Gunnersville Sunday

If like me, you grew up on pop rock in the noughties, the lineup for Sunday of Gunnersville was enough to make you want to beg your parents for tickets. Of course, before realising that you’re now in your 20s and the days of dropping not-so-subtle hints about how it’s not on a school night are long gone.

Some things never change though, and Gunnersville generated just as much excitement in my bones as the first time I saw these bands live. All the memories of my teenage years had been set loose like the breaking open of a time capsule; the time capsule being the bands playing here today.

There isn’t a phase of my life 2009-onwards that The Maine haven’t been making music for. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop and Black & White gave me songs I’d listen to to get me through a school day, and I was surprised but happy to find they hadn’t yet retired ‘Girls Do What They Want’ from their live sets. It took me back to the times I longed to be the fan they pulled on stage to sing the chorus. That’s something they also still do, and today – despite the size of the crowd – was no different.

The Maine
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

My sixth form years of Pioneer and Forever Halloween were missing from the set, but that was ok as I’d never really felt that those albums fit in with the upbeat, happy way I saw The Maine in my mind’s eye. Today was all about summer vibes; the weather in perfect sync with the event. A happy celebration; not a time to dwell on the negative.

2015’s American Candy was the soundtrack to my first year of university. As they played ‘Am I Pretty’, I was reminded of the constant weight I – and probably everyone else – felt to fit in and be liked in a new city with new people, all just trying to find their place, too.

Latest album, You Are OK is now. Because I am ok. Growing up is hard; I can’t speak for all fans of The Maine – and I don’t want to sound too cliché – but their music was with me through a lot. I think, or at least hope that generationally things are changing. For me, the deflated 14-year-old at a Maine show 9 years ago is the same 23-year-old having a fun, happy time at Gunnersville now. I’ve done the hard part, the pressures of growing up are over, and now it’s time to enjoy life. I don’t think I was the only person at Gunnersville that this was true for.

These new songs off of You Are OK were just as adored by fans; it just goes to show how important and relevant The Maine still are. If not that, then the massive swarm of fans gathered outside the guest area to meet them after their location was tweeted by them should be a good indication.

The Maine
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

I’m still not sure if it’s purely coincidence that the word ‘sun’ is in the name Sundara Karma, but if this band were a season, they’d be the height of summer. Their summer-y indie pop rock was what I’d been missing the past few months, and I was grateful that I got to enjoy it for at least just a little while during what was probably the last day I’d spend in a park this year.

Seemingly a slight misfit in the lineup in genre and ‘scene’ (although they’ve been around since 2011, today was the first I’d heard of them), they were without a doubt leaving today with at least a few new fans. Their un-offensive, easy listening material paired with a laidback onstage attitude would fit in anywhere.

Sundara Karma
Photo by Brandon Taylor – Instagram @brandontaylorphotog

The one-stage Gunnersville – like a festival but without having to worry about clashes – felt big for such a relatively small place. A bunch of 20-somethings gathered in one place to see a pocketful of the standout bands from their teenage years felt like something extraordinary. As the sun started to set, the alcohol began to flow more, and it was clear that this evening would be something to remember, even for a Sunday.

Deaf Havana opened their set with the emotional ‘Boston Square’ and just like that, I was back in sixth form. Despite this year being the 10th birthday of their debut album, Meet Me Halfway, At Least, 2013’s Old Souls was the oldest they went, even giving anything off of 2011’s Fools and Worthless Liars a miss. But that’s ok. Over the years, their songwriting and musical abilities have matured as a human does, and now they are firmly adult – as all their fans now are.

Their set was passionate and emotive, and it was clear to everyone watching that Deaf Havana are a band that truly care about what they do. The radio plays and big festival slots are something they’ve worked hard for, and something they’re more than deserving of. As fans, we’ve grown as they’ve grown, and it’s a beautiful thing to see them finally getting a taste of the big-time success that they were made for.

There aren’t many bands who can play to such a large crowd while keeping the feeling intimate, but Deaf Havana have made it a career-staple. The atmosphere in the pit was something that doesn’t happen a lot at an event of this size – a big-top tent filled with singing, screaming, and dancing from front to back. Closing with ‘Sinner’, this was going to be a hard act to follow.

Deaf Havana
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

To only call Jimmy Eat World an iconic band would be dimming the glow of their impact on music since the 90s. Though sadly not a band that my generation can claim as their own, they’re one we all discovered either through a parent, older sibling or on our own. 14-year-old me scrambled to my local HMV to spend my pocket money on their entire back-catalog. Futures is an album so timeless that I could relate to it so much, even despite the fact it’d been written when I was still in primary school.

Being undisputed heavyweights while still somehow remaining underdogs of alternative music is a paradox that has landed Jimmy Eat World where they are right now – on the cusp of their 10th album; not quite headlining a Gunnersville-sized event, but drawing the biggest crowd so far today.

A run-down of the big classics – mainly from the album that thrust them into the big time, Bleed American – provided the Gunnersville crowd with the kind of serenity that only Jimmy Eat World could. It’s hard to convey the true meaning of the term ‘festival band’, but Jimmy Eat World could make a packed park or farm content with their surroundings, rain or shine, just as long as it’s them, an open space, and good vibes.

As the set comes to an end, I wonder if there’s ever been a Jimmy Eat World show post-2001 that hasn’t ended with ‘The Middle’. What I don’t have to wonder though, is if people are glad of that fact. The blissful faces and chorus of joyous voices of everyone in the crowd as they sang along to the classic track made that abundantly clear.

Jimmy Eat World
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

If you’re not a big You Me At Six fan, this is where you should stop reading. If you think their best days are behind them or they should have called it quits after Sinners Never Sleep, you’re probably not going to be fond of what I have to say. Maybe you’re even still mad at them for the admittedly, slightly weird single they released with Chiddy Bang back in 2011. If that’s the case, you’ll be happy to know they skipped that one in the singles chronology tonight.

In case you’ve been asleep for a while, 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of debut album Take Off Your Colours. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the bonus track re-release they put out once they were snatched off Slam Dunk Records (remember when that was a thing?) by Virgin EMI. Whether you bought that album before or after the re-release, one thing is universal amongst old-school You Me At Six fans. It’s a banging album.

Luckily for all, despite spending a portion of their career slagging off Take Off Your Colours at every opportunity they got, (can we please just call that an angsty phase?) You Me At Six didn’t let the opportunity for an anniversary tour pass them by (I always knew they loved that album deep down). At the end of last year, they made a lot of pop punk native millennials very happy, playing the basic-but-beautiful masterpiece in full. As much as I’d like them to just tour that album over and over again until even I hate it, I’d settled for them playing all of their singles chronologically at Gunnersville.

What I didn’t sign up for is how emotional it would all make me feel. Imagine having every teenage memory played out live on stage. Every You Me At Six single has been, at one point, new for me. Each album those singles came from was released at a different stage in my life; all of this music tied in and attached to the best and worst times of my life. Tonight was going to be the entirety of my teenage years condensed into two hours.

You Me At Six
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

Kicking things off tonight with ‘Save It for the Bedroom’, the crowd was electric. People who had been outside the big-top were flooding in, not wanting to miss a moment of the gift we were tonight being given. Frontman Josh Franceschi had on a white denim jacket covered in different coloured pen scribbles, and I wondered if he’d stolen it from a school leaver during the band’s time at Reading Festival this summer.

Powering through ‘If I Were in Your Shoes’, ‘Gossip’, ‘Jealous Minds Think Alike’, ‘Finders Keepers’ and ‘Kiss and Tell’, it was as if the thousands of people in the tent were all of a sudden a decade younger; right back in the same space; doing the same things they were when Take Off Your Colours was released. I suppose that’s the magic of music – its ability to bring you to a place that feels lightyears away from where you currently are.

Whether that place a decade ago was good or bad for individuals here tonight, it didn’t matter. Because here we were, watching a band we’d shared a decade of life with, performing all their classics, new and old.

In just slightly disappointing form from the crowd, no shoes were thrown on stage during ‘If I Were in Your Shoes’ like was tradition back in the day, but I suppose that’s a perfect example of what growing up really is.

You Me At Six
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

After what felt too short a time, Take Off Your Colours was over and done with, and it was onto Hold Me Down. If you saw You Me At Six back in the day, you’ll remember that they were occasionally joined on stage by Sean Smith (of The Blackout back then; now of Raiders) for his part in ‘The Consequence’. By sheer surprise, here he was tonight, bouncing around the stage like it was 2010, amidst the jubilant screams of the crowd.

Not in attendance to perform with them tonight was Chiddy Bang, and skipping straight past stand-alone single ‘Rescue Me’ (it’s probably best we all forget that one), it was onto Sinners Never Sleep. Full of clear crowd favourites, this portion of the set only served to further the enthusiasm down in the pit.

It should also be noted that they didn’t play ‘The Swarm’, the made-for-a-ride-at-Thorpe-Park stand-alone single they released right in the middle of Sinners Never Sleep. Again, a bit of a weird way to release a single, but you can’t deny that this band have been to some places throughout their career. I’m also still salty that I’ve never been on the ride.

You Me At Six
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

Now pretty much at the mid-way point of the set, earlier I’d heard a few people say that this was the part where they were going to leave. Whether they actually did, I’m not so sure, because whether you fell out of love for You Me At Six when they released Cavalier Youth or not, you can’t deny that they’re still a fantastic live band.

When talking about Cavalier Youth and the dislike a lot of old-school You Me At Six fans feel for it, I think they forget that it included ‘Room to Breathe’ – another clear crowd favourite. What was tipped to be the ‘bonus-that-nobody-wanted-after-the-good-stuff-had-been-played’ turning point in the set by naysayers, was actually just as engaging and compelling as the whole set had been from the start. This was possibly in part due to the decision to skip ‘Forgive and Forget’ and ‘Win Some, Lose Some’ and keep it all high-energy.

You also can’t deny that Cavalier Youth did have pretty great singles on it. Perhaps that was another of the reasons why this singles chronology set was such a great idea – the absolute high points of a decade of everyone’s (whether you’ll admit it or not) favourite band.

You Me At Six
Photo by Brandon Taylor – Instagram @brandontaylorphotog

Again, leaving out a few tracks and playing only the top tier gold, You Me At Six sped through Night People. Before ‘Take on the World’, Josh Franceschi usually gives a big speech about politics or the world. Tonight, he chose to tell people that they could achieve whatever they wanted in life. How fitting, that my first time reviewing a You Me At Six show would be right now. A decade ago, life didn’t feel like this. I hoped that everyone around me felt the same, powerful vibes emanating off the stage. After all, it’s 2019, and we’re a generation that can do anything.

Enough with the emotion – it was time to dance. After Night People came and went, there was only a small chunk of the mammoth two-hour set left. But deflated we were not. Proving that their best days are certainly not behind them – contrary to what some believe – You Me At Six came through with the alt-pop party vibes on the singles off of latest album, VI.

Now here’s the part where I tell you what you’re missing if you haven’t been keeping up to date with the band’s recent stuff. You might not like pop music, and that’s ok. But the pop that you think you don’t like is just the stuff you hear on the radio. You know, the repetitive, same-y, mindless beats with lyrics all written for the same popular artists by the same few middle-aged men. Not all pop is like that. You Me At Six are pop. And they’re absolutely fantastic at it.

The VI singles in this set were a complete change in vibe. The whole big-top tent had transformed into an indie club night a-la-Propaganda as soon as the fiery intro to ‘Fast Forward’ kicked in. I know I can’t speak for everyone but, at 23, this is my vibe. There wasn’t a single person in the crowd who wasn’t dancing vigorously to ‘3AM’, despite the fact they’d been doing this for near-on two hours now just during this set alone, and for about eight hours if they’d been at Gunnersville all day. That’s the energy You Me At Six put out there.

You Me At Six
Photo by Lewis Evans – Instagram @lewsvans

If you haven’t actually heard the band’s new single, ‘What’s It Like?’, you’ll probably have at least heard people talking about it. Possibly the biggest Marmite of 2019, but I’d put this single on my toast any day. A bit of a weird end to the set, as a lot of people hadn’t heard it – and some just plain don’t like it – but this was a singles chronology, and this is where You Me At Six are now.

You Me At Six’s Gunnersville set was a singles chronology if we’re looking at it formally. But if we’re looking at it for the magic it was, it was a band and a whole generation fans celebrating not only 10+ years of music they’ve loved – or at least had some kind of opinion on – but music that they’ve grown up with.

This goes for all the bands at the closing day of Gunnersville. It was a haven for twenty-somethings to celebrate growing up on this music. Alternative music. Music that may not have been cool or popular at the time. Music that has inspired a generation of younger bands coming up now. Music that was the catalyst for today’s reunion of sorts. Perhaps in another decade, we’ll have this kind of event again.

This was more than a nostalgia trip. It was a celebration of a generation of musicians and fans who have a lot more to come.