by Elliot Davies
Derby has its own music festival! 105 bands, musicians and poets performing in 11 venues across the city! We tried to take in as much of it as we can, which extended to six bands and one musician in four venues across the city.
I show up at The Old Bell Hotel fully expecting to watch Animal Noise. I’ve never seen a photo of Animal Noise, so I’m not sure what they look like. But I’m pretty sure they’re not a band of well-dressed teenagers. This isn’t Animal Noise! There’s a problem with the programme.
So who is it? It’s Starwheel. This band has a sweet sun-kissed West Coast pop art sound. Dig that jangly Rickenbacker! In the haunted classic glamour of The Old Bell Hotel, this looks and feels like a radical Haight-Ashbury happening.
I’ve no idea what they’re doing on this stage at this hour. They’re supposed to be playing Bar One! Perhaps someone pulled out, and Starwheel stepped up as a worthy last minute replacement. What heroes. And what gorgeous harmonies.
Whatever happened to put Starwheel in this slot, I’m glad it happened. I’m a nerd, so I’d made a careful schedule of everything I wanted to see, giving myself enough time to move from one venue to another. And while this guarantees a full day of wholesome fun, it does remove the element of surprise. How nice it would be, I thought, to drift; to wander serenely from stage to stage, taking each band on its merits, allowing myself to be surprised. Technical hitches, last minute drop-outs and eleventh-hour replacements might be annoying for some, but they make life more interesting for nerds like me.
Now to Vines Bar for Yassassin. They’re playing in the cramped roof space in near darkness, giving their edgy post-punk even more… edge. Tight yet unhinged, they’re killing it. But unfortunately one of their amps gives up after their third song. They’re one guitar down. While the sound guy and a roadie fiddle with wires, the rest of the band fill the void by playing some gnarly guitar over a sludgy groove. It works! Don’t worry, guys: This is exactly how Guess Who wrote American Woman.
But eventually the roadie appears to give up, and so do the band. They’re understandably frustrated. It’s particularly irritating, given how amazing they were sounding before their equipment gave up. I left at that point, so I’ve no idea whether they were ultimately able to continue. I hope they were, and I hope this doesn’t put them off ever playing Derby again. Things usually work just fine here, guys! Honest!
The plan was to hang around at Vines Bar for Asylums, but I’m already tired of my own company. So instead I head over to The Guildhall Theatre to meet some friends. We watch Jordan Mackampa, and once again lets drink to the magic of serendipity and circumstance! I don’t pay much attention to solo singer-songwriters anymore, so I simply scanned over his name on the programme. But his music is beautiful – a powerful yet essentially vulnerable voice set to a delicate finger-picked guitar. Important lesson of the day: open your mind and allow yourself to drift. Sooner or later you’re bound to come across something special.
But one band I don’t want to miss is Black Honey, so I rush to The Venue as soon as Jordan’s done Jordanning. Spoiler alert – they’re the best band of the day by some distance. They play a bluesy, deserty, grungey, riot-grrly, sun-drenched sort of party rock, with choruses that seem tailored to be shouted back at the stage by the grinning devoted.
Frontwoman Izzy has “Girls Only” written on her guitar, and a t-shirt that reads “All My Heroes are Weirdos”. That’s probably true for everyone who isn’t a hateful Tory, but still – these right-on slogans, combined with her effortlessly-cool stage presence, suggest that she could be the hero of a generation of lonely outsiders.
Few things are naffer than music writers insisting that bands are going to be huge – or worse, that bands deserve to be huge. But still, if there’s any justice in the world…
All things stop for pizza, and 2Q Festival is no different. We make it to The Silk Mill Museum just in time to catch INHEAVEN‘s last song. Luckily it’s their best song, Regeneration. It’s a song so desperate and so impassioned that it begs to have words like “anthemnic” and “life-affirming” thrown at it. It has one of those massive choruses that you might catch yourself singing while walking home blind drunk one odd and fateful night.
We chose to end our night at The Silk Mill Museum for two reasons. First, it’s a beautiful space in which to spend any time doing anything. But more than that, all participating venues appear to have chosen a certain feel for their closing acts.
There’s a couple of snarling louder bands at The Hairy Dog. Things are a tad grungier at The Blue Note. The Old Bell Hotel has gone with a duo of fun-time acoustic men. The Venue has the one truly abysmal band on the bill. But The Silk Mill Museum is the only real choice, as they seem to have gone with “colourful” and “dreamy”. I’ll always have time for colourful and dreamy music, especially when it’s performed in a haunted museum.
First up is TOY, who unfortunately demonstrate that a haunted museum is perhaps not the best place to hear colourful and dreamy music. The walls and ceiling are made of brick, you see, so their hazy chugging guitars are bouncing all over the place to create a thick, muddy drone. You can still pick out the rhythm, so it’s still possible to lose yourself in the music… a bit. But still, it’s hard not to feel like something’s been lost.
Then it’s time for Temples, and it’s here where the real problems start. Another problem with haunted museums as venues: they don’t have much in the way of capacity. The organisers are operating a one in/one out system. Which is fair enough, but immensely irritating when a dear friend – the esteemed Dr. Brand – pops outside to browse a Format Festival installation, only to be denied re-entry. He described the scene outside as “riotous”, as scores of people were prevented from entering a venue which, to all intents and purposes, appeared to be half-empty.
Yep, the crowd’s getting antsy, and things aren’t helped when an electrical failure results in 30 minutes of absolutely nothing happening. I think it was an electrical failure. One tedious want-wit attempts to start an asinine football chant, which is of course just as funny the 43rd time he slurs it as it was the first.
But all is forgiven and forgotten once Temples finally take to the stage. The sound issues that plagued TOY’s set are overcome by simply moving closer to the stage, and what’s really surprising is how passionate the crowd gets. This sounds like the sort of music that might inspire a live audience to gently sway. But no: There’s moshing. Oh yes sir, there’s moshing.
Alright, the stupid football chant the tedious bore tried to start? “You’re just a shit Tame Impala.” Hahaha. And OK, Temples might sound a bit like Tame Impala. But there’s no doubt in my mind as to who’s the superior band. Tame Impala got big with a turgid chillwave pastiche. But Temples just released a propulsive dreamscape of an album that sounds like one of those 70s German kosmische records, sped up and souped up with titanic drums. Not that the two bands need to compete against each other. But hey, I’m not the one who made the comparison. Leave me alone.
Live, they’re even better – a colourful psychedelic party that sparkles from the start and never lets up. The crowd’s jovial throughout, but the energy surges when they play certain fan favourites. They close with Mesmerise, a song so playful it might as well be called Three Jolly Little Dwarves. It’s a joyous moment that negates the tension that preceded their set, and the perfect way to end the day.
This was the second 2Q Festival. Let’s hope it’s not the last. Let’s hope it grows and grows, becoming Derby’s answer to Live At Leeds, Dot To Dot, The Great Escape and Liverpool Music Week. Let’s hope it extends to a whole weekend and gains an outdoor stage that’s big enough to attract the sort of bands who might never otherwise have played Derby.
Let’s hope 2Q is the start of something! Because, as has been pointed out on this site before, Derby really needs something like this.