All pictures by Carya Gish and Matt ArtPix
This is my blog and not an "official" press report or review, and therefore I am presenting below my own personal, heavily edited version of Village Green.
I will post links to reviews/other reports on here when/if they have been published!
I have been reporting from the Village Green festival for several years now. I am happy to say that the popular event in Chalkwell in Essex was once again a great success attended by over 20,000 people (unfortunately, it clashed with another local mainstream festival, Brownstock, which might have taken some people away from VG).
Every year, the hard-working team behind the festival (arts organisation Metal) do things slightly differently: 2014 was the year the festival brought literature to Chalkwell Park with Dragnet (read my report HERE) and I loved working there the whole day - even though I missed the rest of the event!
This year, there was a lot to do for very young children who had their own Mini Green stage and also a children's literature tent with author readings and signings (the Jacqson Diego Story Emporium tent).
There was also an artists village with artworks dotted around the site, as well as an art school and various workshops.
For people like me who are not exactly enthusiastic outdoor festival goers - I have sold programmes at the Reading festival when it was still good, but it was thankfully a one-off experience! - VG is just enough - and a 20mn walk from my house.
I am a big music fan but I like my daily showers and the dark venues of London, as you might have worked out from the blogs I have regularly posted on here...
VG 2015 was supposed to be our last one, as as recently as April, we were preparing to move to our new HQ in Dorset. Our move has now been cancelled (or we hope, only postponed) and we have decided to get back to what we do best: go to gigs, art exhibitions and other cultural events. Our cultural calendar for the rest of the year is starting to fill up, hurray!
Here are a few photos reflecting the general VG vibe...
As I have said before, the programme at Village Green doesn't reflect my music tastes, but I am always open to discovering new things. I had a very short list of acts I wanted to check out, and I have seen them all bar one (I wanted to check out Platypus but it wasn't to be!).
First off, we headed for the Idea 13 stage sponsored by Cool Thing Records and two Southend music venues, Chinnerys and The Railway Hotel. It seems that we kept returning to this stage throughout the day, somehow.
The first band on my list was Killatrix, a very interesting local outfit who mix a vast array of influences to create incredibly infectious songs. The fact that their single Supersonic hasn't left my head since Saturday is a good indication of the potency of their melodies (see the official video below)! As someone who is more used to the industrial/electro/neo-folk alternative scenes, I really appreciate the way technology, software and more traditional instruments (in this case the "usual" trio of drums, bass and guitar) can combine to create fresh and exciting sounds with an edge. Killatrix's performance was energetic - singer Sin Dii really looked like she was enjoying herself! - and very professional (impressive at 11.45am on a Saturday!).
I really need to see Killatrix again, this time in a suitably dark venue. One to watch for sure!
"The mesmerising three-headed love child of Nine Inch Nails, Fugazi and Radiohead," said the programme blurb.
Nine Inch Nails?
That guaranteed A.C.I.D's place on my list!
We're not talking Pretty Hate Machine or The Downward Spiral era Nine Inch Nails, here, mind you, but more the piano-led melancholia of some of the tracks on The Fragile.
There is certainly something there, a seriousness, an ambition that goes beyond the mere rock'n'roll dream - A.C.I.D is an intriguing concept and it would be worth keeping an eye on them as they grow and develop.
I haven't been able to find any information on the band, only an Instagram link HERE.
The Scarletts are very young but seem to have already acquired a solid local reputation. No extravagance here; The Scarletts's music is melodic and slightly retro; it showcases some solid songwriting as well as an intensity and sensibility that will most certainly make them stand out from the pack on the indie scene.
The stars of the day for me were undoubtedly Stereo MCs who played an absolutely fantastic set. My partner Matt ArtPix had seen them in the 90s (see his little blog about the Village Green performance HERE), but personally, I didn't know what to expect. Stereo MCs are veterans in the best sense of the word: they haven't stopped since they started back in the 80's, founding music labels, collaborating across Europe and becoming essential players on the underground electronic/dance music scene with their Connected label, working in London and Berlin.
This is exactly what you need at an event like the Village Green festival: a high-impact, dynamic, dance-your-little-feet-off kind of act - something uplifting with energy, soul and BEATS. There is also a fierce creative streak in Stereo MCs - the sound of their tracks always evolving, mutating - their music is too good to date, and older tracks sound as good as newer ones.
Rob Birch is one hell of a frontman, never stopping, mean and lean and full of energy; Nick Hallam was busy creating and mixing the electro sounds at the back of the stage (reminding me of The Orb's Alex Patterson) whilst percussionist Owen provided live beats. And of course, the beautiful ladies of the band (including long-term member Cath Coffey) treated us to their seamless choreography and perfect vocals.
Stereo MCs encountered substantial commercial success in the 90s - singles Elevate My Mind, Connected and Step It Up were played at Village Green but were not the only great tracks of a truly thrilling show.
Inventive, creative and full of integrity, Stereo MCs are basically irresistible. The whole Riverside stage audience were on their feet; we all could have carried on until sunset...
I really hope I will be able to catch Stereo MCs live again in the near future as I did get an immense buzz out of their performance.
I am posting this video below as it shows how versatile the band is: here, there is a more traditional drum kit and guitars!
We ended the day as we did last year, with the funk circus that is Primo Nelson (write-up from VG 2015 HERE). The room was packed when we arrived and therefore our pictures are not as good as last year! On paper, I shouldn't like Primo Nelson - too bloody colourful and sunny for my more monochrome tastes! BUT they are such good musicians and their enthusiasm is terribly infectious. I mean, these people manage to put a smile on people's faces with a song titled: A Punch In The Face On A Train!!
Throughout the day, we had wandered around the festival site and checked a few acts...
We only caught the last track of The Turbans' performance, which is a shame as they sounded really good. They are crowdfunding their debut album: have a look at the video below the picture!
Below is Irish composer, guitarist, pianist and producer Daniel McDermott who creates rather cinematic soundscapes...
This is Longy.
We caught sight of headliner Billy Bragg on our way out...
And that was VG 2016!
Metal are spoiling us this year as this autumn, they are putting on a huge cultural event, Estuary 2016 "a new, biennial arts festival curated in response to the spectacular Thames Estuary and presented in culturally significant and historic venues along the Essex and Kent shorelines. An exciting mix of new and existing works will pull together powerful themes resonant to the place, its history, landscape and communities in an ambitious programme of contemporary art, literature, film and music."
I think therefore I write.