Amongst the many plus points that have drawn us back again and again to Rockaway Beach is the timing. No better time than the first weekend of January to kick-start the gig year. But as well as that it seems to set something of a template for the year, helping us start to shape our plans for the new music landscape and present and early opportunity to schedule in bands we want to place on the 2023 agenda.
The line-up is traditionally a mix of ‘legend’ bands (this year OMD, Peter Hook & The Light, The Undertones, The Beat) interspersed with a range of new acts to discover or revisit. Two stand-outs already in the diary for Spring gigs: Personal Trainer & Hamish Hawk
The first band on, mid afternoon, and what a start! Fizzing pop-punk with charisma, catchy songs and the odd bit of choreography. Warmly received by an already decent sized crowd. The band were seen frequenting the Butlins bars afterwards, no doubt leading to what I hear was a more hungover show the following day!
A ripping set from this 3-piece in the Wet Leg mould.
The early pace was maintained by Low Hummer, a 6-piece from Hull. Two stand out songs: Real Thing, their best number with entertaining cow-bell refrain, and Panic Calls featuring thumping drumbeat and shades of Roadrunner in the lyrics.
Continuing the ‘Hull-fest’, Mez and co treated us to an energetic nine song set, dipping into each of their first three albums. Highlights were numbers from 2022 release ‘North East Coastal Town’ - Drug (my favourite song of 2022) and set-closer Friends Without Names. In usual style Mez there was no holding back on political comment …. “Fuck Rishi Sunak, he wouldn’t ever be allowed into Hull……..… or Bognor”
True to form, had no band. Barefooted non-stop dancing across the wide stage. No backdrop, just her moving shadow to focus upon. Felt like she played a few too many unfamiliar songs from forthcoming album
Less provocative in their dress than on previous outings; but the chorography was as well-planned and sharply executed as ever. The definition of togetherness….. and constant beaming smiles !!
Peter Hook & The Light
Felt slightly odd hearing PH taking lead vocal on the Joy Division hits. With other delights on offer we abandoned this set (though later reports suggest the New Order numbers in latter part of the set were excellent)
Anna and her band in black and white zig-zag costumes, and keyboard frontispiece is similar style. The colour was supplied through the synthesised orchestral sounds, supplementing the 4-strong stage personnel, including cello. A truly immersive performance; the intensity broken with an excellent rendition of “I’m Still Standing” as an encore.
From The Netherlands, this is a 7-piece band to be reckoned with. Lead Singer Willem Smit, sporting a ‘Holiday Ghost’ T-shirt and cutting a figure reminiscent of a young Guy Garvey. My favourite was Gillan, a mad percussionist (with occasional trumpet) who’s antics permeated every song and became an entertaining focal point. Best song was ‘Milk’, an uncharacteristic slow start that built to a frantic climax.
Quality female nu-punk band, playing their second set of the weekend. Outstanding track was ‘The Ick’
From Glasgow and taking no prisoners this afternoon. “We are Vlure …….. aka V Fucking Lure”. Initially felt like a wall of sound with a shouty front-man but as the set progressed the songs mellowed a little and this band embedded themselves as one of the finds of the weekend. With a few minutes left at the end of their allotted slot they played an extra song, a cover of the Faithless number ‘God Is A DJ’, a regular feature of Vlure’s set but particularly poignant right now following the recent passing of Maxi Jazz
This was pop of a more angular nature. 3-piece guitar and drum with violinist
The Goa Express
Far and away the most fresh-faced band of the weekend. This youthful quartet from Liverpool aren’t afraid to mix it up with new songs (which I thought were called ‘Holiday’ and ‘Sports Hall’ neither of which titles appears on their set list !). A really strong set and had the confidence to leave out their marquee hit ‘Everybody in the UK’
Self-deprecating and humorous throughout. Whist sporting short haircuts it felt like watching ‘Hairy Bikers Play Rock n Roll’. A lot of love in the room for this band, never more than when then went they got the audience participation going for the intro to Hounds Of Love
Her first performance for 3 years and indeed the first time Catherine Anne Davies has played some of the songs from her excellent 2021 work ‘The Art Of Losing’. With a brand new band today featuring John J Presley on guitar. A demure, sometimes timorous performance; the one time she came fully to life was in the between-song spiel ‘Fuck The Tories!”
If we were looking for a counterbalance to the demure Anchoress set this was most certainly it. Fab light show and projections. Top quality indie-dance music
Lacking a level I’ve witnessed in previous performance, but still the best mosh-pit of the weekend.
A tricky choice choosing OMD over Yard Act, but if you’ve seen OMD live before you know you will be thoroughly entertained. Tonight was no different, despite Andy suffering from a broken rib which restricted his usual extravagant dance moves. Great songs, great sound, great banter; simply, it was great! The large audience lapped it up.
High energy indescribable rap based music , the bassist looked like he was in Metallica and did rock poses all the way thru - highly entertaining
All girl queer punk band , lead singer spent a fair amount of time in the audience getting a Sunday afternoon mosh pit going
Rats On Rafts
5-piece band, lined up Kraftwerk style across the stage with drummer behind. Felt a little pedestrian at first but you couldn’t help but be drawn in by the clever lyrics and sometimes hypnotic beats. Vocals were shared by lead singer and bass, guitar and keys. Definitely a band that needs a further listen
Sophie Harris is the inspiration and lead figure in this band. Supported with drummer (Adam) and bass (Juan) who forayed into occasional sax, plus guitarist and second mainstay David Denyer who contributes across a range of synths, homemade instruments and trademark jagged cymbals. ‘Juniper’ is an outstanding song, the centrepiece of a riotous set, with every band-member clearly enjoying the chaotic nature their performance exudes
Simply a wonderful performer. Hamish today with 4-strong band Andrew, Stefan, John & Alex. Humble and thankful for everybody rockin up to listen to his interesting and none-too-serious tunes. In a nod to the venue he amusingly announced: “Bognor – my favourite Regis………….. sorry Lyme”. Played some new songs including one titled Elvis, about the king himself.
Paul McLoone, lead singer for over 22 years now, has been described as a fey Greg Davies. And that’s hard to get out of your head as it’s true! He’s a charismatic frontman, and the band clearly have a great time on stage. Comparisons were drawn to their Glasto set last year which was hit hit all the way, really fantastic. Today it felt like they were plugging a new album so there were down moments – but the hits were still banging though !
Sonic Boom and Panda Bear
The final act of the weekend, and with many punters leaving for home the audience was sparse. The stage was likewise uncrowded - just Panda Bear and Sonic Boom sitting on stools behind keyboards and effects. First couple of tunes felt like they were feeling their way into the performance but then somehow everything clicked, resulting in a sublime set; one of those moments when you could hear a pin drop in the main auditorium. Superb stuff.
Si, Dean & Jools