FESTIVAL GUIDE: Y Not Festival 2015 – REVIEW

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Derbyshire’s multi-award-winning Y Not Festival celebrated its tenth year earlier this month and marked its anniversary with its biggest and best line-up to date.

The opening weekend in August once again saw the beautiful and picturesque Pikehall village in the Derbyshire Dales transform into a festival full of alcohol, fun and amazing live acts. Snoop Dogg, Basement Jaxx and Primal Scream were the headliners this time out with the likes of Johnny Marr and Ocean Colour Scene thrown in for good measure. As Primal Scream belted out their 1991 hit single ‘Movin’ on Up’ to bring the festival to a close on Sunday evening this tale of progression has certainly been the case for the festival since it debuted in 2006. Ten years previously the festival consisted of one portaloo and a garden gazebo for a stage where friends of founder Ralph Broadbent entertained some 120 school friends. Originally known as ‘The Big Gin Festival’ the Derbyshire music venue has evolved yearly and become firmly established as ‘Y Not’- now one of the country’s most popular miniature festivals. Winner of the ‘Best Small Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards in 2012, Y Not this year attracted some 8,000 plus festival revellers through its gates in what was a spectacular show.

Here are Jamie Barlow‘s highlights.

Thursday

After arriving on Thursday with a heap of other early festival revellers I caught Ash’s crowning performance at The Quarry. Predictively the band’s most popular tracks ‘Girl From Mars’ and ‘Shining Light’ were best received, but I was also impressed with one of the band’s latest numbers- ‘Cocoon’, which got the crowd pumped. In the latter half of the set frontman Tim Wheeler came out of his shell and interacted more and more with his onlookers. The band ended with ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and the Belfast outfit certainly warmed up the early goers for the rest of the festival.

Jamie Barlow and friends at Y Not
Jamie Barlow and friends at Y Not

Friday

At The Beach the sun was shining and the crowd were waving. Up and coming London artist The Beach was the first act to appear on the main stage and was both fresh and exciting. The newcomer boasts Radio 1 boss, George Ergatoudis, as one of his admirers and it’s no wonder why. The newcomer sounded akin to Nottingham indie outfit, Amber Run, and effortlessly entertained on his acoustic guitar. He certainly added to his fan count that day.

Later in the evening Reverend and The Makers led the masses as thousands worshipped. The Sheffield band were part of the indie renaissance in 2005 along with close friends Arctic Monkeys and launched straight into ‘Open Your Window’ to perform a riotous 45 minute set on The Big Gin Stage. The highlight of the set was when the band delivered their top ten hit single ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’. Frontman John McClure, nicknamed ‘The Reverend’, sparred with his audience as he boxed around stage to unleash the band’s killer blow. The Steel city stars ended with ‘Silence is Talking’ and the band’s ending lyrics were ‘feeling love is paramount’- a fitting way to end as the crowd certainly felt it.

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg

Despite turning up 15 minutes late iconic rapper Snoop Dogg marked his territory on Derbyshire soil to headline the Friday night superbly. Typically laid back and chilled, Snoop barked out a catalogue of his biggest tracks and collaborations punctuated with covers of influential artists 2Pac, Biggie Smalls and Bob Marley. The multi-platinum rapper turned the heat up with opener ‘The Next Episode’- a 2001 collaboration with Dr Dre- and there wasn’t a single member of the audience who didn’t obey his command to raise their hands in the air. Snoop proceeded to ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and make his crowd ‘Sweat’- both tracks brought raptures from his audience. Snoop even acknowledged the occasion before concluding his set, announcing: “Thanks Matlock I’ll be back anytime”, and the rapper navigated his way through ‘Young, Wild & Free’. The audience joined in with the track word-for-word before being treated to Snoop’s version of Bob Marley’s timeless classic, ‘Jamming’, before the rapper retired.

Saturday

The first act I went to see on the Saturday was highly-rated Irish band, The Academic, and the four-piece certainly made the grade at Y Not’s main stage. The Academic have been making noises in the music industry throughout the last year and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. The indie four-piece turned out to be real quality and one of my favourite acts of the weekend. Sounding much like Liverpool’s indie-rock sensation Circa Waves the band were well worth a listen and scored highly in my book.

Next up was Ady Suleiman. Winner of ‘Breakthrough Act of the Year’ at Gilles Paterson’s worldwide awards last year and wearing a colourful stripy shirt, Ady’s performance at The Quarry was as vibrant as his attire. For those unaware Suleiman is a soulful singer-songwriter hailing from Nottingham and the artist played Y Not on the back of the release of his debut album- ‘This Is My EP’- released in April. The 22-year-old juxtaposed his smooth soulful tones with the offbeat energy of classic reggae and really caught the eye. The atmosphere generated at The Quarry was electric and Ady had the crowd swaying from start to finish. The cultured songwriter was the gem of The Quarry and was not a spectacle to be missed.

Ady Suleiman
Ady Suleiman

In February 2010 I witnessed Ocean Colour Scene don an intimate gig at Derby Assembly Rooms – I was now looking forward to seeing the band perform to a much larger audience. The Birmingham band produced a polished performance – frontman Simon Fowler’s vocals were impeccable whilst Steve Cradock on guitar churned out all the band’s trademark anthems proving why he is one of the most highly respected musicians in the industry. Fowler played the pantomime villain mid-set, announcing: “This is a song about Nottingham”, to which was greeted with jeers from a heavy Derbyshire contingent. Fowler proceeded to perform an acoustic solo of ‘Robin Hood’ and the jeers were soon transformed into cheers as the audience appreciated its beauty. After ending with ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ my walk back to the tent was flooded with the continuous refrains of the chorus of the track showing that OCS made quite an impression on the rest of the festival revellers, too.

For a band which has sold three million albums I was largely disappointed with Basement Jaxx’s headlining efforts. The performance was more like a circus than a concert with the band adopting numerous shapes and costumes thus making the set largely a spectacle of visuals rather than music. By my reckoning the duration of the gig was wholly too samey – but credit where it’s due the finale of the set was breath-taking. If I could have skipped the first hour and 15 minutes to the last five I would have done so, gladly. Basement Jaxx ended with a rip-roaring encore of ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ The end sparked fireworks as rockets soared into the sky as the crowd bounced at ground level. The party-like atmosphere was truly special, what a moment!

Sunday

The Strypes
The Strypes

I didn’t catch many acts on the Sunday as I spent the majority of the day dismantling my tent and packing for the off, but each act I saw was mightily impressive. Y Not did very well to coup Irish four-piece The Strypes to its line-up and they did not disappoint. The spectacle of four young Irish lads playing traditional 60s inspired punk was stunning. The band have released two studio albums and have sold-out tours in Japan, Europe and the US to date – a remarkable achievement for four teenagers. Think Jake Bugg fused with elements of The Clash and you have The Strypes. Singer Ross Farrelly announced from the off, “We’re gonna have to cram everything in because we’ve only got half an hour”, and true to their word the band delivered an intense set with the stage presence to match.

The best performance of the weekend was undoubtedly Johnny Marr. A crowd numbering several thousand gathered on Sunday evening to see a man described as a “God-like genius” and an “unmistakable wordsmith”. The iconic singer-songwriter performed a set laden with material from his two critically acclaimed solo albums, and like a magician, Marr had several Smiths numbers up his sleeve along with a cover of The Clash to enthuse his audience. There were no weak moments in the gig and I enjoyed when Marr unearthed his modern treasures ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Back In The Box’ which were orchestrated exquisitely. A cover of The Clash’s ‘I Fought The Law’ and solo versions of The Smiths’ ‘Panic’ and ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ were brilliant but not a patch on Marr’s last track. In a husky tone Marr dedicated ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ to his admirers and sang The Smiths’ 1986 classic wonderfully. The audience united to lead the final refrains of the song to cap the spine tingling rendition.

Words and photos by Jamie Barlow @JBarlow95_