30 sep 2010, 14:12
Sat 25 Sep – Underground Festival presented by Gloucester Guildhall
There were flashes of brilliance and it was run like clockwork, but the inaugural Underground Festival at the Gloucester Guildhall is definitely still in its infancy.
Fifteen quid for a day of live music is a bargain (I went for the Sunday), so I can't complain too much, but there were niggles that left it feeling a little unprepared. The venue has a cafe and bar, but stopped serving food in the mid-afternoon, forcing people to either gorge on crisps and chocolate or make a foray into the deserted Gloucester town centre for sustenance (I was glad of a steak and ale pie in a nice pub down the road). The Risk & Consequences acoustic stage was a nice touch (with sparkly lights and a rug), but it wasn't at all sound insulated so even a loud conversation in the adjoining corridor disrupted the performance, let alone another band warming up. And festival goers used to diversions between bands would be disappointed - there was nothing aside from the bar and a tiny merchandise stall. The real Achilles heel was, I suspect, the transport situation: ending at midnight, the last buses or trains out had already departed. This must have deterred many - most of the audience through the day appeared to be band members or their friends - and the crowd had shrunk to a mere fifty people by the time headliners The Joy Formidable took to the stage.
But enough griping. Midnight Mile
was the gem of the acoustic stage, with Romy Quinnen's brilliantly sweet vocals accompanied perfectly by Andy Oliveri's guitar and vocals. Many of the bands on the Music Glue stage were hotly tipped, but I was generally a bit underwhelmed, including by Tall Ships. Only Islet
, the you-have-to-see-them-to-understand Cardiff art-post-rock band lived up to expectations, both confusing and delighting as they dashed off stage through the crowd, howled, dropped to their knees, used any available surface as percussion, and swapped instruments during songs.Little Fish
stood out on the main stage with their angular garage rock, especially the single Am I Crazy?
. I had to flee from the rock-by-numbers-for-pubescent-boys of Pulled Apart By Horses
, but I returned for The Joy Formidable
, who were the reason I bought the ticket in the first place - and they did not disappoint. A tight, energetic and engaging performance culminating in guitar torturing and an air raid siren left tingles running down my spine.