09 January 2022 (gig)
12 January 2022
The last time we attended Rockaway Beach Festival was January 2020, just before a global pandemic (that you may be familiar with) hit the shores and pretty much made it not only the first, but possibly only festival of the year. As blessed as we felt to have witnessed it last time, we certainly hope this year's Rockaway is less exclusive, and merely the first of many a similar get together to grace 2022.
Spare a thought for the organisers of the festival, the pandemic has meant acts have been dropping like flies with a moments notice so hats off to them for drafting in enough replacements at last minute to keep a full lineup for us to watch.
We were disappointed to hear that our most hotly anticipated act on Friday, The Futureheads had to pull out a couple of days before the festival. however, who got brought in at last minute? Only punk legends, Buzzcocks. Pete Shelley's sad demise in 2018 means that the other, and now final original band member, Steve Diggle has stepped centre stage and taken on lead vocals. Diggle is a couple of octaves lower than Shelley was but does his best, and perhaps his vocals were a tad high in the mix, but it doesn't sour our enjoyment of a set packed full of classics. Promises, What Do I Get, Autonomy and Orgasm Addict are all here, but it's the penultimate song, Ever Fallen In Love that predictably gets the loudest cheer, followed by Diggle's eternal set-closer Harmony In my Head.
We came back into the Centre Stage area to see Tricky partway through his set, but we didn't see anyone, all of the stage lights were out. Tricky and his band played in complete darkness. We waited for the stage crew to get their act together before learning this is a regular thing for the Trickster. The darkness did lend to a rather mysterious mood which made tracks like Hell is Round The Corner even more atmospheric. Having been a fan in the early '90s, it was good to see, well, ok, hear him......
Working Men's Club was another band to fall by the wayside and were hurriedly replaced by Do Nothing. This band grabbed the Saturday late-night slot by both horns and had us captivated, plus, we could actually see them, which was a bonus. The angular guitars, off-centre beats and contrast with a mixture of staccato (which we preferred) and almost crooning vocals. This lovely noise, full of hooks, is a virtual punch around the head. Ideal to get us ready for a blistering DJ set from Joe Talbot from Idles.
Are there any other festivals where you can stay in a hotel room, go for a big buffet fry up ( we even had fried bread!), then wander over to the swimming pool for a pool party with a DJ, inflatable flamingos and water slides? Not many we think! These things make this Butlins hosted Winter festival experience so different to a normal festival, and ever so slightly surreal, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
The big pull of the weekend for a lot of people was JARV IS, the new incarnation of Jarvis Cocker. They played on Saturday night and Jarvis himself didn't disappoint in, well, being Jarvis. For a man with the big six zero breathing down his neck, he has more energy than most teenagers and pranced around the stage posturing, pointing and eyebrow-raising as only Jarvis can. The sound was great, the banter was too, and yes, they have some pretty good tunes. The Starkly relevant C***s Are Still Running The World hits more nerves than is funny right now and Must I Evolve is a quirky singalong joy, but aside from an opener and closer of a couple of lesser-known album tracks, there's no Pulp tonight, and the tempo is in general pretty slow. Now as much as I respect Jarvis' freedom to change and need to move on, put it this way, if you go and see Paul Weller, Wild Wood is good, but you'll be disappointed if he doesn't play Town Called Malice.
Some of the highlights of the weekend included Thousand Yard Stare, catapulted straight out of indie guitar '90s. Forgotten classics Comeuppance and Buttermouth raised recognition in a surprising amount of faces here and sat nicely alongside some great material from their latest album including standout track It Sparks. First time I've ever seen a lead singer, or any other band member for that matter, eat an apple during a song, pretty sure he even delayed a verse as he was still chomping, quite strange.
Italia 90 bring a touch of old skool punk to the Reds Bar stage, full of attitude, dark catchy riffs and a lead singer called Les Miserable, what's not to like?!
One of the most fascinating bands all weekend were Ttrruucces, another band brought in at the 11th hour. We've never seen them before, but this band effortlessly skipped from Psych to pop to rock to disco and back again, they seemed to catch the sound man at the peak of his powers that day and with their hooks, looks and style are surely destined for greatness.
The Two bands we came away from drooling at the prospect of seeing live again in a hurry were TV Priest and October Drift. TV Priest opened the Reds stage on Sunday and immediately shook out any sleep from the eyes of the crowd. This band are tight, polished and rough around the edges at the same time, and Charlie Drinkwater's vocals are powerful, abrupt and thoroughly engaging. Watch them.
October Drift, also on Sunday in Reds (and Friday in Reds if you got here early enough apparently) showed the most intensity and spirit of any act of the weekend. Songs like Airborne Panic Attack and Forever Whatever take on a whole new lease of life when unleashed live and this band can play. Drums attacked ferociously, I don't know how the guitars and bass had any strings left on, and the vocals were dark and strong. Catch them in a small venue while you can.
Rockaway Beach is more than a festival, it's an immersive experience that keeps a smile on your face the whole weekend. The crowd are easy going and friendly, there's a swimming pool, several amusement arcades, you can nip across the road from the back entrance and have a stroll on the beach. There's a great, eclectic mix of music, and if you really want 4 sausages, 3 eggs and 6 slices of fried bread in your full English you can have it, and you can go back for more! Bring on Rockaway 2023.