Live Review: Community Festival

Community Festival

Finsbury Park, London, 30 June 2019

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

It’s the end of June and we’ve got sunshine, a field and bucketfuls of tunes. What more could you want? Well I can say that at the end of Community Festival there was no need for anything else. What was my first trip to Finsbury Park and this indie behemoth was a roaring success. I had seen enough acts to keep me happy for a few weeks and took part in an event that was fun, efficient and entirely a pleasure. If you read social media you’ll see some people complaining about queuing for drinks in the mid-afternoon, but no festival with such a small window of arrival avoids that problem. And really if that’s the biggest problem (alongside one band pulling out due to sickness) then that’s a very successful event in my eyes.

The first band on the Main Stage was California surf-punks SWMRS. I had heard very little of the band to be honest, but I was instantly blown away by them and the sense of community (I promise I won’t use that word too often in the rest of the review) that they created within the ground with their socially connected high-energy punk. Looking like Jared Leto’s version of The Joker turned emo, Cole Becker was perfect as a frontman. Magnetic, powerful and every moment he was prowling the stage feel poised for drama and fun. This is a band that you know are going to be absolutely massive within a few short years.

Another band poised for festival slots later on in the day is Sea Girls. There is nothing in particular which stands out when this band plays (and definitely nothing negative), but for all the good that each band member brings the overall combination of their talents is extraordinary. They make pop songs that you feel hit home like the moment you hear classics like Geno by Dexy’s for the first time in ages. They are not exactly life changing (although the shouts that accompanied Rory coming out to try out his guitar during sound check suggests that some people do find them important to their lives), instead it feels just right and the band seem to love being in front of their audience.

APRE are a band who follow a similar path to Sea Girls, but with their frontman, Charlie Brown, being a far more dramatic concept on stage. Taking to the smaller N4 Stage, his energy felt almost too much for the space between the trees as he buzzed around. Every moment is a drama and each gorgeous pop song feels epic with that additional power.

Another band on the N4 stage with additional power was Bloxx. It would have been understandable if their set was subdued by the fact that they had only arrived home from their American tour late the evening before. Instead, Bloxx declared war on the senses and set their guitars to kill. I’ve seen Bloxx a few times but with a fervent home crowd in front of them (as well as Fee’s little sister for the first time ever) it felt like I was seeing a new band. It was incredible watching them perform and how the crowd reacted towards them every moment with songs like Coke and Monday. All four band members moved up to a hitherto unseen, but definitely awaited, level as they acted on stage like they were in Led Zeppelin. It was almost violent the energy pulsating through them.

You do not need to have a traditional rock band set up though to get a crowd going. We all know the divisive nature of a Gerry Cinnamon set. Nobody is non-committal towards the Castlemilk native. You love or loathe him like a famous trademarked yeast-based spread. But he is without doubt a star at this moment, and the people who turn up in their droves with pyro, Scottish flags and bucket hats have the time of their lives watching him play songs like new single Canter and the floor filling Belter. Maybe his music is not that complicated nor varied, but standing in a field in the sunshine is about fun not writing an essay (unless you’re a reviewer). Next time you get a chance to watch him, grab yourself a pint and revel in watching a musician enjoying himself as much as the kids on their mate’s shoulders.

It was unfortunate that another of Popped Music’s picks, Fuzzy Sun, had to take on the pull of Gerry Cinnamon as it meant that some people missed out on a band who are tight, confident and very much suited to playing outdoors when everybody wants to share in good vibes. That said there was a big enough crowd to fill a couple of Academy venues watching them, so they had a strong enough pull – and as soon as Gerry Cinnamon had finished their crowd swelled. I can’t wait for the next time I go to see Fuzzy Sun you know. As I sit here writing about them, my mind is going like an Excel spreadsheet trying to think of the next festival we cross paths.

Community Festival was firmly based around the crossover of indie and rock in the Venn diagram of modern bands, and two acts who were the epitome of that were Don Broco and The Hunna. The former were bright, colourful, and energetic; whilst The Hunna created a sense of grit with it. I have never seen Don Broco before, but it was a set which really grabbed the attention of me. However, I still cannot believe that they are from Bedford as they seem so tremendously American. But Tom Grennan sings like an American too, so maybe America is just like Bedford but bigger.

For a number of the bands, the show at Community Festival seemed to be a career highlight so far, but for the penultimate band on the Main Stage, Blossoms, it could have seemed like a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Parade given the events last week in Stockport. However, Blossoms have not reached this point in their career without being a trustworthy live performer and the five-piece mixed delicate moments with raucous stompers perfectly. And any pyro still left unused following Gerry Cinnamon earlier in the day filled the air above the heads of the audience in a multitude of colours. The confidence that shines through from the moment they hit the mark with opener At Most A Kiss made me feel taller, so I guess it must be pretty good being them right now.

Unfortunately my enjoyment of The Kooks headline set was somewhat destroyed by a mad panic created by my brand new camera freezing up no matter what I did to try to get it going. But The Kooks aren’t a band who you have to watch in case you miss out on the subtlety or mystery. They sing songs which are made for sitting back and relaxing. Considering their mid-career lull, they have really come full circle now so that seeing The Kooks as a large festival’s headliner feels natural and deserved.

I believe that The Amazons are going on to take the big slots at festivals soon because they have cranked their game up completely since the release of Future Dust. I have been a fan of The Amazons for a number of years and seeing them dominate an audience with a performance like this thrilled me to such an extent that on a day of great performances it was undoubtedly my favourite. It was high energy with power pulled from the deepest cores. The four piece manage to look serious whilst obviously enjoying themselves and grab everybody in the audience to join them in bringing back the essence of bands who had played Finsbury Park in the past like Hendrix, Oasis and Rage Against The Machine.

Like the echoes of those artists, I’ll be back in Finsbury Park as soon as possible.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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