CUD – life affirming and 100% genuine

If every gig sounded this good the world would be a joyous place.

CUD’s return to the Islington Academy some ten years and a handful of months after their triumphant explosion back onto the live scene was a treat for the ears – as well as the eyes.

Flamboyant as ever, and basking in the confidence that having a whole set of ‘no filler’ tracks makes fully justified, the CUD band’s sound engineer dialed in his best stadium sound settings and unleashed a pure pop beast…

Blasting through their best songs – many as chosen by ‘tens of thousands’ of fans in an online poll – CUD demonstrated once again how important it is for bands to deliver hooks that once latched in can never be extracted.

Lyrics and guitar riffs, basslines and drum beats – anyone who was a fan back in the day has every nuance of CUD’s repertoire seared into their brains…and tonight’s show brought back delicious memories of mis-spent youth with every note.

They are back at the Shiine On Weekender coming up soon – and are already plotting for next year as new recordings are threatening to materialise into a new long player.

Photos by Sara Bowrey

Click on the pics for the full Flickr gallery…


CUD – William and Carl
CUD – Islington Academy 2018
CUD – Mike Dunphy
CUD – Gogs in Goggles…
CUD – Carl and William

Able support on the night was from the dynamic duo that is Jack Adaptor



Ragged Bear 2018 – in photos

When your love of festivals is purely about the music look no further than Ragged Bear.

No overpriced food - just pop across the road for a Subway.

No overpriced beer - it's all at that under-£4 price point we love, and they have real ale coming out of their ears.

No staggering back to try and find your tent - this is a city centre event in the very epicentre of the UK. Nuneaton.

And did we mention the music?

The line-up never fails to delight... and here's our gallery of photos to show what a lovely little festival this really is. Enjoy....




The Funking Barstewards – Hastings Fish and Wine Festival 2018

The Funking Barstewards have been putting smiles on the faces of festival crowds since they first graced a big stage at Phoenix Festival back in 1993.

Still funking it up after all these years with a greatest hits back catalogue of disco classics, the Barstewards’ most recent foray into festival land was at the annual Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival.

Headining the Saturday night they lit up the tent with a set that kept young and old alike dancing from start to finish

The Sweetchunks Band – your new favourite festival experience

We pride ourselves in knowing a thing or two about what makes a great festival act. And The Sweetchunks Band tick all our boxes.

After 25 years of walking the fields and experiencing all of the highs and lows of festival life there’s no questioning that we’ve seen and heard some truly awful stuff in our day.

Inappropriate bookings like Daphne and Celeste at Reading Festival spring to mind.

And then there have been moments when global megastars have been caught out doing really bad karaoke…don’t remind us about the Kanye West cover of Bohemian Rhapsody… URGH…

So whenever we find something magnificently authentic and utterly original we pause to celebrate – because festivals are about discovery…and when you find a band like The Sweetchunks you just have to hold them to your bosom and squeeze them until it hurts.

Imaginative, quirky, observational (and often in tune), The Sweetchunks Band float like a butterfly and sing like the bees they so fondly worship.

If you want to start a buzz they are the band you need to book onto any stage that needs a little life breathing into it.

Trust us – we’re festival doctors…

Rest assured – they’re f*ckin’ awsome!

Boomtown – the machine that won’t be stopped (2018 reviewed)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Boomtown – we salute you!

[by John Bownas and Ali Ryland]

In a day and age where festivals are seemingly popped out of the same-old jelly moulds to a Jamie Oliver 30-minute recipe, Boomtown excels in delivering a dish of unknown pleasures that Heston himself would be proud of and that feels as if has been years in the planning.

So what if the weather was unkind for this chapter of the story…we stood in the biblical downpour and revelled in the majesty of Fishbone. We careered and cavorted as our clothes became saturated and stuck to our skins because we knew THIS was a special moment.

And when the sky stayed dry it chose its moments well.

Beans on Toast in the rain still ain’t bad – but in the absence of precipitation Jay comes into his own. The epitome of the alternative folk troubadour, his lyrics are deep but at the same time fragile – and importantly, even though he has a habit of forgetting them himself from time-to-time, they are visibly evident on the lips of the majority of fans in a crowd that fills the Old Mine stage to capacity.

Luckily, the torrents of rain cleared by late afternoon each day, which is just as well as Boomtown prefers to save the best to later in the night. Unfortunately, this did mean some brutal clashes, especially for those of us who were delighted to see some brutally heavy music make its debut at the new and gloriously named Earache Factory. We who straddle the alternative scene with no-shame mainstream music had to choose to either “Jumpdafuckup” to Max Cavalera’s eclectic metal project Soulfly, bask in the electrifying atmosphere at Gorillaz, or catch the playful antics of Enter Shikari on the Saturday night.

Those who decided upon the world-famous headliner were not disappointed, although the floating tunes somewhat lacked the visceral beat of packed sweaty bodies moving as one over at Earache. Either way, the stage managers of Earache Factory must be pretty chuffed with themselves; nearly every act, particularly in the evening, saw the stage crammed to the rafters. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see the metal stage, and its line-up, become bigger and better at next year’s event – something we would greatly welcome.

Speaking of cruel clashes, Sunday night was no let-up from the onslaught of a fantastic line-up that divided friends and families in its inopportune timings. Leaving the spectacular fire show accompanying Die Antwoord’s hip hop beats at the Lion’s Den, one could catch the last of Billy Bragg’s soulful set. While Bragg focused more upon what he believed to be the crowds’ predilections by ending on One Love (Let’s Drop the Debt) in a tribute to the many Marley-loving fans the festival attracts, after this closer there were still voices in the crowd singing ‘World Turned Upside Down’ in protest of his dropping the more political songs from his set.

Limp Bizkit at the Town Centre were luckily still ongoing after Bragg, covering Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’ in a radical move away from their merrier material. Those who wanted to Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ afterwards were at a bit of a loss; Boomtown shuts the live music off at midnight on a Sunday.

There was however, just time for a quick pint at wee venue The Shamrock to see a bounding Irish punk band cover Flogging Molly before seeking bed – or the live bin show at the Hidden Woods that could be heard across the lower campsites until 5am. But that is completely in-keeping with the Boomtown spirit that incorporates an eclectic mixture of different music using a diverse range of instruments – even upside down bins.

And although Boomtown isn’t a dance festival, or a rock festival, or a punk festival, it still caters for all these genres and more. Its areas and arenas each attract their own tribe, and it pulls off a neat trick each year by not relying on one big main-stage lineup to sell out its highly prized (but reasonably priced) tickets.

The majestic Lions’ Den is a sight to behold (especially having been given a massive makeover for 2018) and sits neatly at the epicentre of a natural acoustic bowl – an organic amphitheater of audio delight (that perhaps, if we were being picky, could use an extra boost around the edges so the sounds matched the visuals for those at the back). But whilst it may be the crowning glory of the spectacular Boomtown production effort it operates meekly and democratically alongside the smallest hidden speakeasy bars when it comes time for the citizens of Boomtown to vote with their feet and find their place in this sprawling cataclysm of cultural references.

So how was Boomtown for you?

Did you rock out to Elvana as they mashed up the King with classic Nirvana riffs? As long as the joke doesn’t run thin Elvana are sure to be a regular slot-filler at festivals with this act.

Were you drawn to Rusty Spurs for the folk-rock prowess of Leylines? Genuine and heartfelt – this is the real deal.

Was it the carnival extravaganza of Slamboree that rocked your boat? The crazy-juice flows through every Slamboree show, and Boomtown is a perfect fit for their shocking excess.

When The Cheap Dates proved skiffle is alive and well were you dancing down at the front? We lapped up this hearty dose of good old-fashioned rock and roll.

Do you now agree that Dubioza Kollective are a force to truly be reckoned with? It’s hard to argue with the sheer force of their musical onslaught.

Have Wonk Unit persuaded you that punk has been reignited? These guys are, by their own admission, really quite good at what they do.

Did Dead Kennedys remind you punk has never been all that far away and remains timeless? No Jello – no problem – the Kennedys are as fast and furious as ever.

Quite simply, how good was The Undercover Hippy and did you get a swig of our wine down on the front row? We left this gig with many new friends and a huge smile. What more can you say?

If you made it to see Neck do you now finally understand what ‘psycho ceildh’ actually is? Neck deliver as powerful a punch as they ever have with their unique blend of North London Irish fire and are always a welcome addition to any festival bill.

So – Moscow Death Brigade – is this your new favourite act? These guys took us by surprise as they caught our ears and eyes – we’ll be back for more.

Did you make it to the Enter Shikari secret DJ set? Were you as delighted as we were?

Were you spellbound at the feet of Will Varley? On his own he’s a master, with a band he’s a genius. At Boomtown we got treated to both faces of this exceptional talent.

Did you progress with the storyline at Boomtown, interacting with actors to collect six hacker files from venues across the sites in order to take A.M.I for the good guys, or did you get bogged down in inconsequential side quests?

Did you let the boots do the talking at Oi Polloi? Their crusty hardcore d-beat was a real show-stopper compared to the more ska-infused anarcho-punk at Hangar 161.

Did you catch the surprise set from Doghouse, ex-frontman of techno punk band Sicknote, as he busted out the weirdest techno tune ‘Lazers in the Luggage Compartment’ ever to grace Buskers’ Wharf on the Sunday night?

Did you see New York subway stars Too Many Zooz tooting away at the bucolic Windmill Stage on top of Whistler’s Green as the sun was shining and the Strongbow flowing?

Elsewhere at Boomtown the Psy Forest pumped basslines as happy hippies danced barefoot in the sand between the majestic trees, and Sector Six created seismic waves whose echoes are still rolling across the fields.

As the weekend drew to a close and we hauled our weary frames into the cold light of Monday’s looming normality we almost wept a little at the realisation of how much we’d missed. There just aren’t enough hours in the Boomtown day to take in everything. That is why its strength is also its despair.

But we revelled in the memories we did take away with us. The new friends we made and the new bands we discovered…plus the old favourites who it felt had been added to the bill for our personal delight.

If we have one grumble it isn’t the festival – but it is that minority who still think it’s cool to treat tents as single-use items of disposable trash. Guys seriously, it’s not cool to leave your gear behind – take ten minutes to pack it away to use another day.

Y-Not 2018 : rocking your socks off…

The sun is shining, there’s plenty of glitter, beer and band T-Shirts and everyone seems suitably excited for four days of indie/rock/alt-action at this years Y-Not Festival in Derby.


The weekend boasts an impressive bill featuring the likes of Jamiroquia, Catfish And The Bottlemen and Kaiser Chiefs to name but a few of the 100+ bands on the line up.


Following a shaky 2017, the pressure is on this year for the festival to deliver and, despite some atrocious weather, suffice to say Y Not 2018 fulfils its promises this time around.


Opening up the Giant Squid Stage on Friday were Newcastle’s Ground Culture. One of the heavier bands on the bill, they blast through their set bringing a tight mix of hardcore metal with soaring choruses to the somewhat surprised crowd. Sadly, they like many bands on this stage, they suffer from bad sound, with much of the bass and guitars being completely lost. Despite this, they own their set and kick things off with a bang. (7/10)

Next up were Anavae. Their elevator pitch is essentially Paramore meets Stomp-inspired percussion. Of course, there’s much more to them than that, and front-woman Rebecca Need-Menear’s vocals carry the band from punchy rock-sections through to chilled ambient moments. The band have a tonne of impact and close their set with three-piece drum solo which saw all the band members beating giant floor toms in unison. Anavae are easily one of the more stand-out bands from today’s offerings. (8/10)

Holding Absence are on a short time later. Fresh from a string of festival appearances the band have clearly benefited from a busy summer as their sound is polished and precise. Frontman Lucas Woodland manages to wake up the largely docile crowd with precision-clean vocals (that’s singing, for all the non-metal fans among you) and a cool command of the stage. Holding Absence look very much at home here. (8/10)

Mallory Knox sub-headline the Giant Squid stage and benefit from a packed out tent and superior sound (one of the pluses of having your own sound-engineer).

While the band play well and clearly entertain the crowd, there’s a laid-back feel to their set which at times comes across as a slight lack of energy. Whether this is due to an exhaustive touring cycle or some personal band issues which were eluded too by the members on stage I don’t know. None-the-less, it’s a good but slightly underwhelming effort from the Cambridge rock-outfit. (6/10)


It’s Saturday, and after a thunderstorm hits the festival today’s crowds are looking noticeably cold and fed up.


Perfect timing then for 1990s TV personality Mr Motivator to bring his bizarre brand of live-fitness/workout instruction to the stage.


I can only describe what follows as one of the most incredible spectacles I’ve ever witnessed.


4,000 people cram into a tent as 65 year old Derrick Evans (Mr Motivator) guides the hypnotised crowd through a series of high-impact cardio routines all set to pumping dance music.


The punters obey every shouted command without question, gyrating and jumping up and down in perfect unison. While it’s questionable if Mr Evans owns the necessary Copyright licenses to any of the well-known songs in his set, it’s none the less a sight to behold and one I shan’t forget. (9/10)


Next up it’s Pale Waves on the main stage. A personal highlight for me, bringing their own brand of new-wave, 80s-inspired floaty pop to a very wet crowd. The band flawlessly make their way through hits like “Television Romance” and “There’s A Honey” sounding incredibly close to the studio versions of the songs. Pale Waves have blown up in popularity recently and it’s easy to see why with such a strong live offering. (10/10)

UK based rock outfit The Amazons brave a very damp main stage shortly after. They mix a traditional indie-rock sound with the types of riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a modern metal record. It’s a good set, with vocalist Matt Thomson being a particular strong point. However, some of the impact of songs like “In My Mind” doesn’t quite convey in quite the way you’d want it to from such an experienced band. It’s debatable whether this is the fault of the band or a slightly lacking main stage sound. Regardless, they put on a good show and the now sodden crowd seem satisfied. (7/10)

The Black Futures are on early doors on the final day of the festival. The synth heavy two-piece hit like a wrecking ball through a minefield and deliver easily the heaviest set of the weekend. Prodigy vibes are everywhere and the atmosphere is made even better by a blinding light show, excessive smoke and a flag-waving performer behind the band dressed in full hazmat suit. The Black Futures are a band that need to be experienced live, preferably not in a sober state. (9/10)

Disco-funk titans Jamiriquai close out the festival and, despite having their set cut due to health and safety gremlins, bring note-perfect production to Y Not. Frontman JK sounds every bit as phenomenal now as he did 35 years ago when the band debuted. The hypnotic light show, sassy all-female backing vocals and blistering funk bass set the beaming crowd off dancing like a 90s disco. Mercifully we hear the likes of “Space Cowboy” and “Cosmic Girl” before the sound is pulled a full 40 minutes before schedule, the crowd aren’t happy, but this can hardly be blamed on the band and the short time we were blessed with was a masterclass in live music. (10/10)

Into the Wild 2018 – a little slice of perfection

If the big festivals are starting to leave you feeling bloated and overwhelmed it might be time to consider something a little lighter – because a little less is sometimes a whole lot more.

And Into the Wild (not to be confused with Into the Wild Gathering) could be just what the doctor ordered…but do watch out for 2019 tickets and grab them quick, because this a strictly limited capacity affair.

Set on a large estate just a short drive out of North London, Into the Wild beckoned quietly to us as a warm-up to next weekend’s Latitude extravaganza.

With a line-up scattered with familiar festival favourites such as Beans on Toast, Will Varley, Oh My God, It’s The Church, and The Electric Swing Circus we knew the playlist was sorted – the only question left to answer was ‘do they know how to festival?’

The answer? An emphatic ‘YES’.

Following the dusty single-track lane across the estate we eventually spotted the gleaming-white tee-pee tops of the glamping field set out along a delightful lakeshore. Within minutes (driving past the hot shower block) we were wrist-banded and parking up in a small camper van area just behind the treeline from the main campsite.

With so many events this is where the slog starts. That long route-march from camping pitch to where the action is.

But there’s no such thing as a long walk at Into the Wild, and it was mere moments before we found ourselves in the heart of the festival arena.

And the first impression (past the luxury loos – not a portaloo in sight) is that if the Latitude site is a top-end, fully-loaded Range Rover, into the Wild is a stripped down beach buggy.

Forget endless rows of catering stalls and hawkers trying to tempt you with trinkets. Into the Wild runs on a bare minimum of high-quality food and just a handful of relaxed festival stalls.

Of course we know which car we’d rather be driving on a sunny summer’s day accompanied by a handpicked mix-tape soundtrack of brilliant bands.

Who wants to be wrapped in a cocoon of technology and safety gizmos when you can be bouncing over sand dunes with the wind in your hair?

Into the Wild does however, take one wise precaution (unnecessary this year as it happened) – it puts all it’s stages under canvas. So, should the weather turn, at least there’s plenty of shelter from the storm.

Another thing in this fantastic little festival’s favour is that it throws everything into Friday and Saturday, leaving Sunday free to pack down and head off home – meaning that there is a relaxing buffer zone before the Monday morning blues kick in.

Who is Into the Wild for?

This is an over-18s only event, and the bulk of the crowd seemed in their mid-to-late twenties and early-thirties, with a slant towards bohemian free-wheeling types. There were a few of the old guard in evidence, but the balance was tipped firmly towards the younger end of the spectrum.

Would we recommend it?

Without blinking we rate Into the Wild as one of the best festival experiences we’ve had in the last few years – and we go to a LOT of festivals. Our only worry is that now the secret is out!

Facebook Posts

Hastings Fringe Comedy Festival 2018 – retrospective

It’s safe to say that this is one fringe with real benefits… principle amongst which are (1) it’s in Hastings (2) it’s 99% free entry and (3) the quality of the acts is top notch.

Hastings Fringe Comedy Festival is a real labour of love for it’s organisers. Run on a shoestring, it somehow manages to pack a serious punch without any sense of corners being cut.

Venues are small and intimate – which is always a plus (unless you are the shy and retiring audience type who doesn’t fancy getting picked out for some gentle ribbing from time to time) and the only risk you run is that popular ones may fill up quickly.

Running over four days in June each year, this is a festival you should mark in your calendar if you want to see some of the top circuit acts trying out new material before launching it on bigger stages.

This is an 8.5/10 with real scope to score full marks in years to come…

Photos by Sara Bowrey

%d bloggers like this: