Into Music Live Review: Rockaway Beach Festival
Festival: Rockaway Beach
Venue: Bognor Regis, Butlins
Date: 06/07/08 January 2023
As I watched and listened to the Sunday headliners, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom, run through choice cuts from their 2022 album Reset, I momentarily wondered what Billy Butlin would have made of it all. Butlin, of course, was at the forefront of the first ever holiday camps in the U.K. back in the 1930s and the Bognor Regis was the host venue of the Rockaway Beach music festival. I reckon he’d have loved it, the sell-out crowd enjoying the whole weekend and, of course, while music is at the centre of it, there’s plenty more going on besides. The Splash waterpark was well-utilised. Artist Q&As, films, music/vinyl stalls, plenty of eateries and DJ’s playing into the small hours, and more puggies and arcade games than I could possibly count. So, plenty going on.
The set is fantastic, psychedelic dream-pop sweeping over the main hall, filled with beach boy harmonies. Edge Of The Edge being a particular favourite. Of course, with festivals it’s always a constant juggle with ‘who to see’ and ‘what to do’. We arrived late on Friday so the opportunity to see Life, Acid Klaus and Billynomates was taken away from us which was a shame. We did, though, see a little of The Primitives and the Coventry band were on fine form in the Reds auditorium. We then hot-footed it to the main stage to see Self Esteem (aka Rebecca Taylor). I had no preconceptions about what to expect though I was aware of the growing respect the band/artist has received in recent months. There are a few elements of theatre and choreography. None more so than on the track Fucking Wizardry, which was just sensational and majestic. Prioritise Pleasure was bass-heavy. The sole of my shoes literally shook with the reverb while You Forever provided a pure slice of disco pop. Taylor, along with her three backing singers then provided a spine tingling acapella version of John Elton which will go down as one of the highlights of the entire festival. Lyrically clever, an amazing voice and a talented backing band, go see Self Esteem when you get the chance, they will be superstars.
The Friday headline was Peter Hook & The Light and the ex New Order bassist and his band did not disappoint. The set was split in two, the first half consisting of Joy Division tracks including She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay and Transmission while the second half was devoted to New Order. The familiar bass line introduction of Age Of Consent was pitch perfect. The crowd ebbing and flowing and singing along as if there was no tomorrow. From there, hard to believe, but it got better with the band in fine form. Regret, True Faith and a sublime Blue Monday showcased the five-piece’s sound. An absolute smorgasbord of tunes. The band finished with a three song encore, Ceremony, Temptation and Love Will Tear Us Apart. Magnificent.
On Saturday, we headed to the smaller ‘Reds’ auditorium to see Glasgow band Vlure put on a show that was relentless, bombastic and off the scale. Vocalist, Hamish Hutcheson, announced “We are fuckin’ Vlure and we’re from fuckin’ Glasgow“. Quite the introduction but the indie dance quintet have the chops and tunes to back it up, the sound and attitude a mix of The Prodigy and the Amazing Snakeheads. Their set was 40 minutes long and nothing was left in reserve. Hutcheson and guitarist Conor Goldie in particular dived about the stage and at one point invaded the crowd for a joint vocal. New single Cut It was fantastic and the beats on Shattered Faith and Euphoria will live long in the memory. They closed with a poignant tribute to Maxi Jazz who remains a big influence on the band, covering the Faithless track God Is A DJ.
Indie rockers The Goa Express also put in a sound show in Reds albeit their set took an age to start due to technical issues. However, it was worth the wait, the band were reminiscent of Adorable and Ride. Second Time is an absolute stellar track. Glorious and harmonious, whereas The Day is more punky, underpinned by strong keyboards and a bassline holding it all together. Early days for the Burnley/Todmorden band and if they can work on their stage presence they’ve got a chance of bigger and better things to come.
Despite a recent broken rib Andy McCluskey was still in fine form as OMD headlined Saturday night in the main auditorium. A twenty song set covered the band’s career to date including Tesla Girls, (Forever) Live And Die, Joan of Arc, Enola Gay and Electricity. Paul Humphries and McCluskey, of course, know how to put on a performance and that they did.
Into Sunday and an early set in Reds for Hamish Hawk. There is no doubt the Edinburgh singer’s star is on the rise following the success of his 2021 album, Heavy Elevator, with significant airplay on the likes of BBC6 Music. A natural performer, Hawk also has an excellent band behind him, Andrew Pearson’s guitar weaving in and out while drummer Stefan Maurice keeps a solid beat. Opening with Calls to Tiree, the track was delivered with aplomb, Pearson’s guitar virtuosity towards the end raising the bar. Recent singles Think Of Us Kissing and Money (from new album Angel Numbers released February 3rd) were aired and were well received by the Rockaway crowd. The Mauritian Doubles Champion, 1973 saw the crowd sing along before Caterpillar brough matters to a close. Hawk’s idiosyncratic style went down a storm. Hawk heads out on a U.K. tour in February, buy a ticket to your local show. You won’t regret it.
Back over at the main stage Derry’s finest, The Undertones put on a set that was punk perfect. Starting with You’ve Got My Number it was an absolute thrill to see and hear the band. The O’Neill brothers on guitar, the bass of Michael Bradley, the drumming of Billy Doherty and the vocals of Paul McLoone, they were like a well-oiled machine from start to finish. Tracks included Jimmy Jimmy, Julie Ocean and Here Comes The Summer are laden with so many hooks, so many harmonies. They totally owned the stage. Of course, the crowd got in on the act too, singing along to My Perfect Cousin and Teenage Kicks. It was an absolute manic pop thrill…
Overall, a fantastic festival, the bands were great, the crowds fantastic in the main and the venue tip-top. Back next year? I’ve already signed up – you should too. For more details, head over to the Rockaway Beach website here.