I am a broken man…
When forking out £130 for a festival ticket, there is one factor that must be considered before all others. It isn’t the facilities, it isn’t the food, it isn’t even the line up. No. A festival lives or dies based on the weather. And, as I write this twitching and aghast as a result of some kind of rain based PTSD, it is clear that the weather gods were not kind to Y Not Festival 2019.
I had arrived full of confidence. Full of enthusiasm. Full of Belvita soft bakes. The sun was shining when we set off from Doncaster on the Friday morning with a song in our hearts and a secret bottle of rum hidden in our van. All was right with the world. And so it continued for most of Friday.
Zuzu kicked things off on the Main Stage and she did so with style. The Liverpool singer/songwriter is a confident performer who has the tunes to back up her breezy onstage persona and Can’t Be Alone is one of the highlights of the weekend. We head over to the Quarry stage where we happen across Casey Lowry. While he does appear to be having more fun than pretty much anyone else in the tent, his passion and fervour are infectious and Trampoline gets a massive reaction down the front.
We exploit the gap in my punishing schedule (planned with military precision – what fun!) to take a stroll around the site. For a festival to have such a great line up and yet be so small is surprising but there is a nice atmosphere about the place with loads to do and it is interesting to see the Main Stage right in the middle of the site with everything else circled around it.
I caught both Cassia and Sports Team at Tramlines last week and was impressed by both. Cassie thrive on a bigger crowd and a larger space here and end their set as a band that seemingly have a bright future. Sports Team are also a lot of fun with front man Alex Rice a compelling presence, constantly beating his chest and silently murmuring to himself.
One of the big highlights of the weekend for me was supposed to be Gerry Cinnamon. His reputation as a performer precedes him and while he himself is excellent at Y Not – a blur of skally vocals, guitar and a bass drum – the sound lets him down massively. It is the only occasion where the sound isn’t top notch across the whole weekend which is a shame because the crowd are desperately on his side and still try to make the most out of a frustrating situation.
We inexplicably have two different portions of chicken, chips and gravy from two different vendors before settling in for Franz Ferdinand. The Scottish legends are at their very best with a greatest hits set spanning their whole career that has the Derbyshire crowd in raptures. Do You Want To perhaps sounds best with its strutting, bruising riff and soaring chorus, but it is Take Me Out that has everyone singing along and dancing like loons. Or perhaps that was just me. We are so excited in fact that we start doubling up on the rum and ginger. Unfortunately, because our decision making process was a little off by this point, this decision manifested itself in the buying of two single rum and gingers meaning we were paying for four lots of mixers every time resulting in each round coming to £26 each for two people. An eye watering sum which would have dire consequences later as we will discover.
Elbow close out the Friday night and they are quite simply one of the best festival acts on the scene. Not many bands excel in front of a massive audience but Guy Garvey and co feel completely at home. Atmospheric behemoths such as The Birds and Little Fictions have the crowd transfixed, rubbing shoulders alongside more radio friendly fare in the shape of My Sad Captains and Lippy Kids.
A biblical One Day Like This and a show stopping Grounds For Divorce bring the curtain down on an unforgettable performance. There are few better live bands in the world on this form. The resulting firework display is tame in comparison.
The night descends into more rum, the start of the rain and an unfortunate incident which resulted in me accidentally putting my hand in someone else’s poo. I escape to my tent. Happy, drunk and soaked in a bottle of hand sanitiser.
At around midday on Saturday I was idly queuing for what would turn out to be a terrible and overpriced sausage sandwich, when suddenly the heavens opened. And that was it. It proceeded to rain solidly for the next 24 hours. Relentlessly.
This quite literally put a dampener on things but was tempered somewhat by the fact that most of what we were to watch was due to take place in a tent. But first, there was Idles to deal with. The Bristol five piece have deservedly made a name for themselves on the live scene and their set on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Derbyshire was a life affirming mess. An explosion of positivity and love with some teeth and blood thrown in for good measure. They aren’t a band. They are a hurricane in black t-shirts.
Each of their ten songs is delivered and received as if it will be the lost note of music ever played on earth. Heel/Heal sets the tone before Mother and Divide & Conquer raze Y Not to the ground in a sonic assault worthy of the most hardcore of hardcore punk acts. Joe Talbot and his band of mad men close with a pummelling Danny Nedelko but not before guitarist Mark Bowen has repeatedly dived into the crowd and treated all those in attendance to an accapella rendition of some cheesy pop song. As the final chords of Rottweiler ring out into the drenched crowd, it is clear that we have all witnessed something very special. One of the best bands in the UK at the very top of their game.
Idles are a tough act to follow but The Big Moon are another fantastic UK band that have similarly made it big by the sheer force of their personalities and the quality of their songwriting. The crowd are onside from the very first notes of Sucker and their new material is just as well received as the touching proposal of marriage that band leader Sophie Nathan delivers on behalf of some guy in the audience. It is accepted. Crowd cheers. I go and eat some more chicken.
The conclusion of Sophie and the Giants is a nice warm up for the punk rock stylings of Pip Blom. A Dutch band who play fast and smile loud. They’re brilliant. School is a highlight but the whole set floats and bounces throughout the Quarry tent while the rain pounds on the canvas and I pour fruit cider into my face hole. All is well.
It is here that things start to take a downward turn. A fleeting visit to our camper van to drink rum turns into a 45 minute nap, from which we awake warm and dry for the first time in hours and, more crucially, worryingly sober. We reluctantly trudge back through the rain and the mud for Reverend and the Makers only to find they had been replaced in the Quarry Tent by Slow Readers Club. As 90% of the audience are there to either stay dry or see a band that are no longer playing, Slow Readers Club do the absolute best they can with a difficult situation and the insistent power of Aaron Starkie’s voice coupled with the unstoppable and hypnotic effect of tracks such as You Opened Up My Heart and On The TV ensures that everyone leaves happy.
It is at this point that I went to one of the many bars to buy some rum and was so disarmed and stunned to be ID’d as a 32-year-old man that I’m pretty sure I left my wallet complete with driving licence, bank card and £60 beautiful English pounds. I’ve contacted lost property. No dice. Donations welcome.
I was totally oblivious to this until much later however, and following a depressing stint in one of the worst Portaloos I’ve ever had the misfortune to enter and a bizarre chat with an incredibly unpleasant girl claiming to be the daughter of Embrace guitarist Richard McNamara, we hunkered down in the driving rain for Two Door Cinema Club.
After missing the Northern Ireland band at Tramlines because I was drunkenly chatting to a friend of mine, I was determined to make up for lost time here. I was also cold. I resolved to stay until I heard a song I didn’t like and seven songs later I was out of there.
To be fair to Two Door, the songs I did hear were delivered brilliantly. The sound was pitch perfect and the light show was as impressive as anything I have seen so far this festival season. Tracks such as I Can Talk and Undercover Martyn are classics now and Next Year deserves to be recognised as a huge hit.
It was too cold. It was too wet. So we went home. There. Are you happy now?
On the whole, Y Not was an experience I wont forget in a hurry. It is literally impossible for festival organisers to prepare for weather conditions as bad as they were and it’s impressive the site stayed upon at all. Having said that, the toilets were… just fill to the brim with poo. It was right up there. Right at the rim there. Enduring image.
Thanks Y Not. Thanks for chips and chicken, and great music and hand sanitiser and everything else that transpired in this whirlwind of a weekend. I hope that one day I’ll be back. Weather permitting…