Live: Y Not Festival, Derbyshire – 3rd – 5th August

It certainly was a year of achievements for Y Not Festival as it reached its 6th cycle in 2012. The “small, fresh, loud” festival opened a new stage, raised the camp capacity and above all was completely sold out for the fourth year in a row. It was a brilliant feeling to be reviewing and watching a great small festival show signs of making an impact on the UK outdoor music scene.

But, on to the weekend!

My festival viewing began on Friday, with Proxies, who unfortunately suffered from technical issues so only managed to play a third of their set. However their small showing of punchy melodic rock songs was enough to interest and ease me into the weekend, and I’m sure if they could have completed their set it would have been an enjoyable watch.
Next was a young man I was very interested in seeing, due to his name being mentioned at the corner of every conversation leading up to Y Not. This young man was Jake Bugg. I’m usually not a fan of this particular genre; but I absolutely loved him. It may have been the setting evening sun, the picturesque Derbyshire backdrop or even the warm enticing smell of the noodle stand next to me, but Bugg’s young soft croon was a nice contrast to the older Miles Kane and Gallagher brothers that dominate this frontman focused genre. A very enjoyable watch. Later on it was time for Little Comets, another artist who piqued my interest due to talk around them at my camp as “they play with pots and pans and stuff”. Fortunately, the gimmick was hardly the focus and Little Comets brought feel-good, indie-pop melodies that almost reminded me of Weezer at some points.
Afterwards, it was the penultimate main stage band for Friday, Pigeon Detectives. I’ll be honest; I was a bit apprehensive after seeing them at an outdoor stage at Leeds last year where they had a less than great performance. Saying that, I’m happy to say that they faired better at Y Not, bringing fun and anenjoyable set that kept my interest until the end. They closed their set with ‘I’m Not Sorry’ to riotous applause.
Then, I made the choice for Rolo Tomassi instead of The View, as I was once again going off good words said about them. They had a thrilling start, and it really is refreshing to see a heavy band with a women screamer holding her own vocally. However, the sound soon became distorted and to watch a heavy band the music really does need to be clinical and I feel Rolo Tomassi become a bit ‘blurry’ as they went through their set. An exciting start but an average finish.

On to Saturday and the only band that was really on my head was The Xcerts. But we’ll get to that later…
The first order of the day was Hawk Eyes. It was loud. Really loud. I actually had to watch the tail end of Hawk Eyes’ set from beyond the tent as it was just unbearable for my ears. Fortunately they had an equal amount of bite to follow their ferocious bark and delivered a bevy of crushing rock riffs and such a stage presence you didn’t know where to look, which was made more distracting when lead singer Paul Astick took his microphone and guitar down to crowd-level for part of their set. Saturday has begun in true style. Next were the almighty Reverend and The Makers on the main stage. They were absolutely brilliant. Jon McClure really is an electric frontman and utilized the iconic ‘raised palm’ pose with full effect: the Y Not crowd were quite figuratively almost eating out of his hands. They were kicking out footballs, stealing the press cameras to film the crowd and bringing a headline-worthy performance, Reverend and The Makers were excellent.
But it was now time for The Xcerts. To cut it short, they were phenomenal. You can tell with some bands just how much the music, the performance and the actual band itself mean to them. You see and hear that passion when The Xcerts are on stage. Murray Macleod is an incredible live vocalist and is able to deliver beautiful long, high notes and make it look easy. 45 minutes just wasn’t long enough. When the set was done, I nipped across the field to witness Pulled Apart By Horses. It was a good beginning but I had just been dazed from what I had just witnessed so the start of their set went over my head a bit. Fortunately, Pulled Apart By Horses’ sludgy rock grooves shook me up, and they brought a well deserved tent headlining set. Rather disappointingly finishing Saturday night on the main stage was indie-pop trio The Wombats. The set really didn’t kick into gear for the first few songs making parts of the crowd and myself stagnant. The Wombats did soon bring out the familiar tracks that have made them main-stage headliners, but they just couldn’t keep my attention and I was assured by my fellow campers they felt similar about their performance.

The final day of Y Not had arrived, and I began by seeing the brilliant lads in These Mortal Cities play to the packed out Allotment Stage tent. Hooky indie grooves and lovely vocal delivery from singer Sam Webb, These Mortal Cities were cheered after each song from a tent that was as full as an egg and played a very satisfying set to begin Sunday.
Afterwards, I quickly went over to the Main Stage to see another great indie-pop set from The Crookes, where singer George Waite’s croon was the perfect background noise for a sunny afternoon. The Crookes’ set unfortunately felt as though it went by too quickly and I was left wanting more showing they are ready for the bigger slots in the future. Then before the evening set in I went to catch Yearbook, who really earned the surprise of the festival for me. It dipped into punk elements, switching over to some indie-pop and then out of nowhere some complex off-beat heavy breakdowns, usually in the space of a single song. As disorganised as that sounds it was amazing to hear and watch and I really look forward to hearing that material on record. Onto the evening bands and nearing the end of the festival, Lucy Rose’s set was up next. After being pushed and shoved during all the rock bands I had seen over the weekend it was so nice just standing and listening to Lucy Rose’s beautiful voice fill the tent. Opening the set with a wonderful ambient intro, she then rolled into ‘Middle of The Bed’ which was met with loud, tent-filled glee making me think that Lucy Rose could be the next Winehouse or Lily Allen in months to come. Coming towards the end of the night, there were just 2 bands left. First up, The Subways on the main stage. Again, I was a bit cautious with getting excited about them after seeing them play a good-but-not-great set in Manchester a few months before. It turned out the 45 minute set was the perfect amount of time for them, as it gave them the room to perform their solid hits, evidently hinted by opening with ‘Oh Yeah’. The middle of the show was the best section, with ‘Turnaround’ being a highlight. The pace did begin to slow towards the end but overall however, The Subways put on a solid performance. And then it was time to see one of my favourite bands. In a tough decision, I chose Lower Than Atlantis over We Are Scientists. What a smart decision that was. The sheer amount of excitement for the ‘Lower lads’ was prodigious. The now-regular acronym chant “LTA! LTA! LTA!” was belted out until they got on stage. And when they did, the response reached Hawk Eyes levels of volume. Playing to the full capacity the ‘Giant Squid’ tent could hold, Lower Than Atlantis did what they always do, which is put on an incredible live performance. The movement in the crowd did not stop from the first song to the last. It was a thing to behold, and brought the end of Y Not to a truly fitting conclusion.

It was another great year for Y Not Festival. The bands that get booked get bigger and better each time and I am more than confident that next year will be up to the same calibre. So next year, just ask yourself “Why not?”

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Dougal Mackenzie

About Dougal Mackenzie

A student based in the North, crappy guitar player and an addict of vinyl. Thanks for any kind words. @MackyKD