As festival season began with an all day musical feast at the Invisible Wind Factory, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson, Matthew Wood and Amaan Khan were there to take in the action.
New beginnings. A new home, new name and a hell of a lot of new music. FestEVOL Gardens, now well established as one of the best events on the Merseyside music calendar, returned, hosted for the first time at its new home of the Invisible Wind Factory following a brief stop gap at the Camp and Furnace in 2016.
Moving home is always a risk. FestEVOL and the Kazimier complimented each other perfectly, so for any new venue it was always going to be a tough act to follow, and while Camp and Furnace worked well last year it never really felt like the right place for the festival. Now, with the Invisible Wind Factory, FestEVOL might have found the perfect replacement.
With its three stages, the Caladan stage in the main room, Vermillion Sands in the garden area, and the Genesis Cave in the basement, the venue was perfect for stage hopping, catching a bit of every band on the vast line up of talent. The sound was great, it was easy to get served with a good range of ale, and you never had to fight your way to the front of any of the stages.
As well as all of this, there was an absolute feast of new music on show, with a line up featuring pretty much all of the most exciting new talent in music, from Merseyside, across the UK and beyond. It really was a line up to be proud of.
Early doors Leeds outfit The Strawberries impressed with their psych-tinged rock, bringing together colossal guitar sounds and big choruses, before Amber Arcades delighted with her languid guitar pop. Latest single It Changes is completely infectious and was a real stand out from the set.
With TV ME’s candy floss sweet synth-pop, the Vermillion Sands stage started with mostly forgiving but slightly windy weather
Later, Generation brought their short and punchy punk ditties. The young punks usually get very polarising reviews – you either love them or you find them inauthentic, but their energy is undeniable. The same energy managed to pull more heads to the stage regardless of them delivering a pretty standard performance of some cliché punk music.
Though the stage was the perfect corner for the festival goer’s ciggy breaks and thus was never short of attendance, the ability to carry one’s interest for the whole 30 minutes allocated to the early acts was absent until Psycho Comedy and Trudy and The Romance took stage.
Psycho Comedy packed great charisma amidst their catchy garage rock tunes while Trudy and The Romance’s doo-wop weirdness made them stand out from all the other rockers trying to act cool.
This year’s FestEVOL Gardens was another step in the IWF‘s development and we had the pleasure of witnessing the baptism of the basement, AKA Genesis Cave. One of three stages on the day, it shone brightest despite their being no source of natural light, as we reveled in the phenomenally eclectic array of performances.
A modest but noteworthy crowd trudged blindly into the new setting for the stage’s opener God On My Right; a local electronic noise duo who flood the gloomy cave with their sinister sound. Baritone vocals drone over triumphant stabs of crystalline guitar while manic jungle beats pulse relentlessly. The set sees the two-piece exhibit their versatility, warping into a space age style Joy Division and even touch upon metal-tendencies with a ferocious 90s rap-metal finale. It’s a fitting opener in the basement gloom before a floppy-haired four piece grace the stage.
Jangle Pop youngsters SPINN pull in a whopping crowd and their infectious, summery sound brims with intricate tropical riffs and a rapid energy. The chocka basement bobs and sways in the late afternoon to the feel-good tunes that recall Beach Fossils and Cajun Dance Party, topped off with a true-to-their-roots twang that really hits home with the crowd. The instantly likable lads have a unique, humorous presence, particularly front-man Jonathon Quinn, who signs off with a witty ‘We’ve been SPINN, and you’ve been spun – good afternoon.’
Up next are another crowd favourite and a less drastic shift of pace than our last transition. Hotly tipped mellow funk-pop duo Her’s comprising of Norwegian bass player Audun Laading and lead vocalist-guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick hailing from Barrow-In-Furness fuse their musical talent and jaunty humour for a unique musical experience. They conjure up chilled waves of Haruomi Hosono-esque compositions, kept afloat by sumptuous doses of slapped-funk bass and neatly textured electronic beats. Laading prances gleefully around the stage, retaining perfect rhythm and the two opt for a moment of intimacy, crouching on the floor and indulging us in a medley of melody before launching into their final tune. The crowd is humming with anticipation of whats to come and the FestEVOL fuse is now fully lit.
Next up on the Caladan stage was possibly the highlight of the whole day. Pink Kink have built a reputation over the past year for their energetic, raucous live performances, but today they took things to another level. They’re explosive, exciting and hugely fun to watch, yet they’ve got the tunes to back it up. Find us a more exciting new live band on the scene at the moment. We’ll wait. In a line up packed with talent from all over the world and some well established acts, it was great to see a Liverpool band show them how it’s done.
It was always going to be tough to follow Pink Kink, yet there did seem to be a bit of a lull with INHEAVEN, Dream Wife and PINS. The three bands were all impressive with sharp, slick punk inspired sounds but feel like they could benefit from a big tune or two. Dream Wife however are impressive performers which certainly went a long way in making up for it. The Big Moon are similarly slick but showed a knack for good pop songs, bringing a lot of fun to their set. Their cover of Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger was a highlight.
Black Honey might be one of the coolest bands around. Their swaggering garage rock and roll just oozes attitude, while Izzy Baxter embodies everything a proper front person should. Effortlessly cool and a brilliant rock voice, making for one of the sets of the day.
Anteros carried the baton with equal success with their dream pop new wave sounds that remind us of early 80s pop. Their glittery selves and riffs got the place up and dancing.
Festivals like these are abundant with acts bringing something new to the table, and so Bribe’s well-executed standard power-rock might feel bland. But if it was the comfort of familiarity you wanted to relax to amidst the adventurous sounds offered elsewhere, Bribe is one hell of a choice for that. Red Rum Club’s indie rock efforts seemed almost equally unadventurous, only slightly saved by some well-added trumpet playing, yet they managed to draw one of the biggest crowds of the day.
With a royal host of girl bands amid this year’s fantastic lineup, we’re hit with a double whammy of female talent. The first of which, St. Jude The Obscure; a synth-pop quartet who layer ghostly synths with mesmeric hooks from Adele Emmas‘ impressive vocal range. Building their sound around pounding chords and atmospheric soundscapes, it’s a catchy display of radio-friendly pop that simmers gently throughout without being overly ambitious and perhaps not as ‘obscure’ as we we’re expecting.
CHINAH again impress with their outrageously trendy electronic pop. Hailing from Copenhagen, they harness a sound that seems to borrow from a range of decades with 80s synths, doses of 90s RnB and textured beats that have led the likes of Jamie XX and James Blake to stardom. They’re fantastically tight and their prudent use of synth effects coupled with songstress Fine Glindvad’s almost robotic vocal loops are what give their live performances such high quality.
As the night draws on, crowds begin to fluctuate as the Genesis Cave competes with the increasingly impressive acts on the main Caladan stage and the outdoor Vermilion Sands. Our first flavour of psychedelia for the night comes in the form of AGP, the project of Andrew Gordon Parry joined by members of Danye, AJHD and Dead Hedge Trio. Their drowsy stoner-rock is like playing DIIV at the lowest speed on the turntable with jangley, effect drenches chords and super-delayed vocals. The result is a quivering wall of sound but much of the bands punch is lost amid the warped guitar sounds. The quartet seem nervous and sadly this effects their performance; timid Parry’s vocal are barely comprehensible albeit a cool layer on record, the vocal effect needs some tailoring to really hit home.
Pulling the biggest crowd so far, hotly anticipated ‘pea-pop’ trio Peaness are set to woo us with their American-tinged sugarcoated numbers. They’ve crafted their D.I.Y. approach and despite their inclining towards simplicity, they’ve developed it into a meaty live performance. Beaming smiles join beaming smiles as the trio delve into their set, joyous and jubilant to be playing for us. Their often rudimentary tunes are simultaneously their endearing charm and a youthful innocence settles around the room, we’re captivated by their smooth harmonies and gritty chord progressions with Same Place a stand out ditty.
Cabbage are a band who have experienced a new level of infamy over the past few weeks, and for all the wrong reasons, so it was interesting to see the kind of response they got tonight. It didn’t seem to deter many from watching them as they drew a big crowd, but for us there was little substance beneath their posturing. In fact, the only thing enjoyable about the set was a member of Pink Kink throwing a cabbage at them.
Nothing could prepare us for the next act in the Genesis Cave, and don’t let the name deceive you, there’s nothing tame or timid about Shy Billy. It’s a schizophrenic shift from Peaness and the heaviest display so far. Formerly known as LYING BSTRDS, it’s a manic display of gut-busting rock and roll led by a three-pronged attack of raging guitar and bass. Strobes join the frantic display of metal-infused American blues and sends the crowd into a perspiring frenzy now the beers are starting to flow freely. Hurtling through their set we witness the band’s adept songwriting talent amid their onslaught of face-melting guitar work. Onward we go!
Arguably the best thing to come out of Halifax since Quality Street, the unbelievably young trio The Orielles are blowing the somewhat nullified genre ‘indie’ out of the water. Their tailored brand of dream-pop recalls twee rockers The Pastels, the guitar expertise of Johnny Marr and twists of 70s two-tone ska revival and is met with shifting shapes from the ever-growing crowd. Lead guitarist and baby of the band Henry Wade steals the show with his already masterful guitar playing despite only just applying for his provisional. ‘Let’s have a reet fuckin’ boogie‘ he insists before surging into the epic Sugar Tastes Like Salt, spanning a whopping 8 minutes on record, the band treat us to a hefty jam that the pulsing crowd laps up gladly. And have a reet fuckin’ boogie we did.
The scenes that followed marked yet another shift of pace, we’re met by a topless figure with straggly long hair, his face marked with black paint as if he’d just been caught in Takeshi’s Castle’s Honeycomb Maze. Brutal roars of guitar and body-shattering snare hits cut through our anticipation; this is going to be one hell of a ride from Doncaster’s answer to Fat White Family, The Blinders. The psycho three-piece channel political aggression and raw punk for a rip-roaring performance of enticingly sinister riffs that recall the likes of The Cramps and The Birthday Party. Front-man Tom proceeds to shroud a crowd member in a Red Army flag and we’re treated to a Gene Wider Willy Wonka monologue and there’s really no knowing where they’re goin next with their performance. The standout performance of the evening, it’s going to be tough to top that performance.
Pulled Apart By Horses brought a hurricane of noise to the Wind Factory with their rip-roaring punk anthems of punching lions in throats, while throwing themselves about the stage. Their’s is a sound that grips you by the scruff of your neck and forces you to listen, and gave anyone who might have needed it a wake up as the night began to reach the early hours.
Vermillion Sands headliners the Sundowners always feel like veterans with their well-refined psychedelic rock. From the songwriting to the physical performance – everything has been honed impressively. Though they had clashes with some of the biggest acts on the bill to compete with, they still managed to pack out the outside area, and put on a performance to ensure no one regretted missing some of the bigger bands inside.
Having supported shoegaze giants Slowdive earlier this year, there was a significant buss around our next act. Psychedelic five-piece Ulrika Spacek crowd the intimate stage, projected visuals shift and fizz on the walls behind as a kraut-beat begins proceedings. Sonic layers of guitar make their entry on cue, slowly building with intensity, melodies reverberating around the tight enclosure. A different tone swallows up the room and the crowd seems to enjoy the woozy hypnotic shoegaze, offering a welcomed moment of respite as the night draws on.
Now if there was anything to snap us out of a sleepy wave come midnight, it’s a dose of mosh-pit inducing, gut wrenching rock and roll. Fortunately for us, we had Madrid’s finest garage rock outfit The Parrots in store as they kick-start their UK tour in formidable form. They launch into their mile-a-minute set and having just witnessed the opening of Wild Beasts upstairs, it’s a whole different atmosphere down here. While the crowd looked weary and dissipated upstairs, the basement still glows with energy, and it’s all thanks to the boys from Spain. It’s hectic fun for all involved with bodies flying onto the stage to be launched back into the melee by some aggressive but attentive bouncers.
At one point a pipe is ripped from the ceiling and chunks of the roof flake into the pit, after which a security guard stands center stage, holding up the loose pipe. ‘Let’s play some rock and roll OKAY!?‘ yells front-man Diego Garcia ‘Let’s go crazy!’. Their outbursts are hilarious and spark a desire to dive head first into the madness. Their cover of 60s Peruvian garage band Los Saicos’ Demolicion is repeated over and over but still leaves us craving more. What a performance, i’ll be seeing this band again no doubt. It’s been an unforgettable baptism for this gloomy basement.
Wild Beasts are a band who have enjoyed a slow but steady rise to prominence over their career and five studio LPs. Their sound has evolved massively since their 2008 debut Limbo, Panto, with synths taking over from their quirky folk style of old, and their live shows have benefitted massively. They sound absolutely huge.
Tonight they’re on top form, with tracks such as Wanderlust, Mecca, and Hooting and Howling showing what an impressive back catalogue the Cumbrian’s have quietly assembled over the last decade.
Bringing the night to a close was the much anticipated return of All We Are. Despite dwindling crowd numbers the three piece were greeted with a lot of love from their adopted hometown crowd as they premiered new tracks from their forthcoming second album.
It’s a set packed with grooves, and with the new tunes hinting at a new edge to their sound. It’s slightly darker and more confident, and shows signs of a band really growing into their skin. It’s a great way to end the day, and brilliant to have All We Are back.
To sign us off are a band who are making a habit of playing the super late slot. ‘I’m really drunk and tired‘ confesses Strange Collective vocalist which arguably rings true with us all. Their snarling garage-psych deserves more of a reception, and had they played a couple of hours before they no doubt would have gotten more. The band still give it their all, keeping the crowd alive with quick shifts in pace and roaring layers of fuzz; they’re the final flame of the evening, and they burn bright despite the hour.
It’s been a monstrous journey of astounding tunes, performances to warrant bright futures for all, and a triumphant atmosphere until the death. Thanks to FestEVOL, you’ve done it again. We’ll sleep well tonight.
Photos by Getintothis’ Georgia Flynn, Tom Adam and Peter Goodbody