You could sense it was going to be a good weekend as the energy and excitement were there in the cheers of the crowd as they opened the site on Thursday afternoon, Y Not Festival 2018 was going to be a good one. Since its conception as a House Party in 2005, Y Not has really begun to establish itself as one of Derbyshire’s best festivals but also, sadly one that was rained off last year after the mud got too bad for anyone to handle. This year they returned, not only with improved facilities and a great line-up but also a desire to exorcise the ghosts of last year and prove that a bit of rain can’t stop the party. But could it? Let’s find out:
We started with Boats on the Ocean, Violet Youth & Dorothy Ella, three young acts who served the purpose well of warming up different stages and getting everyone ready for the next few days before we jumped straight into my Act of the Day, Her’s. Bringing some 80’s vibes to their playful, goofy, oddball, lo-fi pop they were somehow totally unsuited to the main stage yet at once, completely at home. Think Hall and Oates playing Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. By turns uplifting and melancholy, if they come to your town, don’t miss out.
After a quick Vegan Hot Dog break, we were back on the musical horse with Birmingham’s The Cosmics, a Good, raucuous, punky trio with some unique subject matters and impressive delivery, though I’m pretty sure this band is only just as old as me when their ages are put together. Stop being so good so young, people. Back to the main stage where we had Reverend and the Makers bringing their indie rave vibes to Pikehall. While I can admire that the Reverend Jon McClure is certainly a charismatic figure and the crowd loved it, I wasn’t as sold on this as some others, luckily between Gunk lighting up the Saloon bar like it was a crowd of 3,000 at Download, not 30 and Razorlight hitting all the bangers you could want, yes, they played ‘America’, yes everyone sang along, Thursday evening recovered well, providing a firm reason for everyone who turned up early to make them feel like they’d certainly got their extra day’s worth of entertainment.
The first proper day of the festival began with the impeccably dressed K a r a bringing some good singalong indie with a pop-punk spirit and much stronger-than-average vocals, especially on those soaring hooky choruses before going up to the Giant Squid stage for I Cried Wolf. This is how to start off a day, by being as hard as hardcore can be. This was a confident set from a strong band who even managed to keep the set going after all their guitars lost power during the first song, unflappable, intense but still very fun. Highly recommended.
Heading back to the mainstage we had the cool, Danish, Yeah Yeah Yeahs-esque Nelson Can, perhaps a little too aloof at times but they knew precisely what they were doing and they did it well. Continuing Friday’s theme of ‘mild tech issues’, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer found himself losing all power on the stage one and a half songs into his set but even that wasn’t enough to keep the king of Chap-Hop down and he came back with a strong half an hour that had the audience bopping appropriately. Down to The Quarry we then ventured for Anteros and The Everly Pregnant Brothers. While these two acts couldn’t really be more different, they really stood out not just for their ability to draw a crowd but also just for being really good, with the Sheffield institution that is the brothers bringing their very-northern take on musical parody to people like they were the real thing but truly impressive was how Anteros lived up to every comparison made about them. Take my word for it, you will have these lot stuck in your head within the next six months.
Back up to the Giant Squid and Press to MECO, a late addition to the bill here, still managed to make the most of their time delivering blistering, anthemic post-hardcore that deserves a much bigger audience next time. We were also given an opportunity to sit down with the lads after so look out for that soon. Post-interview and a Margarita courtesy of Lincolnshire’s So Kneady and it was time to head back to the Squid for Turbowolf and what a decision that was. I think somewhere in the middle of this gig I was inducted into some of of proto-prog-psych-hardcore punk-werewolf cult and you know what? I’m not complaining. A great energy from the band and it showed in the audience as possibly the most perfect moshpit I’ve ever seen broke out. Truly something incredibly special. Hitting the Main Stage to finish off the evening, we had the one-two punch of Manic Street Preachers & The Libertines. Both bands obviously had crowds of devoted fans and they rewarded the love they sent them by returning it ten-fold. Manics in particular seemed to have a well-crafted set of Greatest Hits but chosen not just for the fans but for the band who seemed to love every second on the stage. Doherty, Barat and pals, for better or worse, seemed like it was still 2004, they were still on top of the world and Pete, well, Pete was Pete, he didn’t nail everything he did but if it wasn’t a bit shambolic, it wasn’t The Libertines. Not a knockout set from the headliners but certainly, a lovely way to end a nearly perfect day at the festival.
The sophomore day here started with some very strong winds causing everything to be thrown a little off-kilter and in some cases, just plain thrown about. Not that you would know this from inside the tents and bars where Ashfields, Luke Wynne & Seamonsters brought their own sounds to rapturous audiences, some may have just been in there to avoid the rain but that wasn’t necessarily why they stayed. The Quarry then found itself rocked by Paris Youth Foundation, an exceptionally well-produced young band who made every song sound like the moment in a rom-com where the protagonist runs through the rain to the airport and it’s a vibe that worked for them. Following up was a trio of soloists, Mullaly, a young and confident R&B singer who had some very strong material but exceptional stagecraft for such a young artist, Beans on Toast, a festival mainstay who’s music probably works best in this sort of tent, selling folk to the casually wasted, and the stunning Jade Bird who was far less folky than I expected with a gutsy bluesiness and an indie swagger more akin to an acoustic-heavy Waxahatchee than say, Laura Marling. She also had some of the best vocals of the weekend, definitely one to watch.
Now that the sun had decided to return to the sky, it brought with it a rollicking set from everyone’s favourite three-stringed Americana peddler, Seasick Steve. He brought with him a strong set of material but also a quiet charm to his between song patter than even though he was on the main stage, made everyone feel like it was just him in the room with him. With a quick break for some Halloumi and Chips from The English Indian, we began the tail-end of the evening with Kaiser Chiefs sticking mostly to the hits but then when you have as many hits as they do, why bother? Many bonus points to Ricky Wilson for giving so much to his performance that he’d sweated through his suit near five minutes in and still proceeded to cover the entire stage and go up the rigging for our entertainment.
Buzzcocks managed to do as much as they could considering they aren’t as young as they used to be and the mics seemed to be balanced too low but they still had the guts to play through and if you didn’t guess, Ever Fallen In Love With Someone? of course, went off like a goddamn grenade. We finished the evening with a bit of Catfish and the Bottlemen, who I understand are popular with the young folk. While they didn’t exactly do much to impress me, I could see that this mattered a lot to a lot of the audience and that means something. Probably. I don’t know, at least we’d made it to the third day of the festival without me complaining about my back. I’m twenty-five, by the way.
The last day of the festival saw what appeared to be a mass overnight exodus of people who were worried the festival was going to go the way of last year or just had seen everything they wanted to but for those of us who stuck around, it was quite the day. Starting with Bad Sounds, a real burst of energy, like a Los Campesinos! for grime kids, they had a potent irascibility to everything they did and really sold their bizarre vision of what pop music should be. I like this vision of the future. This was followed up by Menace Beach who were just the most 90s thing ever to have not been directly created in the 90s, all grunge, flannel and Cocteau Twins backing vocals. For that style, not bad.
The rain and delays prevented us from enjoying King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys as planned but there was still a lot of pleasure to be found over at Flamingo Jacks courtesy of comedy heavyweights, Dane Baptiste & The Horne Section. Baptiste, a whipsmart man with some brilliant observations but also a dab hand at audience interraction but one of the main reasons I was at this festival was for another opportunity to see the gang that followed. A delightful set as always by some of the UK’s foremost music/comedy troupes. The only issue here was that the group seemed ready to play a full set when they were given only a 30min slot. Not that it felt rushed, just that the performers and audience alike felt like they were left wanting more. Still, bangers like their rendition of YMCA (with help from Henry Hoover) went off like a house on fire with this crowd. Back outside and The Go! Team, Indie’s best party band really brought the fun to the main stage, an achievement considering they managed to find a break in the rain for performance but not one where a good portion of the audience didn’t look set to abandon if the weather took a turn again. Luckily for them, they didn’t and got one of the real highlights of the weekend, just pure, jubilant, joyous fun.
With the two main stage headliners left and another delicious stonebaked pizza inside us, we witnessed The Wombats, a band I heaven’t seen live since they co-headlined the Birmingham Academy with The Holloways back in 2007 play another hit-heavy show where they could have just turned up and hit play on a Greatest Hits CD and this crowd would have still gone a bit wild. Luckily the band turned up ready to play and for all they put out there, the audience returned it completely. Let’s Dance To Joy Division will never not be a banger. The final night was building up to the only UK festival appearance this year by Jamiroquai, bringing his unique brand of space funk, with emphasis on the space, to Pikehall. The band were on point and everything Jay Kay did had the crowd erupting in joy but sadly was left with a hint of a sour note after a burst of rain caused some of the electronics on stage to fail and for lack of enough towels to coat the stage, the set was called off early, at first announced as temporary but then fully called off. This was not the sour note in question, I fully understand the decision but more that some people’s desire to see music somehow overwhelmed their understanding that someone could literally be killed up there, be it slipping over or getting eletrocuted. Yes, perhaps the stage could have been built a bit deeper to cover such things but truthfully, you can’t fully plan for the weather and under the circumstances, the organisers did as much as could be expected. That’s no reason to be that guy that tries to bottle Jay Kay as he leaves the stage.
Ultimately, the real joy of Y Not was to be found in the corners, in the unexpected places. It had a solid line-up of headliners but as much as that, the weather forcing things inside and making me go to bands I didn’t expect to see actually resulted in me seeing a lot that I’m glad I didn’t miss. That said, I’m disappointed that thanks to clashes I didn’t get to see So Solid Crew but I made my sleeping bag and indeed, I did lie in it. This time next year again, yeah?
Thanks to Y Not Festival & Andy Hughes Photography for the images.