Hailed as the ‘Best Small Festival’ in 2012, and winner of the coveted ‘Best Festival Toilets’, I was keen to find out for myself what made Y Not Festival different to the Mac-daddies of the Festival world, like Reading, Leeds and T in the Park. How different could they actually be? Turns out very. In a good way.
It wasn’t just the six themed bars with their artisan offerings (the ‘Moonshine’ Cider is a delicious, but tricksy mistress!), the Roller Disco/Dogems/Cabaret Tent/Turtle/Drive-in Cinema or the paint fight and surprise DJ set from a crash-landed UFO – it was the attention to detail. A free newspaper handed out around the campsite every morning with a summary of the day before, what was coming up that day and a weather forecast; seating EVERYWHERE so you didn’t have to sit in the mud or drag your camping chair around; the bars were all spacious and covered so if it did rain (which it did with style and panache) you could retreat to a safe haven and STILL enjoy the music on the main stage.
It’s just a really well thought out event, aimed at making it as comfortable and entertaining as possible. All this and we haven’t even got to the music!
Our adventure started as we rounded a leafy, tree-strewn corner deep in the Peak District near Matlock, and the Y Not grounds opened in front of us. My first thought was ‘you can see EVERYTHING!’ – the campsite cosily blanketed the main arena in a patchwork of tents, the main stage was a beautiful grey beacon with a harlequin jumble of colourful tents and flags rolling out towards the campsite. It just seemed so…appealing.
The five minute walk from the car to the box office to pick up our wristbands was a dream compared to the usual hike of Leeds, as was the short walk to the Rock n Roll campsite, past the Glamping (a definite for next year!!). It was apparent a good number of people had taken advantage of the early entry and the buzz around the campsite was electric.
After a short fight with my tent (sadly un-loved since Festival season last year and being obstinate) we headed off to the main arena to scope out our home for the weekend.
First stop was the Sgt Pepper Meadow to take some snaps beside the Iconic ‘Y Not’ letters. There were plenty of people milling about in the main arena, but without that crowded feeling you so often experience at the bigger festivals.
Clutching the first of many Moonshine Ciders (regrets? We have none!) purchased at the well-run Dolly Daggers bar in front of the Big Gin stage, we ambled down to the front to watch the end of Dizraeli & The Small Gods and see what local lads, Dutch Uncles, had to say.
The quintet from Marple drew an increasingly interested crowd with their Indie Rock tunes, holding us all captive for a surprisingly quick 30 minute set.
After socialising in Dolly Daggers with, amongst many, the Green Lantern, we popped over to sample the music at the Saloon Bar. The atmosphere in this intimate, purpose-built western bar – complete with swing doors, wagon wheels and a ho-down area – was amazing. George Borowski had the crowd in raptures with his classic rock flavour and elegant lyrics, most either on their feet dancing or tapping their toes wrapped in George’s passion. A clued up pundit informed me George was in fact an unsung hero of Dire Straits and ‘Money ain’t for Nothing’ was written about him…yet to be confirmed, but I liked it anyway!
Just as my burling with Elvis and the electric set was reaching it’s peak, a monstrous thunder and lightning storm broke over-head (told you George was electric!). What with being in a tin-shed, the poor staff had no other option but to evacuate us. Cue a hilarious stampede of festival-goers doing their best Bambi impressions in the mud back to the campsite.
I was reliably informed the next day that order was restored within an hour and the bands finished their set. By then, we were safely ensconced in our tent eating salt-n-vinegar sticks by torchlight, with the rain teeming down outside, eagerly awaiting day two!
Despite persistent rain during the night, we awoke to a sunny, warm, DRY day! After a classic Festival brekkie of thick smoked bacon and a gallon of hot sweet tea (not at all feeling the after-effects of the Moonshine) we were ready to head back into the arena and see some bands!
As the weather was so delicious, we wandered around the Sgt Pepper Meadows admiring the effort people had put into their fancy dress. We joined The Hulk, Dick Dastardly, Hit Girl and Superman for the Anything Goes Orchestra in the Cabaret Tent. Their dynamite set list covered favourites like Paolo Nuttini and…er…the Jungle Book! Regardless, everyone was wiggling their assets in time to the beat.
In order to catch our breath, it was back to the Big Gin stage to stretch out, try our luck with Moonshine once again and listen to Drenge. Their heavy, rock drew a crowd to the front, which steadily grew as their set continued. After the duo from the Peak District had finished, they were followed by Swim Deep – a brilliant band from Birmingham – whose Indie sound, a cute mix of Beach Boys and The Kooks, was just the tonic for a sunny afternoon.
Spending most of the day at the Big Gin stage, it was all of a sudden time for Kids In Glass Houses. Bursting onto the stage, the welsh quintet proceeded to smack Y Notters in the face with loud, banging tunes one after the other. Chuckling as Aled Phillips introduced arguably their most notorious single to date, ‘Matters At All’ with a catty ‘Who likes pop music? Well, you’ll love this’, KIGH wound up their set, making way for the infamous Ash.
Sadly, Ash on the Big Gin stage clashed with the 1975 playing the Quarry – cue a mass exodus from KIGH to the 1975. Not all bad news though, as, not only were we able to get to the front for Ash’s set, but we were right next to Tim Wheeler’s (Lead Singer of Ash) cousin – who, may I say, was a total legend and got a cheeky shoulder-boost from one of us for the last song, Burn, Baby, Burn.
Ash’s high-octane set was a run down of their greatest hits and had the crowd from the second they burst onto the stage to the dying wail of Burn, Baby, Burn. Ash put on an epic show and are well deserved of the praise their set is getting online. I wouldn’t hesitate to see them again.
Due to an unfortunate incident we missed The Cribs set, but it was on the lips of everyone the next day and Drummer Ross Jarman tweeted ‘I could try to explain how amazing @Y_Not_Festival was last night, but I just can’t. One of the best Cribs shows ever’…er…says it all really!
Sunday is typically the hardest day of any festival and this one didn’t seem any different, however, the mighty Darkness were headlining and no one wanted to miss that!
A slow start to the wet and blustery day, we packed up our campsite, deposited it back in the car and took our chairs into the main arena to await greatness.
We were just tucking into our delicious Matador Pie (beef steak, chorizo and olives – honest pie-y goodness) to banish the impending sense that it was all coming to a finish, when The Temperance Movement walked onto the Big Gin stage.
I’d heard of this British Rock Blues band, but I was not prepared for how brilliant they were! Their gravelly rock gold was exactly what a wet Sunday-post-shenanigans required. The jaded crowd quickly found their mojo and you could see the droves of people streaming down the hill to the stage lapping up the melodies. Glaswegian vocalist, Phil Campbell, put his best rock voice forward and blew the cobwebs away.
Just as The Temperance Movement finished, the heavens truly opened. Racing for cover under good-ol’ Dolly Daggers canvas, we watched the stage get set for King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys.
Now, I don’t know which genius it was that came up with the Y Not line up, but they deserve an award. On the back of The Temperance Movement’s bluesy Rock, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys rocked on stage in their matching blue suits and, picking up where The Temperance Movement left off, kicked it up a notch with their no prisoners Jazz. The perfect Sunday session.
I’ve never seen anything like it – despite the rain, people in their hundreds were emerging from tents and shelter to dance, shimmy and bop to this immaculate Jazz band. Spirits firmly restored, the crowd stayed put and braved the inclement weather for We Were Promised Jet Packs.
Soon after the rain really turned it on – luckily respite came in the form of the Quarry Stage and Electric Six.
The tent was already packed by the time we arrived, but we managed to squeeze into the middle and await the Detroit sextet’s very own mix of garage, disco, punk, metal and new wave.
Electric Six played an awesome, high energy set, most notably so when firm favourite, ‘Gay Bar’, rolled out. The whole tent erupted. Circle pits opened up either side of us, umbrellas were thrown into the air…in fact it was so popular, the band were allowed to play an extra 15 minutes of set time.
Warmed through and pumped up, we trotted back to the Big Gin stage to see the last few songs by The Enemy – including an epic version of ‘Sit Down’ by James – and as they ran off stage swamped by cheering, it was finally time! The Darkness and their spandex-touting power-rock was next!
We were able to get right down to the barrier for the Darkness – no cousin’s this time – and await the jumpsuits. We were not disappointed.
Drifting through the smoke, the band walked on stage to a huge welcome. Battering straight into it with their first single ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ The Darkness were everything you wanted and more. Justin was peacocking-perfection in his black and white striped, VERY open front leotard, Dan killed it on guitar (doing things with his hands you just can’t imagine) while Frankie and Ed kept the whole thing together…and who can forget the star of the show…VIDEO WALL and LOGO!
Playing most of their old stuff, the crowd were whipped into a frenzy with ‘Growing on Me’, ‘Givin up’ and ‘One Way Ticket’ to name but a few…but when Justin began to play the opening riff to ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ everyone lost their minds. How could it possibly get better? Hold onto your mullet, because it really did.
Calling time on their set with one last song, Ed struck up a beat and Dan (still playing his guitar) disappeared off stage closely followed by Justin and Frankie…only to appear out the stage door atop three brave security men and right into the crowd…still playing guitar.
Crowd surfing back to the stage, the guys finished off their truly amazing set with ‘Love on the Rocks’ and finished Y Not off with the touch it deserved. Even the Darkness were feeling the Y Not ‘Best Festival’ Vibe, tweeting ‘Put simply, the greatest gig experience we’ve ever had…Matlock thank you and see you on our winter tour! X p.s Now we need new outfits’
What a finish to an epic weekend!
We were somewhere around Manchester when I started to get my hearing back and realised it was all over for the year.
I will say without abandon that Y Not was one of the best Festivals I have ever been to. It was well organised, brilliantly thought out with astounding attention to detail and had such a welcome mix of people. When the artists are claiming it’s the best Festival they’ve played to a man, you know you’re onto something.
The staff were helpful beyond the call, I can’t remember bumping into a single grumpy or unsettled person all weekend and certainly didn’t see any bad behaviour. Big shout out to the poor guy on the VIP door – he did a great job all weekend and was so damn cheerful!
The campsite (and toilets!) were kept immaculate and we felt very safe – my festival-ing companion actually slept (passed out) with her tent door open and was left untouched and with all her possessions – something bigger festivals can’t always guarantee, though I wouldn’t recommend trying it!
I can’t wait for next year and I proclaim it for all to hear…I’m a convert. Y Not is for me and I’m for Y Not. Is it August 2014 yet?