‘HASTINGS ROCKS’ – L’OVALE, HASTINGS 28.8.21
Hastings Rocks was a one-day festival, set up to showcase the richness of the region’s diverse musical talents. Managed by the people behind the annual Fat Tuesday event, in conjunction with Hastings Pride, it also made a point of using a local stage crew and sound and light technicians, as well as DJs. , photographers and filmmakers. Catering is also provided by selected local outlets and suppliers in recognition of the difficult times felt across the hospitality industry during the recent pandemic.
This must be the first time I spend time at home during the August bank holiday weekend and why not? Because the offering is one of the best music days and it’s literally on my doorstep – well, a four minute walk anyway.
And after the forced break on Fat Tuesday, it looks like a phoenix rising from the embers… an opportunity for the city to celebrate Hastings’ best musical talent. We truly have one of the richest offerings on the market.
Located in The Oval with panoramic views over the English Channel, this is the perfect setting for a fun day out.
The Oval, for those who don’t know, is an open space up the hill in the city center. The site includes a main outdoor stage and a second tent stage run by the local venue, The Piper. The infrastructure was set up for a free event (Hastings Pride) at the same venue the next day – and organizers wanted to make sure it didn’t go to waste.
With cameras to install, I asked my friend Richie Nice to do one of his insightful pieces on the opening acts before he had to move it on to another gig… leaving me briefly to jot down some notes on the bands. following …
I have to be somewhere else later, but I couldn’t help but spend the afternoon once I saw the scene times… because the local hot / heads hot / shots Kapichi Child, who you’d normally expect to be one of the headliners, has a spot for The Specials at Margate later tonight, so was playing at the very early hour of 1:45 p.m. ET. They were followed by another excellent young group, Blabbermouth, and the closeness of the two sets is too good to miss.
The first impression upon arriving at the site is that it is well run. There is a lot of staff and security, and everyone seems friendly and courteous. Inside there is a good selection of food vendors, and it’s quick and easy to buy a drink. The main stage looks impressive and imposing, and a large sound system moves a lot of air.
On stage when I arrived was Hayley Sauvage, completing his set in his usual low-key way … but on the other hand, the next step was Sister Suzie and his band, pumping good rhythm and blues boogie.
I can spot Suzie’s bright orange jumpsuit across the field, and her performance is just as eye-catching. It’s a lot of fun, and early afternoon revelers enjoy a dance in the hot sun. The group is tight and smooth, all seasoned artists of course. I recognize the familiar gurgling dance of local bass legend Andy Ingram, pumping over a red four-string Gibson SG. Matt Jackson wears a brown zoot suit and provides a lot of the twang of a semi-acoustic Gibson, and there’s Al Nicholls on tenor saxophone. The set is a mixture of covers and originals and goes very nicely.
The change gives time to have another beer and chat with a few friends, then it’s time to Kapichi Childis set. They brought their own backline with beautifully painted flight cases with the band’s logo. If you haven’t met them, the band has been one of the hottest bands in Hastings for many years. Their high-energy alternative rock, combining a glam-tinged guitar with a punk attitude, won them a loyal following nationwide and their stunning debut album. ‘This time next year’ has cemented their reputation far beyond the south coast.
The whole does not start off on the right foot. During the opening number “City of workers”, lead singer Jack Wilson does not hear his guitar at all, and the offending instrument is thrown onto stage in a moment of spectacular frustration. If it didn’t work before, it sure won’t work now. Sound issues resolved, the band set off with an assault set, guitarist Ben Beetham and bassist Eddie Lewis leaping around the stage like sparkling firecrackers as Jack growls into the mic. Everything is supported by the thunderous rhythms of George Macdonald behind the kit. Every song is a singing classic, although “Self saboteur” and ‘Sequins’ particularly stands out for me. It’s all over far too soon, and the group will no doubt be straight into the van and headed for Margate.
Fellow Hastings four-piece Blabbermouth follow a largely similar path, combining guitar-based indie rock with a bit of a youthful punk attitude. This is their first gig on a festival stage, and they had a forced line-up change today, with regular bassist Alfie Rolph having to go into isolation. A dep called Liam, sporting a gloriously retro look reminiscent of Phineas from “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” bravely stepped in and learned the songs at short notice. You wouldn’t know, as the band have a tight, punchy sound, and have a quite dominant presence that belies their relative inexperience.
Singer and guitarist Max Williams exudes star quality and throws himself onto the stage with reckless abandon. Lead guitarist Leon Knowles looks ominously wearing a school uniform, but battles the jaw-dropping riffs of a white Stratocaster with a confident air and consummate ease. Harry Giles sends quick fills around the kit with power and precision. It’s a performance that deserves to be higher in the bill, although I’m personally glad they played early and was able to catch their set. The most significant number for me was the recent single, ‘Razor Switchblade Smile’.
Come back to me (Sara):
So from now on, even though I was focusing on getting tons of photos to document the event, it was up to me to try and say a few things about the rest of the show… so in no particular order and with brevity. in mind here we are!
First off, hats off to The 2nd wild line group that brought a touch of traditional Mardi Gras to the debates. Basically no musical event in Hastings is complete without the presence of Dr. Savage… and Ryan is always at his best when he has the guys from Second Line behind him.
Hot wax were next and stood out as a highlight for me. They really felt like they were blossoming – every time I saw them they grew in confidence and strength, and that was no exception. They’ll be playing at the Green Door Store soon, so check them out in Brighton… as well as the De La Warr show where they support legendary Adrian Sherwood and Rhoda Dakar – alongside Ruts DC.
Then there was applause for Message from the crows (an absolute highlight for me) who offered nourishment for the soul with their heartbreakingly beautiful harmonies. They sing songs from those lost stories that the Ravens have heard whispered over time. Their music is based on pure emotion and leaves you both satisfied and wanting more. As you float, you are drawn into their ethereal yet familiar world at the same time. A space that envelops you with a totally modern touch and a love of life.
Rocket men released a brilliantly energetic queen-set which the crowd loved and had a great song and dance.
This has merged into an unusual set of Rufus Stone (with guest voices from Helene sharpe) which totally showed how fortunate our city is to have such talented musicians among us.
Rufus was followed by the somewhat softer sounds of the Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou whose beautiful harmonies floated on the gentle breeze and provided a deliciously cool interlude before energy levels were spiked again as the festival moved into its closing hours.
This saw the scene taken by Anyone Anyone and Buddha triangle, who both performed effervescent original sets, which generated energetic reactions from an admiring crowd.
Sam wills then he pulled out his usual crowd-pleasing barnstorming set, and with his bright-eyed grandmother right up front, he sparkled as the early evening light faded into the twilight.
Then the scene gave way to the title act, and Lister skinny engaged the crowd as only they know how to do. Great songs and great energy – and predictably addictively… anyone who didn’t know them at this point came away loving them.
All I can say is roll on Fat Tuesday and here is Hastings Rocks 2.0 in 2022.