GuilFest 2009

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Guildford’s family friendly festival; choc full of nostalgia and breaking talent.

Ginger has never been so strangely out of place. A mid-afternoon slot in a festival shrouded with nostalgia should have been the perfect setting for the ex-Wildhearts front-man. Sadly, much to his bemusement Ginger’s good time rock n’ roll garnered little response from the crowd. Adorned in iconic kilt and with his trademark flailing dreadlocks, Ginger remained unfazed, claiming “this is strange and quiet…I like it strange and I like it quiet.” Wherever Motorhead fans mix with picnickers the atmosphere is always likely to be a little odd.

Twin Atlantic had no such problems over in the Rock Sound Cave.  An exuberant and youthful audience were loud if shrill.  In a gloomy tent over in the corner, youngsters up front moshed away to somewhat concerned looks from security and parents camped out at the back.  The band’s brand of metallic yet poppy post-hardcore certainly went down well thanks in part to Sam McTrusty’s warm Glaswegian brogue.

We Are The Ocean played to an even fuller tent.  Their heavy melodic hardcore and preppy good looks were just about the perfect blend for the youth of Surrey.  Indeed the ferocity of their set was also enough to receive grudging admiration from the pre-Motorhead set.  It was just a shame that many of the bigger, uglier bystanders stayed at the rear of tent during vocalist Dan Brown’s unfortunate crowd surfing experience; “You guys dropped me; what’s the deal.”

As Motorhead strode onto the main stage it was obvious that the assembled throng were in for an absolutely textbook experience.  As they have done a million times before Lemmy and the crew ripped through all the classics and somehow arrived at ‘Overkill’ and ‘Ace of Spades’.  Probably not as loud as they have been in other settings, they still had enough brute force to push through technical problems and deliver.  As t-shirt sightings attest, Motorhead were the reason most of the crowd were there in the first place.

Local act District 6 hit the Ben Sherman stage in the afternoon possessing maturity that belied their tender ages.  They started as somewhat of a more enthused Interpol and ended up regaling the tent with shimmering pop-rock songs that went someway to making up for the absence of Hundred Reasons.  Undeniably the band are still learning their trade and are some way off a polished life show but they show all the signs of a promising future (as long as they steer clear of Lady Gaga covers).

Over in the Rock Sound Cave Failsafe pitched their punky hardcore against more melodic choruses.  That is until they unleashed ‘Mirror Mirror’.  Led a mammoth sized beast of a riff more befitting of a nu-metal act, the band were caught at their guilty peak.

Devil Sold His Soul took on the mantle of Failsafe’s intensity and delivered a monstrously heavy soundtrack.  Down-tuned guitars blended with shrill yelps and thudding bass to produce a dense fabric of sound, easy to get lost in, equal parts doomy and epic.

As headliner Brian Wilson took to the Main Stage, the heavens opened.  As if Britain would’ve greeted a Beach Boy any other way?  If anything the weather made the 67 year old’s performance that much more triumphant.  His songs could permeate the blackest sky, as seemingly to a man, the festival danced in salute to one of the greats.  They overlooked the “Hello London,” which Wilson perpetually spouted and just revelled in unadulterated glee.  Hearing ‘God Only Knows’ in a dank, drenched field in Surrey was a moment that many will remember forever.

By the time the Wailers were on stage the sun flirtatiously peaked through the clouds.  The former Bob Marley backing band ran through a set of old classics like ‘Jammin’’ and ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ to fair aplomb; tight and accomplished they were a big hit with the crowd.  The legacy of Bob Marley quite obviously lives on within the group but they will never have much more than an iota of presence without the main man.

Later in the evening The Ghost of a Thousand came out on a mission to “end this festival once and for all.”  Ripping into a vicious set, vocalist Tom Lacey seemed intent on spending the crowd’s last drops of energy.  As he curated yet another swirling circle pit he made time to reassure the mums and dads at the back that they are available for children’s birthdays and bar mitzvahs!

Despite TGOAT’s best efforts to bring the curtain down, that job was left to The King Blues.  Their acoustic driven ska-infused pop-punk drew one of the tent’s biggest attendances.  As ever Itch proved himself a consummate front-man, engaging the crowd with issues regarding war, the BNP and of course choreographing sing-a-longs.  This is a band that is relating important issues to young people in an accessible way (their songs resplendent with hooks infiltrate all the main sensory glands).  Drawing the family friendly festival to a close under the banner of community and catchy pop songs was certainly most befitting.  Here’s to next year.

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