Bushstock Festival 2017: The Review

It might not have the most inspired name but Bushstock seems to have a knack for pulling together an inspired line-up year after year.

It’s so named because it’s held in a bunch of intimate venues in Shepherd’s Bush, including a church, a charity shop and a patch of ground underneath a bridge. The one-day festival has a reputation for putting on alternative acts before they get big: with previous years having seen the likes of Bastille, Michael Kiwanuka and Daughter perform.

The main attraction this year was The Staves, with other well-known names including Benjamin Francis Leftwich and The Big Moon, but I plumped to see Spring King as my final band of the day. I’d seen some really good sets earlier in the day but they’d all been rather mellow, so the Mancunians’ balls-out rock was a refreshing change of pace. It is always apparent when a band are enjoying themselves and though they might not be as unusual as some of the others on the bill, they were a lot of fun and very enjoyable.

I didn’t see a duff band all day but the unexpected highlight for me was Talos at the Sindercombe Social, who I just happened to wander in on. There were five people and two drumkits crammed on the tiny stage but from a bit of post-event research, it appears to be the project of Cork architect Eoin French, who now has a live band. Captivatingly atmospheric, I can see the music being used in an advert where a car cruises through a city at night while someone with a French accent purrs out adjectives. But it’s a lot better than that.

In a similar vein was Noctürn at the wonderful St Stephen’s Church. There’s very little about them online (Google suggested I was looking for a Texan industrial metal band) but I find it hard to believe it’ll stay that way for much longer. It’s a tricky one to explain: imagine hazy post-rock instrumentation with operatic, over-the-top vocals. Apparently, they’re from London but I assumed I was watching a Scandinavian band because of the unusual juxtapositions; a little gratuitous for some perhaps, with a few people walking out, but certainly different. Although I do always find it odd when a band doesn’t say anything, not even a hello or a thank you.

I stumbled across Colouring last year when they supported The Japanese House (I actually thought they were better than her…) so I made sure to check them out again. They’re based around synths and create something really nice; although it’s never in-your-face it draws you in and forces your attention. If you like bands like The XX then keep an eye out for them.

The sunny weather meant that the patch of ground underneath a bridge aka The Courtyard stage had a good crowd for the three bands I saw there. I really liked Mosa Wild’s debut track ‘Smoke’ when it appeared at the turn of the year and I thought they were excellent here. Swirling, sweeping sounds, melancholic but not maudlin – they’ll be a real treat at festival stages over the next few years.

As I said, I didn’t see a bad band but the one disappointment for me was probably Methyl Ethel: I’d heard good things about them but all the songs sort of blurred into one, they weren’t engaging with the crowd and I spent most of my time trying to decide if they were brothers or not. They were wobbleable but never danceable; being Australian and sort of psychedelic’y they usually get compared to Tame Impala but I thought of them more as a depressed Jagwar Ma.

A more rewarding performance at The Courtyard came from Ten Tonnes, a troubadour who is George Ezra’s little brother. The music complimented the sunshine; last song ‘Lucy’ had the crowd moving the most I saw all day.

A couple of notes on the festival more generally: all the venues were close by, with stage times that made it easy to get from place to place, and the sound was pretty good at all the stages I was at – not always the case with some London festivals. As the day went on a few people got a bit worse for wear and started chatting over bands, but apart from that everyone seemed to be managing to enjoy both the beer and the music.

At this time of year loads of ‘mini-festivals’ appear, scattered across London, but Bushstock is a little gem in the capital’s summer music scene.

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