The London festival scene can sometimes feel at saturation point, with new events popping up every summer. But as some of the big names struggle to shift tickets and others constantly change location, Bushstock continues to stand strong in West London.
Rather than sticking all their eggs in one big-name-headliner basket the organisers go for a wider and deeper lineup. Now in its ninth year, the festival has built a reputation as a place to see the stars of tomorrow with previous lineups featuring George Ezra, Bastille and Michael Kiwanuka. This year’s attractions included Matt Corby, IDER and Laurel, so don’t be surprised to see them playing big shows in the future.
Unfortunately this year’s edition was hit by technical difficulties on one of the stages, which eventually had to be closed. Most of the bands were moved to late-night sets at another venue but the stage’s headliner Gang of Youths had to be pulled entirely. A bit of a bummer if you were a big fan of the Aussies but there were plenty of other artists to check out.
The festival is held in half a dozen venues around Shepherd’s Bush and one closed stage meant the others were pretty heaving by the end of the night. Headlining the lovely St Stephen’s Church Novo Amor had a large crowd in the palm of his hand, his early Bon Iver-esque sound seemingly designed to be played in buildings like this. It was the final stop of a five-month tour so we’ll put his awkward stage patter down to exhaustion; either way he’ll have gained a lot of new fans for his next tour.
A highlight earlier in the day had been at a tiny wine bar where Maisie Peters played a secret set. It was pretty funny to see passing shoppers peering in, looking bemused as to why sixty people were crammed in. If only they could’ve heard Peters’ stripped-back set, which was ideal for the setting and featured some songs she said we’d never hear again.
Performing early afternoon at the church, Eloise has not been putting music out for long but her spectacular voice suggests big things to come. Jack Vallier has been on the go for a bit longer and he went down very well with the punters at the Sindercombe Social pub, particularly his debut song ‘Rebekah’. Check him out if you’re into Ezra-style troubadouring. Over at the Courtyard stage (it’s really more of an underpass than a courtyard) Marthagunn brought a more frenetic tempo, sounding like if the lovechild of Florence and Mumford joined an Americana cult. It seemed to get people down the front moving at least.
One of the bigger venues at Bushstock is Bush Hall, an old dancehall with a run-down glitz. Laurel drew a big crowd towards the end of the evening, eager to see the rising singer-songwriter. Unfortunately the sound was a bit iffy and the performance felt a bit flat; maybe people were having a little breather before the final bands of a long day.
Technical issues seemed to be an unfortunate theme of the day: poor old Soleima must have broken a piece of her kit, with the soundcheck going two-thirds of the way through the allocated set time (although the soundcheck itself wasn’t without its moments – someone fell over a miced-up drum and scared the life out of everyone waiting). When she did get going it was a lively wallop of Scandinavian electro-pop around the ears, and drew a good reception from those who had stuck around.
It was a shame about the unexpected issues affecting the day but Bushstock’s appeal is in the deep lineup rather than in a couple of big names, and in that sense it did itself justice again this year. With all the venues no more than ten minutes apart you can cram a lot in if you have the stamina. If there’s nobody you particularly want to see at any given time – or indeed if one your circled names gets cancelled – you know you’ll be able to wander into a pub and see someone interesting. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up catching a future Glastonbury headliner.
Main photo by Colin Hart.