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Way Out West — Day Two

  • Published in Live


We kick off our second day at the festival by checking out José González on the Höjden stage. It’s unsurprising that the stage area is absolutely packed, given the fact that he’s one of Gothenburg’s own, and security shut it down within twenty minutes because it’s at full capacity. It’s a great, understated performance and a gentle start to ease us into the day ahead.

Arguably the best gig of the day happens at the Linné tent, where Kamasi Washington takes to the stage. It’s a brilliant set and Kamasi and his band are on top form, oozing musicality, as they crack through tracks from The Epic. With such superlative musicians on stage, it’s no surprise that the crowd is roaring by the time they’re halfway through the opening track. It’s a jazzy, bluesy, souly, funk-shake, shot through with African rhythms. We drink it up. Afterwards, we go from one epic performance to another. By the time Grace Jones makes her appearance, the skies have opened and the festival site’s slowly being transformed into a quagmire. We barely notice the rain when she takes the stage: skulking out wearing a black cloak and a gold skull headpiece with a crown of black feathers. On losing the cloak and putting on a golden headdress, we discover that she’s covered in tribal body paint. She is fierce, commanding and completely compelling.

When The Tallest Man On Earth takes the stage he is genuinely delighted to see such a huge crowd waiting, given the fact that we’re all in danger of being washed away by the rain. He’s as great a stage presence as ever without needing any gimmicks: the songs fly on their own. His most recent album Dark Bird is Home saw him embracing a full-band sound and these tracks, combined with reworked tracks from his earlier albums come across really well despite the fact that the band are playing borrowed instruments after their kit got lost on a plane. We love the new versions of 'Wind and Walls' and '1904' and 'The Wild Hunt', arranged for guitar, pedal steel and violin, is something really special. He abandons the band for some of the set, playing some earlier tracks in their original arrangements. 'Love is All' and 'The Gardner’ prove that Kristian Matsson is at his best with just his vocals and guitar.

Based on my previous experiences with The Libertines, where the gigs were either blisteringly good or cancelled, it’s 50/50 as to whether they’ll pull of their first performance in Sweden in twelve years. By the time they take the stage, it’s public knowledge that Pete wasn’t even in Sweden when they were due to play the day before. Now he’s here, but he’s pallid and woozy and looks like he’s just back from a date with Gazza, circa 2014. Things get off to a good start with 'The Delaney', mainly because it’s nostalgia in overdrive, as Pete and Carl appear on the stage in their scarlet guardsman jackets. Appearance-wise, it looks just like the old days. Performance-wise, it’s just like the old days too: pretty shambolic in parts with moments of brilliance where the band really gets it together and are on top form.  After a great start, the set goes awry and by the time they get to 'What Katie Did' the cracks really start to show. Carl’s been looking wary all through the set and there’s a moment where he seems to have to chivvy Pete along, Gary’s looking wary too while working overtime on the drums to keep the songs on track and John is getting the job done with aplomb but looks like he’s quietly fuming. At one point, Pete gets so frustrated that he throws his guitar into the crowd and his guitar tech has to scramble out to get it back. It’s a shame that, on some of the band’s best tracks like 'Can’t Stand Me Know', the guitars are all chord work and really scrappy. As the set nears its end, though, they really get it together. 'Vertigo', 'Death on the Stairs' and 'Time for Heroes' are absolutely smashing and show that The Libertines can still really deliver. The set rounds off with 'The Good Old Days', 'Up The Bracket' and 'Don’t Look Back into the Sun', and the crowd is delighted. Like previous Libertines gigs, the set is brilliant and frustrating in almost equal measure but still worth seeing. Carl and Pete still have great, fractious chemistry but they can’t hold the band together. It’s time we got over idolising the leading men and gave the Gary and John the credit they deserve for being the ones who work overtime to hold the band’s live performances together. It’s no wonder that Gary whips his top off and hops about the stage at the end of the set.

PJ Harvey’s headline slot is both austere and magnificent. She comes onstage flanked by men in grey suits, chanting, swathed in indigo and carrying a saxophone. We can’t take our eyes off her. She plays most of her most recent album, the monumental The Hope Six Demolition Project, some tracks from Let England Shake and it’s only after over an hour that the 90s classics get an airing. By the time the lights finally go out, we feel like we’ve just witnessed something monumental. 


Together The People, Preston Park, Brighton - Day 2

  • Published in Live

The first thing to greet us is the strange yellow thing in the sky which is now blazing down. Today’s line-up also offers us much more excitement with some wonderful acts and we aim to see as many as we can.

Up first on the main stage are Disraeli And The Small Gods a wonderful six piece hip hop band that attack with a whole host of instruments along with Bellatrix blowing us away with some amazing beatbox skills. Disraeli lays down some hard-core lyrics, which we feel could have been rewarded with a slot higher up the running order. However it’s a great warm up act and an excellent start.  

We decide to avoid the parents’ pit which is hosting a live version of Dr Seuss's Cat in the Hat and plump instead for some soothing acoustic sounds on the folklore stage to catch the wonderful Frankie Furlong and Josh Mac then on to Astrid's Tea Party on the BIMM stage. These three acts go a long way to helping small festivals grow. All these acts are just starting their careers and for a new festival it’s vital that they are seen to give an opportunity to acts such as this. Moreover we the music-loving public get exposure to acts we would never have found out about. We continue to pop back and forth in-between the main stages and are lucky enough to catch the wonderful Oktoba which is a project of another Brighton-based artist Chris Athorne who we think has a wonderful future ahead of him.

After all this new music we decided we need to return to one of our highlights of other festivals. Roots Manuva are onstage and they do not disappoint. Rodney P and band pump out some classic laid back hip hop to the now much larger crowd. Obviously the hit ‘Witness’ goes down a storm along with the deep bass funk of ‘Jah Warriors’. Although a short set we were delighted to bump into him backstage and have a quick chat about his upcoming album and the importance of UK Hip Hop. 

Next act on the main stage, Lucy Rose, unfortunately couldn't quite follow Roots Manuva with her acoustic sounds. She is also battling the noise made by the other stage where Fly Golden Eagle are rocking our socks off. We stay around to catch local lad Jacko Hooper who delivers an excellent set full of integrity and brings a welcome honesty to his craft which we hope will propel him to a wider audience.

With the sun still beating down and having rushed around four stages trying to cram as much in as possible we can relax safe in the hands of the wonderful Public Service Broadcasting. With a beer in hand and a wonderful crowd they take the stage. This is the highlight of the whole weekend for us. They have a wonderful mixture of unique archive sounds which are a roaring success. Their interaction with the crowd via their vocal loops and humour made us chuckle as we danced. The environment seemed to match their sound perfectly. The introduction of an added dancing dad horn section was an enormous success. For their smash hit ‘Gagarin’ they even added a dancing cosmonaut. What more can a band do we asked ourselves. 

We leave the main stage and mutter that with two main acts to still to come we wondered if PSB should not have swapped slots with the closing act Jose Gonzalez. 

With our feet now well and truly worn out we rather shamefully plump ourselves done on the grass, grab an overpriced burrito and settle down to await the Motown legends Martha Reeves And The Vandellas. For a woman in her 70s it is quite amazing the energy and power that she can produce on stage. She knocks out hit after hit and it felt a real privilege to see a true legend perform. We basically danced our weary butts off assuming this was the last chance for a boogie. 

We are comforted to know we were correct in our assumptions. We still have time to pop in to see the amazing chilled sounds of Luke Sital-Singh. This singer songwriter has a very bright future and already has attracted many plaudits. His vulnerable voice and intense lyrics bring a calming effect to the end of the festival. The final act Jose Gonzalez continues this chilled calm effect. However we question whether a festival should end so calmly and so relaxed.  Jose is a wonderful attraction and as we sit on a now rather chilly evening we are treated to a relaxing soothing set. In between shivering and the gnashing of teeth we reflect on all the acts we have seen and conclude that it’s been a roaring success. There are a few things that need improving but we are confident that Together The People 16 will be an even bigger and better event.

There are lots more photos to be found via this link.

Photographer: Natalie Milham.

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