Festival Review: Rockaway Beach 2018

on Saturday, March 31, 2018
Rockaway Beach (Butlin's Bognor Regis, 12-15 Jan '18) // Words: Saam Das

Rockaway Beach delivered the double whammy of knocking off both a visit to seaside town Bognor Regis and traditional family resort Butlin's in one fell swoop. As well as showcasing a string of brilliant bands, both old and new. Work commitments meant that the bands were missed on the first evening, but The Horrors and The Orb received particularly strong word of mouth, and the rest of the festival pleasingly met the subsequently high expectations.

Having checked in, we very pleasantly discovered that our room was mere minutes away from the stages, and perhaps just as importantly, the Splash Waterworld - a water-based adventure area, complete with flumes and soundtracked by indie tunes from juggernauts such as Oasis and The Killers. Surreal, and most enjoyable, and just one of the benefits of holding a music festival at a resort such as Butlin's.

But onto the actual music now, as the cacophonous Melt Dunes were the first band we caught at the festival at the Reds stage. Despite the early afternoon slot, a not insignificant crowd was present - mostly sitting down, but this proved common across the weekend. (Rockaway Beach certainly had the oldest average age of any festival I've ever been to, not that this was any issue.) The head bangingly punishing sounds of the five piece kicked off our fest in a strong fashion.

Unfortunately, Moderate Rebels appeared less than interested in performing at a music festival, and perhaps better suited to delivering a manifesto at a radical political conference. Thankfully Soccer Mommy offered more heart, Sophie Allison's solo efforts channelling the famous MTV Nirvana Unplugged set as much as Alanis Morrisette.

And then came the surprise of the weekend, as London outfit Snapped Ankles wowed just about every audience member in Reds with their shamanistic experimentalism, and their bizarre costumes and hilarious between-song witticisms. Never have I felt like I'd stepped onto the set of 'The Mighty Boosh' until this moment. As ridiculous as it was joyous.

Spiky performances from Desperate Journalist and Pulled Apart By Horses sandwiched Liverpool's She Drew The Gun, whose Kate Tempest-esque politically charged opening and striking imagery sadly gave away to something a tad more conventional. British Sea Power's presence on the Main Stage offered something a bit more unusual, adorned by greenery and appearances by random animal costumed friends, while delivering a great Greatest Hits set featuring the likes of 'Carrion' and 'Remember Me'.

Much like the preceding band, Saturday night headliners Wild Beasts plucked liberally from their back catalogue, as to be expected for the band's final ever scheduled UK festival performance. Tracks like the hypnotic 'Hooting & Howling' and the pulsating 'Wanderlust' showed how much this band will be missed.

Leeds outfit Koyo had the pleasure/misfortune of kicking off the final day's musical proceedings but did it in good spirits, with quips like "this is our second to last tune but you'll still be here for twenty minutes because...prog rock." Sweaty Palms didn't take to their early slot quite as gracefully, as their frontman rather unceremoniously disappeared part-way through the set seemingly to the bewilderment of all involved. That said, their garage rock did the job, and credit to the rest of the band for soldiering on sans member.

Eyre Llew left Reds in much less ignominious circumstances, albeit suffering from a drum kit mishap that led to a minor intermission. Their melodic soundscapes were worth it however, as was their resounding enthusiasm for the Rockaway Beach experience: "we asked to come here for the full weekend 'cos we fucking love it!"

Arguably the most likely band to make it big from this year's line-up are Brighton's Yonaka, already signed to Atlantic Records and headlining NME Awards Shows. Huge sounding rock anthems like 'Ignorance' and 'Run', the latter of which made it into my Top Ten Tracks Of 2017, and their live show demonstrated that you should believe the hype.

The nostalgia-driven bubbly lo-fi pop of Helen Love had much of Reds teeming with smiles, followed by an altogether moodier Gang Of Four. The seminal post-punkers now only feature one original member, Andy Gill, but this didn't stop the crowd from lapping up classics such as 'Damaged Goods'.

Over at the Main Stage, the genre-mashing Alabama 3 provided some idea of what a Butlin's pantomime (at least one catering for adults) might offer, with choreographed dance moves and some colourful comments about having sex with people in wheelchairs. As bizarre as it was energetic.

Rockaway Beach 2018 came to close with the superb Peter Hook & The Light, which brought a weary crowd to its feet on several occasions. Charismatically led by the Joy Division/New Order man, Hook plundered from his incredible array of hits, almost splitting the set into two separate halves dedicated to each band. Iconic tracks including 'Disorder' and 'Blue Monday' built up brilliantly to the ever-emotional 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' - a special finale to a special festival.

Rockaway Beach will be returning in 2019. Find more info at rockawaybeach.co.uk.

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