It looks like Y Not festival has finally found its answer and the operative word of the weekend was most definitely mud. Marred with problems from the start, the festival was cancelled on the morning of the final day, seeing only one out of the three main headliners perform, with other big names’ sets being cut short or reduced to DJ sets.
The festival started with a bang with Feeder and The Skints headlining a Thursday set, drawing early crowds and getting what was a well-billed British summer festival on its way. In true British summer fashion, it didn’t take long for the heavens to open and heavy rains on Friday quickly converted the fields in Derbyshire into one big mud pit. This unfortunately highlighted the complete lack of planning by the organisers for the forecasted downpours with no visible walkways laid down and no straw or wood chipping as you will see at many UK festivals, which experience similar weather conditions. Despite all of the mud, spirits were high and festival-goers were not to be deterred from having a hell of a good time.
Given the extreme weather and with the wind blowing the rain straight onto the main stage, unfortunately, most acts, such as Sundara Karma, Nothing But Thieves, and The Hunna were cut short and Clean Bandit were only able to DJ a handful of songs before abandoning the wet stage for safety reasons.
Being the only outdoor stage, there was plenty more to see on the other ten tent stages that were dotted around the festival site. Nonetheless, no provisions had been made to account for the impact prolonged rain was going to have on the festival site, making it difficult to move between stages and making it near on impossible for disabled visitors to move about altogether.
Personally, I took refuge from the weather in the two next biggest stages, The Quarry and Giant Squid. There were plenty of fantastic acts on show and my day kicked off with the charismatic Tom Grennan at The Quarry. Unfortunately, I had missed a few bands that I wanted to see earlier that day, like Oddity Road, The Everly Pregnant Brothers, and SHVPES because of the gridlock on the roads getting into the festival. This is something that will need to be sorted out for next year if the festival is going to remain as big as it has become.
Following on from Tom Grennan’s brilliant performance, I headed over to Giant Squid stage to catch one of my favourites Vukovi. Ever since I caught them opening for Highly Suspect last year (review), they seem to be getting better each time I see them. Next on stage were Heck. Having seen them before, I knew that I was in for a wild show, and that Friday in Derbyshire, the four musicians from Nottingham did not disappoint and spent more time in the crowd than on stage. However, before the thrashy craziness of Heck, there was enough time to head over to one of the party/dance tents The Neon Coconut to see Tunde Olaniran from Flint, Michigan dazzle the audience with his unique style of dance-trip ragga.
At each of the gigs, there was a fantastic atmosphere and people of all ages appreciated the soul that all artists put into their performances. After Heck’s outrageously wild show, I needed a breather, though my breath was quickly taken away by the Food trucks with London-prices in the Derbyshire countryside. Not wanting to spend £3 on a can of coke, I went looking for a water station without much success until a worker pointed me to a hose fixed to one of the fences.
Making my way into the packed Saloon tent, which did it’s best to live up to its name, I was transported straight to the southern US by Nottingham country five-piece The Most Ugly Child. Their infectious good mood and jovial nature quickly passed over to the crowd and everyone had a yeehaw of a time. Sticking to the smaller tents, I returned to the Neon Coconut to see funk-legends Speedometer, who were on point. It was great to see a predominantly young crowd thoroughly enjoying the counter-tempo funk rhythms of a band that has been around a while.
Frank Turner was up next. I had never seen him live before and on the day he performed a solo acoustic set of many of his best known songs, reminiscing about past appearances at Y Not. Playing a fantastic set, many fans who had come specifically to see him, definitely got their money’s worth.
It was at this point that I found out that the first big headliner The Vaccines were not going to play that evening because of adverse weather conditions. The rain had been hitting the site relentlessly for hours and it had become difficult to move around, so I decided to head home while the car park was still navigable and I barely escaped the mud.
It was probably a good idea to head home with my camera gear as gangs of youths roamed the camp sites throughout the weekend with over a hundred thefts reported from tents. The complete lack of security at the campsites, who appeared to be a free-for-all, despite having VIP and family sections, did not help the situation.
Conditions on site did not become any better on day two and the mud, which had now partially dried out, had become stickier and more difficult to navigate safely. Having learned from the traffic chaos of the previous day, I set off early enough to catch Leeds-based Psych-grunge Brooders, who were first on stage at Giant Squid. This turned out to be a wise decision as Brooders were brilliant and entertaining through and through. A quick sandwich later, it was time for one of my highlights of the festival, Strange Bones. Like Vukovi, every time I see the utterly raw Strange Bones, their sound seems to become more refined with more musical maturity while maintaining their politically-charged charismatic youthful energy. The raw power of their performance and earworm postpunk tunes made you forget about time all together and just enjoy yourself. It won’t be long until we will see them on main stages.
From one political performance to another, I headed over to The Quarry to see the lyrical Beans on Toast. Singing protest songs about fracking and how we should all jump into the jacuzzi and do a whole lot more loving and less hating, Jay McAllister made a lot of sense and hopefully planted the odd seed in the mind of the younger festival-goer about taking care of the planet.
I had just enough time to catch Sheafs before seeing Ozzie rockers DMAs on the main stage. Sheafs performed a brilliant set, as was to be expected from the young indie band from Sheffield. Fighting my way through the mud, I arrived at the main stage only to find out that stage times had changed and that I had missed DMAs. Not only had I missed DMAs, but also most of Slaves’ set, which I was very much looking forward to, having seen them recently at Live at Leeds (review). Still, I got to catch their last couple of songs, which is better than a kick in the teeth.
There has been a lot of media attention on the organisers lack of operational skill and the changing of the stage times was a prime example. Announcements of changes to the main acts was put out on twitter and on the screens at the main stage. The problem was the extremely poor phone reception at the site, and with the thick mud, most people did not pass by the main stage often. I guess that I am not the only person caught out by these changes.
Fully aware of the new schedule, I decided to spend the rest of the evening at the main stage to make sure not to miss Stereophonics. And yet again, a great decision. Stereophonics, who are not normally in my playlist, were fantastic and highly entertaining. Through the wonderful power of music, their set made everyone forget about the rain, about the mud, about the missed acts, and about the incompetent and often rude security staff. Stereophonics were brilliant live and I’ll recommend seeing them if you get the chance.
As Stereophonics were finishing their set, the rain returned. It was a tough choice between sticking around for Idris Elba’s DJ set and potentially getting stuck in the car park or heading home with Dakota in my ears. I chose to head home to get a good rest for the great bands the final day had in store.
It turned out that Stereophonics were to be the last band I saw at Y Not festival this year, as the final day of the event was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. It must have been a tough decision to cancel a full day of a festival, especially with many acts having been cut short or having been cancelled altogether throughout the first two days. However, the decision to place safety of the fans and artists is always the right one. Nonetheless, rains had been forecast a long time in advance and the organisers could have prepared the site accordingly, which would have meant that everyone could have been safe throughout the weekend, despite the weather.
Having left on Saturday evening, fortunately, I missed the carnage that ensued on Sunday as a result of people finding out that the event had been cancelled. Following the anger and frustration on social media of stranded revellers, left without food, and people being stuck in the car park for hours, while security personnel was absent, highlights that the festival organisers Global will have to pull their act together for next year’s incarnation of Y Not. Let’s hope that they do and that this year was but a blip in what used to be a great family-oriented festival’s history. What the chaos of Y Not did bring out was the true festival spirit of people helping each other out, as the security that were employed were clearly not up to the job.
To conclude, despite of the weather and all of the problems of Y Not the majority of people had a fantastic time nonetheless and my highlights of the weekend were definitely bouncing around in the pit to Strange Bones, agreeing vehemently with Beans on Toast, and being blown away by Stereophonics. Now, as critical as this review has been of the festival organisers, I hope that they take the comments on board and ensure that next year’s Y Not festival restores the event back to its rightful glory. See you in 2018!
Review and photography by Gunnar Mallon of Y Not Festival from 27-30 July