Bushstock 2013

I’m going to say something controversial here: I’m not usually a big fan of festivals.

I’m aware that it’s supposed to be ‘all about the music, man!’ but thanks to long-standing memories of slogging from one mud-filled tent with poor acoustics and even worse toilet facilities to another, only to find that the line up has been changed and the band you’ve trudged to see are now on two miles away, up a hill, in three minutes, I am still unconvinced.

But Bushstock, Communion Music’s south London festival now in its third year, is different. For one thing, it is not in muddy tents.

We head to St Stephen’s Church, our first of the festival’s four diverse venues. A cleverly constructed line up of the young voices, with only simple acoustic accompaniment of Rosie Carney and Annie Eve, seems in keeping with our meditative surroundings.

Don’t let their youth fool you though, both prove themselves to be accomplished musicians and songwriters as is the case with 19-year-old George Ezra whose soulful rasp belies his baby face.

A vague recollection of reading about London-based duo Thumpers as a Guardian ‘Band of the Day’ attracts us to opulent Bush Hall for the last half of their set. We immediately wish we’d arrived for the first half.

Officially a duo, there’s at least half a dozen people on the stage, they cope well with that early-on-in-a-British-festival predicament of awkwardness and soberness and by the end everyone is at least nodding their heads, most are dancing. Which, for a band who came on at 6.45pm, is pretty good going.

Their sound is pure joy, infectious, clapalongable indie-pop, worthy of a much later timeslot on the bill in my opinion. The duo, Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr, knock out pitch-perfect melodies worthy of worrying Arcade Fire and frankly made me feel like jumping on the stage with them because they all looked like they were having such a jolly old time.

We’d heard good things about Marika Hackman, so following a few minutes of Story Books, who are clearly very talented in a poor-man’s-Foals kind of a way but all look like they’ve just received some seriously sombre news, we take our leave and head to the Defector’s Weld pub.

Unfortunately Hackman is hard to hear as her vocals are lost in a mix of pub chatter, pub goings on and general pub noise. Shame because her Laura Marling-esque sound appears utterly enchanting on YouTube but here it’s really hard to capture.

As such, we head to the fourth and final venue The Ginglik. En-route I bump into an old friend. He inquires what on earth I’m doing in Shepherd’s Bush. When I tell him, his response is interesting: ‘I don’t want to put you off or anything but it’s a toilet.’ We say our goodbyes and I prepare for a terrible ‘toilet’ of a venue but am pleasantly surprised to find it is actually a toilet. As in a converted, cavernous affair with a wrought iron entrance and only a very slight and hard-to-distinguish whiff.

This remains our base for the rest of proceedings, kicking off with an enthusiastic and well-received set of Post War Years’ electro-tinged indie rock.

Headliners Dutch Uncles are over an hour late coming on, but make it worth the sweat-soaked wait though. The Cheshire five-piece, billed as indie but I think would be more appropriately labelled electronica, are so much like Hot Chip that it is almost parody at times. That said, their well-honed sound is, in the most part, very much their own with impressively multi-instrumental members and a concoction of percussive accompaniments and easy to move to riffs.

Duncan Wallis’ lead vocals are frighteningly high, I fear for his vocal chords, but hauntingly wonderful and as their set comes to a now oxygen-starved close I am genuinely sad that it’s all over, if a little pleased to be shower-bound.

So congratulations Bushstock, I am a convert and will be looking forward to this festival’s fourth year. Well-organised, unfailingly friendly staff and generally great venues made it all worth a seemingly endless trip on the Circle line. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Thumpers EP to buy.

Bushstock 2013 took place at various venues in Shepherds Bush on Saturday  3 June.

Image by Heneker Photography

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