Live Review: South Norwood Community Festival ft. Moses, Stunflower, Bugeye, The Great Leslie + Helve

It’s the day before the so-called “Freedom Day”, and it’s forecast to be the hottest day of the summer (so far). What better way to spend it than checking out some local bands at a free gig in a local park? South Norwood Community Festival made a welcome return to South Norwood Recreation Ground, after last year’s event that managed to slip in between two lockdowns with a heavily restricted, socially distanced, seated affair at the nearby Stanley Halls. Two of the bands from that show were scheduled to play again this year, sadly one of them had to pull out at the last minute.

Despite being held in a park, the number of stalls and rides was heavily reduced due to the still in force restrictions. But I wasn’t there for the sideshows, I was there to quench my thirst for some live music – and just a short(ish) walk from home. The big draw for me were the familiar bands Moses, who headlined last year, and Bugeye, but I’m always up for listening to new bands because you never know, as this show proved.

With the unenviable position of being the first act of the day was young five-piece Helve. Their music blends elements of jazz, electronica noise and bits of angsty rock – a heady, complex mix with lots of lyrics. The playing was excellent and once they polish the sound and fine tune some of the more experimental elements they will definitely be a band to watch.

The second act, The Great Leslie, were less musically ambitious, opting for the tried and tested indie-alt rock umbrella. Great songs and stage presence made for a storming set that warmed up the already sun drenched audience.

They made way for local indie disco stalwarts Bugeye, who also tore up the stage in all their glittery glory.

Unfortunately, Mangoseed had to pull at the last minute, which was a shame as they played a cracking set the previous year, but they were replaced by another flora based band in Stunflower, who brought a mellow summer vibe with a mix psychedelic and country rock with some Indian tabla beats.

They nicely parted the way for favourites Moses to storm the stage with their high-energy performance. The band has been evolving over the years with a few line-up changes, but their core crowd-pleasing anthemic sound remains, bringing the audience to its feet and joining in some of the choruses.

The live music closed out with Reminisce Reggae Band. As much as I like the classic reggae they cover, my stamina for photographing festivals in the heat had definitely waned over lockdown, so I made a tactical retreat homewards.

These small local festivals are a welcome addition to the often barren musical landscape of Croydon. I’m certainly holding onto to the hope of another edition of CroCroLand following its superb debut in 2019, before the dreaded pandemic curtailed live music across the country and around the world.

Find out more about South Norwood Community Festival on their official website

Review and Photography by Chris Patmore:

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