Y Not? Festival - Live In Pikehall, Derbyshire

The skies open, but the spirits rise...

After 2012’s award-winning Y Not?, 2013’s event has much to live up to. But on Clash’s arrival, the optimism for what’s to come is obvious: gazebos rise, chairs spread out, and cans fizz open. The beautiful fields and valleys of the Peak District are bathed in sunshine.

Rumours abound. There’s a secret tent, a wardrobe in the Watchtower Bar. Clash investigates – and sure enough we find a scene where raps, beats and skanking play out. Another secret, less well kept, is the presence of Reverend And The Makers, who take to the Big Gin Stage on Friday evening.

“Surprise!” says frontman Jon McClure, aka the Reverend. The outfit proceeds to showcase its self-coined ‘indie-step’, but the effect on these senses is limited. Perhaps McClure should focus more on his band’s music – ‘Bassline’ is just one of a few numbers that fails to impress – than revelling in the self-indulgence of Twitter.

Clearly, the heavens aren’t too moved, either – and soon the festival site is visited by thunder and lightning, torrential rain falling, as if to wash the Reverend and company away. As a result of the dramatic change in weather, Mystery Jets have to cut their set short.

Surviving the flood are dan le sac and Scroobius Pip, whose Quarry Stage set is a blend of infectious beats diving into house and drum ‘n’ bass territories alongside Pip’s heartfelt tales of life, delivered in intense fashion. However serious their music gets, though, the pair maintains a distinctly laidback manner, offering banter beside their original sounds. They’re a standout of Friday’s line-up.

On the Big Gin Stage, The Horrors show exactly why they’re regarded as one of the more intelligent and unpredictable bands in the UK right now. Their performance is an enigmatic one, members consumed by a storm of dry ice, silhouettes the only evidence of their presence. They say little, but the music says everything.

Swim Deep impress on Saturday, playing midway up the Big Gin’s bill. ‘She Changes The Weather’ is an emotionally charged highlight, and the uplifting vocals of ‘Honey’ truly connect. A cover of ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ is aired, and the Birmingham foursome leaves knowing their dreamy, sun-kissed sound has earned them a good few new fans.

Contrastingly, The Cribs’ headline set is a roaring, scuzzy and gloriously lo-fi occasion. Opening with ‘Chi-Town’ and closing with ‘City Of Bugs’, it’s a performance that tears into the night. The Jarmans end by taking their instruments to the slaughter, smashing the gear around them, Gary eventually carrying Ryan from the stage as the frontman continues to scratch at his guitar.

Electric Six might only be known (best) for a pair of hits, but the band nevertheless attracts an impressive crowd on Sunday night, one that spills from the sides of the Quarry Stage’s tent. Bravely placing both ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Danger! High Voltage’ mid-set, the band exudes a real confidence in its material, and the move pays off. A mass exodus doesn’t materialise, and the band is even allowed to run over their allotted time, as they’re “killing it”. Clash can certainly believe them.

Those studying the skies over Y Not?’s site might have spotted a certain unidentified flying object – one that might just be looking for permission to land. You can see where we’re going with this: The Darkness crash land on Sunday night, and prove to be on top form, too. Justin Hawkins prowls the stage with energy in abundance, brandishing his guitar like a weapon of mass destruction. ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ are received like the hits they are – but the best is saved for last. ‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’ goes on “for f*cking ever”, and midway through the front three members disappear only to emerge in the audience, on the shoulders of security folk, to crowd-surf their way back to the stage. It makes for a remarkable end to the festival.

The rain doesn’t dampen any spirits, and Y Not? 2013 continues to impress. Its growth has been tremendous – but now, with the site’s capacity having reached its limit, it’ll be interesting to see where organisers take things from here.

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Words: Luke Nightingale

Photos: Danny Payne

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