A music festival in January, definitely a good way to start the year. Rockaway Beach is now in it’s third year at the Bognor Regis Butlins. I went to the first year, and in the main enjoyed the experience, my main issue, was the lack of bands on the bill. I felt with a few tweaks, it could be a great fixture in the festival calendar.
However, it’s gone backwards. I’m not sure why, but they moved this year’s festival from October to January. With no big headliners, this resulted in low ticket sales and therefore they sensibly kept the bill small, to make sure the event went ahead. Unfortunately, this meant that there was only about 10 bands each day. This meant there were big gaps between bands and if you didn’t like a band, it would mean waiting an hour before the next band. As Butlins limits the opening hours of much of the facilities, it can lead to sitting around with nothing to do.
Arriving a Butlins, it was a pleasure to find my room ready for early check-in. As you would expect, the rooms aren’t particularly luxurious. But it was clean and perfectly fine as the Butlins site is compact, a bolt-hole away when there was a gap in the festival. Opening the weekend were Crosa Rosa, a decent enough psych band.
The next band, God Colony, didn’t do much for me. Just two guys twiddling knobs on samples and the music did little for me. I’ve said it in the past, twiddling a knob on stage isn’t a live music experience.
With the crowd starting to build-up, the afternoon really kicked into another gear with the always excellent Band of Holy Joy. They’re the perfect band for this type of festivals, you’re guaranteed a good performance that will go down well with most audiences and lift the energy of the crowd. This performance was no different.
Next up, a new band for me, Warmduscher. I’m not really sure what music genre they fit into. Apparently they feature members of Childhood and the Fat White Family. As you’d expect with something involving members of the Fat White Family, they were fun. Coming on stage in a big Stetson with glitzy glasses, the performance was full on, with heavily distorted vocals. They went down well with the early evening crowd
Moving upstairs to the larger Central stage, Honeyblood gave their usual gutsy performance, with their drummer coping ably with the last remnants of a winter cold. As you would expect from Honeyblood’s simply, no nonsense sound, they went down really well with the crowd.
Effectively closing the ‘live performance’ were the Horrors. Bringing the goth pop to Butlins was maybe an odd choice, but somehow the kitsch Centre stage came to life with their excellent performance
Closing the evening wear the Orb. They’ve always passed me by. The occasional interesting song would cross into my consciousness, but over the last 20 years, they really haven’t appealed to me. This ‘live experience’ did little to win me over. It was just guys twisting knobs on a sample. I moved on and grabbed a beer
Opening Day 2 was a band I think I’ve seen, Melt Dunes. They’re a Psych band and played a lot of interesting music, but nothing to differentiate them from the dozens of other psych bands on the scene at the moment. That’s not necessarily an issue in my book, as I love the sound.
Next up were a metal band, Lower Slaughter. They did nothing for me. Lots of shouting – which isn’t necessarily a problem for me, but it was just the lack of energy. This was highlighted by some of the performances later in the day.
Moderate Rebels were moderately interesting. I didn’t like or dislike them. Which is fine for a support or festival band.
One of the things I quiet like about Rockaway Beach is how they throw different genres together into the same lineup. Soccer Mummy, is a singer songwriter from the US with that kind of understated indie songwriting you’ve seen been done countless times. She was pleasant, but there are a lot of similar artists.
A surprise for me, and continuing the theme of creating an eclectic lineup, Snapped Ankles were an impressive electro-pop-punk band. Dressed as if they’re shamans, there’s a lot of joy and rhythmic energy that won the crowd over. Definitely a good find.
Following on from Snapped Ankles was another good find, Desperate Journalist. The lead singer was an excellent front-person.
I saw She Drew the Gun last year. I enjoyed their gig, but I thought they worked better in this mixed company. After the punk sound of Desperate Journalist, the melody and word play of She Drew the Gun worked really well. I guess it shows that you don’t have to be angry to write music to change minds.
Closing the downstairs venue and sadly the only real clash in the weekend, the excellent rock band Pulled Apart By Horses. I’ve seen them at festivals and they always give 100%. Tonight was no different.
Moving upstairs for the real reason why I was here. British Sea Power were given a decent length set that allowed them to play an extended festival set that was closers to the kind of sets they play during their own gig, mixing new songs with some of the crowd favourites.
Closing the evening and playing one of their last live sets, Wild Beasts were just as boring as they have been throughout their careers and signalled that it was time to grab a beer and relax.
Opening Day 3 was a band called Koyo and a great way to start the day.
Sweaty Palms were up next. Sadly the singer was feeling ill so they finished the set early, which was a pity as I liked what I heard. I’ll have to catch them another time.
I’d heard good things about Drug Store Romeos, a very young looking band. I have to admit they didn’t do much for me.
Eyrie Lieu went down really well with the early day crowd. They didn’t do much for me.
Yonaka were up next. I’ve seen them a few times. This was possibly the best performance I’ve seen. They were really excellent and one of the highlights of Day 3
A new old band for me were Gang of Four. There’s only one remaining member of the original band. But the newbies convinced me to go back and listen to the old stuff.
I grabbed a beer or two so didn’t really take any notice of Alabama Three. The stuff playing in the background, was as rubbish as I expected.
Closing the evening and the festival was Peter Hook and the Light. As a member of two influential bands, in the Joy Division and New Order, the back catalogue was vast. I grew up liking New Order. But later in life, went back and listened to the seminal Joy Division. I thought the Joy Division stuff worked best for me. But I’m glad I caught him.