Amongst the ever expanding plethora of one-day musical festivals across the capital, Bushstock stands out. Now in its eighth year and sprawling across seven venues in Shepherd’s Bush, it’s curated by Communion – the promoter, record label and publisher behind the likes of Bear’s Den, Daughter, Gotye, Willy Mason, Lucy Rose and Ben Howard.
A one-dayer in the west side of town is unusual. The bigger ones tend to look to parks or the hipper east side of the city, where there’s a greater pick of venues and where record fayres, street food and beer festivals and other events can be tagged on too.
But its positioning is important. Bushstock’s programme is carefully crafted with a clear focus on folkish-indie, catering for a different type of music fan. Cast your eye around and you wont find the fashionistas who flock to the likes of Visions. The line-up is more sedate and, while they usually throw in a couple of wild card acts, you know what you’re going to get here, and accordingly Bushstock has plenty of devotees.
An early start queuing to get into The Library to see Maisie Peters pays off. All breathy, pronounced vocals and acoustic guitar, backed by a keyboard player, there’s a quiet, telling confidence behind her vulnerable and absorbing voice. She’s a compelling story teller; her opener is an unconventional break-up song that’s empowering, funny and heartbreaking all at once. Expect big things from her – she certainly looks and sounds ready for it.
The first of this year’s wild cards – the festival always throws in a few acts that are completely off-script – comes in the shape of Nadia Nair, who puts on a stunning show at St Stephen’s Church. A gorgeous, unpredictable soul voice, she flails around, completely losing herself in the music. She talks of suffering from stage fright and taking solace in her music – “disappearing completely” A bold and complex artist, the Swede’s work is a melting pot of sounds – a fascinating set.
The other ‘non-Bushstock’ band is Feet, who play to a rather depleted crowd at The Courtyard – a space round the back of the K West hotel. A ramshackle looking group, they’re obnoxiously rock ‘n’ roll, drawling about, throwing shapes and sneering into the crowd: “We thought we’d start it slow because we’re very hungover.” Musically, they’re loud and brattish – signed to Yala! Records, the label belonging to The Maccabees‘ Felix White. They inject some life into the Courtyard, where things had become slightly down beat following flat sets from Adam French and Stereo Honey.
Over at the gorgeous Bush Hall, Another Sky are a highlight, with a set that feels like a headliner. The room – and stage – are plunged into darkness, the only light coming from spotlights covered in paper, giving off a ghostly multicoloured mist. Little is known about the mysterious Londoners, who keep their identity – and all other details – a closely guarded secret. Their music does the talking, they reckon. Their sound is an atmospheric, ambient post-rock, that somehow fits in with the Communion vibe.
The actual headliners are Aurora, for those who got in to St Stephen’s Church early enough – or Flyte, at Bush Hall, for the rest of us. The venue’s packed, and with good reason – Flyte are peak Bushstock. Vocal-focused with crashing cymbals and layers of lush guitars, they might not have had the impact of Another Sky, but for fans of Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes, Flyte are pure heaven. They even brave an a cappella (“just what you wanted at 10:30,” they grimace) for a song so soothing, the crowd is torn between wanting to carry on at the after party down the road at The Defectors Weld and cosy up in a snug corner, soaking up Bush Hall’s opulence.
With further attractions including Peace, Aquilo, Angie McMahon and Sea Girls, Bushstock succeeds in doing what one-dayers of its sort should do; it invites you to explore and discover new music, on a mystery tour around seven great little venues, with the emphasis firmly on the sounds. After eight years it’s going from strength to strength – long may it continue.