Monday 15 June 2015

LIVE: my day at Bushstock 2015...

I've been to a couple of local free festivals, and had half a day at Cambridge Folk Festival a couple of years back, but on Saturday I took a trip to London (again) and had my first proper festival experience at Bushstock. After being offered the tickets by a wonderful friend who won them but had already bought some, I made the last minute choice, the day before the festival, to go along. In retrospect - brilliant  choice. Organised and run by Communion, you know you're in safe hands in terms of the line-up, as  the label has ties with the likes of George Ezra, Ben Howard and Half Moon Run. Though I left early and didn't check them out, this years festival was headlined by Lucy Rose, Michael Kiwanuka, and Villagers, with various other fantastic acts throughout the day.

As the festival started up, we checked out Ady Suleiman at The Courtyard, a new and intimate stage area in an outside part of The University of the Arts. Being a particular favourite of my friend's, his set was a no-brainer, but I went into it blind, having not heard any of Ady's tracks beforehand. What might be described as R&B with soulful vocals and harmonies, I found his set impressive, performing tracks from his recent release This Is My EP with his talented band.

Ady Suleiman
After Ady's set we grabbed some food and dashed around to the beautiful St. Stephen's Church, where Frances was playing. Having recently played on the Communion New Faces tour, I came to this set more prepared, but my expectations were exceeded. I'm not one to constantly compare artists, but she could be seen as a Rae Morris and Adele hybrid of sorts. Basically, Frances isn't short of talent. Her style suited the church venue perfectly, and her set was topped off by a beautiul performance of her recent new track 'Grow' (below), which is the title track from her upcoming EP, released July 10th. A brilliant, chilling live artist, you can catch her live at Servant Jazz Quarters in London on Wednesday 14th October.

After this set we decided to head to the Albertine Wine Bar, where the first of three secret special guests, Alex Vargas, had just been announced. Having heard good things of his music but not having listened to him, this was another great musical discovery of the day, alongside a wonderful stage presence and great stage banter, his haunting style filling out the intimate, packed wine bar in a stunning way. He must be doing something right as he's just sold out four dates in London this month, so I guess I should also be grateful to have seen him fairly early in what will probably be a fruitful and long career in music. Certain that the special guests could only get better, we decided to stick around and wait for the next announcement - particularly as there was apparently a huge queue to get into the venue for the second set. Shortly, this was announced to be the incredibly talented Nick Mulvey, a particular favourite of mine. As expected, his set in this jam-packed bar was incredible, and I felt genuinely lucky to have witnessed it. Time ticked on and the speculation was confirmed, the third act were The Staves. I was aware of their music and how well loved they are in the folk community, but again I hadn't really listened to them (it was a day of brilliant discoveries!) The harmonious, quiet, unplugged set from the gifted sisters was a pleasure to listen to. In short: Communion weren't lying when they said they were 'special' guests, it was a superb mini line-up.

Alex Vargas
Nick Mulvey
The Staves

The final act of the day that I checked out before choosing to leave early as I was tired and needed to catch a train home, was Port Isla at Bush Hall. I'd heart about them for supporting James Bay on his recent UK tour, and my friend was keen to check out their set. The set was energetic and fun regardless of the band being down a regular member, and I'm interested to take a listen to the band's EPs to see how their recorded music sounds.

Port Isla
It's my opinion that once you scratch the surface, the music industry is far smaller than it first seems, and this is obvious nowhere more than at this sort of day. Throughout the day I saw various artists, music industry people, and friends around, and everyone that I met was incredibly friendly - even the security! Overall I had a great experience at the festival which is fairly new, in only its fifth year, and I'd definitely consider going along to the festival next year!

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