Review: The Lively & Unpredictible Bushstock Festival, June 2019

Bushstock 2019
Bushstock 2019, Communion Music’s multi-venue festival set in Shepherd’s Bush, shone a light on the country’s brightest new stars.

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Since its inception, Bushstock has undoubtedly been one of the best London festivals to discover some of the best up-and-coming artists with the likes of Bastille, George Erza and Hozier all descending on Shepherd’s Bush throughout the years. Last year alone, Grace Carter, Sam Fender, Sea Girls and Freya Ridings were just a few of the names that were spread across the multi-venue one-day music festival.

Bushstock Festival 2019
Bushstock Festival 2019

Kicking off our day was Australian artist Harry Marshall, whose evident passion was enough to inject some energy into the festival’s early comers. His live set embodied exponentially more energy than his recorded tracks would suggest, those who were perhaps expecting just a man and his guitar for a gentle introduction to their day were initially taken aback but soon warmed to Marshall’s sensational set.

Halfway through his set, Marshall called for the punters in the increasingly busy Sindercombe Social to fill up space in the front of the room, prompting a surprisingly enthusiastic mass movement towards the stage. With his Sea Girls-esque energy, Marshall demanded the room’s undivided attention and one point descended straight into the crowd to the obvious delight of some die-hard fans who were mouthing along to every word he sang. A highlight of his set was his impassioned performance of his new single “Mountain,” which saw Marshall free himself from guitar playing to purely focus on his vocals and stunning showmanship.

A quick walk over the road brought us to the Albertine Wine Bar for an acoustic set from APRE, the first secret set of the day. Only forming last year, the Kent alternative pop duo have quickly, and quite rightfully, made a name for themselves. Without their accompanying band to provide APRE’s usual subtle yet enthralling electronic soundscapes, the duo’s lyricism really shone through, especially on their first track “Everybody Loves You”. Ending their short yet sweet set with their latest single “Come Down,” it was blazingly evident why they deserve to be headlining the 800-capacity venue Scala this October.

Next up at the uniquely intimate Albertine Wine bar, was the sensational Maisie Peters, whose knack for crafting painfully relatable pop bops has seen her earn a loyal and ever-growing fanbase. In the packed venue, Peters started her set with “Stay Young,” which sees her blend her ferociously frank and observant lyricism with her immeasurable charm to craft a poignant yet catchy song.

Maisie Peters at Bushstock 2019 © Colin Hart
Maisie Peters at Bushstock 2019 © Colin Hart

In her 7-song-set she interweaved tracks off of her stunning Dressed Too Nice For A Jacket EP with fan favourites and unreleased tracks. The stripped-back nature of the secret set highlighted both her phenomenal vocals and her heart-warming chemistry with her keyboardist Tina. Although, her performances of her tracks such as “Feel Like This” and “Place We Were Made” were breathtakingly beautiful, the real highlight of her set was the 2 unreleased tracks, which provided a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect from Peters in the future.

The unreleased track presumably titled “This Is on You” evidenced Peters’ ability to craft observant, thought-provoking lyricism in an accessible yet deeply personal way. When breaking up with someone it’s almost too easy to shift of all the blame onto the other person, but the track sees Peters reflect on the reality of the situation, taking some of the blame but empoweringly recognizing the overwhelming majority of the responsibility lies with the other person. On the song, her experiences are chronicled in her almost trademark uniquely engaging way that pairs both wistful romanticism with a grounding sense of reality.

Ending her set with “Worst of You”, it was impossible not to feel extremely lucky to have been able to see Maisie Peters in such a delightfully intimate setting before she’s selling out colossal venues.

After a quick 10-minute walk over to the Courtyard, MarthaGunn were still on-stage, due to a delay, allowing the crowd to experience the band’s effortless vocal harmonies and ’70s inspired indie-rock sound. Technical problems at the festival’s main stage meant Mosa Wild’s planned set didn’t go ahead, so just as rain started to trickle down many found themselves in St. Stephen’s Church awaiting a performance from the sensational Jordan Mackampa.

From the outset, Mackampa’s arrestingly affecting voice echoed around the glorious church and by the time he was onto playing his second track “Saint,” there was barely a person in the venue who wasn’t completely captivated both by his soulful voice and astounding lyricism. Throughout, but especially on “Yours To Keep,” his band’s extraordinary performances served to alleviate and expand the sonic horizons of Mackampa’s tracks.

The band really came into their own playing Mackampa’s new single “Under”, which represents a slight shift in direction for the singer-songwriter. But within his set, it felt perfectly placed and the track’s undeniable energy brightly shone through in Jordan’s enthusiastic performance. The only possible criticism of the spellbinding set was its brevity, with astonishing songs such as “One In the Same” not making the cut. Thankfully, Mackampa will be making a return to London in November to play Village Underground and, going off of his performance at Bushstock, you would be an utter fool to miss it.

The rapturous applause that followed Mackampa’s set was a testament to his almost implausibly incredible performance. With news of the Courtyard’s closure spreading across Twitter (and cancellation of headliner Gang Of Youths’ performance), the previously joyful, buoyant atmosphere at Bushstock had turned a little sour. Luckily, Leeds quartet Marsicans were on hand and more than happy to inject such some joy into proceedings over at Defectors Weld.

Kicking off with their brilliant track “Your Eyes,” it was evident that Marsicans’ live set had already far exceeded the expectations of many. The band played with the exhilarant energy that’s normally only ever-present at debut gigs, while showcasing the showmanship and cohesiveness that some groups only find after decades of touring.

As Marsicans rattled through tracks such as “Suburbs”, “Little Things” and “Too Good”, their excitement and seemingly never-ending energy were delightfully infectious. The quartet’s chemistry and insatiable yearning to play live meant that their set was likely the most joyous that Bushstock’s punters had seen all day.

While Marsicans’ performances and indie pop songs are wonderfully upbeat, underneath the surface most of their lyricism touches upon the anxiety-filled lows and euphoric highs of youth in a way that’s absolutely moving. Each song proudly encompasses its own unique identity, and as a collection each song interwove with one another to form a delightfully cohesive live experience that one should never want to stop feeling.

Next up at Defectors Weld was Liverpool band Clean Cut Kid, fronted by husband and wife duo Mike and Evelyn Halls. Their luxurious harmonies often form the focal point of the band’s song while every band member’s incredible talent and musicianship was glaringly obvious. Mike Halls’ amazing yet not indulgent guitar solos were often bewitching while Ross Higginson’s drumming proved to a compelling commanding presence.

An early highlight of the band’s hour-long set was “I Don’t Like You but I Love You”, an ode to adoring someone despite their limitations and recognising that those weaknesses serve a fundamental part of who they are. While sonically the band are simply stunning, likely due to their extensive touring schedule, Mike Halls’ self-assured clear-cut vocals allowed Clean Cut Kid’s glorious lyricism to fully leave its impression on the captivated crowd.

With tracks such as “Evelyn” and “Emily,” the band transform incredibly personal emotive moments into accessible anthems that are often jubilant yet rooted in a humanizing doubtfulness or dilemma. It was with their set’s penimulate track “Vitamin C” that made the packed crowd erupt into the night’s most riotous frenzy but throughout Clean Cut Kid proved themselves to be one of the festival’s most engaging performers.

By the time Clean Cut Kid’s set was finished, Bush Hall was at capacity for Matt Corby, which wasn’t surprising given the cancellation of Gang of Youths’ headline set. Despite the technical hiccups, it’s safe to say that Bushstock is one of the finest one-day multi-venue festivals in London, offering an array of talent that more than satisfies a wide range of gig-goers. Whether you’re looking to explore new music or see your favourite artist, unless that artist was Gang of Youths, Bushstock proves itself an incredible day out filled with awe-inspiring sets and new music discovery.

For pretty much any other festival the cancellation of a headliner would have wreaked havoc, but the winning combination of an inviting, joyous atmosphere and Communion’s carefully crafted line-up meant pretty much everyone still had a day to remember.

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