Live Review: Bushstock Festival - June 2017

Verging to near the centre-point of Summer, this particular time in June welcomes a surge of all-day music festivals, held in city centres. This year at Bushstock, the festival had Nick Mulvey, The Staves and other rising names like The Big Moon and Benjamin Francis Leftwich perform. A sense of differentiation and thrill of discovering a new buzz band or undiscovered gem in bars and venues but also libraries, clothes stores and wine cellars, is what Bushstock does in a unique way. Some of the thrills and experiences that Bushstock does finely, is the unrestrained way of discovering music, its formatted; seeing a new act, while uncovering the city’s personality and charm.

Cosied together with some of Shepherds Bush’s imperative venues and bars (not including a Hanson playing O2 Shepherd’s Bush nearby), the festivals appreciation for emerging music is something to be admired. You only have to look at the previous year line-ups that include; Bastille, Daughter and Michael Kiwanuka to see something really is just clicking.

Mirror Fury opened the festival at the open-air stage, at The Courtyard resting under a bridge. A new act with a few singles online, Mirror Fury open the stage and festival to a busy and eager crowd. Towards the later half of the set, the frontwoman notably mentions "its our first show" between songs, showing a flair of on-stage confidence of an experienced band. The group capture a manner of different moods from high-octane alt-rock to softened ballads. A song named ‘The Other Side’ evoked euphoria when the band open to a huge chorus, melancholic chord progression and piercing guitar lines. It was a sort-of ‘standing on top of a mountain’ moment, where nothing else matters but the moment.

Notably in a track called ‘Skinfall’, I could feel genuine emotion. Losing someone to alcohol, how her Dad lost his friend because of addiction. The stripped back approach only complimented the song topic and worked majestically.

Packing out Albertine Wine Bar for the early hours of the festival, The Amazons play a special stripped set for Bushstockers. Tracks like ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Junk Food Forever’ reveal a soft personality and pose as slightly comical in places of carefree lyrics that are fun. “Bushstock was the show, that made us get signed” called Matt and to reiterate my point in the opening, Bushstock is ‘doing it right’.

Welcoming Defector’s Weld first arrival, Avante Black was one of my favourite acts and I was more than eager to see live. Her set embraced nostalgic trip-hop moments, slow groove beats and post-rock bliss. Sweden seems to coming through with clear talent with great music. Cool bassline surrounds Make A Mess', enhanced the bass players shades, while western guitar dueling melodies pinch in frequently in arrangements. ‘Drug Money’, I had prejudgments whether it would match up to the original but seen to taken back by the clear match in quality and enthusiasm captured on record. Purple colours surround the venue, coinciding with velvet like guitar tones, promiscuous prowess the group’s hard-hitting alt-pop wonder. The band were a clear highlight and a warm introduction to a festival of great new and independent music.

Mosa Wild played a packed Courtyard. Fronting an incredible soulfulness, that proves once again Bushstock can present with varied forms of new music. Being unfamiliar to their music, I was struck by the relentless crowd interaction.

The Library encouraged stripped sets for Bushstock this year, which encouraged a different experience to festival attendees; bands playing in front of bookshelves, sitting audiences and more intimate interactions. Joy Crookes made the whole library quiet with her unique brand of soul-pop. Utilising the city’s environment like The Great Escape, performing in front of bookshelves. Going blunt and straight to the point, in between songs Crookes explains that her songs “may sound boring being acoustic but if you interpret the meaning of the songs, you’ll understand it”. I got this completely.

Joy hones a fluttering vocal range and powerful soulfulness, that’s seems rare to come across. The style of vocal only complimented a stripped sound of guitar and vocals. Combining RnB and soul for a gripping show, I could hear ‘Bad Feeling’ just as drawing as the studio version.

Now seeing Noctürn I was totally unsure what to expect with this act, like stumbling across to a gig and not knowing anything about the artist. Other people who I spoke to beforehand mentioned they had a teaser of music online but I yet to discover this. There was a full band and what I was in for, was something quite different to what I imagined. I feel the frontwoman hailed a slight familiarity to Florence Welch, in phrasing and on-stage personality. In moments these felt like attending an opera, due to sheer tension building and dynamic journey. A storm of post-rock moments; leading in guitars, pianos and a surrounding of subtle electro beats made left me in awe at times, like I was focusing on a classical piece. I feel the obscurity of the artist’s image shouldn’t fool you into believing the music is just as out there but but really its quite the opposite, the hugeness in their sound and arrangements is something to witness first hand.

Minke presented a set with indie-pop vigour. Tracks such as 'Bite the Bullet. and new single ‘Armour’ felt engaging with stagnating vocal behind a bed of soft synth pads and scattering indie-guitar plucks. Brooding instrumentals surround with emerging progressions of compelling guitar hook plucks, leave you floating in moments of awe. I was lead to believing some of the set sounded similar and overdone in terms of arrangement but found it enjoyable.

Being new to his music, as in fact to many of the artists I saw today, Fyfe brought real enthusiasm and liveliness. ‘Stronger’ remained as one of my favourites, where Paul Dixon styles a harmonic rap-flow, thumping kick drum and slick plucked guitar hooks all took center. New and old fans looked present in the audience and the crowd seemed eager to engage. Touching on moments of left-field music, anyone familiar to his music will recognise this imprinted in his music. Through pre and post-gig listening, I had impressions heading into the show that electronic gear and sounds would take the forefront. I was marveled by the crispness and bouncy personality that presented in the songs.

Bush hall welcomed Palace Winter, a band I thought that brought influence of Joy Division, in their throwback styled material and indie rock instrumentals. The set lacked variety in my tastes and felt safe but moments that transcended between punchy basslines and traditional rock moments made it a fresh experience at Bushstock,

Perhaps a set from the day, Liv Dawson’s set goes through many emotions musically. An understated electro-pop artist that fronts deep and rich love songs in minimal electro-pop and more dance-pop lead tracks. Whatever style the instrumental settles in, Liv’s soulfulness seems to cut through every time. ‘Reflection’ and ‘Somwhere Good’ soar with personal and gripping songwriting combining with a weave of subtle synth swells with intense writing. Disclosure produced single ‘Searching’ perhaps lacks a little energy in the live sound to match the studio version but this added an upbeat personality to the set, which excited.

The Big Moon seem to close Bush Hall and the festival well with a thriving crowd and wild atmosphere. The band simply hones an incredibly raw presence that springs honest songs and gritty garage-rock that’s to be admired. These guys are one of the few bands that seem to be on tastemaker’s hot pick’ new music festivals and I can see why.

Bushstock Festival 2017

Photography by Rachel Prew
Review by Christian Graham