All-Dayers are a tricky half-breed – a festival without the festival atmosphere, the space, the freedom and the non-musical diversions; an extended gig, three or four times the normal length. It’s easy for them to become a test of endurance – locked in a small, dark, sweaty room with 120 decibels battering your ear drums for nine hours can sap the enthusiasm of even the hardiest music fan.
Hats off then to Heavy Leather, today’s promoters, for getting the balance just right. The Lock Tavern, with its adjacent terrace and separate bar to escape to between bands, is a perfect location, there’s enough space between the acts for a nice refreshing pint in the sun and the quality of the line-up, which features three former and two upcoming Joyzine Radio Show guests, puts many of the summer’s big name events to shame.
The day kicks off with Cosmo House, performing as a duo today due to an absent trumpeter. This is music stripped back to the bare bones: a single vocal, a single guitar and the occasional foot stomp on the wooden floor, but, as is often the case, the simplest of dishes can become a treat if you get the best ingredients and with Dani’s powerful yet soulful vocal and Fea’s nimble fingered guitar work Cosmo House create blues inspired sound that is at turns emotive and forceful, direct and intricate, mournful and joyous. A perfect start for the growing crowd.
Next up onto the sun-drenched stage are Broken Soundtracks, who recently impressed with a laid back country-tinged acoustic set as guests on The Joyzine Radio Show (you can get the podcast here). Plugged in today they are an entirely different animal – a muscular rhythm section and fuzz-laden guitars build a hypnotic wall of sound, mixing Jesus & Mary Chain structures with American grunge and new wave textures to fill the room with glorious noise.
I’d seen next act The Sly Persuaders a couple of times before and had always felt like I should have liked them more than I did. They ticked all the right boxes: all pounding, tom heavy drums, electric shock guitars and rockabilly swagger, but for some unfathomable reason it just didn’t click with me. Today it clicked, kicked, hand-clapped and foot-stomped its way into the part of my brain marked ‘dance like you’re having a seizure’ and it seemed I wasn’t the only one they were having this effect on. Whether I’d just caught them on a bad day before, they’ve got better, my tastes have shifted just enough or if the unpretentious, familial atmosphere made the difference I don’t know but it was enough to persuade me (slyly or otherwise) to give this band a fresh listen.
And if The Sly Persuaders brought us together in hand-clapping unison, The Venus Lyx did just as good a job at splitting us right down the middle with their abrasive deconstructed post-punk set. Starting off with a guttural, throat shredding roar, sharp shards of dischord are spat out from the stage, drawing in as many as are deterred by the singer’s intense stare. “What, didn’t you like that one?” he challenges the dumbstruck crowd with curl of the lips as one track grinds suddenly and unexpectedly to a halt before we can applaud.
These are skeleton songs that jerk from the guitar-bass-drums, stopping and starting without warning. It makes for uneasy listening, and is all the better for it.
Guitar and drums duo Dirty White Fever ooze an easy-going charm, sarcastic banter flowing between band members and the audience. It’s immediately engaging and they have us on their side even before the first note of an acrobatic rock & roll set has been struck. There’s a hint of funk in there too, along with a smattering of jazz and classic rock. Hulking drummer Leon Holder plays around the beat, dropping in fills seemingly at will, while frontman Dominic Knight is a blur of hair and limbs, contorting his body and strings to equally good effect.
It’s not a good day to be The Sly Persuaders’ drumkit (kindly lent to all of today’s acts) – having been made to look like children’s toy kit by the muscular frame of Dirty White Fever’s drummer, it’s now being beaten to within an inch of its life by Love Buzzard‘s Al Brown. Cymbal stands tumble, drumsticks fly through the air and the structural integrity of the tom, snare and kick drums are tested to their limits. Up front Kevin Lennon has one of the most extensive pedal boards I’ve ever seen, set to smear carefully crafted layers sludge and dirt over their punky barrage while lyrics are belted out in a raw throated yelp. Songs that already seemed break-neck on their freshly released debut album Antifistamines are punched out at even more finger-shredding velocity. By the end of their set both band and audience have dissolved into one happy, sweaty mass.
Where Love Buzzard were brief and brutal, Saint Agnes‘ countrified psyche-rock jams verge on the epic. This is expansive, filmic, transportive stuff; urgent and gritty at times for sure but interspersed with lower-key moments of melancholy and tension. Kitty and Jon have fantastic chemistry at the front, trading vocals and stares: he blasts out an intro on the harmonica then bows his head over his guitar, she drags a b-movie shriek from the keyboard and fixes the audience with an icy stare.
This is a band that just keep on getting better – catch them now before they’re playing rooms twenty times the size of this one.
By now the sun is beginning to fade and Dedwardians provide the perfect soundtrack for the gathering darkness. Spiky guitars, driving rhythms and choruses that stick in your brain like a knife, all fronted with swaggering bravado by magnetic singer Paul Gautrey, despite the blood gushing from his mouth following a collision with guitarist Gaff early in the set. The rock & roll strut of stand out track ‘Bang Bang’ owes more than a little to Little Richard, which is rarely a bad thing, and previous single ‘Love Sick’ is a dirty little gem.
Into the final straight then and who better to kick our arses over the finish line than Eighteen Nightmares AT The Lux? The room ripples with energy from the first rumbling bass note, their mix of dark psyche, runaway rockabilly and sci-fi punk flooding away any notion of fatigue and getting the dance floor moving. By the end of the set frontman Shimon is in the crowd, towering bassist Big Const is stripped to the waist (but still wearing his hat), guitarist Greg is tearing shards of feedback from his instrument and drummer Alex is demanding that we jump higher, mosh harder. We duly comply.
And with that, it’s over. We’ve made it. Nine hours, nine bands. We leave with a ringing in our ears, sweat caking our brows and smiles on our faces.
Review + photographs of Dedwardians & Eighteen Nightmares by Paul Maps
All other photography by Rupert Hitchcox: ruperthitchcox.com
Watch Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux, Love Buzzard, The Sly Persuaders and Broken Soundtracks in live action on the Joyzine Youtube Channel: