Saturday 23rd April, 2011: The Ivys Big Weekend

Thirty-nine bands, two days.

Sunshine, a camera, the flowing of alcohol amongst friends and the return of some local favourites. What more could a girl ask for?

Well perhaps the stated amount of bands would be a start; initially I counted forty bands on the venues list, one different I know, but after arriving at The Ivy Leaf just before 3 in the afternoon on the Saturday and catching the last song performed by Silver Foxes, a female fronted indie act who were supposed to be playing at 1 o’clock, I was a little unsure as to how smoothly things were running and how the event would progress.

Thankfully, the day progressed well. Firstly, I caught the majority of the set of a 3 piece indie band from Cheltenham. It was the last day of Swift Manouver’s tour and unfortunately there was a lack of crowd due to it still being fairly early in the day. Swift Manouver had a catchy, Arctic Monkey’s feel to them, and while they briefly engaged with the crowd, they seemed stiff in some aspects of their performance.

With two days ahead, there was something for everybody, but there was one band that provided something for everybody on their own, Electric River. Giving a punky edge to rock n roll, fuelled with passion and energy, Electric River gave a live performance to be remembered. The percussion element made for an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable set. However, a larger crowd would have heightened the intensity of the energy. Had Electric River been further up the bill, this would have been realised. But you win some and you lose some.

This was apparent with many of the acts during Saturday’s line up; Fish Tank, Paul L, Robot is Stupid and Master Jet to name a few. Fish Tank were a 3 piece clad in interesting outfits, with a crowd of guys that looked relatively the same. Now I’m not one to be judgemental, but I did find myself tiring of their performance. There was a lack of movement and expression, particularly within the “heavier” aspects of their set that could have done with something a little extra. Paul L was a one man acoustic act that I am on the fence with. While I am partial to an acoustic set, and this act provided some “family entertainment” with even small children in the audience, I do find acoustic performances often lack in variety and effect. Though Mr. L did swap to a ukulele for part of his set but informed us the last time he played said ukulele was for a job interview that I do not think went well…A delightful, electronic styled piece saw the return of a vocalist who has otherwise been known to perform singularly. Upon this return, he bought with him two other guys, and together they formed Robot is Stupid. With their repetitive tunes, that for some reason drew you in, Robot is Stupid had quite a vast audience. The same can unfortunately not be said about Master Jet. All that seemed apparent with this act was a reasonably young guy, crouched on the floor with what I believe were pedals of some kind, making excruciating sound. I am not really sure I understood what was going on but I hoped something interesting would develop. The only thing that developed was the dispersing of the crowd.

At this point, I decided to venture to the main stage and wait for the next band to finish setting up.

Yamaharahara: now there’s the band I was excited to see before I even knew what was in store. They were female fronted, fast, loud and at times, heavy with A LOT of energy being thrown about. The electronic tendencies eventually enticed a crowd, and they were exciting to photograph. 

I found the same excitement in acoustic duo, Damsel. Damsel is simply a girl with an acoustic guitar, and a guy with a wooden box. They had a different approach to making music, the edge that acoustic acts often need. They proved it can work, and their carefree, hippy style was likeable.

The expectation to be larger than life was clearly not apparent with the vocalist of United We Fall. With a predominantly female audience, the general sound was catchy but the vocals lacked something, perhaps the sense of working with the rest of the band? As a front-man, he looked out of place with his band, especially when compared to the guitarists’ mass of hair and the indie vibe I got from the styling of the rest of the band.

Inevitably, there were a number of acts across the weekend that I was not interested in. United We Fall being one of those, with LOWD and The Baron von Marlon being another two. At the best of times I am not a fan of the punk movement, and having seen LOWD empty a venue on a previous occasion, I did not see fit to put myself through another set of theirs. The Baron von Marlon however, we stayed to watch. I am still on the fence with the one man acoustic act, apart from James Doyle [who did not play at The Ivy Leaf’s weekend, but I thought should have a quick mention]. There was a familiarity to the sound of The Baron that the audience apparently liked. Likewise, the audience was similarly taken with Bareface. With their interesting mix of heavy riffs, electronic sounds and repetitive vocals; Bareface gave an energetic performance to please the crowd. However, I do find them to be reflective of many bands starting to appear in Kerrang. It is unfair to single Bareface out as many of the bands on the local scene, and still well known bands, have tendencies to do things because it has worked so well for others. Accompanying this, Kerrang nowadays has its own tendency to hail most “new” acts as being the “next best things”; please go back to how you were in the 80s. Thanks.

You must remember that anything I say is my opinion only, and I do not intend to insult or indirectly persuade. Having said this, we must acknowledge that the fun began when Tank Trap came out to play. They know they’re good, and they were one of the best bands that night. Tank Trap have the right attitude, they do not come across as being cocky and they are not trying to be something they are not. A debate amongst friends caused the question of who they are most like: Rage Against the Machine or The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Some interesting names spawned from that discussion, but Tank Trap have a range of distinctive styles, a good vibe, an undeniable energy and compulsively pleasing to watch, notably when vocalist Ian Day produces a harmonica. ALWAYS a show favourite and will remind me of the time I saw Black Stone Cherry at Brixton Academy, but that is a different story.

This undeniable energy was certainly followed and exceeded by one of Sheerness’ finest, Wires Faulty. It is safe to say that they have outdone themselves to date, and even the crowd were sweating after their performance. Wires Faulty are always full of energy and know how to get the crowd moving. With the 6+ monitors on the main stage, they had the best sound they’ve had in a while. Though crowd interaction is not a regular trait of the boys, to compensate, there was a definitive focus on their playing, and it worked for them. The way in which bassist, Chris Redman-Holland went straight into “Hit the Ground” with no introduction, gave that opening riff its well deserved edge and recognition.

I asked myself “How are The Kairs going to follow on from Wires Faulty performance”?
With a catchy vibe no less. Now the music of The Kairs is not something I would ordinarily be drawn to, but I could not ignore the fact they had a crowd well on its way to match that of Wires Faulty. The Kairs are fun and full of adolescent energy. They have a seemingly generic sound but are enjoyable nonetheless, and you cannot help but tap along to the beat.

Now, “Let’s f***ing have it!”

Words courteous of Saturday’s headlining act, Floors and Walls. A band with so much hype, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Until this point, I had never heard of Floors and Walls, but judging by the crowd (one that left me with no room to move), they must be good. They had one of the most enthusiastic crowds yet, with even members of other acts that night enjoying the atmosphere. Floors and Walls are VERY catchy, and since Saturday night I have found them playing over in my head at various moments of my day. The vocals should have sounded out of place in comparison to the rest of the band, but strangely, it worked. I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but they did. The way they fed off the crowd’s energy and the crowd’s return of lyrics word for word, proved this. Floors and Walls seem repetitive at times, but with an essence of freshness, which is an odd combination. You can almost predict what was going to happen next, but it’s hard to turn away.

Floors and Walls “came to destroy”.

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