The annual Boomtown Fair grabs your average UK festival and throws it into the stewing pot, adding a heavy emphasis on immersive storyline, and stage designs, that are blown so far out of proportion that only Glastonbury comes close. Then they sprinkle a thousand-and-one paid actors to guide you on your travels through the eight distinct districts, each being home to at least one main stage, and a selection of small-to-medium sized street venues.
Womad, now in it’s 37th year, saw temperatures rocket to 38 degrees on the Thursday as we arrived from Brighton in several traffic jams to Wiltshire at the hottest part of the day, the trees were still and not one cloud gave us hope of shelter from the relentlessly burning sun. After the rather sweaty process of erecting our tents we celebrated with a beer and a seat under the awning and took in the surroundings made uniquely distinctive and beautifully enhanced especially for Womad by the hundreds of flags made by Angus Watt for 25 of those years.
When done right, festivals achieve a special kind of magic. Brainchild is a festival that’s done right. Not-for-profit, serious about social issues yet gloriously fun, and a celebration of artistic expression and personal freedom, it has that particular magic in spades.
Now into its eighth year, Brainchild has become an indelibly inked-in fixture in the summer calendar for many, and first-timers are in the minority.
Started in 2013, and billed as the first outdoor jazz festival for over 20 years, Love Supreme has always been about combining contemporary and old school jazz flavours, with crowd pleasing pop, along with a little bit of soul, funk, hip hop, electronica, and r’n’b. And while it took a few years to really find its feet, the festival has since become relatively stable and established, albeit within a toxic atmosphere of austerity and Brexit, the main socio-economic-political signposts of our times, pulling negatively at both the economy, and spending power. But, in the main, people know roughly what to expect, and that is a high quality, ‘mature’ music programme, in a safe, none-too-cluttered child/teen friendly space. Although camping is part and parcel of the experience for many, Love Supreme is definitely more Latitude, than Glastonbury, the hedonism toned down.
You simply cannot keep a great songwriter down. A founding member of Brighton based The Mojo Fins, Stephen (SJ) Brett has found his feet again, with a new band that includes Paul Pascoe on bass, Oddur Runnarson on guitar and Nick Van Vlaenderen on drums. This is only their third gig together, but there’s a natural chemistry apparent from the off, as they effortlessly gel as a unit.
Off the back of his fourth solo album Yawn, Bill Ryder-Jones returned to Brighton to treat us to a truly humble and intimate set of old and new favourites. Playing to an almost sold-out room at The Haunt, it was clear Bill had pulled in a number of his die-hard fans from the area. With an impressive back-catalogue and a packed-out room of people who were keen to listen to Bill’s every riff and word, it was bound to be a memorable night.
Following the release of their phenomenal debut album Errorzone, the hardcore five-piece known as Vein are a band that I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for. Their Code Orange-influenced style of furious hardcore, electronic distortion and other elements definitely had my attention and praise to the point where I would regard their debut record as one of 2018’s best albums. Therefore, I was very pleased to find out that Vein would cross paths with the people of Brighton at their Green Door Store show, with support from Higher Power and Narrow Head.
After the release of their latest album back in 2018 titled Bambi, the next step for indie champions Hippo Campus was obviously to commence a tour in celebration of the recent record. Thankfully for us, this tour would take the band to Brighton’s Concorde 2, a city full of great indie culture, which would have the pleasure of welcoming one of America’s finest bands of the genre.
Bridlington duo Seafret have, impressively, overcome being dropped by their label Sony Music Entertainment due to one thing and one thing alone: the enthusiasm and passion of their fanbase. Sticking with them every step of the way, the band have come through the other side looking bigger and better than they ever did before. Their gig at Patterns – their first Brighton gig since supporting Amber Run at Concorde 2 back in 2017 – was an excellent showcase of the progress the band have made and the extended love-in that has grown between the band and their fans.
Despite previously appearing back in 2015, the return of Mutations Festival feels like a brand-new festival. Now an all-dayer in a single venue rather than a multi-venue bash, as well as relocating to Portslade’s Hansen Hall and bringing Small Pond on board as co-promoters, it already felt like a whole new thing entirely. As such, there were certainly some teething problems on the day, such as a lack of facilities for such a large number of people, problems with the screens in the main room and, crucially, running out of pints way before its conclusion. However, there was certainly enough promise to keep Mutations alive long enough to become an annual tradition.