Zooquarium 2017: reviewed and in photos

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Headlining Zooquarium’s first edition on a windswept, but otherwise dry and warm (in sheltered spots), Hastings Pier was Ratboy. The darling of the music press also proved a big hit with the young audience at which the festival had marketed itself, and as the sun set he took control of the main stage.

Sadly due to over-running earlier acts and a strict curfew he played a reduced set, but young events need to learn from these issues and plan more carefully in future to ensure there is time for all the allotted acts to deliver what they have planned.

Other standout sets were provided by the tightly chaotic We Are Z and Hastings’ soon-to-be household names (if they get their way), Kid Kapichi.

Both bands have big local followings, and the only question asked by some was whether the ability to see them play for free on a fairly regular basis nearby may have put off those asked to shell out £15 for entry to the pier and it’s not inexpensive but limited bar.

The answer to that is that it was a small price to pay to get to see bands move up a gear from pub venues to bigger stages. For those who really support local live music this sort of entry fee should be no barrier. Also, as an inaugural event it made sense to provide a stage for the cream of local talent.

And as for next year, we’re promised that the bar offer is under review, so fingers crossed that will be one issue that won’t be an issue for 2018 if Zooquarium II is announced – which we hope it will be, because it has huge potential.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and anyone who has been following Kid Kapichi’s local gigs and who saw them on the pier will vouch for the fact that they stepped up a gear and delivered an impassioned set that would have stood up on a main stage at any of the UK’s bigger festivals.

someone/anyone and Alibi were another two bands from the prolific and talented local scene who were very rightly given good slots in the early evening, and between them laid down a mixture of smoothly funky jazz-infused grooves and uplifting guitar-led pop songs of the highest order.

Again, special mention to someone/anyone, because here’s a band playing songs that have the risk of resonating down the years to be played to appreciative audiences decades from now. These are proper earworms that burrow deep into your psyche.

Alibi may have suffered from the lower-powered vibe of the second stage – but they hold a similar potential if they can move up to larger spaces that will allow them to fill out their sound.

Elsewhere on the bill Barbarella’s Bang Bang brought an element of twisted Balkan folk to proceedings, whilst Bless and Dorey the Wise proved that solid songwriting is alive and well in the UK music industry.

Billionaire (the side project of Gang of Four frontman John Sterry) was another high point of the day, and for those who’ve not yet checked out this band, here’s a taster…

Ever-graceful and with a voice that is maturing as fast as her ability to write original radio-friendly songs the Kayleigh Ann Band should probably have been given a later slot on a bigger stage. However, despite being tucked down the bill on the smallest of the three outdoor stages, they still offered up a delightful slice of summery vibes…as well as banging out a blistering version of ‘White Rabbit’ to the crowd’s immediate delight.

Up on the main stage, doing a creditable job fighting against the blowy conditions in the early afternoon were The KIFFS, a riff-heavy female four-piece who’s songs tread a line somewhere between prog rock and shoegaze. Elsewhere, the unmistakable voice of the ever-more-popular Jamie Smart lured in a decent crowd for his set on the festival’s only indoor stage, where deckchairs provided a comfortable space throughout the day to watch acts who delivered everything from creditable covers to avant-garde spoken word crossover performance poetry.

It wouldn’t be a party in Hastings if Dr Savage wasn’t invited, and his second line band helped out with the craziness by playing their usual mashed-up drum ‘n’ brass versions of pop standard classics – including the crowd favourite, Tainted Love.

Equally fun was the quintessentially Hastings set played out by Blair and Friends – a musical collective fronted by one of the town’s most recognised songwriters who brought the main stage crowd to life in the way only they know how.

Take a look at how Zooquarium shaped up in our SCENES GALLERY

Or, For a scan through other acts from the day, here’s our BANDS GALLERY.


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Zooquarium 2017
66.3 / 100 Flyer Reviewer
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 100 Users (1 vote)
Prime location with stunning views. Cheap tickets. Huge amount of local talent. Makes a weekend music break in Hastings a worthwhile proposition.
There is very little fundamentally stopping Zooquarium becoming a 'must see' festival as all of the ingredients are there to make it brilliant...however some issues need addressing first.
Block out the middle weekend in mid-July 2018 in your diary now and watch out for an announcement that Zooquarium is coming back for round two. If the festival irons out its wrinkles then a price tag of £30 could still be a bargain. However, and it's potentially a big 'however', those issues do need addressing. At least two headline acts who have a wider household appeal need adding to the bill, the programming needs to find a way of offering young local musicians opportunities without compromising artistic quality, bars and food outlets need to expand their offer and reduce their prices a little, advance information on what's on needs to be clearer, and sound production on the two main stages needs attention (the main stage had too many gremlins and the mixing position on the second stage should not be behind the band). This may sound like a public health warning, but in reality these are all easy fixes - so our genuine recommendation is to give this one a try. We'd love to come back next year and see our review scores double...
Smaller stages70.5
Site layout78.5
Site art50.3
Food offer50.3
Security and stewards75.5
Toilets and cleanliness93.3
Programme information45.3
Transport / parking67.1
Value for money94.3
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