Festival Review: Always The Sun

always the sun bannerAlways The Sun

10th and 11th September 2016

Words & Photos: Elena Katrina

getinuit4 elena katrina“Who calls their festival always the sun?!” calls out a nonplussed Jamie from Get Inuit during their soggy set. “Always the Rain…. only joking! They’re paying us….!” He might be joking but he does have a point – it was always going to be a sticky subject had the weather not been playing ball, and it wasn’t. It didn’t really put a dampener on the festival though. Set in the beautifully green Stoke Park in Guildford the festival was as cute as cute can be in terms of size. If you wanted an intimate festival scene which was family friendly and full of bands just roaming around happy to chat to fans and friends alike, then this was the place to be – rain, sun, wind, whatever.
The line up was put together by those behind Guildford’s The Boileroom, a venue that was almost doomed to close but has come back well and truly kicking. Having hosted some of the best new bands in the UK this time they set up their stage a little bigger and most definitely louder.  Talking of louder – while the festival’s website did suggest that parent’s should make sure their young ones had appropriate hearing protection, I saw no one do this and very small, toddling children wondering up to the barrier during set breaks. The music was still very loud, yet not as loud as the DJ in the Tropica tent where even with my own ear plugs in, the depth and volume of music was too much for me to enjoy and yet there were kids playing and rolling around merely inches from the speakers.

Anyway enough of my rantings about hearing protection and small people – I was only momentarily busied with those thoughts. There were bands on and bands I love at that. Those of you more astute to the line up will have noticed that the Saturday was almost a mini run of the forthcoming Spring King tour – with all but one of their tour supports on the line up. It was nice then to see that all of these bands stood out in the rain and watched their friends play and cheered them on with as much glee as the fans at the barrier.

Get Inuit threw together their musical mash up of awesome thrashing indie pop with a dollop of off the cuff punk, and humour. It’s not just singer Jamie who is made of the funny stuff, but drummer Rob also throws out some cheeky one liners – leaving you wondering “who just said that”. A rousing performance given, jokes thrown in as an additional freebie (they should charge extra for this in my opinion) and it was all over in what felt like 10 minutes – always the sign of a good live band I find. It was also to the band’s testament that their poor bass player managed to play the 30 minute set having spent the night before in A&E suffering from the horrific pain of an ear infection – r o c k n r o l l (though don’t do it again or you’ll get my healthy ears rant 😉 )

After an extended break a weary trio if Kagoule arrived on stage, having sat stuck in traffic for hours upon hours their weary mood I felt suited the darkness of their punk infused sounds. The glumness of the weather too, I felt, enhanced all of this, it gave additional atmosphere to the rough n ready gloomy rock that was pouring out from them. Out en mass to watch them, in the relentless rain, was Spring King, The New Moon and Get Inuit – many members of these bands stood with their shirts hauled up over their heads in a cute but not so practical way to shield themselves from rain in order to cheer on their forthcoming tour mates – I told ya right!

thebigmoon elena katrinaI haven’t seen The Big Moon play since last Summer where I saw them play to maybe 30 people. Since then the band have been on a bit of a whirlwind, named by many as ones to watch in 2016, their gigging schedule has been hectic, to say the least. Their current single, Silent Movie Susie, continuing to pick them up fans. Their set was as engaging as it was enjoyable to watch – a bit of a contrast to Kagoule in so many ways. It’s not just when I listen to them, but also when I watch them play live, I can’t help but start running through lists of 90s female led bands and I have come to the conclusion that they remind me of all of the best ones combined, Sleeper, Lush, Elastica and Echobelly. So in my mind that makes them pretty much a supergroup! If I thought I loved them last year when I saw them then now I know I do.

For me, it felt as if Spring King were the headline band, and they played the festival as though it was. Now dark and, finally, dry the band took to the stage to a loud and raucous crowd. I’m not sure where everyone had come from but the crowd had grown and grown throughout the day to welcome Manchester’s four-piece. As the guys threw out their songs in shot sharp bursts the crowd responded with cheers, waving arms and some serious singing-along at times. There’s always that point at a small festival where it starts to change. The crowd goes  from chilled out band watching to forgetting you were chilling out and suddenly leaping around with gleeful abandon. I think there are several factors to this: change in the natural lighting, alcohol consumption and often, the bands booked. Spring King most certainly helped that final stage – at one point they told the crowd’s they’d never had a conga line – and well… you guessed it, they got one!  Now you know when you have a good festival crowd when they’ll do fun shit like that at the drop of a (hi)hat.

Of course it wasn’t Spring King who were the main act of Saturday. Nope, this was left to a more local band, from near by Twickenham, going by the name of The Mystery Jets. Oh yeah, they pulled in a great great act to entertain and entertain they did. Of course, as you’d expect for a band who have been around a while, their set was tight as tight can be, but lacked that often found “going through the motions” stage performance. They felt fresh, and as they should, having released a new album, Curve Of The Earth, earlier this year. With an ever growing collection of releases the band didn’t just play a bunch of tracks from their most recent, nope they pulled out some for the long term fans too. Long Live The Mystery Jets – should be their live album name, I think it sounds great, don’t you?

octoberdrift elena katrinaAlways The Sun managed, some how, to bring their name to bear on Sunday. Oh yes they did. It was glorious, so I was sad I couldn’t stay the whole day but an afternoon of watching great bands and soaking up the atmosphere was gift enough for me. October Drift impressed me so much that I’m now actively looking to cover them again on Popped. This band built up some serious mileage on the stage what with toing and froing, leaving the stage, climbing over the barrier and heading off into the crowd, and hanging off the edge of the stage like spiderman. What with all the antics, I kind of felt sorry for the drummer, who, for obvious reasons, was kind of stuck to his spot.  Good friends of Popped, The Amazons were up next, and their fans were really ready and waiting to cheer them onto the stage, and stayed to cheer them off too with shouts for more. For a band who have barely stopped playing festivals and shows to take a breath it was their last of festival season, but it didn’t show. They were calm, cool, relaxed but yet still somehow managed to display an intense performance. A band who have most certainly built their fan base over this past year or so, they still thank their crowd for their support and say how much it means. Our Gary says they’re one of the nicest bands he’s ever met – and he’s met a lot of very nice bands. They’re just a genuine bunch. They are rock n roll in sound alone, they’re not gonna turn up and act like dicks, that is just not their style – and that’s what makes me love them even more. I like this band more with every release too I think, latest single, In My Mind, has radio hit all over it – and now, we wait.

Our Lauren spent time with the next band up, Blaenavon, at Leeds festival the other week (catch that on popped soon!) and I was yet to see them so of course I jumped at the chance. This three piece have a more stern approach to their stage performance than maybe any of the other bands I’d seen over the weekend. It’s not arrogant or surly, just …. well… there’s a seriousness in their expressions. They make no bones about it , we all know that they mean business, yet there is still so much more behind their music other than their desire and talent. My favourite track by them so far is current single, Let’s Pray, and seeing it played live just made me love it even more – there’s a bit more of a raw energy to it. If it’s energy you want they also had some realllly energetic fans in the crowd. One had even painted the band with their logo – I can’t say I have ever seen this before for such a currently relatively unknown band, she was deliriously happy and gave absolutely zero fucks about who knew it – and I kind of loved that juxtaposition of her and them. I think in the end I had as many photos of her as I did them, as I wanted to capture her energy too, it was intoxicating.

bogs always the sun elena katrinaWith pretty much all the band’s on my hit list covered it was time to wave goodbye to Always The Sun festival, my last outdoors festival of 2016 and head off for other business. I think this festival has much potential to bring in more and more people over the coming years – it was petite but in total proportion. Maybe a backstage loo would be helpful, I did chuckle seeing the bands make a mad dash for a wee before they headed onto stage. But that being said there was only amazing compost toilets to be found – but honestly – no one would say anything if they found a rouge portaloo back stage! It’ll be our secret in 2017.


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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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