Festivals. FestEVOLs. Places of discovery. Hotbeds of rumour. Random generators. There’s so much packed in to these two day-long balls that blinking really does mean you’re risking missing something. So when word reaches the garden of an “unmissable” band indoors, anything is possible. That’s after one song, but premature elation it ain’t: THE VRYLL SOCIETY demand attention.
Remember the names: Michael Ellis (Vocals), Ryan Ellis (Guitar, headgear), Lewis McGuinness (Guitar, sans headgear), Lloyd Shearer (Bass) and Benjamin Robinson (Drums). Pick a fave, enthuse about them, choose where you’ll stand at shows. Because you can: so well defined is their levitational rhythm’n’prog that you hear how essential each part is. In the measured pacing of the lyrics, and in the preference (in common with Nick McCabe, or Peter Green) for splashes of guitar, with some brushstrokes rubbed out rather than mindlessly layered. There’s room for a proper rhythm section too, one you can get wide-eyed about over an ale, like people did with McCabe’s Verve wingmen.
From their gliding debut single – July’s Deep Blue Skies – to the more red-blooded majority of this set, they’ve all the gears and use them effortlessly. The folk at Deltasonic Records must be creaming themselves, and they won’t be the only ones.
It’s time for a change of tempo – I don’t think we’ll be able to keep that up all night – and that comes in the form of WE ARE CATCHERS. For Peter Jackson and co there’s no suit of armour tonight, no sense of the studio air or essence of Brian Wilson sprinkled on their recorded output. It’s dudes in civvies banging out tunes, but it’s a testament to their songs here that they’re a rarity in wowing a crowd with ditties alone.
To that, THE SERPENT POWER add a whole lotta hair and visible love of folklore. Ian Skelly and Paul Molloy now channel not so much their Coral and Zutons connections but Tom Petty and George Harrison in Traveling Wilburys mode, with the expected dash of Beefheart and hints of early Moody Blues. More convincingly grounded in the past than, say, Temples, you can truly believe these guys were around in the sixties, in a good way.
Rather that than be prisoners of the noughties – the challenge, too, for DAVE McCABE & THE RAMIFICATIONS, and it’s some achievement that McCabe is back in a confounding sleek and synthy form that fits so snugly it teleports him from his backstory to a fresh pop-soul bloodline. That startling roar reveals itself anew in opener Time & Place, and there’s no reason why that can’t be here and now – until he visits his back catalogue, but why bother when Too Damn Good, a newie, has more groove and gumption, and the title track of forthcoming LP Church Of Miami is the foot-stomper of the night? McCabe appears spooked by sonic gremlins but listen, Earth to time-traveller, you’ve stumbled into your future. All aboard, cadets – including you, McCabe. You’ll do fine.
EVOL’s nuclear reactor of music continues the following Saturday, dangerously contained in three rooms and an alley for another 12 hours. Justice can’t be done to the vast line-up, every slot filled with class irrespective of where the shadow falls on the sundial.
SHE DREW THE GUN work the outdoor stage and the afternoon sun, clubland synths fitting perfectly with their West Coast (Washington, not California) bedroom pop. Purple-lit, purple-haired, and wearing purple Nikes, Louisa Roach (Vocals, Guitar) performs Since You Were Not Mine with a light touch and more than a hint of Bowie.
There are heavy touches, too. The only band to sound like there’s a Tory majority throw a half-hour tantrum that’s vindictive, livid, and totally necessary. No song titles – just rabid delivery and a 10m mic cable. At the bar? In the train carriage? On the stairs? You’re getting screamed at. In the face. Their instruments aren’t destroyed, but they’re climbed/stamped on. Basslines bristle with mouldy fuzz and, if you’ve never seen a guitar used as a plectrum to play a brick wall, go and watch BAD BREEDING.
Inside, PINK FILM’s industrial drone gives way to sheer bubblegum pop. It’s disarming, but it works, and they can do it the other way round, too – Loose Cannon and single Gut Wrench reward a patient, appreciative audience as Ziyad Al-Samman (Vocals, Guitar) moves like Phil Lynott fronting Pavement. Special mention for XAM VOLO, whose Breathe Slow is so smooth it goes ungripped by human hands.
What’s this, three rooms?? The Kazimier’s interior was always a bit Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who, and that, apparently, extends to massive secret rooms. Who knew? Quasi-mystical experiences await in the adopted space of the adjacent Arts Academy tonight, the first being BILL RYDER-JONES and IMMIX ENSEMBLE, playing one-off song cycle Episodes with Daniel Thorne’s introspective arrangements for quintet of winds and cello. Ryder-Jones’ fractured, confessional voice is minimally deployed, the lyrical sequences relieved by Immix’s intermezzi. The room falls dumb, as oceanographic sounds push their way through spaces in the crowd until it swims in music.
At the other end of the night, the TEA STREET BAND deliver an era-defining show, if the many-armed cloud of admirers before the stage is to be believed. Don’t trust your eyes, just your ears: the TSB’s status rests on guitar dance staples like Disco Lights and Summer Dreaming, but this show is Janus-like – not just for the band, who play tunes twenty years old while tantalising with talk of a new record, but for the Kazimier and FestEVOL – one will die, but the other can be reincarnated, and there’ll be plenty waiting for a Fourth Coming.