Never mind the Buzzcocks
Monday 2nd September 2013, 4:30PM BST.
Headliners they might have been, but punk legends the Buzzcocks were far from Tom Girard’s stand-out act at the Earth Fair…
With six stages and more than 50 acts, the Vale Earth Fair remains one of the most densely packed festivals going. Seeing everything was never an option, so I’ve focused on the Castle Stage and the Stage Against The Machine.
Inside the castle the first band I caught were The John Wesley Stone, who launched into their usual exuberant performance as the crowd largely stuck to sitting down, but nonetheless seemed to appreciate the music on offer and the effort put in.
On the Stage Against The Machine, meanwhile, there were retro rock ’n’ roll sounds from The Surfin’ Birds. With vintage guitars and tones, they mixed their take on classics with great originals to create something a bit different that seemed to be one of the highlights of the festival for those watching.
Jonny Lives! were fired up for the show and their mix of new wave pop and garage-y rock went down very well, with the still-static crowd sticking around in the open area of the main castle despite the drizzle.
Outside the castle, Lifejacket delivered one of the best sets I’ve seen from them as they stormed through a very confident performance of their original post-rock to a large crowd which, I think, won them many new fans.
They were soon followed by The Recks, for whom the crowd grew to the biggest I’ve ever seen at this stage.
As they launched into their set it was clear to see why this band has gained such a following – their mix of schizophrenic indie folk soon had the crowd bouncing, dancing and singing along and the band themselves played their usual tight but flowing show, having become a firm highlight of all three of this summer’s local festivals.
Then it was time for some skanking and moon stomping back in the castle with Sons of the Desert and their take on classic ska tracks from across the years, which encouraged a lot of dancing as they took us on a journey from ’60s Jamaica to the modern day via 2-Tone.
The energy was still high as SugarSlam stumbled onto the outside stage.
They may have been feeling the effects of a day at a festival but rode the wave of that, making for one of the loosest and most fun sets I remember seeing them play, one that had the crowd involved from the start.
The intro to JagerBomb was something more akin to a Motley Crue show than the Vale Earth Fair.
Heading back into the walls, I had the perfect festival moment of encountering an act of which I had no prior knowledge and being blown away. They were swing-jazz-drum ’n’ bass duo The Correspondents, who combined sounds with frankly amazing movements and vocals to create the perfect hybrid which set the crowd alight and heralded the night-time festival vibe to perfection.
Following The Correspondents would be a task for any band, but with a reputation like theirs it was something we all thought Buzzcocks would pull off with aplomb. Sadly this was not to be.
From the start the band felt very unbalanced, with original pair Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle standing out front while newer members Chris Remmington and Danny Farrant largely relegated to supporting roles. As the set went on this imbalance grew as Diggle forced himself and his guitar to the front, aping Pete Townshend. But rather than well crafted solos, he simply extended good three-minute pop-punk songs to eight-minute marathons, which – in all honesty – led to the set feeling dull, while Shelley simply looked like he didn’t really want to be there.
Thankfully Guernsey’s own Bright_Lights were on hand to redress the situation.
Having embarked on their dance-rock revolution only a year ago, the band hit the stage with a new energy and confidence and their mix of electronica and noisy guitars had the still-busy castle dancing straight away, and closed the day’s main stage on a real high.
While Bright_Lights were wrapping up things inside the castle, outside the job went to Last of the Light Brigade. They headed into their show with full force and their natural camaraderie on stage, combined with Tyler’s growing confidence as a frontman and performer, made for a great set which rounded off an excellent day.
With one obvious exception, it made for one of the most consistently enjoyable Vale Earth Fairs I can remember.