It’s strange reflecting on Y Not in retrospect of the shroud of controversy circulating amongst the realms of social media. Nevertheless, despite the endless pits of mud dredged up by the constant flow of festivalgoers, the line up to this festival was a serious winner compared to other bills of this year, therefore we were so excited regardless to see the acts we managed to catch.
Y Not started out simply known as Big Gin, a small gathering of sixth form students from Queen Elizabeth’s’ Grammar School in Ashbourne back in 2005. In the years following, the event gained popularity, subsequently being renamed Y Not Festival and moving first to a quarry in Derbyshire, then to its permanent residence at Pikehall Farm, which is exactly where we made our way to on Friday 28th July.
It wasn’t long before the main attraction reared its ugly head; the rain. It certainly made itself known, but regardless we trudged up to The Quarry stage to catch Sheffield boys Oddity Road. The audience gave the lesser known group a massively warm reception, and bopped along excitedly to the simple indie pleasure that is their sound.
We then wandered down to the Giant Squid stage and stumbled across four-piece Twin Wild. The vocal from frontman Richard Hutchinson was stunning, instantly catching your attention. The band seemed humble, and upon asking, “how many people have seen us before?”, a large array of hands filled the air along with an appreciative cheer, leading the band to appear slightly taken aback. Their alt rock jams were liquid gold to the ears; Twin Wild are definitely a group to watch out for on future festival bills.
We decided to check out small venue The Tippling House. The tiny tent was adorned with hay bales and decorative ceiling hangings, not to mention the vintage lanterns hanging over the bar in the corner. A wonderful three-piece group named Acoustic Theories were there playing some relaxed covers; their versions of Times Like These (Foo Fighters) and Little Lion Man (Mumford & Sons) were particularly wonderful, inspiring the gathering inside to burst into spontaneous singalongs.
Wandering around the festival site, it became quickly apparent why it is so appealing to families. Strewn across the area named The Octopus’ Garden are giant versions of board games, not to mention several tents offering family friendly activities, something not very common at other music festivals.
Another point of interest is the area named Creative Intentions; a beautiful café and communal space decorated wonderfully. This team should be so very proud of themselves with the area they created and maintained over the two days. The shisha area was so warm and cosy, not to mention the wonderful knick-knacks, hats, scarves, you name it on sale to punters.
At the Xanadu stage, we found a wonderful ska group named Smiling Ivy. The atmosphere in here was honestly electric, and not one person in there was standing still, dancing excitedly along to the upbeat tunes; a wonderful way of lightening the spirits of the damp souls battered by the rain.
Nothing but Thieves absolutely stole the whole of Friday, with their blistering main stage set. Despite having their set cut to just thirty minutes, they kept the attention of everyone in the vicinity the entire time. They played flawlessly, as if they were headlining the entire night. Recent hit Amsterdam went down a storm to close the show, with vocalist Conor Mason diving into the soggy crowd to get amongst the action, much to the adoring fans’ elation.
We were disappointed to hear soon after that due to the worsening weather conditions, electronic group Clean Bandit’s set, which was billed as a full band performance, would now be changed to a DJ/Live PA set. The performance featured full time member Luke Patterson on the decks and two outstanding vocalists belting out hit after hit. The adoring mass of an audience completely lapped it up, revelling in every moment despite the initial disappointment of not receiving a full performance. The crowd became so engrossed that when the trio departed the stage after a measly thirty minutes, there was a chorus of boos. This is obviously an organisational choice made due to the unrelenting battering of rain which hadn’t let up all day, but nevertheless a huge shame as fans were truly on cloud nine throughout.
Young Guns played the Giant Squid tent at the opposite side of the festival. Frontman Gustav Woods’ voice was a standout, effortlessly hitting every note. The one disappointment of this set, bearing in mind it is a festival, was that some of their well-known hits are missing, with the group opting to play more recent album tracks instead. Their cover of My Hero however, went down a treat with the slightly inebriated crowd, with every person in the tent screaming the famous chorus at the top of their lungs. It was definitely not the standout set of the festival, but pure rock charm nonetheless.
It was disappointing to discover from the punters walking back up through the main arena that headliners The Vaccines’ performance had unfortunately had to be completely cancelled due to, you guessed it, the weather. This was a huge dismay to fans, some of who had come for the weekend mainly to watch this hugely popular band. However, Y Not favourite Frank Turner made a fantastically brilliant substitute up at The Quarry stage. Playing an acoustic solo set, the Hampshire songster seamlessly captured each member of the packed-out tent into the palm of his hand with every word. It was a wonderful, calm ending to a turbulent first day.
Waking up to the beautiful heat of the sunlight on day two was a blessed relief after the absolute deluge of water through the day before. However, this feeling quickly turned to dread as we walked up to the main arena; the mud was now stickier than if you dunked your feet in a vat of golden syrup. This made it incredibly hard going as we trudged as fast as humanly possible to the Giant Squid stage for Blackpool punks Strange Bones. Thankfully, this was completely one hundred percent worth it. Right from the first song, the set was absolute carnage. Singer and guitarist Bob Bentham spent more time diving headfirst into the sea of faces staring back at him than on the stage, much to the disapproval of the dejected looking security staff, but hey, this is punk rock, right? A highlight of the show was Bentham’s donning of a balaclava for recent protest song against Theresa May, Big Sister. Honestly, this performance was the highlight of the entire festival. There’s no doubt in my mind that this time next year they’ll be on mainstream festival bills left, right and centre.
Another raucous punk act which completely owned the day were duo Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent, more commonly known as Slaves. With this set on the Big Gin stage, you’d think they were headlining the entire day. The show is an absolutely enthralling racket, with hits Cheer Up London and Hey sending the mass of bodies gathered to witness into a total frenzy. In just twelve songs, the pair gained appreciation with revellers of all ages. Whether you’re a long standing devout fan or not, Slaves won the admiration of everyone present.
Next up we caught Nottingham soloist Jake Bugg, who drew an enormously packed out audience to the Big Gin stage. The crooning, individual sound of his intriguing vocal carried beautifully across the field, and provided a nice soundtrack to the Peak District sunset, (particularly in the case of ballad Broken). He ended the performance with standout track Lightning Bolt, and geared the crowd up spectacularly for headliners Stereophonics.
Stereophonics were the true stars of Saturday night, with a slick, polished performance to rival any other band on the line up. Blasting through hit after hit, the Welsh foursome completely proved why they are one of the biggest acts to emerge from the Valleys. A particular standout moment was frontman Kelly Jones’ solo stint; donning an acoustic guitar, he swooned through a mash up of Highway to Hell (ACDC), Paranoid (Black Sabbath), Gimme All Your Lovin’ (ZZ Top), Dancing in The Dark (Bruce Springsteen) ending with Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin). They debuted their recently released single All in One Night, which was received warmly by the audience, with almost as much response to this as the old favourites. They finished the set, unsurprisingly, with worldwide smash hit Dakota, which sounded as perfect as it does in its’ studio recorded state, which was followed by a barrage of wonderful fireworks to truly end the night in style. By the end of Saturday, we were totally in the spirit of the festival and ready to seize Sunday and take it for all it’s worth…
…Until we woke up sadly to the unfortunate news that due to increasingly unsettled weather, the organisers of Y Not Festival had taken the difficult decision to cancel the entire festival. Guests were instructed to leave the site quietly and calmly, and thus as we piled into the car this brought our experience of Y Not to a close.
Overall, this year’s instalment of the award-winning Y Not Festival was simply the weekend that should have been. But as reports came in just a day after the event was abruptly cancelled of failures on almost every level, whether it be facilities, security, or even sound quality, it soon became clear that this was becoming about more than just the bad weather throughout Friday 28th July, it was about fans who felt let down by a festival they have grown loyal to. On a whole, our personal experience of the event was pretty damn great. Y Not has a lot to offer in the way of variety of activities, it’s simply a shame that others who attended did not share this joy and excitement.
On Friday 4th August Y Not Festival announced that they would be refunding 50% of ticket costs to customers, a kind gesture to fans who were clearly disappointed by their experience. They also stated that they would be returning with the event in 2018, and were committed to making it “the best show in our history and putting right what went wrong in 2017.”
All we can hope is that they pull through with this claim, and make Y Not a renowned festival once again, fixing their sadly tarnished reputation.
For further information regarding refunds, visit http://www.ynotfestivals.co.uk/y-not-2017-official-statement/