Another year, another sold-out Bushstock. Curated by clubnight-turned-label Communion, Bushstock is always a chance to catch some of the best emerging talent. The festival has featured artists like Ben Howard, Daughter and Mumford & Sons so you might come away feeling pretty smug, knowing that you’re one of the first on what is to become a very big bad wagon.
For starters, take someone like Luke Sital-Singh. While he’s been around on the Communion scene for a while, he’s worked hard at crafting a pretty solid fan-following. His set, 3.30pm @ The Sindercombe Social, was packed almost to bursting, and there was a small group crowded round his feet miming every word to every song he performed; a rare fete to an artist so early on in the festival bill. Having said that, it was certainly justified; and his vocals seemed to float about the room, causing even those beer-fueled babblers at the back to do a double take. With just a guitar, his ability to capture the room into one attentive body was phenomenal.
We wandered down Goldhawk Road after this, and made our way into St. Stephen’s church, which has to be said is probably the most special of Bushstock’s venue. With a relatively large capacity, and no real limitation to the endless stream of people that crammed inside, it tends to always be packed out with a usually very vigilant audience. An unknown name to me then, Jack Garratt, was just setting up to play in front of what was clearly quite a bigger crowd than what he was used to, and his excitement seemed to get the better of him when he shouted ‘Jesus Christ this is nuts’ while he tuned his guitar on the alter. Nonetheless, I can safely say that he single-handedly blew not only my mind, but apparently, every other citizen of Shepherd’s Bush last weekend. His instruments left him only a small corner of the stage, but I genuinely couldn’t take my eyes off of him as he made his way around his keyboard, synthesiser, drum kit, bass guitar, electric guitar, even a ukulele, layering all these sounds into a strange and wonderful mix of twisted riffs, ambient bass lines and warped drums. To top this, he casually sings across his creations with spine-tinglingly superb vocals, that loop on top of each other to the point where you don’t really know what you’re listening to or where it even started. It was amazing, and I don’t have an inkling of doubt that Mr. Garratt will go on to do great things. It’s cliche, but really try to watch this space.
Having wowed audiences at SXSW earlier this year, Chloe Howl took to Bush Hall’s stage with a tremendous energy. Despite temperatures reaching sauna-level in there, nothing stopped her parading across the stage with her synth-pop melodies. She’s humble and grateful, but projects a striking attitude that hits the impressively large crowd, given she took to the stage just hours before England’s first World Cup match.
Another highlight of this years Bushstock was Rhodes, who I was lucky enough to catch at the TOMS Secret Garden Stage. For those of you that don’t know, TOMS is a fair-trade line which upholds a ‘one for one’ policy, whereby every pair of shoes bought in a developed country, a second pair is given to a child in a developing country, and every pair of glasses bought in a developed country, help is given to a visually impaired person in a developing country. With all this in mind, TOMS set out to sponsor a secret stage, set in the garden of a beautiful georgian house just off Goldhawk Road. With bucket fulls of cupcakes and beer (quite literally), Rhodes took to the stage to play a stripped back set in front of the the fellow dozen or so people who had been invited to join him. Part of me wants to liken him to the James Vincent McMorrow/ Bon Iver group, which he’s certainly not dissimilar to, but his latest material from his recent ‘Morning EP’ is striking not only in terms of his strength as a songwriter, but the versatility in how beautiful it is both on it’s own, as well as when accompanied by a full band and 12-part choir, as he was 2 hours later during his set at St. Stephens Church. Have a listen below to hear a stripped back version of the title track ‘Morning’, performed for The Small Sessions in Berlin.
After catching this precious and fleeting set from Rhodes, we meandered back to the Sidnercombe Social to catch Peggy Sue. It was a real shame that by this point in the day, England’s first kick-off was just minutes away, and the the trio opened to a surprisingly small crowd who gathered a good several metres away from the stage. As per usual, the lofty and exquisitely executed harmonies of Katy and Rosa floated about the room, and their set list, particularly the tracks from their first album ‘Fossils and Other Phantoms’ seemed to draw people in. They definitely managed to triple their initial audience, bringing stomping feet and waving hair with them.
Finally, towards the end of Peggy Sue’s set, we hurried back up to St. Stephen’s church in an attempt to find a way into the most talked about act of Bushstock: Hozier. Eventually we were crammed into the back and round the side of the church, and I actually don’t think ‘crammed’ suffices for this. It was stuffed. Hozier eventually began his set with material from his first and only EP ‘From Eden’, and the atmosphere in this place felt like the crowd was receiving a sermon from some sort of hyped-up evangelical hero. With whoops, yells and all sorts of noises in between, Hozier ploughed through song after song, and the hot, packed out church seemed to come together to worship Andrew Hozier-Byrne on a saturday night that could have been from an Indian summer. The highlight for me was undoubtedly ‘Work Song’, where his stunning vocals rifle between heavy bass drums and gentle accompanying harmonies. It would be easy to cap it as gospel inspired music, but its more than that, it’s bluesy and there’s a dark weightiness to his songs too. His debut album is due for September, and with the astonishing force with which he hit the industry and his listeners, it would be silly to question whether you’ll hear of him again. Because you will, you probably already have.
Bushstock kept it’s reputation strong for another year running. It still managed to deliver some of the freshest and most underground talent from around the world, and despite England’s first loss against Italy, spirits in West London remained high for the rest of the night, and so, on to another year with another Bushstock.
Words: Ellie Rumbold