Dan Jeakins delivers his verdict on this year’s eventful instalment of the Derbyshire music gathering
There’s been a lot of doom and gloom reports recently regarding the ongoing viability of British festivals.
The Guardian noted in June that ‘1 in 10’ summer music events will fold this year, with rising costs of security and infrastructure hitting organisers hard in the pocket.
It’s therefore comforting to see how Derbyshire’s Y Not Festival has grown, since its humble beginnings as an end-of-term party organised by students at a local sixth form. The site seemingly gets larger with each passing year, and this time around the calibre of acts on the bill rival many of the major festivals – who face a real battle to break even this summer.
Y Not has always been a haven for emerging indie bands, but many of those who’ve gained a foot-hold in the industry over the last few years show up the current generation with less-than-impressive sets.
Rat Boy’s set on the Big Gin stage is notably dire. Jordan Cardy’s flow completely deserts him while his band’s use of sampling equipment is consistently messy. He may show promise on record, but the Chelmsford act completely falters in a live environment here.
Liverpool’s Circa Waves have little to live up to an hour later, but while they keep things tight and professional, the mediocrity of many of their songs is exposed with a lack of any real showmanship or identity.
In the end it’s the older generation who trump the new kids on the block, as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds flourish with an epic headline slot. The rich instrumentation of the Oasis guitarist’s solo material is brought to life, with a three-piece brass section accompanying by blaring electric guitars and crashing drum beats.
The likes of ‘The Ballad Of The Mighty I’ and ‘AKA… What A Life’ sound like age-old classics, while performances of ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ – some of the most-loved pop songs of the nineties – prompt deafening, jubilant sing-a-longs.
The electric selection of new artists, made possible by Y Not’s band application process, often provides some of the best moments of the festival. And Francobollo make a huge impression with their chaotic brand of noise rock which, like many of the bands they clearly take inspiration from, has some great hooks lying beneath the distortion.
Hotly tipped indie four-piece The Magic Gang also deliver – an excellent party band armed with a constantly growing batch of razor-sharp pop songs, they’re surely destined for far bigger things. Kagoule sound a little rougher round the edges on the main stage, and perhaps would have been better-suited to one of the smaller tents, but they perform admirably regardless.
Milky Chance, who enjoyed a huge hit with ‘Stolen Dance’ in 2013, show off their diversity with a set that combines reggae, folk and electronica. The sound of Fun Lovin’ Criminals meanwhile is far more focused and a little less effective – Huey Morgan’s sense of cool carries the band so far, and it’s only with the performance of international hit ‘Scooby Snacks’ that the New Yorkers truly excite the crowd.
A lack of energy is certainly not a criticism you could ever level at The Hives. Each member of the band are natural showmen and, while their straight-edged rock and roll isn’t the most experimental, they know better than most how to work a crowd into a frenzy. Early singles ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ prompt widespread moshing, whilst ferocious closer ‘Tick Tick Boom’ provides a truly epic finale.
The job of putting a full stop to the festival is granted to Madness, who these days enjoy their status as genuine national treasures. Seemingly unfatigued by decades of touring, their sense of energy is very impressive and, despite a slow start, delight the huge crowd with performances of their biggest hits.
Main image: Anthony Longstaff