Bushstock is somewhat unique in its approach. Now in its fourth year, it sees Communion Records – the label which grew from the live promotions company founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford And Sons and Kevin Jones of Bear’s Den – take over four venues around Shepherd’s Bush Green, for a day of accoustic leaning new music.
Sandwiched between the juggernaut that is (the now two day-long) Field Day and next weekend’s return of Camden Crawl, Bushstock has a wonderfully home made feel to it. The programme is a simple piece of A5 card with stage times written on it, and each venue has a banner with ‘Bushstock’ printed on it. The venues – Bush Hall, The Sindercombe Social, The Defector’s Weld and St Stephen’s Church – are all within about five minutes’ walk of each other, and despite this year’s event selling out, it never feels too busy anywhere and there’s no problem slipping between acts. It feels more village fete than London festival.
As you might expect, there are some misses; Eaves – on early doors at the church – sends people slowly filing back out to the makeshift bar in the courtyard, his songs are desperately in need of a chorus or anything to distinguish them from each other; over at The Sindercombe Social, Passport To Stockholm seem to be trying to blend Coldplay with Paolo Nutini, with yelpishly mind-numbing results. But on the whole, the standard of acts is good, and there were some brilliant surprises along the way.
Rubblebucket were gifted one of the best slots of the day; by 6pm at The Defector’s Weld the beers were flowing but people weren’t yet flagging, and the New Yorkers used that to their advantage. A blaze of brass, looping around indie dance as colourful as the band’s members, the pub was buzzing. The set wound to a close with the audience jumping around under a giant flag, while the brass section of the band played their way around the huge circle-shaped bar, winding up at the front of the crowd. We first saw Luke Sital-Singh when he was a support act at the teeny Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston, back in 2012. Since then he’s been grafting away, slowly building up a fanbase, and if today’s show – 3.30pm at the American diner themed Sindercome Social – is anything to go by, he’s done that very well. It’s absolutely packed; the busiest show of the day, and from the moment he opens his mouth its entirely justified. Some of the other man-and-guitar acts on the bill could learn a lot from Sital-Singh, whose songs are perfectly crafted around his roaring voice. He’s been likened to Bon Iver, Damien Rice and Jeff Buckley – and while that might be a little ambitious at this stage, he’s an absolute joy to listen to. Honest, heart wrenching songs that are polished to exactly the right tone, it surely won’t be long before he’s headlining next door, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Saint Raymond draws a big crowd too, for his set at Bush Hall. The 19-year-old from Nottingham is already a star in many of the audience’s eye and, flanked by a full band, he serves up radio-friendly slices of guitar pop. Fall At your Feet, with its clattering backdrop and breezey vocals, in particular sees the front rows bouncing. He brings together a bit of Vampire Weekend, some ’80s ‘woah-oh-ohs’, a mist of surfer pop…it’s a bit Jack Penate (remember him?) and his first album, which follows three EPs, is surely destined for commmerical success, released as it will be on Asylum (home to Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX and Rudimental.
Expect similarly big things from Chloe Howl, one of our tips for 2014. She takes to the stage a few hours before England’s first World Cup game and the shrunken crowd suggests a few punters might have headed off to watch it, but those who stuck it out were rewarded with a masterclass in pop anthems. She’s the pop girl its OK to like; the sort who makes you wish you were 13 again so you could stick posters of her all over your room. She bounds across the stage with striking attitude; she’s equal parts naughty and nice – she’s humble, muttering dozens of thank yous, and sings tales of rejection and teenage confusion – but when she’s feeling naughty, god help the person who stands in her way. “I’m shrugging it off, all the shit that you do, because I’m bored to death with you” she sings on Paper Heart. But it’s a slower track, from her forthcoming debut album, that really seals the deal, giving her the chance to show off her huge voice; a change in tempo from the dance tracks she’s known for, and a glimpse of a perhaps more versatile Howl.
Howl is a great addition to a line-up which really benefited from looking a little further afield this year, without forfeiting its integrity and ethos. A gem amongst the gluttony of city festivals, long may it continue.