Live Review

Bowlie 2 (Day One)

Great scenes. Exhausting scenes.

Last band on the last night, Belle & Sebastian finish their triumphant set: Festival done right? Lights out? Go home? Not that night, that night we went upstairs, danced hard to John Peel’s DJ set, scarcely daring to believe the weekend we’d experienced. The first Bowlie changed everything. The genius of a band curating a festival brought together a vaguely homogenous group. Not the same people, God that’d be insufferable, but with everyone there because they loved one band it created a sense of community. It wouldn’t, couldn’t, have worked without the rich variety of line-up; the likes of Cornelius, Godspeed, Flaming Lips meant accusations of a twee overload could be laughed off, but there was definitely a sense of common purpose, a like-mindedness. Something that was unachievable amongst the disparate tribes of Glastonbury and Reading was created and paved the way for delightful, thoughtful festivals like Greenman, End Of The Road and Indietracks.

This year? Now? Communities are easier, they’re in our hands on our pretty phones, and ok yeah they’re virtual, they’re not tangible, but bring us together, give us a hash tag and there’s something genuine, something real here. There’s a connection that goes beyond a few thousand people watching the same band. The festival barely needs a review. Put #bowlie in your Twitter feed and you can learn everything; opinions on every band there. More than that, the acts are communicating directly on the same hash tag, barriers are broken down. We’re all in one place, doing the same thing. We’re a community.

But, hey, we should probably talk about some music right? Teenage Fanclub kicked-off the first Bowlie, so it’s fitting that they’re here this weekend. But we’re not doing nostalgia. It’s very much frowned upon. So this isn’t nostalgia, this is celebrating the present, and in the present TFC are playing a nostalgia-fuelled ‘Everything Flows’ and, God, it still matters as much as it ever did. Big, bold, beautiful noise. They play some new stuff of course and that’s fine. We smile, we tap feet. We’re ok with the present. And then they close with ‘The Concept’. We swoon because it’s one of the defining records of the indierock universe. It is much loved. Band Of The Weekend award gets a very early favourite.

Before TFC it was Best Coast, and if it’s nostalgia you want then, buddy, you’re in the right place. This lazy, hazy sugared music seems to have existed forever and, ok, Best Coast don’t really do anything new with it, they’ll never make jaws drop with glimpses of a Jetsons like future. But what they do is awful pretty, kinda comforting and has enough smarts to make them relevant. A bit like Drew Barrymore. But with better quality control.

Silver Columns are essential to festivals like this. Yeah, we all heart indiepop, but there has to respite, there has to be options. I’ve never cared loads for Adem and Pictish Trail have kinda escaped my attention, but stick them together, get them to make electropopfun and we get the first overtly party band of the weekend. Grins stretch across faces, limbs are coerced into first meaningful dancing. Fun is had, fun is good. And a cover of B&S’ ‘You Made Me Forget My Dreams’ brings sweet harmony and correlation.

Saint Etienne? Oh I don’t know. They’ve been around for so long, and every now and then they’ll channel the best of the Pet Shop Boys and come up with a shimmering (every Saint Etienne review says shimmering right) little classic. ‘He’s On The Phone’ still works, Sarah Cracknell has got a lovely party dress on, but they’re just light, and occasionally ponderous. The good bits are good. The bad bits are dull. What else is there to say? Insightful writing right?

I’ve done a few ATPs over the years, some have been such hard-work. Po-faced, bloke-centric, very very serious (Yes Slint, I‘m looking at you). Bowlie 2 has The Go! Team. Thank God. From further back the sound is awful, lyrics barely audible. So it’s to the front, to the place where the party is. You don’t need to think with The Go! Team, they tell you what to do. Jump, jump, jump, shout, shout, shout. Dance. Dance. We do what we’re told. It’s all a bit of a mess, but they’ve always had the ability to pull this off; take a jumble and force it into misshaped coherence. Great scenes. Exhausting scenes. It’s back to the chalet for a re-charge before heading back out. It’s only midnight. Oh dear, eyelids are heavy, chalet is warm… sorry. See you tomorrow.

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