Grillstock Festival – Foot-stomping, glorious gluttony
When Meat, Music and Mayhem comes to town, and it just so happens to be your home town, there’s no excuse not to partake. Grillstock Festival smacked Walthamstow, East London right round the chops this weekend with a sizzling, multifaceted event and joining the Pit Crew was one of the highlights of my festival season.
Following the success of sell-out events in Bristol and Manchester, Grillstock came to the Big Smoke to bring Londoners the biggest Bar-B-Q and Music Festival outside of the US; promising live music, authentic meaty fare and eating competitions and a feast for all the senses to gorge on.
With just his guitar for company, Lazy Jack’s competition winner Harry Pane opened the Main Stage. The timing of his folk/bluesy set was a shame as his undeniable talent deserved a larger crowd. Songs included Real Souls (which he dedicated to all six of us with cheerful self-deprecation) and Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love, having supported the band on their tour earlier this year. A big talent, returning back to E17 later in the month for The Stow Festival.
Over to the Brooklyn Brewery Bar Stage (hopping over haystacks outside the Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Bar to get there) where up next was a serving of acoustic blues and roots musician Big Joe Bone to complement the imported craft beer. Big Joe declared that no set would be complete without some Robert Johnson and he performed a cover of Come On In My Kitchen. In his own words, and that of his debut album, Blue Grass Kicks Ass.
One of my personal standouts was Fly Golden Eagle who took over the Main Stage in an early afternoon slot. Led by Ben Trimble, raised in Detroit with Nashville roots, and whose sound has been described as ‘downriver Detroit gospel-twang’ the band played music from their latest release, Quartz Bijou, with a whole lot of heart. A curious crowd gathered, attracted by the band’s rock-glam-funk sound that wafted throughout the site and mingled with the smells of the grill.
One of the many good things going for Grillstock is the palatable line up; it wasn’t so act-heavy that you felt uncomfortably stuffed, or so sparse you still felt a bit peckish. There was a good hunk of artists on offer that, on the whole, allowed for leisurely flitting between acts and grabbing something pit-smoked to chow down on along the way.
Flitting back over to the Bar Stage and squeezing in a quick pint of the good stuff, the sounds of The Black Keys acted as an exciting warm up for Tail Feather who played bourbon-soaked blues rock with a trippy 1960s flavour.
Hyena spewed out a lovely splattering of loud, noisy rock to a head-banging, appreciative crowd which juxtaposed brilliantly with the cheerful kids playing with beanbags outside the bar’s tent and a man walking around dressed as a hotdog. Hyena played their debut single, Mental Home, with a thrashing and tight delivery.
I am ashamed to say I had no idea Levi Roots was a label pioneer, MC and producer by trade (’30 years in music, 8 years in a sauce’ he proudly told us on stage) so I was keen to check out his main offering. A warm and spicy set with reggae stylings pleased the baseball-capped, bearded throng and resistance to a bit of a dance was futile.
Talking of the crowd, Grillstock-ers are an affable bunch (discounting a blood-splattered zombie with a dismembered arm which he tapped people menacingly on the head with) and T-Shirts emblazoned with ‘Think locally, act hillbilly’ were worn with pride. Meat Rave proved a hit, tucked out the way of the main drag and providing a good old knees up with DJs playing a fusion of genres including funk, bhangra, ‘90s hiphop and R’n’B classics (Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious sounded particularly good).
Grillstock promised us major acts from across the pond, and trailblazing the way was Grandmaster Flash, hip hop recording artist / DJ and cutting and mixing pioneer. He smashed it with a set that featured Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie, Naughty by Nature’s Hip Hop Hooray and a clever mix of AC/DC’s Back in Black and The O’Jay’s ‘For the Love of Money’. The audience were singing, dancing and waving their hands like they just didn’t care, perhaps like me, still trying to absorb the fact that one of the world’s best-known DJs was playing in the Stow.
Unfortunately, this meant missing Treetop Flyers, London five piece with a vintage West Coast sound, the only clash of the day, but catching Cuban Brothers made up for it. They brought the house down with a unique blend of music, dancing and comedy and bowed out with Lionel Richie’s All Night Long.
Grillstock left me with a new-found appreciation for Fun Lovin’ Criminals, big players on the Main Stage as the sun set. Bringing their own style of hip hop and funk and playing to their own mellow beat, the excited crowd went mad when FLC dropped Scooby Snacks. Vocalist/guitarist Huey Morgan has lost none of his flair and was officially dubbed #KingofWalthamstow for the night on Twitter, as he encouraged us to get our brisket on. What an honour to be bestowed (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and DJ Yoda was responsible for Saturday’s closing party. Moved to the Main Stage at the last minute, a no-brainer really, he put his trademark stamp on proceedings with his turntableist wizardry, complete with video mixing, cartoon sampling and retro internet gems. A DJ Yoda set has to be seen and heard to be believed; Ice Cube’s Check Yo Self, Snow’s Informer, Madonna’s Borderline and a sing-along of The Scorpion’s Wind of Change featured, plus a genius mix of The Clash’s London Calling interspersed with Van Halen’s Jump. Add the corresponding music video and clips of Hulk Hogan, Ron Burgundy, and Morph dancing on desks to name a few and it was a nostalgic, hip hopping audio-visual spectacular. Smokin’ hot.
With heavy hearts, full bellies and after a bit too much Brooklyn brew we made our way home back through the streets of London secretly pretending we were in Kentucky. So, did the Grillstock crew deliver on their promise? Yes they did. Would I go again? Most definitely. Will it be in the same venue again next year or will a larger site be found? Time will tell.
In the words of the Cuban Brothers though, ‘How about Walthamstow! E17 and sh*t!’ Indeed.
Words by Nicola Greenbrook and Photography by Jason Pierce-Williams.
Nicola has her own great blog here http://materialwhirl.wordpress.com
Jason has his great photography website right here: http://www.neopan.co.uk/
The full set of images are also here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/GrillStock-Festival-2015/G0000O2UOKdd_oAg