Sunday 24th April, 2011: The Ivys Big Weekend

Thirty-nine bands. Two days.

After a late night, and a collapsed boyfriend, I finally got to sleep. I knew Sunday would be a good day when walking through the alley early afternoon and hearing a cry of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from female-fronted SiiDE-FX; one of five female-fronted acts to perform at The Ivy’s weekend. Disappointingly the only two songs I caught of SiiDE-FX were covers, Guns N Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”. With no disrespect to the band, as they were performed well, I couldn’t get a really feel for the band as an upcoming act. In hindsight, this was probably my fault for not being 15 minutes earlier. The day was in for a good start with more of a crowd present to see the first act play. I am fond of female-fronted acts and always excited when the opportunity to see another one play crops up. I found SiiDE-FX to have potential, though one guitarist was slightly out of sight but compensated for by the solo of the other.

The Pantomime Villains were the next act on; another young indie band, with a similar sound to some the bands that performed during Saturday’s line-up. The Pantomime Villains played two covers which I had never heard before, “Quicksand” and “Cheshire Cat Smile”, both by bands that remain unknown. Both songs suited the feel of the band, and sat nicely amongst the original tracks, had they not mentioned they were playing somebody else’s songs, I would have been none the wiser. Their general vibe was suitable for the sunny weather. Disregarding the fact we were in a darkened room, and at no point exposed to the sunshine, unless you took a trip outside, imagination was in order.

Another young indie band took to the stage, and they too played several covers, “Come Together” by The Beatles, and The Arctic Monkey’s “I Bet You Look Good On the Dance-floor”. The Thought Police explained they don’t particularly enjoy playing the second choice of cover material, but they find it fun. Which I guess is a viable reason to perform such a track, though I’m sure in the Arctic Monkeys back catalogue they could have found something both fun and more enjoyable to play. Even still The Thought Police had a youthful energy and a quirky style.

With The Fox Patrol I was expecting yet another indie band, but instead we were greeted to a young individual with another acoustic guitar. Again I thought I could see a pattern starting to develop, but this was not the case. I was blown away by Luke Jackson’s voice, and for the entire set it was not relevant that the rest of the band could not make the event. I later emailed Luke with a few questions about his choice to perform solo and the set-list. The decision to play was to avoid letting people down, and abandoning a slot that could not otherwise be filled. I found myself with a slight smile on my face when I read that The Fox Patrol is second to the solo project, due to living situations making it harder for the guys to perform live. Each song, bar two, are original solo songs; apart from “Hit the Road” which has beautifully crafted elements of existing songs to create a new arrangement.

Enthusiasm is shortly followed by disappointment.

I have a Confession[s] to make. I did not enjoy this band at all, hence the need to amuse myself with wordplay. Confessions must be doing something right as they had a small, but reasonable crowd for the time of day. “Vocals” were provided by Joe Wigg, and at one point another guy who initially I thought was a member of the crowd. Perhaps he was, who knows. For me, the harsh tendencies of the vocals overpowered the instrumental elements. The guitarist’s vocals worked better for their sound. The band did have a lot of energy, which is a good thing I guess?

Like many over the weekend, The Unanswered were a band I only caught sound of through passing. I strive to give bands I have not heard a chance, but with a similar sound to the previous ensemble I was uninterested. The vocals were moderately easier to understand, though it was not something I wanted to stay and be part of, the movement of each member reminded me of, believe it or not, synchronised swimmers, perfectly in time with each other, complete with matching facial expressions.

Now for something completely different…

“Are you watching Avenge Thee + Naime?” “Of course I am”.

These were the words heard in the minutes before the next act of the day. Another new band and an experience ahead of me, Avenge Thee + Naime took to the stage. Kind of.

Notorious for continuous experimentation and never playing on the designated stage, Avenge Thee + Naime caught my attention. The lack of guitarist (who is believed to have had an unchangeable work situation) and two drummers set face to face was an edgy move. Watching the drummers mirror each other with passion and the inability to sit still was really enjoyable as was the vocalist’s connection and drive to make the crowd part of the performance. They had a heavy and at times “dirty” sound. The energy of AT+N was compelling and their need to make a statement is interesting.

Unfortunately the large crowd of Avenge Thee + Naime dwindled, but it made Dirty Vibes appreciate those who stayed more. All I can say is that those who left missed out on some great local talent. Another good set and Kt-Jo gave it her all, despite suffering from a [viral?] throat infection. She’ll be pleased to know that although you could tell she didn’t want to put strain on her voice, it wasn’t directly obvious there was anything wrong. The rest of the band gave her the confidence she needed with their spirited energy. A friend of mine, and vocalist for Shatterpoint, was thoroughly impressed with the set of Dirty Vibes. He’ll be in for a treat when they’re back to the top of their game.

I am unsure who played after Dirty Vibes, but the next band we stayed to support were Then the Wave Came. Though I like to hear, or more so understand, the lyrical content of what I am listening to, Then the Wave Came do have some catchy riffs and I looked past the vocals to find myself tapping along. The lyrical content is, however, quite meaningful as I was informed after their set. This made me appreciate the band on another level. Stereotypically they could be screaming about anything, and you wouldn’t even know.

The time called for a break in the [disappearing] sunshine, and remarks of “we’ll go back in for Callous” were present among many.

Callous were off to a rocky start when technical difficulties proved a stress for their drummer. Fortunately for Callous, the crowd were supportive throughout the whole issue and did not tire of the wait. They seemed content with the rest of the band providing their own means of entertainment but it just so happened that the quickest way to resolve the technical matter was for Shatterpoint’s bassist, Sandy, to step in and endure the set sat in front of the bass drum.

Needless to say, the enthusiasm of Callous’ drummer, Mike, picked up enormously once the guys could really get their teeth into the set. And what can I say? They were one of the best acts at The Ivy Leaf’s Big Weekend. With technical riffs, the bassist’s lack of shoes and the band’s passion and commitment made it hard to tell whether the crowd fed off the bands energy, or vice versa. Either way, it made for an intimate performance. The sweat was dripping and the atmosphere was promising.

The crowd ventured to the main stage to see The James Cleaver Quintet play, but half the enthusiasm seemed to have been left behind. If I remember correctly, the crowd had to be asked to move closer to the stage and from this I could tell the favoured acts of the weekend. While The JCQ had a lot of energy there was nothing particularly enticing for me and I took that time to wait for one of my favourite acts to set up: Shatterpoint.

Now apparently, if you like Elvis then you’ll like Shatterpoint.

These were the words conjured from the alcohol influenced mind of my boyfriend. I would instead say that if you like sweat and emotion you will like Shatterpoint. There was no doubt that Shatterpoint were well received by the crowd and they also outdid any previous performances I have ever seen. A mention must also be given to the entertaining Quo-esque’s similtaneous movements of the guitarist and bassist. Then with 5 minutes left of their set, and in defiant rock n roll tradition, Shatterpoint played a 9 minute song. In about 5 minutes. This particular number, “Falling Away”, was performed with Ben [Then the Wave Came]. During a Shatterpoint practice earlier that week, I saw the guys endlessly rehearse this arrangement in order for it to be note perfect for Sunday’s performance. Suspense is built within the track, as the pace increases half way through and that’s when the strength of the vocals come through. Ben noted he had a lot of fun playing this track, and it is now one of my favourites. You can connect to the song and undeniably hear the emotion in the vocals.

The words “get involved” were my cue to leave during Seven Year Kismet’s set. As a relatively small female at the front of a crowd where even the vocalist’s hair amounts to more than my being, I didn’t exactly feel safe. The large crowd SYK drew in was not going to work well with me caught amidst the “pit”, that I imagine inevitably formed. The band were loud and heavy, but I enjoyed them. Where Confessions fell, Seven Year Kismet excelled. I did not leave because I wasn’t enjoying the Kismet set; I left so that I would be able to write about it afterwards. Having been a band for a while, they have an unmistakable popularity which saw energy and excitement being thrown about.

The same energy and excitement was present when One Day Elliott took to the second stage. Having last seen the band play more than 2years ago when The Wyvern Hall in Sittingbourne was a functioning music venue, I was also excited about this performance. The suspense was built with the classicaly inspired [recorded] intro but once they kicked in, hard beats and repetitive riffs were at the ready. The vocals finally came through and secured everything in place. From the response of the crowd you would have thought that nobody had seen One Day Elliott play in about two years. Again the lyrics were fed back word for word, and a “welcome back” seemed in order. With my heart pounding and bones shaking I knew sitting next to the mass of monitors and speakers was probably not a good idea but I wanted to see firsthand the extent to which ODE made an impact on the crowd.

The impact was close to being “goose-bump worthy”, if that’s even a term. With minutes to spare, the guys of One Day Elliott reminded the crowd the headlining act, Tyrannosaurus Alan, would only play if the crowd remained excitable. Needless to say they did.

The energy was high, the brass instruments were out, and the dancing shoes were on.

Tyrannosaurus Alan are extremely popular, and it seems almost ironic that I had not seen either of the headlining acts perform until this weekend. I questioned whether I had been missing out, and in all honesty I thoroughly enjoyed the set, but not in a way that made me regret not catching them live before. Having said this, I can’t find a bad word to say about T-Alan – the crowd said it all. While they are not everybody’s cup of tea, their experimental tendencies and catchy sound proved they are a lot of fun. There was a lot going on, what with the dancing and the jumping, and the building of human pyramids. The crowd were eating out of their hands, and the enthusiasm was to the max.

The same again next year?

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