This years British Wildlife Festival has a slightly different layout to last, kicking off at 8pm on Friday 4th March at Nation of Shopkeepers with a handpicked 4 band bill of epic proportions acting as a cheerful warm for Saturday's chaos at the Brudenell Social Club & Royal Park Cellars. From 3pm we will see 18 awesome acts hit the stage (or floor) spread accross the three venues (The third of course being the fabulous Brudenell Games Room). At 3pm on Sunday 6th March at The George, Great George St, there is something truly unique happening entitled 'The People VS British Wildlife' which is an 8 band billing consisting of The People's choosing, more about the HERE.
I suppose the best way to give you an idea of this Festival is a short review of last years antics...
A love of DIY music, which turned into a label, which turned into a festival. That’s what British Wildlife promoter/all round champion Adam Nodwell is the proud owner of this weekend. As you might predict, it’s a music geek’s wet dream. The merch table is creaking under the weight of limited edition vinyls from obscure acts far and wide. I’ve heard of barely half of them, perfect for beating your house mates in a game of musical one-upmanship. You can also purchase (if you’re in the mood) cake, handmade postcards, t shirts and beer mats with drawings of cute animals on them. It’s haphazardly unique and okay, a little try-hard. But nonetheless, a colourful change from your average t-shirt stands, manned by bored-looking roadies.
At the Royal Park, that brilliant disparity of upstairs/downstairs is happening. Downstairs the clamour of the evening’s various noisy outfits travel up the dingy staircase. Upstairs, the usual Friday night Karaoke crowd are in, and someone’s Granddad is currently hiccupping his way through Frank Sinatra’s back catalogue. It’s a toss-up which is more entertaining, but I know which one I’m supposed to be at.
Good thing that Uprights holds the early crowd’s attention so well, then. An infectious enthusiasm for their grubby, rough-edged pop has spread throughout the tiny black cellar. You say ‘guitar pop’ and immediately it summons up the idea of the standard verse-chorus blah, but this is a lot craftier than that. The stunted, odd guitar riffs answer the to and fro vocals, and overall it all sounds like they’ve been onto something good but have barely had an hour to rehearse it.
Ducking back into the Brudenell , I catch the much-hyped Palehorse. They borrow heavily from Deftones, which isn’t criminal – but it’s not great either. They manage to draw the interest of some fab 90s throwbacks at the front- who swing their dreds around in approval– but mostly the crowd seems restless and uncommitted. Heckles from a certain member of These Monsters don’t help.
Fortunately, if ever there was an act to pick up a lull in the evening, the next one would be it. The revoltingly named, all-round beloved Bilge Pump come to my rescue and take the stage. Why they’ve never really taken off on a wider scale is beyond me, perhaps they are just too much of a mish-mash of styles to be appreciated by most. But their songs are always witty and never overblown. So much DIY music can take itself too seriously, it’s nice to see the flip side once in a while.
There are some rough looking faces milling around at the beginning of Saturday’s fun, suggesting that Friday night lasted a lot later than kicking out time for some folks. The unlucky act responsible for giving musical CPR to those flagging, is Wonderswan. Their colossal, sprawling grunge definitely sets off the internal alarm clock but it’s painfully the wrong time of day for it. I can’t keep up the feigned enthusiasm, so it’s into the Games Room. Shoeless on the carpet, it’s The House of John Player. He’s not the world’s most charismatic front man, truth be told. The definition of ‘shoegaze’, he spends most of the set hunched, with his eyes glued to his keyboard. But what songs he has: loops and swirling loops of samples, built up with sublime delicacy. It’s the autonomy of it which is so impressive, someone who takes the phrase ‘Do It Yourself’ very literally. What was a solid performance wobbles towards the end when he adopts a strange falsetto, but otherwise it’s the highlight of the afternoon.
Photos: Hannah-Rachel Sunderland
Time for a pit stop, and more importantly, some ear plugs. Knowing both Shield Your Eyes and Blacklisters are on this evening, I wish to keep some of my hearing intact. Both pound the living daylights out of the Royal Park, Shield Your Eyes turn the dials up so loud that in effect, listening to them is like being deaf. It’s not their fault really; the cellar is notorious for throwing all its reverb back at the crowd, who seem to lap it up this evening. Yet it’s a fun filled 45 minutes.
The moment I’ve been waiting for all day, all weekend truthfully, arrives with That Fucking Tank. They are given the biggest slot of the weekend and for good reason: they are the Kings of this court. The Brudenell is packed to the rafters now, no one wants to miss this. And what of Tank? Well, they do what they have always done – rock hard, whip the crowd up into a head swinging frenzy and manage to be extremely frugal with their words. No one does this better than they do. They joke about how many times they’ve played at the Brudenell since they started, but that’s the point - they’re championed by people who encounter them.
As Tank finish to ringing applause, it’s easy to see why events like this are as important to some people as their more commercial neighbours. Looking around, half the crowd is made up of members of bands, promoters, people who have a say in what they like and listen to. There’s no assumption that this is done for the love of success or money, it’s just a celebration of the bands they think are best. No one is a better example of this than the man of the hour (Nodwell), who pops up at every turn, grinning appreciatively.