As a seasoned festival goer with a collection of heavily worn out wristbands gathered from trips to some of the UK’s biggest festivals – T In The Park, Leeds and Download alongside the godfather of all music festivals, – a visit to an altogether more humble venue in Derbyshire’s Y Not Festival resulted in a glorious reconnection with the grassroots of alternative music.
Y Not’s history is a brief yet wonderfully encouraging DIY story of how a small gathering of music aficionados from a school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, gathered at a house party with only a couple of DJs for company, organically adapting through word of mouth during subsequent years until the first official Y Not Festival in 2006 heralded the beginning of a three day event now held at the start of August each year in Pikehall.
The carefree passion and jovial atmosphere of the festival’s origins was retained amongst a sell-out bill this year, showcasing a mixture of established artists and fresh faced acts from a range of alternative genres, seeing White Lies, Dizzee Rascal and Frank Turner as headliners above a packed daily line-up spanning four main stages.
These rustically isolated hills of the Peak District have become a leading destination for music fans to discover future gems or even reacquaint with past nostalgia. A continued fancy dress theme ensured a lively atmosphere throughout, with Mr Blobby playfully being taken down by a group of WWE fans in the beer tent one of many memories which went towards an enjoyable weekend of music and much more.
On Friday, the intermittent rain failed to dampen early enthusiasm for a run of highly regarded acts on the main stage. Crowds flocked towards Yuck’s early evening Sonic Youth-aping set complete with murky shoegazing fuzz, peaking with hit ‘Get Away’, before Spector produced a boundlessly energetic half hour stint in delivering the edited highlights of 2012’s gloriously chugging and lyrically biting ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts‘ album, including a rousing and ironically appropriate ‘Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End’ alongside an outing for new track ‘Bad Boyfriend’.
This enjoyable entrée was in preparation for one of the much discussed main courses of the evening in a fantastically tight set from indie rock heavyweights of old, Razorlight.
The gratifyingly reminiscent tribute to the decade old classic ‘Up All Night‘ was a treat for all twenty-somethings in the audience who hung on lead singer Johnny Borrell’s every word as he sauntered through indie anthems such as ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Stumble and Fall’, acting as a timely reminder that although their star has faded in recent times, the group still remain a formidable live spectacle.
Doom laden London goth rockers White Lies closed the main stage with a set derived from all three of their records, power chord-laden anthems such as ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ and more recent single ‘Big TV’ were warmly received by the now swelling late night crowd, reaffirming their position as the nation’s answer to fellow melancholy bass driven post-punkers Interpol across the pond.
A persistent downpour during much of Saturday saw a few less hardened punters leave the site early, while the rest did their best to secure tents in ensuring there was going to be a place to lay their heads after a late night in the on-site Western themed Saloon Bar, where a talented house band would provide covers of anything from The Kinks through to Blur until the early hours before an excitable crowd.
The Allotment tent provided early respite from the deluge of rain, as early Foals inspired newcomers White Giant and a fresh faced four-piece guitar outfit from nearby Sheffield in Knaves played Maccabees mirroring guitar tracks to a larger crowd than they might otherwise have expected.
Japanese guitarist and Kill Bill soundtrack featuring Tomoyasu Hotei was undoubtedly the coolest man on site during his afternoon set on the main stage, performing instrumental sections fit for several people in his ability to flick between technically staggering solos and crunching guitar chords whilst jumping around the stage like an excitable Duracell rabbit.
Llandudno’s finest quartet Catfish and the Bottlemen were a popular choice for band of the weekend. Their ever rising profile grew yet larger as they endeared themselves to the crowd through not only promising early singles such as the lyrically gripping ‘Pacifier’ alongside the melodic introspection of hazy slow burner ‘Cocoon’, but also the charming interaction with the crowd courtesy of frontman Van McCann, who encouraged fans to get up onto the shoulders of friends and loved ones to the amusing disgruntlement of security behind the main stage barriers.
The irrepressible dream pop of Swim Deep, with each member donning blue face paint a la R.E.M’s Michael Stipe, provided a welcome sleepy late afternoon interlude before the entire campsite descended onto the main stage for a glimpse of Scottish rockers The Fratellis, who offered a beer can throwing set complete with iconic Saturday night party track ‘Chelsea Dagger’ which saw arguably the biggest sing-along of the entire weekend.
Welcome blue skies and shimmering sunshine bolstered the mood yet further on the final day of festivities, beginning with the innovative Turn It Up Project; providing a platform for young artists to showcase their raw talents to a festival crowd as a unique and fulfilling experience for performer and fans alike.
A mid-afternoon slot by Nottingham band Amber Run highlighted a dedication by organisers to seek out high quality local talent, rewarding a discerning audience at The Quarry tent with a set brimming with enviable song craftsmanship as part of a fully formed sound with echoes of Mumford & Sons in vocal style underpinned by Coldplay’s penchant for stadium filling refrains.
Eternally underrated Leeds based, indie disco outfit The Sunshine Underground provided their usually strong live showing, complete with a raft of guitar effects and a range of instruments for a cacophony of sound to match the soaring vocals, while recollections of their first outing at the festival, where they arrived by tractor, offered an insight into just how far the festival has come in such a short period of time.
A short dash over to The Quarry paid off in droves by the stand out performance of the weekend by the supremely talented Bipolar Sunshine. Throughout the half hour, singer Adio Marchant managed to turn nodding heads of approval into synchronised swaying arms by the time Radio 1 playlist track ‘Where Did The Love Go?’ came around, leaving many observers in no doubt that they were witnessing a band on the cusp of something very special indeed.
Finally, it was left to Frank Turner to close out the festival in style with a raft of crowd pleasing songs such as ‘Recovery’ and ‘I Still Believe’, acting as the perfect send off with his amiable crowd interaction and audience participation tactics.
Y Not provides music fans of all ages with a well organised, immaculately sized festival that ensures an absorbing weekend, leaving this punter driving back through the windy country roads to a temporarily forgotten reality with a reinvigorated love of everything wonderful about the musical world.