Festival Reviews


Our first venture to a non-UK festival and pleased to report a first-class experience. 
 
The event was located on a Leisure/Safari Park just over the Dutch border from Belgium, a 3 hour drive from Calais. Entry to the campsite was not allowed until Friday so we travelled Thursday and stayed in a hotel at nearby Tilbourg; otherwise a middle-of-the night departure would have been required. Not a large festival, about 15,000 people which included weekend campers, weekenders staying in chalets on the park, and day visitors. First impressions were extremely favourable as the camping was just a 10-minute wheel-barrow push from the car park. The festival site was a 20 minute walk from the camp-site so nipping back to the tent during the day wasn't really an option, but this sounded better than some of the chalets which we heard were up to 45 minutes' walk away.
 
The main stage was on a man-made beach by a lake named, in typical direct Dutch style, 'Stage One' with the others being 'Stage Two', a sizeable big-top, 'Three' and 'Five' (smaller tents) and 'Four' an area a couple of minutes away that hosted DJ sets most of the time. Such was the quality of bands on the bill we didn't venture there at all.
 
This festival is well organised and the most noteworthy aspect is the chip that is part of the festival wristband. This needs to be loaded up with cash and is the only means of payment for drink, food, merch or records. This leads to minimal waiting. Even if there was a queue at the bar it moved exceedingly quickly as no cash or tokens were changing hands. One tip for any future visitors however, the chip cannot be loaded with Visa/Mastercard, just a local NL 'maestro/PIN' card. This gave us our one stressful moment of the weekend as we had to load all our cash onto our chip on day one and spend an hour Saturday morning driving 5 miles to Tilbourg to locate an ATM.
 
As regards catering, the standard beer on offer was 'Juliper', available in small (250 cl) or large (440cl) servings. It was interesting to observe the differing drinking habits. While I walked around most of the weekend clutching a large beer in true 'brit abroad' style, most of the locals (including groups of lads) were drinking beer in the smaller 250cl portions. After a day on Juliper I was craving some real ale or 'The Cider Bus' but the closest available here was a small selection of craft beers available on the jetty bar stretching over the lake.
 
We had been drawn to this festival by the excellent line up, but one experience to recount: Sunday afternoon we had fantastic band after fantastic band including (on the bounce with no time in between) new band Gengahr, 2014 favourites Alvvays and the fantastic Mew. So having been taken to such a high I truly thought the Royal Blood set later on would be a perfunctory viewing of this much hyped band - but it took us to a yet further high, a reminder why we do this stuff.
 
And so to the bands:
 
FRIDAY
 
Metz (Stage Two) - Raucous guitar tunes from Canada
 
Drenge (One) - This band have matured over the last 18 months, and whilst still technically a two-piece brothers Eoin and Rory were today accompanied a third band member adding a further guitar. Shades of Parquet Courts guitars and clever lyrics grounded in Arctic Monkeys style. My favourite was ' When I put the kettle on, you put heavy metal on'


  
 

Fidlar (Two) - As we entered the tent we both wondered how come so many people in Netherlands had heard of her. As the lights went down it became amusingly evident to us this was not Stockport-based songstress Finlay !  No, this was a quite different proposition. Fidlar are a guitar band from California but were greeted like local heroes with moshing and crowd-surfing from the off. Dressed for the beach. Emo tunes spattered with heavy guitar riffs.
 
Klangstaf (Three) - Wandering to Stage 3 for the first time we came across this local Netherlands band. 4-piece with drummer side-on plus guitar, bass and keys. Verve-sounding tunes with prominent keys. The fact they were a local band didn't stop people talking so their delicately crafted tunes got a little lost.
 
Yak (Five) - 3-piece indie guitar band with occasional keys thrown in. Jim Morrison meets The Strokes. Announced their last song after just 30 minutes and went into a superb 8-minute chaotic number replete with drum solos, PA kicking and guitars strewn on the floor. Marvellous 
 
Eagulls (Five) - Good to see them do some new songs 'Stab In The Dark', 'Opaque' and 'Life In Reverse' which appear to signal a slight mellowing in their style. The prominent nature of George Mitchell's vocal requires the sound balance to be spot on which sadly it wasn't today (at least from where we were standing at the front).
 
Chet Faker (Two) - Drew a large and enthusiastic crowd for his rehashed classics
 
The Tallest Man On Earth (One) - this is the moniker for Swedish singer songwriter Kristian Matsson. Sounding like the love-child of Bob Dylan and Hamilton Leithauser..... with some Sam Duckworth guitar action thrown in. Despite hailing from Sweden I'm sure he announced this his first time in Europe (??).  He was accompanied by a band but the 2-3 songs he did on his own were somehow more engaging.
 
The Libertines (One) - Of the three headliners this weekend (the others were Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Alt-J). The Libs delivered the most vibrant top-of-the bill show by far. Libs shows are a stroll down nostalgia lane but the chemistry between Carl and Pete is truly wonderful to behold. With many music media column inches being devoted to their forthcoming new album they gave a sneak peak by playing single Gunga Din.  A defining band of the indie-age; great to see them on such good form.
 
 
SATURDAY

 
Rhodes (Three) - A wonderful sound. Hearing David Rhodes' vocal I suspect the jury would be out as to whether it was male or female. He was complemented with a four-strong band on drums, guitar, bass and keys (with occasional Cello). Spine-tingling songs. Album is coming out late August - let's hope the production gives these songs an indie feel rather than a 'James Blunt' veneer. I believe this will be a defining point as to whether this excellent artiste falls into Radio 2 mainstream or 6Music quality.
 
Sue The Night (One) - Suus de Groots gave a wonderful performance with a 5-strong band in support. Did a quirky version of Heart Of Glass
 
Fickle Friends (Three) - Female lead (also played keys).   Poppy songs given a thumping edge through the prominent bass and drums. Got the crowd jumping at the end with a Caribou-sounding number (coincidentally called 'Swim')
 
Temples (One) - A wonderful band, should be sub-titled 'The Young Persons Guide To The 1970s'. Apart from the young indie dude on drums the three front-line band members have the look of rock icons: John Lennon, Ian Hunter, Dave Hill (of Slade, but with black hair). Their set swings between jangly guitars, 70's style guitar solos (on new song 'Volcano') accompanied by lyrics early Genesis fans would warm to.  If their look doesn't lay down their RnR credentials their songs certainly do
 
Of Mice And Men (One) -  British Sea Power playing Lanterns On The Lake covers
 
Death Cab For Cutie - I can't make out whether DCFC sound like everyone else or whether everyone else sounds like DCFC ?   A great set from this highly accomplished US indie band. Closing song 'I Need You So Much Closer' filled the tent with stunning sounds

 

  


Follakzoid (Five) - we were drawn in out of curiosity after hearing a few bars. This band from Chile was Kraftwerk doing Bellowhead. Certain factions of the Dutch audience were going mental. Each song lasted 8-10 minutes with chord changes 5 minutes apart. The repetition was mesmerising.... to a point. I was waiting for the moment it all fell into place - but it didn't.  As I left during the closing number I turned to a guy wildly bopping around and said ' You Dutch like some f***ing weird shit'. He smiled broadly, nodding in agreement and high-fiveing.  [Aren't festivals just wonderful !]
 
Balthazar (One) - Wonderful to see this Belgian 5-piece playing such a big stage. Veering between indie tunes and prog-rock time-signatures, the guitar playing was excellent throughout
 
Boxed In (Three) - horrifyingly appeared to be in the Keane mould in their first song, but quickly threw off any comparison as they moved into a quality dancey number for their second tune. The sound got darker during the following tracks including ' Say It All'. New number 'Searchers' reverted to a mainstream feel but plenty on show here to suggest this band could go far.
 
The Vaccines (
One) - A notable aspect was the large mosh-pit behind the tented sound desk. You couldn't see the stage from there (and the band wouldn't have been able to see them!). Great to see a bunch of people enjoying music for music's sake. New songs are clearly moving into the anthemic/stadium-filling direction but sounded good for all that.
 
Hookworms (Five) - A moody sound. Vocals/keys with two guitars, bass and drums. Highlights of the set were when the guitars got into a frenzy against the back-drop of the thumping beat.
 
Kindness (Five) – Best set of the weekend and unquestionably the niftiest footwork. This show was a real performance with Adam Bainbridge directing the show (as well as the off-stage huddle/pump-up in the wings beforehand). Fantastic female vocals (two of em), smiley guitarist and drummer - all leading to a show with pinpoint precision and unrehearsed feel in equal measure, with each song culminating in chaotic drumming. At one point Adam handed a cowbell and drumstick into the crowd - the couple in front of me who grabbed it soon got bored so passed it back - so I was delighted to accompany a couple of tunes from the floor.  (Well it sounded in time to me  ..... ! )


Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - we caught the last three songs, a really good number off the album followed by the single (which I'm not keen on) and then Don't Look Back In Anger. The crowd seemed fairly muted but burst into life for the final number.

    

SUNDAY
 
Pretty Vicious (Two) - Everything about this band is brilliant: their Youthfulness, their band-name, their swagger, their maturity of performance, their songs. Excellent rockin tunes throughout the set. Not in the 'Metz, North American-rock' style but 100% in the UK-indie sound reminiscent of Sex Pistols/ Ramones / Strokes / Libertines (and yes I acknowledge two of those are American) but this is a British, vibrant indie sound with a genuine punk edge.
 
Marmozets
(One) – Kerrang favourites from West Yorkshire, comfortably gracing the main stage. Didn’t draw a particularly big crowd but most of them were going wild.  I guess you either love em or you hate em.
 
Wolf Alice (Two) - London-based indie guitar band, being watched by Pretty Vicious from the side of the stage. Lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell's piercing voice fills the tent. Their set builds and builds to a wonderful climax. We met the band later that day in the pop-up record shop - were able to tell them that amongst our forthcoming tickets we have two gigs at Southampton Guildhall: Wolf Alice and Bob Dylan, so they're in good company ! 
 
Gengahr (Five) - another band I was excited to see having caught them supporting The Maccabees on recent tour. They sound even better live than on their excellent album, A Dream Outside, recently released
 
Mew (Two) - I was surprised to see this fantastic Danish band on so early, renowned for giving good value for money, I was curious to see how they would structure a set lasting just 45 minutes.  Suffice to say it was brilliant - liberally peppered with songs from their excellent recent release '+/-'. (Satellites, Witness, Water Slides) dovetailed with favourites from their three earlier albums. For the first time in my many excursions to see this band they didn't play Comforting Sounds, the usual set-closer; just as well as that would have taken 10 valuable minutes from this stunning set.
 
Alvvays (Five) - fantastic Canadian band led by beguiling vocalist Mollie Rankin. Their eponymous 2014 album was my favourite of the year so great to see them airing their tuneful songs live. Taking to the stage in the now familiar Arrival (by Abba) they proceeded to deliver a wonderful set containing three new songs too


  
 

Swim Deep (Three) - a rather odd experience. This band was not announced on the programme and we wandered in as they went into their first number not knowing who they were. I vaguely recognised the band but couldn't pinpoint them. So here we were judging the tunes on merit with no pre-conceived ideas and no influence from hype. The male vocalist had a deep speaking voice but sang mostly falsetto. Indie tunes, some verging on an emo sound but mostly guitar/keyboard based melodies. By mid set we had worked out this was a British band and this was reaffirmed near the end of the set as Wolf Alice walked in. They eventually announced their band name as they went into the last song. A refreshing experience and highly enjoyable set.
 
Royal Blood (One) - this much-hyped Brighton duo are a band that, through force of circumstances, we hadn't see before so they were definitely on our list. But after such an intense afternoon of exciting bands on the smaller stages, we simply felt maxed out as we strolled toward the main stage to watch them. But such is the power of rock n roll to lift us to yet higher levels.  Royal Blood delivered on every front: energy, performance, swagger and most notably their superb songs. Their 2014 album is one of those that is crammed so full of great tunes that watching them live you are convinced they've done all their strong material but they continue to deliver great song after great song. As a two piece it would be easy for them to just rock through their album but you get the real feeling they think through their performance which is duly punctuated with goading the crowd, standing on the drum kit and culminating in drummer Ben Thatcher crowd-surfing.
 
Sohn (Two) - gentle electro tunes that grew and grew. Accompanied with guitar and drums though barely visible through the dry ice. A quality performance.
 
Alt-J
(One) - an excellent set from this accomplished band, playing a varied selection of songs from their two albums. This band always conjure up colourful images in my head so it was interesting to see the screens either side of the stage were in monochrome for the whole set, apart from song Blood Flow when a hint of red was appropriately added. The band lined up as a four across the stage giving a Kraftwerk feel to the performance. Clinically delivered songs in classy style. 

To sum up,  a well organised event. The ticket price offers excellent value for money though this of course must be offset by the additional travel costs. But overall a festival we would commend to anybody.
 
 
Si & Sally

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What was once Hard Rock Calling over three nights in Hyde Park has found itself as a one day event on Clapham Common with a capacity 10% of the former event. No doubt had ticket sales been higher then the site size itself would have been larger. The Calling Festival this year really was the festival  equivalent of an intimate indoor gig. The O2 vs Shepherds Bush Empire perhaps.

The festival had the feel of a one day event all over, catering and bar stock, pretty uninspiring. No Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi this year either, it's Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds headlining the main stage with 2015 breakthrough band Wolf Alice top billing on the second stage.

So, excepting what it is, the day is actually full of cracking bands for your £60. Sundara Karma were our first band of the day on stage 2, A very capable outfit and one to look out for. The first big hitters on the main stage just after 3.15pm was Echo and the Bunnymen who delivered a glorious hit laden 45 minutes in the afternoon sunshine. The next positive was as there were two stages located pretty close to each other, there was only one band on at a time. The timing was actually pristine, as one band left the stage, there was the next one walking onto the other stage.

The Hives are getting older but remain as energetic as ever and get the crowd in audience participation mode from start to finish. James Veck-Gilodi comes across as a very able singer- songwriter on the second stage after which, the very fine, Modest Mouse blast though their set on the main stage with the sun still blazing. Having had their instruments "liberated" according to main man Isaac Brook, the band sounded just great on presumabley borrowed instruments. A quick fire succession of 'Lampshades on Fire' and 'Dashboard' had the crowd jigging and 'Float On' had the crowd jumping.

 

Bleachers just rocked on the second stage, crowd arms aloft loved it. 7pm and Ryan Adams and the Shining take to the main stage. This is Ryan in Neil Young & Crazy horse mode. All electric, massive amps as stage props and a vintage Dr Pepper vending machine and various animal models and memorabilia make up the stage background. The five piece band is a well oiled machine now and Ryan is in guitar hero electrified mode.

The twelve song set started  with a powerful 'Gimme something good' , drifted into the countyesqe 'Let it Ride' then a rocking 'To be Young'.Just with an hour set, the songs came thick and fast, as Ryan pulled his guitar shapes to each. An electrifying sixty minutes!

Set

Gimme Something Good

Let It Ride

To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)

Stay With Me

Dirty Rain

Fix It

Kim

Shakedown on 9th Street

This House Is Not For Sale

Peaceful Valley Come Pick Me Up

Magnolia Mountain

 

By the time 8pm arrived, most people seem to be in the queue for toilets, food or beer and that's where most people enjoyed Wolf Alice from. A superb set of high energy rock n roll for 2015 from a band cementing their place in the band of the year spot!

Last band of the day and headliners of "a gig in a big field" as described by the man himself earlier in the week were, Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds. Both albums get a look in and new songs like 'Riverman' and 'Lock All The Doors' are early winners. The set contains half a dozen Oasis songs and an early doors showing for 'Champagne Supernova' had the whole crowd as one singing at the top of their voices. So let's hope these brothers make up one day!

A great day out in London Town, not a festival though so 'Calling' has some soul searching to do before 2016.

Pete

Photos

Day two and a special Sunday in East London; the sky was blue, the sun shone, the crowd was around 15/16,000 mark which was comfortable and the vibe was a happy one.

Ex-Hex were first up (most bands seemed to have flown in from Primavera in Porto overnight) and all donned in sun glasses (in a tent) gave us a rip roaring thirty minutes of bubblegum pop, just perfect for the weather on the day.

Allah-La's took a bit longer to get into their breezy west coast reverb set, but triumphed in the end as the crowd grew larger and larger inside the tent.

Canadians' Viet Cong from Calgary, where not in the mood for any sunny pop that's for sure. Rising out of the remains of 'Women' their set was pretty much sonically heavy, but heavy with style and power. Almost Crazy Horse like in places, with the never-ending, endings to songs.

Matthew-E White was in duo format. "If you know the words to the songs, help us out and sign along" One soulful voice, two guitars. Being joined by Natalie Prass on vocals late in the set was a great idea.

My Brightest Diamond is singer–songwriter and general all round musician Shara Worden and her three piece band, all of whom were in supreme form and highly entertaining. As was Jane Weaver and band in psychedelic mode for lengthy songs from her new album Silver Globe.

Over to the main stage for the first time and it's 6.30pm.The sun is still strong as Patti Smith apologises for wearing sunglasses as the sun beats down on the main stage. (no apology required) Again, she was in Portugal last night and she is 92 don't you know! Well according to Patti herself that is. From the viewpoint of the crowd she actually looks to have the power, energy and enthusiasm of a twenty year old!

On a tour playing debut album 'Horses' night after night, she could easily be forgiven for going through the motions but none of it, this as a real 'lump in the throat show' of an album that is forty years old this December.

Songs were sung with power, passion and poignancy. The crowd was the biggest at the main stage all day and what was the truest testament to this album actually came from the crowd itself. Two girls standing next to me in their early twenties knew and sang every word of the entire album. An album that just gets passed on through generations it seems.

Once the album is completed with 'Elegie', written for Jimi Hendrix orginally but, now shared by Patti with us all us to remember all those we and she has lost over the past four decades it brings the show to an even more intimate level to the point, where you forget you are standing in a park and watching the small figures on the stage from so far away.

The shows wraps up with classics 'Dancing Barefoot' dedicated to PJ Harvey, ' Pumping (My Heart)',  'Because the Night' . 'People Have the Power' and 'My Generation'. It's magnificent.

Who on earth can follow that and provide any level of excitement anyway close to Ms. Smith, well it would have to be Savages?

Jehnny Beth and co are at their usual powerful, primal and snarling best back in the Shacklewell Arms tent which is rammed to capacity. A chunky section of new songs, and old favorites and an hour later, dazed and still exhilarated its back outside for the last night of this leg of the Ride tour.

The main stage is packed back to the mixing desk, and then it is very sporadic. With all the other stages finished, it looks like more people attended today to see Patti Smith than Ride which, with tickets going faster than Lewis Hamiltion on a pole setting lap for the band's recent UK shows seems strange.

Not that any of that matters, the band are on majestic form. Just three songs shy of the recent  Roundhouse show, it's still amazing that we are witnessing with this band being back on stage.

So for £45 Field day was a cracking Sunday afternoon/evening's entertainment. See you again in 2016!

Pete

 

The inaugural Common People Festival held over two days of the Bank Holiday Weekend on Southampton Common. No camping facilities so this made for a very local audience. 

Previous events on this scale have been The 80s Festival so good to see a move in a rather more creative direction. Driving force behind the festival is Rob da Bank and it had the slight feel of being an advert for other events he curates in this neck of the woods, notably Bestival (Isle of Wight) and Camp Bestival, the very family-friendly festival held at Lulworth Castle.

The consensus was that as the inaugural event they had played safe with the line-up which comprised a large sprinkling of DJ sets (including Saturday headliner Fatboy Slim, and Rob da Bank himself on day 2). The bands were also mainly local, including Band of Skulls. Sunday’s headliner was Grace Jones, again going for the mass-appeal vote.

Organisation was pretty good with plenty of distractions for younger ones via the mini fairground and play area. There were usual comments about length of wait at some food outlets. 

One gripe from me was the bar facilities. There were lager-bars aplenty across the site. Very laudable that they also had real ale and craft beer available but this was limited to the small 'Uncommon Stage'. This would have been ok but their very helpful idea of providing 4-pint pitchers (think ‘milk carton’) meant the lager-drinking fraternity were also drawn to this bar for lager in 4-pint servings, making for a painfully overcrowded bar situation.  

This was particularly acute on Saturday afternoon; less so on Sunday as they ran out of cartons so only those who took cartons back for refills were able to continue availing themselves of the facility (which I did).

We were able to attend some of Saturday and most of Sunday. 

Here is the review of the acts we enjoyed

Saturday

Novatones - earned their spot as winner of Battle of Bands. Very competent and enjoyable 4-piece guitar band, today with a 4-strong female backing vocal accompaniment. Drummer had his right arm in a cast leading the compere to comment 'the best one-armed drummer I've ever heard'. Not sure if he was being facetious or had never heard Def Leppard.

Rickyfitts - 2-piece guitar/drum line up, in the current mode. More melodic than many bands of their ilk, but still best described as crashing guitars and roaring vocals. Excellent.

Plastic Mermaids - hailing from the isle of Wight, all five band members were in bright, sixties style dress. The set started off with electro guitar mash-ups all accompanied with wide smiles, the epitome of a band delighted to be playing such a big stage. As the set progressed the tunes became increasingly atmospheric with the lead guitarist using a bow on some numbers, and this morphed into beautifully melodic/summery tunes reflecting their flower-power era outfits. The set climaxed with the introduction of a female vocalist who sang in operatic style - a spine-tingling conclusion to an excellent set. (This band is my one find from the weekend - already booked tickets for their London show in October).

George The Poet - as the best-known act so far on the main stage GTP was the first performance to draw real energy from the sun-drenched crowd. His articulate rapping is underpinned by strident if broad-brush political views. Unfortunately for me, I'd been looking at Akala videos in the morning - a far more edgy performer; made GTP sound a little bland by comparison.

Black Kat Boppers - RnR standards. Standard.

Jaguarskills - reflective of the atmosphere of this festival this DJ / Dubstep set was core fayre for much of the crowd. 

 

Sunday

The Costellos - another local Battle of the Bands winner. A youthful 4-piece guitar band delivering their own RnB tunes with great energy.

Craig Charles - Soul and Funk DJ mash-ups. Highlight was Sexual Healing on brass over a funk groove. As on Day One, the nature of the audience at this event meant this got a greater response than many of the bands on the bill.

Charley Macauley - wonderful soulful voice. Her songs were given colour through her 7-piece band that included a vibrant brass section, but never over-powering the strength and clarity of her vocal. 

Cuban Brothers - usual zany antics from this dad-dancing/underpant-wearing troupe. Mr Tumble for grown-ups.

Daisy Kitty & Lewis - Rockabilly six-piece. Their best tunes were those that lead with Harmonica or Sax, giving a more earthy, bluesy vibe

Slaves - great response to this brash full-on two-piece band. Most entertaining song was 'Feed The Manteray' when a crowd-surfer dressed as a flat fish jumped from the stage. Humorous moment when the band had to stop to ask the crowd to pick him up so he could complete his journey back to the stage

Years And Years - 4-piece band: 2 keys, drums and vocals. Drew a good crowd for their poppy/tuneful songs

Brother Goose - another local band on the smaller 'Uncommon Stage'. All five of the band were in maroon. Fortunately that's where the comparison to Maroon 5 ends. A punchy set interspersed with melodic pop numbers, like 'Lightbulb Moment'. Had a bass player making his debut. New tune 'That's The Way It Is'  in the middle of the set was the highlight.

Band Of Skulls - 'local band made good' were very comfortable on the larger main 'Common Stage'.

The Rising - much better live than their demo CD suggests. A really tight set. I still think their song 'Strangers In The Night' is a classic.

Clean Bandit – Solid performance from this band that have got themselves well into the mainstream.  Rather Be was an expected highlight and drew an excellent reaction from the early evening crowd. 

Grace Jones - broody and prowling around the stage with youthful grace (excuse the pun). Hats off to her continuing to deliver such an entertaining show.

So in summary, a good kick-off event which we hope will be repeated.  I think there is a worthwhile comparison to be drawn with a comparison the Victorious Festival, down the road at Portsmouth. 

Victorious had it’s inaugural year last summer, and apart from a few indie bands it was a pretty safe line up with 80s bands and Stones/Beatles tribute acts.  

The 2015 line-up this coming August is looking much more ambitious.  So from a selfishly optimistic view I hope Common People Fest goes the same way.

Si

 

 

The Great Escape is unique – as a showcase for new artists from around the world, from all genres, it offers the chance of seeing some of the best performances of the year – and some of the worst. With over 30 venues and 450 bands, no-one’s experience of it will ever be the same. The trick is trying to find the good stuff, whilst retaining a sense of fun and not rushing all over town on the hunt. I try to ask as many knowledgeable friends as possible, and lots of random strangers over the weekend ‘so, what do you recommend?’

Highlights:

 Day 1 Act 1 – coming out of torrential rain into the warmth of a little cellar bar to find Blair Dunlop (son of folk legend Ashley Hutchings) performing new songs like 'Castella' and 'Fox News' to a damp, quiet audience – he dedicates the latter to me, as the only person to respond to its anti-Murdoch intro. Later I stopped a man with a guitar to ask the way and instead he gave me his new cd – very nice lovelorn original Scottish folk. Thanks, Aaron Fyfe!

Slaves – so good live that their madness transcends any notions of cartoon pop-punk.  Sure they tell funny stories, but the tunes are massive, and they have something that so many lack – effortless rapport with their audience. So good I saw them twice, the first time amongst fans, the second with mostly record industry people – each time the effect was the same, within minutes sane people were running amok in total support of the duo – literally, when they walk out onto the outstretched arms of the audience towards the end of each set. While even they describe songs such as 'Feed the Mantaray' and 'Wheres Your Car Debbie' as ‘silly’, that mutual shared energy wins over – and numbers like the 'Hunter' and commuters theme  'Cheer Up London, You’re  Already Dead' (introduced with “if you don’t like your job…change it”) are political punk anthems.

Some great music coming out of South Africa right now, most notably Die Antwoord, so a pleasure to catch fellow rapper Okmalumkoolkat, who has the wooden floor bouncing at a lovely pub venue the Prince Albert. We shout back the lyrics to 'Holy Oxygen' and other slogans in unknown languages. Shaka Zulu would be proud (both the rebel warrior, and the sound system!)

Thurston Moore showed the youth how to do it, trading 10 minute riffs with his excellent band. Totally engrossing and enveloping, like a drug – to such an extent that the audience were dismayed at staff pulling the plug on them, only to discover they had overrun by 25 minutes!

However probably the most exciting experience of the weekend was even older - watching two 70 year old men in a small rammed pub – Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, the original Zombies, doing a 40 minute set spanning 50 years, including Time of the Seasons and She’s Not There, plus songs from their new album as premiered earlier this year at SXSW, with such joy and passion. Let’s hope some of the new guys here will be doing the same in 2065.

And a special mention for

Wand’s Californian psych wig outs, complete with crowd surfers

Zun Zun Egui’s tribal rock chants, face to face with the audience in a hotel living room

Delta Rae’s wild gospel blues, inc a cover of FMac’s the Chain

Lee Bains III and Glory Fires – Skynyrd on speed, watched by their mates Alabama Shakes

Mile Me Deaf – Austrian kraut/noise rock done with panache

Michel’s superb Palestinian falafels at Trafalgar Arches – as eaten by Michael Portillo!

Kevin Hand