Festival Review: Bushstock – London

bushstock 2016 bannerBushstock

18th June 2016, Londonbushstock poster 2016

Words: Elena Katrina

Photos: Daisy Smart

Bushstock has been one of my favourite festivals of the past four or so years and last year I let someone else take my place to hit up the Communion Music presented festival in South West London’s Shepherds Bush to review for Popped. I instantly regretted it but what was done was done and it’s nice to share the love around the team! This year though I retuned more exited than ever after a year off. My problem was – who on earth was I going to see? and not just that – but would I actually get to see them? With such a strong line up and venues only holding so much at capacity there is always the risk of finding yourself in a queue rather than catching a band. Not that you can’t just roll on down to another venue and catch a different band – but this year I managed to do that and end up in two queues in a row – obviously a lot of people have good taste 😉

Our day started off with something quite quite special though. In years gone by I have looked through social media to see who I have missed at the secret garden stage – a very intimate stage put on with Toms to a group of people invited and who have won competitions to attend. This year Popped got an invite and we headed off to find the now not so secret location to watch Meadowlark. We were met with friendly faces and some (very tasty) Bushstock cup cakes and free drinkies. All of that is bound to put a smile on your face and to add to it that not a single drop of rain fell from the grey and threatening sky while we were there.

bushstock - daisy smart - poppedmusic Meadowlark, a band who I have been keeping a close eye on since early 2015 have blossomed beyond belief and it was a genuine pleasure to witness them in this intimate and beautiful surrounding. Their once clumsy stage chatter is now more assured but still unassuming and cutely coy. Their vocals never ever miss a note and you could hear a pin drop, and a bird tweet while they played. Oh and some DIYer nearby who was intent on trying to add a little bit of unwanted texture to their sound. With latest single, Paraffin having been played on repeat a lot in my house, it was wonderful to hear it live and also to hear new songs, as yet unrecorded, and never before performed. One of which had quite a sad underlying theme. I can’t look forward to these guys moving forward any more if I tried.

It was back to St Stephen’s Church, the “meeting point”, “ticket office”, “information area” and host to some most glorious sounds where we found ourselves headed next. With twenty minutes to go before the next act it was already proving difficult to find a pew and people were already starting to gather at the back. The act for which was causing so many people to clamber on in through the church doors, like they were looking to find Noah before the flood, was Seramic. With a bold and heady mix of Blues, Soul and gentle Electronica Seramic finds himself very much placed in the brilliantly lit path of Jack Garrett, for whom he will support on his forthcoming UK tour this November.

Though the project of Seramic might be a new this is not his first foray into the music scene, nor indeed the first time he’s played for Bushstock and is well versed in Communion shows for that matter too. Coupled with this experience and the fact that his name is on the lips of music industry people left right and centre, ourselves included, it came of no surprise that St Stephen’s hit it’s capacity, the arc, it was full. I felt the unity of his congregation in their applause and I felt a huge wave of satisfaction knowing that in one way or another I have been enjoying, supporting and following this guy for many many years. It may well be a bit smug to say but I, hand on heart, can say it’s one of my favourite vocals of all time.

A short stroll away was a secret gig, if I’d have checked my phone I’d have known who it was, as it was it started early and when I arrived all I could do was gasp in horror as I saw Amber Run sat inside playing and acoustic set. This is what nightmares are made of, another band I’ve supported, prior to name change, and I didn’t see they were playing to a hand full of people. All I could so was wave back as they spotted my horrified face peering in on them. I bloody love that band. Those inside looked thrilled, and rightly so, I can but only hope they enjoyed every moment!

Across the road Hidden Charms were pounding out their mercurial live set and taking absolutely no prisoners as they did so. We queued to get in to try and get a peak but just got bounced around the back of the venue from where we couldn’t see a thing but could hear the snapping sizzles of the guitars and could feel the thunder of the bass and drums. It also meant that we found a rather confused looking Sara Hartman and band, who were wondering how on earth they would manage to get their gear through to the stage for their set which proceeded. After a quick chat it was time for a mass change around as people re-arranged themselves to leave, to stay, to nab the now empty seat and cheer as though they had just scored a goal at the Euros (some very Happy Belgian-shirt-wearing festival goers were glowing after their team’s absolute smack down of a match) so the atmosphere was sizzling.

bushstock - daisy smart - poppedmusic Admittedly I was only really recently made aware of Sara Hartman when I fell in love with her song, Monster Lead Me Home, that I’d picked for our Bushstock Playlist. I was in a minority though as hordes of people piled in, all keen to secure their spot at the front of the stage for a good view. One lady in particular wasn’t even willing to move to let the stage hand get off the stage! There were some staunch supporters in the house indeed! The set started off with Monster Lead Me Home and I felt a little ping of disappointment as there would be nothing else to look forward to. Oh how wrong I was. The crowd and Sara built a wonderfully enthusiastic bounce and by the time she played her final song people were singing and dancing. Clearly I’ve been missing out here – well no more! I can’t wait to see her again, and indeed to get to grips with more of her songs as I don’t like to be on the wrong side of musical knowledge, as you can well imagine 😉

There had been a choice to be made for the evening  – wherever we went to next we would most likely need to stay, else risk missing seeing the headline act of choice and I had narrowed it down to two. Bear’s Den or Palace, two bands I hold dear in my musical heart. I declared that St Stephen’s church would be the winner because we could leave early and go to Palace in time for at least half the set. We even had time to catch up with a few people outside  St Stephen’s church  just in time because as we headed in it we found there were no seats left already, the Bear’s Den sit in had began in earnest.

Whatever venue you chose, you really couldn’t go wrong and I found myself both musically entertained as well as filled with mirth by Junius Meyvant, who, brought the most fantastic uplifting music and was most suited to the spectacular surroundings. I had been looking forward to being swooned by Matthew And The Atlas and for a good while I was, totally and utterly.

Unfortunately some people aren’t able to allow others to enjoy live music and wish to talk to each other and hoard spaces for their friends, who were no where in sight for ages, before finally joining them and being even noisier. I couldn’t concentrate – there was no where to move away too as by this time it was a one in one out situation going down and there was little room for manoeuvrer. Once beer started being spilled on me I found my patience wearing thin and I was worried that this group of people were going to get my full wrath if this nonsense continued into the Bear’s Den set. Ironically the uber obnoxious group had the gall to shussh other people when BD took to the stage – I literally laughed at them when this happened. Oh if only they could have thought that people actually wanted to hear and enjoy all of the bands on, not just the headliner. I am sorry for this rant, it has noting to do with the festival in itself,  but people have to start to be told that people want to be at gigs to hear live music, not stranger’s conversations – if you want to drink and chat loudly, leave, go to a bar and let other music fans in.  I should also point out that at this point I was also in a lot of pain – oh I have forgotten to mention that I went to Bushstock with two sprained knees, two sprained ankles and what turns out to be a crooked spine and a trapped nerve in my foot?  no? oh! I did.  Rockin huh!

bushstock - daisy smart - poppedmusic Putting that short outburst of fury away and in a box now let’s move on to the main attraction. If you can call them that, having witnessed such talent throughout the day – Bear’s Den. A band I first discovered at Bushstock back in 2012 and here they were, headlining. It was a beautiful moment. They might have lost a member on the way but they haven’t lost anything in sound, they haven’t lost anything in passion nor have they lost any fans. That much was evident. We were treated to a full set including much from their debut album as well as a live showcase of some from their forthcoming second album. All was gloriously received and the church exploded into song for Agape – all but raising the roof.

It has been a “thing” for Bear’s Den to go off mic and do a few unamplified songs and they treated us to this again  – their vocals echoing and filling the space of the beautiful church. They also went into the crowd and sang – do you think there’s much more they could have given? Well, it would seem not but they did. The band that kept on giving, treat after treat after treat. There was no way I could have missed this, it was so uplifting. Pain? what pain? annoyed feelings? what annoyed feelings? And we hadn’t even been given our final treat yet. There was more!

What more could there possibly be I hear you ask? How about a super group? A Bear’s Den-Matthew And The Atlas – Seramic – and as many other people who played in St Stephen’s church that day as you could fit on the stage! That kind of super group that’s what! As it was happening I was trying to figure out what song they would do and my mind didn’t arrive at the choice. “The original is pretty messy so it doesn’t matter if we mess it up”… and then it started…. Wild Horses! Anyone who was sat down still was up and swaying and singing. What a fitting way to end the show, a fitting way to end the day. Suffice to say it meant by the time we got out we’d already missed all of Palace (and I hope they forgive us!) but I left Shepherds Bush with a huge smile on my face and already looking forward to see who will be on the bill in 2017.

Listen to the Popped Music Bushstock 2016 playlist here:

Bushstock photo gallary:

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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