Image:- Steven Velentzas (@captainstavros)
It's that time of year once more to head down to the southern end of GB for the first festival of the year. This time around the on-site, daytime entertainment had clearly been beefed up so an overall different experience from past years was highly anticipated.
Weather-wise we got probably the best possible for a January weekend & certainly the best of the three years the event's been on at that time. This made daytime wandering around Bognor Regis itself very pleasant, whilst the location of this year's accommodation couldn't have been handier for the performance spaces + we even had a sea view.
Once we'd arrived, checked in and then had dinner the first act we were able to catch on the Friday night were Young Knives, who I think I last saw around five years ago (a quick look on Wikipedia confirms it was in fact eight, seeing as it was album number three they were touring at the time), the first of the weekend's acts whom Captain Stavros was unacquainted with. Singing their praises as decent purveyors of indie & post-punk, I lead us off to the show.
Eight years is clearly a long time in music. Having previously dressed as if they'd just left the office(s) they still had to work in to make ends meet, there's now shoulder length hair, a full beard, some kind of sequined, glam rock t-shirt, a coat which could once have been a pair of curtains and a fourth member on percussion. Not that any of that is in itself cause for alarm. Having stood about through a long-winded setting up of levels (the more kit you have the more there is that ca go wrong) we in the crowd finally get some music, fifteen or so minutes later than billed.
Noise rock is about as close a description as I can manage. Screaming & shouting was a part of the band's sound previously but now there's a cacophony of guitar and drums worlds away from the likes of 'Sister Frideswide' or 'She's Attracted To'. After four numbers & with no interest in seeing how known songs are fitted into the set, we beat a hasty retreat, with me attempting to explain how different they used to be.
Thankfully this is the only real shock of the weekend. There's at least one surprise, on the Saturday night, but everyone else plays it as expected, for better or worse.
On to the main venue then for Black Country, New Road. The youthful septet served up a blend of Eastern European folk music sifted through Roxy Music & James Chance's saxophone noise. I've either not paid enough attention to them on the radio or it was a case of a band being very different in the flesh, but they weren't exactly what I was expecting. Which isn't though to say there was anything wrong with the show - they were an enjoyable act to watch & went down well with the crowd, albeit with the odd bizarre heckle although those happily seemed to go over their heads.
BC,NR were followed up about twenty minutes or so later by Soak, the first of the bands we saw to actively take the mickey out of the collective experience of us all being at a holiday camp. That fell as flat as it deserved. Having done something similar when reviewing the event in the past I can now speak as a convert. This was the festival's fifth iteration and it was clearly well attended & the assumption could be made from that that many people had been to it more than once in the last few years - not something to be mocked.
Musically the band played some pretty competent shoegaze incorporating a bit of Sundays twee, with on occasion Big Countryesque guitar solos. On the whole they left the impression that they'll be filling the shoes of Texas and/or Deacon Blue in years to come if they last that long.
Tonight's headliner was John Cale, the definition of a living legend and in an utterly different league from most of the other acts appearing over the weekend. That said I know nothing of his output other than the Velvet Underground material, Paris 1919 (first heard only last year) and the awful Songs For Drella album which I ended up putting in a litter bin as no secondhand record shop would take it off my hands in the decades before Discogs (Q Magazine didn't half recommend some terrible music in the '90s).
He starts straight into his set with no preamble, which sets the scene for the entire show seeing as he's not that chatty. Making full use of the venue's projection facilities he and his band have some some of the best films/abstract displays of the weekend. Plenty of the songs maintain a good pace but noodling does become an issue on more than one. 'I'm Waiting For The Man' proves to be the only song I recognise, albeit it's a bit drawn out & sounds odd with Cale singing it. Still though this is one of the tightest sets I've seen at the festival to date, despite which (as well as out of respect for the singer's six decades of performing) people still felt it was more important to have a conversation throughout the performance.
Princesteen is the night's closing act but the combination of the two performers being paid tribute to doesn't inspire me to stay out so it's off back to the Shoreline for some shut eye.