First Review: Bushstock 2011
Chris Eustace takes in the inaugural day festival
Nothing, it seems, can stop Communion. Conceived as a nu-folk club night, it’s given leg-ups to
the likes of Mumford & Sons (whose Ben Lovett co-owns Communion) and Laura Marling,
before branching out into a record label. As it launches its first festival, Bushstock, this includes the
football (though the festival was postponed from its original date due to fears that QPR V Leeds nearby could turn violent,
today it thumbs its nose at England V Switzerland), the trains (a part closure of the Hammersmith & City line is no sweat),
and the weather (it’s perfect).
Bushstock takes in four Shepherd’s Bush venues - Shepherds Bar, The Goldhawk, St. Stephens Church and Ginglik, which famously used to be a public toilet, with the wristband exchange amounting to two tables situated outside St. Stephen’s Church. It’s very efficient though, with no-one having to queue for too long. While the venues look a bit far apart on the map, they’re actually all within 10 minutes’ walk of each other. Queues outside them appear to be non-existent.
As we wait for the first act, hopeful talk amongst the varied crowd of a possible Mumford appearance is scuppered with the news that that the band are in Arkansas tonight for the Wakarusa Festival.
Daughter (7/10) kicks things off, delicate, dreamy acoustic songs nicely augmented by a second guitarist.
Michael Kiwanuka (8/10) takes to the stage next, with future single 'I’m Getting Ready' like a gospel-tinged Iron & Wine, while a solo rendition of 'I Won’t Lie' mesmerises, before he gets the audience singing along to a closing cover of Bill Withers’ 'I Don’t Know'.
Over at Shepherds Bar, The Riff Raff (6/10) provide a welcome change of pace, like a more enthusiastic, tuneful version of The Rakes, with enough to suggest a more original sound is on the way. Folk-rockers Tom Williams & The Boat (8/10) stomp their way into the audience’s affections, going from a giddy '90MPH' to a brutal 'See My Evil', joking “That was the old intro!” when gremlins force them to restart 'Neckbrace'.
Don’t talk to To Kill A King (6/10) about gremlins though, as the band battle against broken bass amps and snapped strings to come good in the second half of their set. A beefed-up take on Mumford, by 'Fictional State' they’re flying, and many onlookers resolve to give them another chance soon.
Marques Toliver (9/10) reveals his showman side down at the Church, as he stalks down the aisles to play, the church acoustics added to a soaring voice mean he doesn’t even have to use a microphone. Clearly the large, attentive crowd‘s got him in a playful mood - even when he does use the stage, he ends up breaking into a cover of TLC’s 'No Scrubs'. Meanwhile at Ginglik, Kill It Kid (8/10) may be about to come of age. Anyone into the new Kills album or those curious as to how The White Stripes would’ve sounded if Jack and Meg had duetted on every song might want to investigate.
Back at Shepherds, even other bands are in to see Lucy Rose (8/10). The bruised and beautiful likes of 'Don’t You Worry' are inevitably going to invite Marling comparisons, but Rose shouldn’t be fazed or annoyed by this – she’s fast approaching a similar high standard. Flashguns (8/10) refuse to sulk over the sparse crowd at The Goldhawk. With the one-two punch of 'Come And See The Lights' and 'Passions Of A Different Kind', anthem-in-waiting 'No Point Hanging Around' and howling blues-tinged closer 'Racing Race' in their locker, their time will come.Glastonbury Emerging Talent winners Treetop Flyers (7/10) are a bit more “trad” than some of their Communion peers, and while the band may not like the comparison, there’s a touch of Nutini in the vocals, which won’t exactly hurt them commercially.
The air conditioning’s working overtime as headliners Guillemots (9/10) take to the stage, with Fyfe Dangerfield declaring Shepherds to be “the hottest room I’ve ever been in.” The band open with the title track from the latest album 'Walk The River', and proceed to take the bulk of their setlist from it, with Dangerfield worrying if the throng are “in the mood for a sad song” before going into 'I Don’t Feel Amazing Now', after which they dedicate 'I Must Be A Lover' to “the strange posse of people we met earlier.”
'Made Up Love Song #43' and 'Trains To Brazil' predictably meet with the most frenzied dancing, though recent single 'The Basket' runs them close. As a fevered 'Yesterday Is Dead' closes proceedings, it’s definitely a hardcore fan’s setlist, but such was the performance, people who came for the hits will no doubt be seeking out the new record.All in all, the first Bushstock was a resounding success.
While there was a sizable crowd, the event clearly wasn’t oversold like other urban festivals sometimes are, meaning it was quite possible to get in to see everyone you wanted to, and there was a decent amount of variation in the acts chosen to play. There’s still scope to expand the event next year, should the organisers wish to, with Bush Hall and Shepherd’s Bush Empire nearby, though using the latter may mean the event loses its homely feel. Also, perhaps one venue could be given over to random artists coming together to jam, in the vein of Communion’s Flowerpot Sessions from last year? Whatever form it takes next time around, there will surely be a next time for Bushstock.