Note: all the photos on this blog are by Carya Gish unless indicated.
Southend's annual Art and Music festival Village Green was back last weekend, and organisers Metal once again had the weather on their side.
Over a relatively short period of time, VG has grown into an important event which has put Southend on the festival map.
As it is a mere (leisurely) 20mn walk from our house, it would be incredibly silly indeed not to grab the opportunity of a fun day out on our doorstep! Of course, getting a couple of press passes is always nice... It reminds me of my music journalism days in London!
One thing is sure: VG is never the same year on year; it grows a tiny little bit each year; in 2012, there was a wonderful cabaret tent (see my report of VG 2012 HERE); In 2013, I was lucky enough to see my first novel reviewed in the VG official programme (see HERE); last year, I volunteered the whole day at Dragnet (a pop-up crime/noir literature festival tent) and it was superb, although it meant that I didn't get to walk around at all - never mind, we had the best band in town anyway! (read my report of the day HERE). Sadly, Dragnet was not back at VG this year...
I usually like my music dark, edgy and sitting uncomfortably on the borders between our world and an alternative reality, but I like going to events like VG because I always manage to find some act I like or that surprises me - also, a live setting within a festival is a completely different proposition and I can enjoy the live set of a band whose music I would never listen to on CDs at home!
I personally go to VG for the atmosphere, the variety and the cheer sense of adventure - what will you find in this corner? And what about that other one there? Oh, and what is that? I just walk around, stop, look and listen, start again in another direction.
People always look happy and relaxed, and I think it is absolutely crucial for young children to experience the sheer joy of art and music in the real world (and not on TV) - it might inspire them and make them think it is for them too...
There were so many things going on, it is impossible to report on every single event. This blog is highly subjective and completely biased and is not a journalistic report! But I hope it will convey the atmosphere of the day.
We arrived at around 2.30pm, so didn't see any acts in the morning... Chalkwell Park was packed (over 25,000 people attended on the day!)
This is Asylums - we were curious, as back in June, they had been special guests in Corby of one of our favourite bands, the mighty Killing Joke. Apparently, they are on the cusp of making it big...
It was a homecoming gig for Snowboy and the Latin Section, led by Southend's multi-percussionist Mark "Snowboy" Cotsgrove; the ensemble are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year!
They filled the Riverside stage with infectious Afro-Cuban jazz (perfect for the weather!) - my favourite track was The New Avengers (but then as a fan of the cult series The Avengers, I am probably biased!)
We had seen The Selecter back in 2013 when they supported PIL at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. It was great to see them again in Southend, and what a fantastic performance! The crowd went absolutely mad for them, and it was well-deserved. I think that maybe they should have been on last and given a full hour.
The Selecter have a brand new album out (Subculture - you can read a review of the CD HERE).
They formed in 1979, but the 2 Tone band we had in front of us last Saturday was incredibly fresh, full of vitality and attitude. Frontwoman Pauline Black (who has a very interesting life story which she has told in her autobiography, Black by Design) possesses an extremely charismatic, commanding presence and, together with the other original member of the band, Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, leads a tight and talented band. Special mention to the always excellent Will Crewdson, an interesting addition to the line-up whose epic guitar playing really added an edge to The Selecter's bouncy music. It was a bit surreal to see him on stage at Village Green, as Will has been a fixture of London's underground music scene for years and we have only seen him in dark venues around the capital over the years... Of course, I have to mention his awesome glam-punk outfit, the terrific Rachel Stamp. Mr Crewdson (who also plays with Adam and The Ants and Flesh for Lulu among others) currently has several very, very good projects on the go: Scant Regard, She Made Me Do It and Black Volition; if you are a music fan, do check them all out!
The Selecter's new album is called Subculture, and Pauline Black had some lovely words about it: let's celebrate all the subcultures that exist in this country - something the band know about as their following is so diverse, taking in people from many varied so-called "tribes".
The Selecter's set was a real triumph - here are a few pictures!
Talking about subcultures, photographer Dean Chalkley has a book out called "Return of the Rudeboy", which was published for the major exhibition of the same name which took place at Somerset House. The Selecter's Pauline Black is one of the subjects photographed for this project.
Some of Dean's photographs from his "Sonics" collection were also on show at Metal's Chalkwell Hall - famous musicians such as Tricky, Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller and more.
We also watched a lovely Black and White short film, "Young Souls", showing a "Northern Soul" night of dancing and music. You can watch the video HERE (and also check out the one on the same web page with the colourful Dogbones, another favourite band of mine!)
Another famous face at the festival was 80's icon Roland Gift formerly of Fine Young Cannibals . The Selecter were a very hard act to follow, and I admit that I listened to two songs and then moved on...
Sweet Thames Run Softly is a pop-up art gallery showing a collection of works inspired by TS Eliot's poem "The Waste Land" and produced by the Thames Group of Artists.
"Primo Nelson are an original, hard-hitting, funk-inspired groove movement of heavy horns ripping riffs through a thumping funk core, husky tones and so much more..." said the VG pink programme...
Sounded good to us (even though we are not naturally "funk" people), so we made our way to the Idea 13 stage to check Primo Nelson out; we didn't regret it one second: Primo Nelson were absolutely a-ma-zing and brought the house down - the tent was so packed I swear I could see steam coming out of all the overheating bodies in there!
The raucous collective is made up of (a lot of) excellent musicians and singers (and a few people ready to die of suffocation under blue papier mache giant heads...), led by a cheeky chappy with a gravelly voice. The music was irresistible, the band members were on fire; it was really, really good fun and it was hot but nobody cared... This lot should have been on one of the main stages by right!
We checked out headliner Nitin Sawhney on our way out. A hugely influencial and acclaimed musician, Nitin Sawhney performance at VG was a high-quality, super-professional and sleek.
I love the colours and lights playing on the ceiling of the lovely stage in some of the pictures below.
The date for next year's VG has already been announced: 9th July 2016.
This year was the last Village Green for us: if everything goes to plan, we hope to have moved to the South West by the time of next year's festival in Chalkwell Park...
I think therefore I write.
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