Bushstock Festival is what I like to think an alternative music festival should be. It’s a brilliant event and I am glad I (we, as Indie + Tonic) decided to get the tickets a few weeks ago, despite a still incomplete lineup and a couple of other events on the bill that very weekend in London. Launched in 2011, the festival has grown through the years, marking important steps and hosting artists such as Bastille, Daughter, Hozier, George Ezra and Michael Kiwanuka, just to name a few. The lineup was too tasty to resist it for this 2017 edition too.
I meet up with Chico just past 1pm, in time to make an action plan for the day and… get some beers, of course. The sun is shining and everything seems to be in the right place for a fantastic afternoon spent mainly outdoor, wandering between the few venues and – more importantly – discovering new music. That’s the point, after all, am I right? Get to see a bunch of unknown bands and let the music take the scene, once again.
We plan to see nine acts, throughout an intense afternoon. All goes smoothly, despite some disappointment for being left out the Library for Jordan Mackampa’s set (sigh, we were late indeed), and some painful choices when selecting the bands to see on such a brilliant lineup. Here below is what happened, from our very own point of view: Mosa Wild, Noctürn, Gordi, Isaac Gracie, Fyfe, Talos, Colouring, The Big Moon, Otzeki. Great stud, after all, isn’t it?
Mosa Wild | The Courtyard
I still remember the day a friend flagged up ‘Smoke’ by Mosa Wild. That voice, Jim Rubaduka’s, got my entire attention in less than ten seconds. It felt deep and melancholic, but at the same time, it was warm and comforting. It was a no-brainer to start Bushstock seeing them live at The Courtyard, even if only for that one song. The four-piece take the stage under the bridge, for a performance that results in being a way better than I could expect. Some people around stop their chats and paid unconditional – and truly deserved – attention to the Ashford-based band. ‘Smoke’ bursts in almost by the end of their set, and the feeling I had when I first listened to them is back. It’s the feeling of knowing you are in front of something loaded with heart and soul. Let’s keep an eye on them.
Noctürn | St Stephen’s Church
Following the failed attempt to see Jordan Mackampa at the Library – what a pity – we head to St Stephen’s Church as Gordi would start in less than an hour. We get in the -beautiful – venue and Noctürn, a completely unknown act to me, are playing one of their last songs. I am pretty impressed by the lead singer’s voice, a sort of cavernous and sacred tone that was mindblowing – even more if considering the stage they are performing. The song starts to escalate in the most unexpected way: guitars, keyboards, drums, and vocals create a soundscape hard to equalize, yet simply mersmerising. They play the last cut before leaving the stage, and the crowd breaks into a sounding applause. They are a total breakthrough for me, and surely for some other people around there. The bad side of this story is that I couldn’t find any track of the band in any streaming service and I’m craving to listen to them again, truly craving.
Gordi | St Stephen’s Church
Gordi has been touring Europe and the UK for the past month or so and Bushstock Festival marks her second last appointment in London, before a sold-out gig at St. Pancras Old Church on Monday, June 12th. I have never been a churchgoer, I have to admit. For the occasion, though, I feel like a devotee and take a front row seat. The magic starts almost immediately: Gordi fills the atmosphere with fuzzy piano riffs and with the acoustic guitar, paired with her pristine voice. I’m enchanted and I can’t stop staring at the (beautiful) stage, whilst Sophie performs ‘Here We Are’, a couple of new numbers – including the brand new ‘Heaven I Know’ – and the superb cover of Bon Iver’s ‘00000 Million’. ‘Taken Blame’ and the hit ‘Can We Work It Out’ close a set that leaves me speechless. Call me a dreamer, I don’t care.
Isaac Gracie | St Stephen’s Church
Shortly after Gordi, St Stephen’s Church is still the place to be, a perfect set for Isaac Gracie‘s spiritual songwriting. Long blonde hair, the young West London-born artist looks as comfortable on stage as he probably was in his bedroom when he delivered his first tracks a few years ago. There’s something about his way to pick on the strings of his guitar, that reminds me of some old rockers from the U.S.. It comes as no surprise, indeed, that amongst his main influences there are artists such as Bob Dylan of Jeff Buckley. His set is mesmerising and melancholic at the same time, played in front of a silent crowd. Everyone seems to be hypnotized and unable to keep eyes (and ears) off an artist whose voice breaks the air and gets straight to your heart. Judith, Isaac’s mother, is a poet, and it’s quite natural to think that this guy has inherited part of his parent’s artistic side. Numbers like ‘All In My Mind’ and the latest offering ‘Reverie’ corroborate my thoughts. Until the next time, Isaac.
Fyfe | Bush Hall
Paul Dixon, aka Fyfe and fka David’s Lyre, opens his gig fronting his four-piece band and making everyone in the room stand up and get close to the Bush Hall’s stage. He looks shy to me, almost hiding behind his guitar and the microphone, but his music sounds completely different. It feels soulful and rich, a sound that easily intoxicates you and that, at some points, reminds me of Jungle (forgive me). The show seems to evolve, embracing everyone in the venue. With tunes like ‘Strong’ or the ready-to-dance ‘Closer’, Dixon wins the crowd over, and he seems to gain confidence as he feels the connection between the stage and the ground. He thanks the public for coming down to his gig, surprised that we preferred to be inside instead of enjoying the sun outside. But it was worth it, definitely.
Talos | The Sindercombe Social
Cork-based Talos are amongst the acts I have never heard about, and it’s an absolute privilege to get to see them in a small venue like The Sindercombe Social. The band, led by frontman Eoin French (vocals, guitar), plays their atmospheric and cinematic melodies from the debut album, ‘Wild Alee’, released no longer than a couple of months ago. I am not surprised the album has gained a huge online praise so far. It couldn’t be otherwise, Talos sound somehow special. Celestial synth-driven melodies merge with Eoin’s astonishing voice and I feel the need to close my eyes and just let everything go. A double set of percussions and dreamy guitar riffs emerge all of a sudden, while Talos go through a setlist that reaches its peaks with the brilliant ‘Contra’ as well as ‘In Time’.
Colouring | The Sindercombe Social
Colouring are the ideal follow-up to Talos. The London’s four-piece is just back in town after a huge slot in support of The 1975 in North America, and they look confident and excited to play at Bushstock Festival as they take the small stage. I was very much looking forward to seeing them live and I cannot deny I have a serious crush on their latest offering, the velvety ‘The Wave’, released a few weeks ago and taken from the forthcoming EP the band are set to release later this summer. Alex, Dom, Jack and Sean play that clean indie pop made of catchy riffs and delicate melodies that will stay stuck in my mind. They’re definitely one of those bands to keep an eye on, to say the least.
The Big Moon | Bush Hall
The Big Moon, the brainchild of Juliette Jackson, are touring with their debut album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ and they are the closing act at the Bush Hall. And what a closing act. They are pure energy, pure indie rock embellished with garage-like guitars, Jackson’s vocals and effortless vibes that make you fully enjoy their set. At certain points, they remind me of Philadelphia’s Cayetana, with their hooks and sweet harmonies, although they keep their own personal halo of toughness makes their show even more appealing. If they have to be compared as a whole with someone out there, maybe the Spanish DIY alt-rock band Hinds would be the closer act. However, The Big Moon pop-infused rock is loaded with a strength and uniqueness that makes it hard to forget.
Otzeki | Defector’s Weld
If you know me personally or if you’re familiar enough with Indie + Tonic, you surely have had a chance to read about these two cousins (and how much I, we, love them). Otzeki are the final designated act of the day – the official Bushstock Festival after party – by far the moment I’ve been waiting for all day. Defector’s Weld in Shepherds Bush is probably too small to allow the whole crowd in, so Chico and I have to patiently queue outside and miss a couple of songs before – finally! – getting in. Mike and Joel are in great shape, and they play to a few hundreds of people who seem to be on fire. ‘Falling Out’, ‘Touch’, ‘Already Dead’ flow with their deep bass lines and it’s all about singing along. Mike takes the scene climbing the bar and performing a sweaty moment of crowd surfing that makes me think once again “Gosh, these guys are so freaking great!”. The crowd loudly asks for an encore and Otzeki perform their latest offering, ‘True Love’, with a long snippet of an unreleased track for the final five or (or 10, maybe 15…?) minutes. Mike stands up on a stool and screams “Help Me!”. That’s when the curtains are brought down, on Otzeki and on a glorious day at Bushstock Festival 2017.