Gunnersville Festival launches with Doves and closes with You Me at Six at Gunnersbury Park
This new event launched in West London’s Gunnersbury Park over the weekend. It was a relaxed affair, with obligatory festival nods to quirkiness: the stage was a big top. There is space to roam in this site and beams were set to full nostalgia with some elder indie statesmen leading the lineup.
On Friday night, the newly re-formed Doves played a tour through their career so far: gentle bangers characterised by their signature downbeat euphoria. The mesmerising Kingdom of Rust and arguably their best-known hit, Here Comes the Fear, were particular highlights. The tunes had new life breathed into them by worked-over arrangements. Lead singer Jimi Goodwin promised material soon after a nine-year hiatus, but in a way that was beside the point. The point was what they did achieve: a lovely singalong, with cider, as summer closed for the year. They ended the set with an encore from some current members’ former incarnation: Sub Sub’s 1991 hit Space Face, in a nod to the anniversary of the moon landings. A flare from a different world – the simpler past.
Warm-up on Friday was provided by Badly Drawn Boy and Echo and the Bunnymen. The latter are post-punk stalwarts who have made music since the 80s, led by singer-songwriter Ian McCulloch’s evocative voice. Their best known hits, The Killing Moon and Lips Like Sugar, sounded as good as ever, and lesser-known album tracks like Bed Bugs and Ballyhoo added depth with their gritty lyrics.
It’s been 19 years since Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, won the Mercury Prize with his platinum-selling debut, The Hour of Bewilderbeast. Its deftly drawn future-folk became ubiquitous and in this set his second song was that album’s opener, The Shining, with its distinctive opening bars of French horn and cello, for proper chills. Gough nodded to his hero Bruce Springsteen on Born in the UK and ended with the much-loved ballad Silent Sigh, from About a Boy, for a gently melancholic set.
On Sunday, there was a similarly rich line-up. American emo rockers Jimmy Eat World gave their track Criminal Energy its live debut. Their set combined classics with songs from their 2016 album Integrity Blues. A duet with You Me at Six’s Chris Miller on Hear You Me set the crowd on fire.
Earlier in the day, Norfolk alt-folk rockers Deaf Havana played most of their 2018 record Rituals, including hits Holy and Sinner. The band opened their show with fan favourite Boston Square.
Reading four-piece Sundara Karma provided some fun with their flamboyant, theatrical style, whose influences range from Boney M to Roxy Music to Gothic literature. They performed tracks from their second album, Ulfilas’ Alphabet – made with Everything Everything’s Alex Robertshaw and Madonna producer Stuart Price. The joyous set showcased their jubilant mid-noughties sound, with the icy electronic funk tune Flame proving a standout track.
Sunday headliners You Me at Six put in an energetic two-hour headline, charting life and love through 27 songs such as Jealous Minds Think Alike and Liquid Confidence. Frontman Josh Franceschi crowd-surfed and raised general rock shenanigans, which the audience loved, especially on favourites Save It for the Bedroom and Gossip.
With some of the best street food vendors from around the capital’s markets rounded up, gourmands were well catered to. Offerings included everything from fancy toppings on mac’n’cheese to beetroot dough pizza from the back of a Land Rover. Growlers served up Portuguese street food – notably the prego, beef bashed with a hammer and fried with butter and garlic; Cheeky Burger offered creations borne out of a chef’s wife’s pregnancy cravings; and modern Mexican from Luardos looked colourfully tempting. There was a literal smorgasbord of choice. These are street food vans that know their – marinated, locally grown – onions.
It’s not bleeding edge, but the lineup is clearly aimed at a certain demographic. And in tumultuous and uncertain times, it is unsurprising that many want to find comfort in a singalong of the soundtrack to their youth. It’s a nice laid-back little festival and it fulfils its brief admirably. Bring on next summer.
Photos: Nick Bennett / Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Gunnersville Festival 2019’s website here.
Watch the video for You Me at Six’s Save It for the Bedroom here: