REVIEW: Y Not Festival 2012

REPORTER Andrew Trendell went along to review Y Not Festival in the Peak District, Derbyshire.

THE HEADLINES in the music press are echoing doom and gloom that summer music festivals are struggling - especially in an Olympic year.

What hope does a humble festival in the idyllic setting of the Peak District have against giant competitors and the greatest show on Earth?

I’ll tell you: a pretty good one.

While it’s line-up may be comparatively modest and packed with indie disco staples, Y Not is one of the least corporate festivals on the circuit, and has a natural rural charm. The music on offer may seem a little safe but by keeping things simple Y Not can offer one pure thing: a good-old-fashioned good time.

All across the site, you’ll read the words ‘Small, Fresh, Loud’ emblazoned. Let’s see how it measures up.

The first big draw on Friday is Jake Bugg on the main stage. Nott’s brightest young thing shone as he overcame shakey sound problems with his fresh take on spikey Dylan-esque old-school, toe-tapping country charged with infectious sixties beat-pop.

Just as they’ve dominated radioplay, Lightning Bolt and Trouble Town had gripped the Y Not crowd with Bugg’s arresting anthemics. He’d have been much better suited to playing in the tent, but with huge things on the horizon, he’d best get used to these larger stages.

Speaking of domination, the true victors of Friday were Scottish alt-folk underdogs Frightened Rabbit. For years they’ve been building a steady underground following with their raw and rumbling sound and by supporting the likes of Deathcab For Cutie and Biffy Clyro – but that’s all about to change.

After recently leaving indie label FatCat to sign with Atlantic, F’Rabbit are clearly ready for the major leagues – and their joyous performance at Y Not was stone-cold proof.

From soul-searing opener The Modern Leper to the angelic escapology of Swim Until You Can’t See Land and the elegant marching climax of The Loneliness and The Scream – every moment is charged with the electricity of a band who are finally scaling the mighty heights they deserve.

While on record, Ghostpoet might be better known for his sultry subtlety, live on stage he brings an infectious energy of funk-fuelled trip-hop that gets Y Not on their feet and out of their minds.

The dancing kicks off again on Saturday when sexy pop-noir disco princes and princesses The Good Natured won over more than a few new fans and got the early-afternoon crowd going.

The good times didn’t last that long sadly, as a biblical downpour soon scared away the audience for The Cast of Cheers.

A massive swathe of fans soon regrouped for Reverend & The Makers though, as the Sheffield dons send Y Not wild.

“Peace and love,” preaches the Rev after the good times roll when Bassline proves itself to be one of the anthems of the weekend.

It falls upon British Sea Power though, to seize the day. Ever the awkward beggars, BSP have always balanced soaring post-rock majesty with frankly absurd idiosyncrasies – keeping them forever on the fringes between success and wild obscurity.

Either way, their Y Not set is nothing short of flawless: with cult-rock classic Remember Me sounding as perfect as ever and No Lucifer making for the ultimate festival chorus. As the sun sets over rural Derbyshire, tonight they showcase why they’re Britain’s last great band of eccentrics and true national treasures – “EASY!”

Another one to watch is the wonderful Lucy Rose who packs out Y Not’s Quarry tent with an impeccable set of funk-driven folk-pop. The best responses are saved for recent radio hits Lines and Bikes, while all in all, her tender manner and sensual ballads wash Y Not Festival with a stunned silence as they fall entranced into her bewitching rhythms. Only erupting in adulation between songs and for an unexpected stagedive, Y Not-goers were clearly left smitten with the humbled and reserved future star.

The Subways whip up a feral frenzy in a way that only they can. While their formulaic nineties-esque Brit-rock sound may fail to inspire on record, it can’t be denied that as a live band The Subways are masters of crowd control. The primal urgency of Oh Yeah, Rock and Roll Queen and It’s A Party are exactly what the Y Not crowd need: they want a good time and they want it fast. Plus, you can’t beat a little bit of cowbell.

Sparking off two circle pits, master of ceremonies Billy Lunn and ferocious firecracker Charlotte Cooper bring the ‘LOUD’ to Y Not Festival’s ‘Small, fresh and loud’ ethos.

We Are Scientists inimitable blend of relentless tongue-in-cheek banter and angular art-rock made for the perfect full stop to a weekend rammed with good cheer.

Frontman Keith Murray skips and darts across the stage to met by the warm embrace of drummer Andy Burrows – complete with pink cowboy hat.

“This one is for your fallen comrades who couldn’t survive three days at Y Not,” beams bassist Chris Cain to the rapture of thousands of tired survivors. But nothing stopped we few, we lucky few, who made it until the end from dancing until their final notes rang out.
The bigger boy festivals will continue to claim the headlines but there’s a small party in a beautiful corner of Derbyshire that knows what it wants. Y Not may be small but it was certainly fresh, and very, very loud.

Words and photos by Andrew Trendell

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