Shepherd's Bush, London
June 18 2016
Reporting team: Jess Sharrock, LB, Ellie Ward
Okay, so Shepherd's Bush in west London may not be quite the size of a Great Escape, but trying to navigate Saturday shoppers, traffic and five official venues (plus two secret ones) up and down the Uxbridge Road for ten hours or so as part of this year's Bushstock festival, is no mean feat. But the intrepid Little Indie team survived to sample if not all of it, certainly enough to keep us on our toes and our enthusiasm high.
Joseph J. Jones
Armed with wristband and schedule, our first port of call was St Stephen's Church where the former boxer, turned soulful pop singer, Joseph J. Jones let his voice soar in the holy setting. Perfectly composed, he sang beautifully emotional songs, which included his new single ‘The Video’ and ‘Broken Bones’, along with a well executed, but bold Kanye West cover, all of which came straight from the heart.
On the corner of Shepherd's Bush Green, the Defector's Weld pub was to prove a popular venue during the day (if you discounted the appalling ladies' loos where the floor was like a mini river), with the Brighton five-piece MarthaGunn being first up on stage for their afternoon set. Fresh from supporting (Bombay Bicycle Club) Ed Nash's new band Toothless and playing the Great Escape last month, their versatile pop sensibilities inspired by 70s Fleetwood Mac, drew in a healthy crowd for their early afternoon slot. They 'Strike A Chord' to coin one of their songs with 'Moon Rise', which may or may not have been meant as a set piece but was played when a hitch prevented frontwoman Abi Woodman's Korg from firing up. This highlight was followed by their recent debut single 'Heaven', that had one fan singing along - outside the venue with face pressed to window.
Following them on the same stage were Tibet. No strangers to Little Indie (this being the third occasion we have caught up with the Welsh lovelies this year), the four just seem to get better all the time, and their standard set opener, 'I'll Put You In My Pocket', more of an infectious, singalong earworm each time heard. The smooth sexiness of frontman Joel Hurst who supplies the 60s inspired McCartney-esque (both left-handed guitarists too) is matched by his little powerhouse drummer brother Ethan (fast becoming known for getting naked during the set. On this occasion not even making it through the first number before divesting his Adidas track top to bare flesh) as they rock and sway through 'My Girl' and the short and sweet stomp of 'She Don't Know', delivering one riff after another in rapid succession. They have been receiving praise from the great and the good over the last year, and must surely be on the way up to the next level.
The flawless voice of Sarah Sheldrake, aka Shells, overwhelmed the crowd from the start of her set at St Stephen’s Church. The great mix of beats, strings and synths in each of her songs, perfectly complements the well thought-out lyrics stage persona. Her debut track ‘Gold’ will wow you! In The Courtyard, Tom Prior unexpectedly blew many away; his sound is like no one else around. He is pretty much impossible to put into one genre of music, and that is a really exciting place for him to be. Including ‘Take It All’, ‘Voicemail’ and ‘Don’t Worry’ into his all too brief set, Tom definitely gained a huge number of new fans here, and is definitely one to watch out for.
Meanwhile, back at Defector's Weld, Hidden Charms were taking to a stage which was undoubtedly way too small for them. The London-based quartet have a massive track in their newest single 'Cannonball', but it wasn't just this that set them apart. Their relentlessly energetic psych/alt-blues/grunge style is powerfully audacious with big riffs and live presentation that just keeps belting out one blistering sing after another. style. A band definitely on the road to breaking. They definitely need bigger playing stages too, with Vince Davies repeatedly booting (unintentionally) the mic stand over the edge of the stage, to be retrieved and replaced by helpful front row members of the audience.
Back in the holier church refines, the little known but impressive Seramic delivered an indie rock-gospel inspired set, with two soulful backing singers providing harmonies against the electronic components. Tracks such as 'People Say' and 'Waiting' have already leant a prior reputation, hence the numbers in to see this somewhat mysterious artist were overflowing the pews to stand several rows deep at the back and on the stone floor of the aisles to catch the blended electronic blues fusion. Meadowlark took an early acoustic turn on the Secret Garden Stage during the afternoon prior to their later gig at Sindercombe Social. Beautifully lilting chilled melancholic compositions and melodies in the likes of 'Eyes Wide', 'Satellite' and 'Paraffin', perfectly complemented by the vocals of the Welsh half of the Bristol-based duo, Kate McGill, made for a sweet interlude.
Albin Lee Meldau
Matt Maltese’s voice captured the audience in seconds with his heartfelt lyrics and incredible vocal range. In the crowded Sindercombe Social, playing a number of piano-led, down-tempo songs - including the heart-wrenching ‘Even If It’s A Lie’ and new single, ‘Studio 6’ - his talent really shone through. Likewise, singer-songwriter Albin Lee Meldau from Gothenburg, Sweden, proved both captivating and entertaining, in his unique voice as much as his performance. His strong vocal range and emotional indie-folk sound resonated into the rafters of St Stephen’s as he went through ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘Lovers’, along with his beautiful debut single ‘Lou Lou’, which was a dream.
Following him at the same venue, Charlie Cunningham, just one man and a guitar: super simple, super great! He has an immense strength in being able to easily leave a crowd wanting more; his beautiful lyrics and distinctive sounds definitely resonates for some time. His songwriting is pure and honest, and percussion is incredibly powerful. With songs such as ‘Lights off’ and ‘While You Are Young’, he’s sure to become a firm favourite pretty soon. Four girls who have already become favourites, The Big Moon, held an afternoon soiree at The Courtyard. After recently playing the Great Escape festival in Brighton, the London outfit have been steadily racking up praise through their tight harmonies and guitar interplay since their debut single 'Sucker' a year ago. That and the joyfully exuberant new single ‘Cupid’, ‘The Run’ and ‘Sucker’, plus a cover of Madonna’s 'Beautiful Stranger’, made for an energetically vibrant set.
The Northern charm of Cape Cub won hearts from the get go. Frontman Chad Male and the band clearly work extremely hard and are passionate about what they do, and they do it incredibly well. Singles including ‘Keep Me In Mind’ and ‘Swim’ show this band has established its sound, with strong song writing and catchy melodies they are sure to go a long way. For The Courtyard’s closing act of the night, 23-year-old Aleksandra Denton, better known simply as Shura, it was almost a local gig, being a ShepBush homegirl; and as she was given to say: "This is as good as it gets!" With her debut album, 'Nothing's Real', out next month, this was an opportunity for many to hear her perform her blend of hip-hop, 90s RnB and electro pop in the flesh. Her electronic synth-pop prevailed and by the time she was midway through a set, which included favourites ‘Touch’ and ‘2Shy’, the happy crowd were fully behind her.
The acoustic set by Dan Croll on the Secret Garden Stage in the heart of the Bush - and fittingly, by some bushes - showed just how much of an incredibly talented singer-songwriter the Liverpool-via-Newcastle-under-Lyme he is. Tucked away in the corner of the little garden, Dan (and his three member band, sans drums for this performance) sang song after song, in a stripped back form, each guaranteed to put you in a great mood - which worked a treat. If only we could spend every Saturday afternoon listening to Dan Croll and his band perform acoustic sets.
Matthew and the Atlas
The interesting alt-folk sound of Matthew and the Atlas, initially compared to Mumford and Sons, have now made a name for themselves in their own right. Matthew Hegarty and his band sang of heartache and romance, with deftly executed lyrics and well-constructed folk melodies from their most recent album 'Temple', which echoed around St Stephen’s Church in their delicately evocative style.
Bear’s Den played the last set of the day back at a packed out church in their headliner slot - and managed to have a rammed hall hanging onto every word and note of their perfect folk-pop. They have gone from strength to strength in recent years, and Bushstock showed they definitely deserve to be up there with the best. With their second album arriving towards the end of July, they are sure to make waves on the music scene for a considerable amount of time.
Kent psych-funk-rocksters Syd Arthur (Kate Bush’s nephew Raven Bush plays violin/keys/mandolin with tge band) played down at the historic 100-year-old former dance hall Bush Hall at sunset. Having just unveiled new track 'Apricity' from their upcoming October debut album, they proved to be both slightly mystifying and weird, ingenious, and crazy all at the same time, fusing so many different elements together in one big musical trip-out.
VANT turned up the heat back at Defector's to close the end of this year's official Bushstock synths venue - prior to an 'afterparty' by the Australian trio SAFIA - and as those who have seen this band live can attest, it's not a time for casual viewing. Drawing in a raft of fans, they packed out the venue, and proceeded to run through 45 minutes that upped the moshing and sweat levels to mark 9. 'The Answer’, ‘Parasite’, ‘Time & Money’ and ‘Fly-By Alien all came out thick and fast, along with new single ‘Karma Seeker’, before closing with ‘Do You Know Me?’ By the time they had concluded the place was in mayhem, but a happy state to be in as this had proved to be one of the best sets of the day.
And that was it for Little Indie's day down the 'Bush. We sadly missed Sara Hartman, Palace and Pleasure Beach - another time - and regrettably got locked out of the two of the secret shows which took place at the Albertine Wine Bar due to over capacity, which featured Luke Sital Singh and Amber Run playing sit down acoustic sets. But here's the latter - viewed through the window - to prove we were there!