A festival in Shepherd’s Bush you say. Only 10 minutes down the road. Curated by the guys at Communion. I’m there. Except, thanks to a particularly riotous IAH Friday gig to see in the Queen’s Jubilee weekend at The King’s Head (thanks Mishal Moore, Abi Murray and ScenicLife) I found myself with an inability to sit upright for more than 2 mins and so very nearly wasn’t. Eventually, loaded on carbs, we braved the 207 and made our way down the long and winding Uxbridge Road to Bushstock 2012. I would imagine that most people reading this will be familiar with Communion, but in case not (or if my Dad has decided to read this) the Communion label is home to Lucy Rose, Daughter, Mumford & Sons, Marcus Foster and Rachel Sermanni – in other words perfect music to sooth a storming head.
One of those wrist band affairs, Bushstock spans four venues, of which the Sunday Best (yes, it took place on a Saturday) at the Defector’s Weld hosted the strongest line up, but an unfortunate layout and poor sound made for a frustrating experience. When Rae Morris took to the stage early in the afternoon the room was already packed it, her strong voice astounding many, its power even more startling in contrast to her huskily quiet stage banter and the commonplace surroundings of a local pub. Whilst it is the lungs of Rae Morris that captured the room, Alessi’s Ark thrives on understated simplicity, the clipped diction and careful fretwork beautifully accentuated her wistful and smooth folk songs, and the cries of ‘I love Alessi’ and whispers of ‘wow’ suggest the crowd were just as enamoured by her short but sweet set.
We may have delusions that folk music all orginates from frolicking in fields musing on life, but today ‘where is my life going and what does it mean’ thoughts are for more likely to take place at 3am with a thumping head slumped in the club toilets, and so the converted public conveniences of Ginglik were not as odd a venue as you may think, particular highlights being Oh Burgundy and Gabriel and The Hounds.
As venues go, St Stephen’s Chutch ticks many a box. Ornate windows, tall white columns and acoustics to rival heaven, this was the perfect setting for the moody melodies of Daughter and frenetic fiddling of Bear’s Den, as well as a place of sanctuary when the summer skies opened upon us. It was Lanterns On The Lake who were the highlight – lush strings, powerful drumming, vibrant vocals and passionate delivery, combining to create something akin to an experience. Given that each of their soundscapes stretches in at least half a dozen minutes, the set was not big on quantity, but did not leave wanting on that other q. Their recent hit (in my small circles where Amazing Radio is the equivalent of the Top 40) A Kingdom was spellbinding but it was Not Going Back To The Harbour that left me with a tear in my eye, and allowed me to momentarily forget the hellish hangover. Epically beautiful and hauntingly intense, this is a song that quietens the voice and rouses the heart even on record, taken to its emotional peak in such a setting.
Other bands of note include Let’s Buy Happiness, whose were a shot of adrenalin to an until now sedately soundtracked day, and the husky vocals of Sarah Hall ensured that the boyfriend and I both left with a crush. In recent months Leicester based Silent Devices have muddied up their once slightly well trodden sound into a fast and frentic dense collection of melodies, intensely ambient atmosphere punctuated with driving rhythms. See them, and Alessi’s Ark, at a festival near you too. headlining the day were the consistently brilliant Mystery Jets, showcasing songs from latest EP Radlands as well as inducing whoops and wails for the hits.
Depending on your frame of reference, at £30 a ticket Bushstock is either expensive (the 3 day Great Escape festival in Brighton for £35) or stupidly cheap (£198 for a Reading Festival ticket anyone?), but for bringing 35 bands to a West London and carving out a space of its own in the musical landscape, and for curating a more compelling line up for the bank holiday weekend that the longstanding Field Day can’t be knocked. Chuck in the laidback feeling, impeccable timing and easy stumbling distance, and I’ll definitely be back next year.