Festival Review: Bushstock Festival 2019
Despite being plagued with technical difficulties and delays — Bushstock 2019 still managed to be a thoroughly enjoyable day.
When we got to Shepherd’s Bush, for this indiest of indie festivals, in a mishmash of clothes to prepare for whatever nature has to throw at us this supposedly Summer day, we were greeted by those beautiful venues that make up Bushstock, excited for whatever the day had in store. Our first stop was K West Hotel to pick up our wristbands (fabric this time, rather than the usual plastic pop-in ones) and then onto Sindercombe Social for our first act of the day: the incredible Harry Marshall.
Now let me start by saying that out of everyone announced that I’d listened to in the weeks leading up to Saturday, Harry Marshall was my favourite, and I probably never would have found him if it hadn’t been for Communion putting this on: James Bay vibes mixed with some old Bear’s Den. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint. He played through a number of tracks, most unreleased, that went from pounding rock to beautiful ballad within seconds; jumping onto amps and speakers, going into the crowd to play acoustically, and loving every second. Notably, the pub was packed — an impressive feat for someone playing at 13:00! The ending to debut single ‘epilogue’ was particularly special. A brilliant opening to the day!
As soon as he finished, though, we were off — we had to start queuing for APRE! As well as being a brilliant band in their own right, their set was at the intimate and inimitable Albertine Wine Bar, which year upon year promises secret, acoustic sets unmatched by any others. My best Bushstock festival memory still has to be the Amazons in there back in 2017. Having previously seen APRE supporting Sea Girls earlier in the year, I knew this would be something special, and so we knew we just had to get into the tiny room: and Jules and Charlie didn’t disappoint, blasting through stunner after stunner, competing with the hustle and bustle of a busy London Street. Despite this, though, you could have heard a pin drop — a typical characteristic for these special performances. A mixture of awed and respectful silence by the crowd, drawn in by the unique performance they get to be a part of. Ending on ‘Come Down’ — a genuinely spellbinding performance when acoustic, I might add — they ensured that we all would be there for their 18:00 slot on the Courtyard stage (or would have been, more on that later) and they were off.
We felt that we deserved a moment to collect ourselves after that almost transcendent slot but no rest for the wicked, and off we went to Defector’s Weld for Paolo Post Future and their first ever festival. A five piece crammed onto the small stage, all playing different instruments and coming across as almost discordant — on paper they shouldn’t have worked. But in reality, it was intense, in your face indie rock that worked to a scary degree. I couldn’t believe that that was their first festival. Regardless of experience in terms of solo gigs, festivals are undoubtedly nerve-wracking, with that horrific question of whether people will turn up. But that wasn’t the case here: the five seemed as comfortable up there as any of the other bands that day, often more so, and they had everyone moving about and, more importantly, enjoying themselves.
Here, we were forced to make a choice. ELOISE in the haunting St Stephen’s church or Richard Fairlie in the brand new venue of the Bush Hall Dining Rooms. Or, given the proximity to each other, both!
First up was ELOISE, whose incredible voice graced the packed out church. Armed with just her guitar and her raw vocal talent, she knocked everyone asunder, blown away by her effortless — and humble — performance. The venue itself seemed to bow down in reverence, her voice echoing down the aisles. Undoubtedly someone to keep an eye on.
Then came Richard Fairlie, whose voice was just as stunning and demeanour just as humble, cracking jokes with the audience and refusing to stop smiling for a single second. At least, that’s how it seemed. Honestly, the venue didn’t really work. Diners up above simply enjoying their meals, catching up and laughing — which obviously is their prerogative and fair enough — at times drowned out his incredible voice and took away from his performance; the packed out downstairs blocked any real view and gave off a terrifying amount of heat. A shame, as his performance was honestly sublime and would have probably been a highlight in any other venue. Still, from what we could hear he was breathtaking! Either that or it was the heat again.
Then we were back to Albertine for the magnificent Maisie Peters. With this being the third time seeing her, I knew what to expect. At least, I thought I did. Instead, we were treated to something better than I could have ever hoped. Armed with her guitars, her pianist. and her signature smiley self, hers was an endearingly elegant performance, including an as of yet unreleased song (‘This Is On You’, about toxic people and the need to ‘snip snip cut them off’), the excited admission that she had heard her single ‘Feels Like This’ on Love Island, and the live, impromptu and by all accounts only, debut of an acoustic song, ‘Back To You’. Not on the set list, the track had a very unique story, Maisie explained. She’d had the song for years, working on it off and on again, and found it again recently. ‘This song has never seen the light of day before and never will again.’ A lovely song in its own right, it’s unique performance elevated it to a whole new level. It’s pure exclusivity made the set even more special.
Here, though, is where the problems began for the festival. Although, this is only in our experience; by all accounts, some parts and venues had been acting up all day.
We had been incredibly excited for Mosa Wild on the Courtyard Stage. Having been a fan for years, since first listening to them back in 2016, I especially couldn’t wait, so we rushed to the Courtyard stage and arrived just before 5pm, a few minutes before the start of their set... and found MarthaGunn playing. Which was a wonderful surprise, I’m a huge fan of the band, and their performance was insanely good, with some beautiful harmonies and the latter half of their set that I caught was incredible; it made me wish I’d been there for the whole thing. Saying that, though, the reason I hadn’t was because they were meant to have finished half an hour previous, and so the Courtyard was delayed for at least half an hour. No matter, though — with the trek from the Courtyard to any other stage being roughly ten minutes, I was happy to wait an extra half an hour to see one of my favourite acts arounds.
They came on stage at roughly 5:40, but quickly were whisked off after soundchecking. Any second now, we assumed, but no luck.
Security made an announcement that for Health and Safety we all had to leave the area but it would be sorted momentarily. Which, unfortunately, it wasn’t, and so we went over to Bush Hall, now in the rain, to catch a favourite of ours, BALCONY.
I will say, on the topic of the cancellation, that the issue for me wasn’t that the stage had to be closed for the evening, and that APRE and Gang of Youths were no longer going to play, or that Ider and Mosa Wild were reallocated times later that evening at Defector’s Weld. Regardless of how big a shame all of this was, the only thing that truly disappointed me was the lack of communication. If there had been an earlier post about the increased delays (there had been one earlier but the stage by all accounts had begun to catch up), we could have been able to see a number of other brilliant bands that we had wanted to see but at shelved in favour of Mosa Wild. The only real problem then, personally, was the time wasted.
So the next band, then, was BALCONY almost three hours later. Who themselves were delayed for around twenty minutes with yet more technical issues. Despite this, though, they had a thunderous set, flying through some thumping bangers that had the bass reverberating through our very bones. An incredible re-entry into the Bushstock atmosphere (even if they had to restart halfway through the first song as the microphones hadn’t been soundchecked and weren’t working). Their specific sound of indie, electronica pop was made for the venue, with the lights reflecting off of mirrors adorning the walls and the beat of each and every song seeming to shake the very foundations!
After, we went back over to the Church to plant ourselves near the front, ready for the peerlessly talented Novo Amor. First though, was the effortlessly entertaining Tom Rosenthal. He had much of the church in hysterics — for example, playing a love song about watermelons and another about sperm, as you do — and it felt almost cathartic, with many of the patrons undoubtedly having flocked from the stress of the Courtyard. Thoroughly good fun. But then, it was the time we had been waiting for. Having left my pew to go up the front and sit on the carpet in front of the front row — it was Novo Amor’s slot. And boy did he deliver.
With the backdrop of the beautiful stained glass windows and the (pardon the pun) heavenly acoustics, his voice was haunting, mesmerising. Some songs (such as personal favourite ‘Anchor’) were played simply with Ali on his own in front of a keyboard, while others were full band performances, over pounding drums and powerful instrumentals. Every song was perfect in its own way. Even the presentation of the stage, with creepers and ivy adorning the microphone stands, lending it a more natural aesthetic, was spot on, whisking the audience away from the and to some unknown Purgatory, where all that existed was his music.
My one critique would be, though, that some audience members sitting at the front started talking to each other during his songs which personally I found unforgivably rude, given the intensely intimate and acoustic nature of the performance. But, then, I can’t fault Ali for his handling in his blatant blanking of them. His audience engagement was top notch: not too much, stopping him from playing songs, and not too little that it could potentially come across as affected. A phenomenal performance.
After, we tried to get into Matt Corby but couldn’t. I was able to peak through the door and my god was it rammed. I’ve seen sold out shows at Bush Hall before but this was another level.
Our final stop was Defector’s Weld for Mosa Wild, starting at 11:30. But, upon arriving and finding Ider on stage and not having started, we had to admit we’d never get to see them and leave. By this point, at 11:10, Ider still hadn’t started, and we were shattered. Finding out the next day, they didn’t get on stage until gone midnight, and so I feel that we made the right choice.
Bushstock 2019 was a very good day, let down by technical errors, with the Courtyard having to close because of a nearby power cut creating Health and Safety concerns. and the delays on other stages was disappointing, and turned what could have been a monumentally good day, like my previous three years worth of attendance, into simply a very good one. Brilliant in its own right and certainly something we’re glad we were able to attend once more.
Words by Danial Kennedy
Photography by Chloe Hashemi