While this year’s affair looks like it could be another wet one, Y Not’s indie-heavy lineup comes tailor-made to ensure Pikehall’s festivalgoers remain keen. One early highlight is Phoebe Green, who captivates with her effortlessly cool stage presence. Cult outfit The Royston Club later incite the day’s first mosh pits via their rough-around-the-edges indie. Meanwhile across the field, Mystery Jets are letting the festival in on future plans. We’ve been away for a while,” says frontman Blaine Harrison, “but we’re gonna play you a new song, let us know what you think” as the band launch into an as-yet-unnamed number.
The day’s focus, though, is firmly on headliners Royal Blood. The duo’s songs reverberate around the campsite from early morning; by the time they arrive on stage, the crowd is at fever pitch. Frontman Mike Kerr looks every bit the rock star in his leather jacket with collar popped, and from the opening notes of ‘Come On Over’, he showcases the commanding stage presence and attitude to match. The choice to include less heavy material backfires somewhat, as the rock-hungry audience’s energy visibly lulls, but extended versions of calling cards ‘Figure It Out’ and ‘Out Of The Black’ leave those who remain in no doubt of the band’s hefty credentials.
Saturday arrives bringing bright sunshine and numerous pairs wandering around as Mario and Luigi thanks to this year’s fancy dress theme, video games. It also marks DIY’s takeover of the Giant Squid stage, where Lime Garden, despite vocalist Chloe Howard confessing to be “both ill and tired” deliver a set that leaves those in front spellbound. Also suffering are Prima Queen, who today are missing their drummer. It makes for a set that relies on the outfit’s more subtle side, and the velvety vocal interplay between Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden. Chilli Jesson’s unhinged crooner persona, meanwhile, hits somewhere between Alex Turner and Jarvis Cocker. And as the former Palma Violet barks out his lyrics amid a cascade of cathartic guitar noise, he makes a case for eyes to remain firmly on him.
Unsurprisingly being 2023’s most-hyped band, The Last Dinner Party have, with just two songs out in the world, filled the Quarry Stage’s tent. Vocalist Abigail Morris evokes Kate Bush as she dances artfully around the stage – and despite some sound issues, the band prove themselves worthy of the fuss. At almost the opposite end of the spectrum, the same tent hosts sweaty mosh pits aplenty as The Murder Capital offer a blistering set of squealing guitars and sludgy vocals.
It's then Kasabian’s turn to conclude the day with a fiery set of indie favourites. Serge Pizzorno, wearing a leopard print robe, stands centre stage arms spread, bouncing around like a boxer sizing up his opponent. He punctuates opener ‘Club Foot’ with chants of “Mosh pit, mosh pit!” and the crowd remain a huge part of his band’s headline performance. “When this shit kicks in you know the score” he says during “Underdog,” before asking for people to climb on their friends shoulders for “You’re In Love With a Psycho”. On this showing, it’s clear Serge has assumed the role of part-frontman, part-hypeman with ease. A Kasabian gig is an all-encompassing experience and, while there are perhaps less obvious choices for a Saturday night headliner, this one is delivered in style.
There’s an alternative to the main stage madness, however in the shape of Everything Everything. “Thanks for not going to Kasabian” jokes frontman Jonathan Higgs, with a slight hint of sarcasm. Theirs is a much more relaxed affair, complete with smooth rhythms and slow dancing from audience members.
Deadletter energise a mid-afternoon crowd early at the Quarry Stage on the festival’s final day, before Sprints nearly take the roof off. Later sets there by Gengahr and Crawlers are affected by persistent sound issues, but the former’s proves stunning, and thanks in part to the weather, is performed to a full tent.
The rain continues in the lead up to Paul Weller’s headline set. Stage crew can be seen running across with towels to dry off effects pedals between songs – but spirits in front of the stage aren’t dampened. Even when contrary to assumptions from the crowd that tonight would be a ‘greatest hits’ type affair, the Modfather opts to include some lesser-known material. “A lot of you won’t know this one,” he says, introducing 2012 B-side ‘The Piper’, while he previews new material in the shape of ‘Take’. The set isn’t completely devoid of more familiar songs, though – ‘The Changingman’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’ get a look in as well as Jam classics ‘Start!’, ‘That’s Entertainment’ and ‘Town Called Malice’. There’s also time for a touching moment as he dedicates ‘Broken Stones’ to the late Sinead O’Connor, who he calls “our sister in song.” All in all, his mellow tones are the perfect way to end this year’s festival.
Photos: Ami Ford, Georgina Hurdsfield, Jake Haseldine, Sam McMahon.