bushstock Festival returned for its third year. The Communion Records-led festival brought perhaps its most diverse array of artists to the fore in 2013, from its usual folk fare to more experimental offerings such as the upcoming Pixel Fix. Dare we say it but Bushstock is no longer the young pretender to the bigger budget London festivals.
We started our festival with the soulful vocals of Annie Eve (and her live band) in the ever magnificent St Stephen's Church - her performance somewhat reminiscent of Bushstock regular Daughter. For any newcomer to Bushstock, what may be immediately noticeable is that few venues can manage to replicate the beauty and acoustics of this setting.
The Defector's Weld, on the other hand, is almost a polar opposite - a small stage in a pub being the unwise host for the day's acoustic stage. Young War was its first victim, whose R&B-influenced acoustica impressed but also suffered against the pub crowd. Young War did however provide perhaps the highlight of the day with his witty explanation about why he was pursuing the tired anonymity angle - effectively summed up as "we're all here to make money, yeah?"
Back at the echoey hollows of St Stephen's Church, Sivu unexpectedly presented the audience with a full band, rather than his usual one-man folk. The result proving surprisingly, but often pleasingly, heavy. Fyfe followed, taking many by surprise with his guitar-infused experimental-electronica. Performing as a live duo, their sound reminded us of The Notwist.
As Elephants Are drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival in the sweaty dungeon that is Ginglik. Their more indie-led sound was continued by Pixel Fix, albeit to a smaller audience, and with a more experimental attitude. Neither of these caveats being a bad thing by any stretch.
One of our pre-festival highlights, Marika Hackman had the misfortune of playing the Defector's Weld, swimming against the waves of conversation bellowing around the pub. Nonetheless, her unassuming nature fit well, and her hypnotic vocals and storytelling should see her popularity continue to rise.
Even before Bear's Den took to the stage, they proved immensely popular - a queue of fifty or more eager punters had formed at Bush Hall, just hoping to make it inside for their set. A previous support act for Mumford & Sons, they share a similar sound, although arguably less cutesy and self-loathing than their more popular counterparts. Closer 'Hard Life' is the highlight, when the folk gives way to something of an unanticipated rock frenzy.
Joint headliner with Willy Mason, Theme Park were the final act of the evening at Bush Hall. The band were the Blog Sound Of 2012 but they haven't quite hit the heights yet - indeed, the crowd was noticeably thinner than for Bear's Den. Regardless, their selection of indie anthems and calypso tinge, brought joy to the end of festival warriors.
Considering two of last year's highlights, BASTILLE and Daughter went onto chart successful debut albums in 2013 - peaking in the UK charts at #2 and #16 respectively - we look forward to seeing which Bushstock alumni go on to considerable success in 2014.
Find more info at bushstock.co.uk.