18 Nov 2015

iNDEPENDENCE fest review - day one

iNDEPENDENCE, happening this weekend, was a brilliant chance to marry Southampton's vibrant underground scene with some of the best psychedelic, indie and alt bands in the country. Over two days, the festival offered some of the British Underground's finest a chance to showcase their psychedelic sounds to a south coast audience, whilst also giving the 'ampshire music scene's finest rising stars a chance to play on a fairly big stage.

Opening up the Saturday afternoon came a duo of psych bands that have graced the Lennon's stage with their presence before; Birmingham's Cold Ocean Lies and London's Hidden Charms. The subsuming guitar sound of Brum band Cold Ocean Lies was one of the most immediately captivating guitar sounds of the weekend, being halfway between the glacial crunch of Ride circa 1990 and the mesmeric psychedelic swell of Hookworms' Pearl Mystic album - in the studio, Cold Ocean Lies are an almost middling indie band with an underlying psych influence, but their live show on the Southampton Engine Rooms stage was a truly gripping ethereal tour de force.

Hidden Charms looked as though they'd been dragged backwards through a Brick Lane vintage market, and their psych sound that tiptoed backwards through every era of musical history; one minute they were having it large with a Nuggets-like psych-pop swagger, before popping through a Foalsian math-rock groove and finally settling on a clangy riff of industrial pop. Both Hidden Charms and Cold Ocean Lies really made a mark on me this weekend and I'd say they were among day 1's best few bands; two outfits with a lot of potential to make a mark on Britain's increasingly thriving psychedelic underground.
The Crookes seemed on the surface to be hungover survivors of the landfill indie days; baggy Hawaiian shirts, and a handful of tunes that would probably have got into the top 20 in 2006, but their live show's raw power and energy really won me over. Highlights came from their earlier songs; Maybe in the Dark gave the loud bit-quiet bit that Pixies did so well a Geordie twist, whilst electrifying closer Afterglow is just a scintillating indie disco banger that will never not be a fucking brilliant track.

One of the city's homegrown talents added some character to the proceedings, Saaaaafamptoning things right up; Sean McGowan, Joiners barman,
delivered a brilliant set next. Sean couldn't be more iconic of the city, even if he crashed into an iceberg killing Leonard DiCaprio, so his raw set of witty allegorical early Jamie T-meets-Frank Turner singer-songwritery couldn't have felt more fitting. His speech on the Paris events was truly touching, earning him a round of applause, but the set's highlights came as the local folk hero rattled through a heart-wrencher geologically set around the Millbrook Road.

Maybe the two most different artists on the whole bill were Sean McGowan and the following act; East India Youth. East India Youth - the solo project of Will Doyle - seemed, to me as an outsider having heard a bit on the radio, like it might be vaguely danceable electronic indie-pop with a sort of 6music friendly First Aid Kit alt-J type feel. But that it was absolutely not, as Doyle, making all the sounds himself, blasted out the festival's single most sonically invasive, and single most mesmerising sets. Pummeling electronica mixed with Doyle's almost hypnotic voice really shook things up, and probably sent the folk that were only there to see The Rifles running to the hills. Maybe it wasn't my thing entirely, but East India Youth were just something you couldn't take your eyes off for a second.

Gaz Coombes, arguably the only person from the entire nineties to put out a great solo record ever with this year's Matador, his silky sweet voice is every bit as majestic as it is on some of the more gorgeous Supergrass material - cuts like The Girl Who Fell To Earth and Buffalo hypnotised with Coombes voice sounding so glorious that it was easy to overlook the fact that he didn't slip a Supergrass classic in there somewhere.

Following suite and the night's last notable highlight was the psych-leaning indie-pop of Mancunian fast-risers Blossoms. Their legs all slender enough to send The Horrors into meltdown, their set gathered charming momentum with opener Cut Me and I'll Bleed, while other highlights from their already credible discography included the likes of Blow and Charlegmane. Before seeing them here I really struggled to get the hype surrounding them, but live they're just so tight that it's easy to see why they're selling out massive arenas all of a sudden.

Whilst the music from day one came in with such a bang, and sustained it, it closed with the festivals two more mediocre bands; the Sunshine Underground & The Rifles. The dancey alt of the Sunshine Underground had a bit of a groove to it, but ultimately was a bit on the lackluster, uninteresting side. The Rifles again - were a tight live band - but they were what I can only describe as what The Courteeners would be like if they were fronted by Super Hans after he got back on the straight and narrow. Largely uninteresting guitar music (albeit played well) where most the choruses were so simple Wayne Rooney could have written them, The Rifles were certainly a band that catered to an entirely different audience to those losing themselves in Gaz Coombes' heavenly voice and those absorbed by the pulsations of East India Youth, which left a bit of a sour taste in the wake of an otherwise incredible day of music. Southampton has one of the best underground and indie scenes in the country, and day one of iNDEPENDENCE was testimony to that.

(written by calum cashin)