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Things Learned At: Rockaway Beach Festival
Yousif Nur , October 19th, 2015 09:43

Yousif Nur reports on things he learned on a weekend at Butlins

Photo by Tony Jupp

Everyone owns a Fender Jag   There's not a band at this festival that doesn't have at least one Fender Jag. They are everywhere: Fever Dream, The Telescopes, Flowers, Lola Colt, Teeth Of The Sea, Pinkshinyultrablast and Skinny Girl Diet all have them. But with so many shoegaze bands playing this weekend, I suppose it's logical to assume that the guitars – as well as the many delay and reverb pedals – would be at least two paces from anyone at Rockaway Beach. And they all come in various colours, my personal favourite being the one Gun from Lola Colt has – a gold glittery number that shimmers with every swerve and strum of the axe.

Lift music is pretty good at Butlins   Taking the lift at the nearby nautical-themed Wave Hotel I'm currently staying at is quite the experience. No muzak here, but the Jaws theme when the doors open and one of Hawaii Five-O, Octopuses Garden and Yellow Submarine. Going up and down floors needn't be awkward or a passive aggressive experience. It's not annoying in the slightest either.

Diversity attracts crowds

Ghostpoet and Young Fathers bring the biggest crowds of the festival aside from the headliners. Maybe this is an ongoing trend for the organisers to consider for next year's installment. After watching band upon band upon solo artist with a guitar upon band, anyone would welcome any change. Problem is, in the case of Young Fathers, I'm probably the only person in the room (nay, the festival itself) that's not getting it. The audience look very up for it, the band are shouting lyrics with varying styles and beats, but it's all just a big mess. I'm very confused and not quite sure what I'm watching or listening to. I last about four songs before I move on elsewhere. Ghostpoet on the other hand is quite the showman. He prances about the stage with a swagger to eager onlookers that lap up every word. There's an almighty roar of approval with every song that passes.

Flowers are bloomin' wonderful   Flowers are three-piece shoegaze (that word again) that remind me of Cocteau Twins on a C86 compilation. And anything that reminds me of them will be very much onside in my estimation of a band. Lead singer Rachel Kenedy's falsettos bring the audience and I to a standstill, as we put away our phones and start looking up at the band and not gazing at the floor (oh the irony). With each and every song, I become more impressed as ticks in my mental box are crossed. Decent songs? Yep. Strong vocals? Oh yeah. Can they play more than three chords? Sure.

Pinkshinyultrablast have the perfect blend   I daresay that St. Peterburg's Pinkshinyultrablast are the best band at this festival this weekend. They have the perfect formula for performing live. I'm not sure what the mathematical equation is exactly, but if you add the master volume at an equilibrium with a vocalist who is very classically proficient, and multiply it with group of people that can play their instruments half-decently, add pen great songs and divide it by their awesome name, then there you have the perfect live set.

Spiritualized are braver and more courageous than most bands

News filtered through that the brother of lead guitarist Tony "Doggen" Foster had tragically committed suicide today. Naturally there's will they, won't they rumours rife throughout the main stage as the hour nears upon their scheduled stage time. Bravely, Spiritualized appear and play a set as though it were their last as a group.

With a few teething problems with the visuals in the background to begin with, the band aren't at all deterred by it and play on with extended tracks and solos. Particular highlights are 'Come Together' and 'Soul On Fire' because of the involvement of the two backing vocalists that add a richness and depth to the performance. They may never play a set that has as much meaning and heart in light of events earlier in the day. Naturally, all eyes are on Foster with words of support bellowed from the audience as he plays on, looking almost unaffected. A brave band for a brave occasion. 

Mark E Smith and the 64 cans of lager

A rumour passes by that Mark E Smith's rider states he requires 64 cans of lager. I imagine that if Carlsberg wrote rider lists etc. The Fall, they're good fun to watch. They're normally quite a hit and miss band when it comes to Mark E Smith's performances and antics onstage, but tonight they're on form. We're not quite sure just how drunk Mark is, but he's frequently singing with a microphone in each hand held directly to his mouth muttering indecipherable words. There's even an airing of "Theme From Sparta FC" played, much to my delight with Smith giving a mic to a person in the audience who repeatedly sings "Victooooria, Victoorrria..". 

Johnny Marr should stick to playing Smiths songs rather than sing them

Johnny Marr is a guitar hero. The hairs on the back of my neck have never ever been as upright as they've been when he plays Smiths songs. There's quite a few of them: 'Panic', 'The Headmaster Ritual', 'Bigmouth Strikes Again', 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out', 'How Soon Is Now' and bizzarely, 'You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby'. There's even a rendition of Electronic's 'Getting Away With It'. Even more unexpected is a cover of 'Crash' by The Primitives.   There's very little in the way of solo material, but to be honest, in everyone's heart of hearts, it's not like anyone cares. We're here for the hits. Although there's one major sticking point of the set, especially with the Smiths tracks: there's a reason Morrissey sang the songs and Johnny Marr didn't and tonight we're finding out why: it's simply because he doesn't have the voice for them.

The Cult Of Dom Keller – good at music, almost as good at bowling

During the day, there's a ten pin-bowling match scheduled between the media against Nottingham band, The Cult Of Dom Keller. No sooner as we're about to change into our shoes and stride into the lanes, the sledging and fighting talk starts. Unfazed, we go into battle despite the psychological mind games of the band hitting strike after strike. In the end, our team wins it by a single pin: 513-512.

The band are the final act of the whole festival. It feels only right to heckle them in between songs whilst enjoying their songs that are reminiscent of Spacemen 3 and XTRM8TR-era Primal Scream. It's all rather good, and the chugging, pacing quality to their tracks keeps the attentions of those who are still awake to watch the band at 2am.

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