Festival Review: X&Y Part 2

x & y 2016 headerX&Y Part 2

Words: Gary Lambert

x&y festival 2016 posterThe second leg of X&Y Festival started with blue skies, an instant vibe and had this writer contemplating “what makes a festival”. I will admit it was rather profound for a Friday evening, but when you’ve got a few hundred people in and around a giant greenhouse having a great time together, it felt more like a festival should than quite a few times when I have spent three figures to camp in a field and dance around in ankle deep mud. Everything about the night reminded me of that feeling you would get when festivals weren’t about selfies and new wardrobes. X&Y Festival was for people who were ready to have a good time. The primary reason behind that was Frank Turner, who we will get to in due course, and his fanbase; but the guys behind the event had lined up a quality bill of music and then got a little bit of luck with the weather which meant less standing around in the humidity of the Palm House between sets as the majority went outside to grab a beer, munch on pizza and chill out on the grass.


With Paul Dunbar opening up events, it was clear that his plan of action was to use his gruff, bluesy voice and growl the remains of the working day out of everybody. It might not have been exciting, but you’re not going to get much more than that for the opening act of any festival unless someone has called in a very big favour. Following up from that was a complete change of pace with the skills of Tom Walker. Despite a birth in South Manchester and a more recent musical upbringing in London, Tom’s singing voice has more than a hint of the Caribbean to it. His laid back style will not be to a lot of music hipsters tastes, but he is going to appeal to record labels and advertisers and the general public in a much bigger way. Listening to him sing in conjunction with an affable, comfortable personality makes you see the potential for a good future.

Have you ever seen Beans on Toast? If not, make sure that you do if you have a taste of political themed acoustic numbers, a social conscience that needs awakening or a love of live music. After his opening number about how bad this year has been cunning titled “2016”, Mr On Toast performed the rest of the set in the middle of the audience. With the underlying factor of his music being the unity between people, it felt perfect for him to entertain so close to the people. This was a set that will live long in the memory.


In a festival-by-numbers, it would be obvious to follow up some conscientious acoustic with more conscientious acoustic rock, but Frank Turner had to wait until the Liverpool comeback of Theme Park was done. This addition made the night even better. With Theme Park firing out chilled out vibes like a gunman for peace, it allowed people to dance and enjoy themselves even if they weren’t watching at the front of the stage. I was thoroughly impressed and cannot wait to see them again.


Then came the man everybody had been waiting for, Frank Turner – and I will be honest with you I cannot remember the last time I saw a crowd react like this for someone. The love and sheer faith that is held for him is something to behold – and he does not go searching for it either. It is almost like they have appointed him as messiah without him claiming he was or acting like it. But it works and the bond between them is Springsteen-like. It is so powerful and religious. Children as young as four or five shouting the lyrics like their next meal depended on it. I’m not a fan of Frank Turner in general, but seeing this was special. And without doubt the highlight of my night was seeing a couple at the side of the stage, the woman was heavily pregnant and sat down, and they were holding hands and

singing along and you knew watching them that Frank Turner was so important to them – just not as important as each other and what’s to come. It was beautiful. If you like your rock sweaty and loud, Frank Turner is not going to be for you, but if you have a hole in your soul, he might be just the man to fill it.


If you like your rock music sweaty and loud though, the final day of X&Y Festival 2016 was designed for your dreams. As a whole it was one of the most pleasurable rock experiences I have had in ages. For me the rock scene always seems split into too many different factions and there is currently a level of snobbery against it with the likes of The Wytches and Tame Impala being coupled into the psych world rather than be linked into rock music. It is a shame because no level of wonderful yet twee indie music can make you feel energised like rock music can.


Cheshire punk act, Simmer, were on form from the word go and lead by their elegant frontwoman, they stood out from the start. Reading online afterwards I saw Simmer described as both “melodic punk” and “ambient punk”. If that means punk of this quality then it’s potentially my new favourite genre. Full gig marks too for the band selling their own merch after their set and staying around watching other bands. Their LP is on gorgeous blue vinyl (with download code) so I couldn’t resist a purchase either.


Bloody Knees looked more to a rock stereotype with long haired music nerds and they played hard and it was wonderful. The formality of the setting added to the subversive anti-hero vibe as they crunched and pounded through their set. With the urge to jump around to such music growing constantly even the 36-year old reviewer felt a return to school days as it was like misbehaving on a day out to Chester Zoo.

With Nai Harvest proving that you only need to have two people on stage to create a wonderfully filthy sound, it was easy to say that everybody had been prepped for headliner, Basement. If you have listened to their album, you would have been expecting an indie rock act. Live though was a completely different animal as they hammered away with abandon. It was fabulous. Tuneful and heavy, it reminded me of seeing Foo Fighters during The Colour and The Shape tour. No pressure there, but seriously they were fantastic.


It might have seemed a strange one to have in The Palm House, but when the grey haired security guards were asked of their thoughts and reply with “the early bands were good, but the last one was like a boyband” you know it was actually in the right place. Hats off to the pickers and promoters who put this surprisingly memorable event on. I really hope we can do it again.


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