Brockwell Park has been the venue for music festivals for over forty years, probably the most famous being the Rock Against Racism festival in 1978, which was headlined by The Clash, and featured just about anyone who was anyone in the punk universe. Whether today’s Wide Awake Festival will become similarly legendary is doubtful, but today’s headliner is Primal Scream, who will be performing their album ‘Screamadelica’ in its entirety, which certainly seems to have pulled the punters in.
My first band of the day is Sorry, who I first saw back in 2017 supporting Shame at Tufnell Park Dome. Today an extended soundcheck eats into the first ten minutes of their allotted time, but they still manage to do their entire set. They are purveyors of pleasant indie, which whilst it isn’t going to change the world, is certainly entertaining, and makes a good start to the day.
‘As The Sun Sets’
‘Right Round The Clock’
‘Screaming In The Rain’
‘There’s So Many People That Want To Be Loved’
I caught Katy J Pearson who I had seen and reviewed at the recent Great Escape Festival in Brighton. She’s an excellent indie singer-songwriter with traces of folk rock in her work. Highlights of her set include recent single ‘Alligator’, and ‘Willow Song’, which is a cover from the ‘Wicker Man’ soundtrack. Katy’s set concludes with ‘Fix Me Up’, ‘Take Back The Radio’ and ‘Tonight’, from her debut album ‘Return’. A fine piece of work though that album is, ‘Alligator’ and new song ‘Confession’ point to new album ‘Sound Of The Morning’ (which is released in July) being very well worth looking forward to.
Katy J Pearson setlist:
‘Talk Over Town’
‘Game Of Cards’
‘Fix Me Up’
‘Take Back The Radio’
The next stop on my journey through the Wide Awake Festival is Nation Of Language, who I reviewed at Old Street XOYO back in February – Read that report HERE. On their current batch of dates they are accompanied by Alex MacKay of the Cutouts as their touring bassist. Their 1980s pop smarts are well in evidence though, and they remain an exciting live band.
Nation Of Language setlist:
‘Wounds Of Love’
‘The Grey Commute’
‘This Fractured Mind’
‘The Wall & I’
‘Across That Flat Line’
One of the first real highlights of the day are Yard Act. How long they will continue to be this far down a festival is a matter for conjecture, but I have a feeling that it won’t be very long (or “very f*cking long” as they might say.). They simply get noticeably better every time I see them. Humour (much of it dark) is never far from the surface at a Yard Act gig. Vocalist James Smith introduces ‘Witness’ as ‘Can I Get A Witness?’, but it’s not that one.
Nuha Ruby Ra and Katy J Pearson join the band on vocals for a rendition of Jonathan Richman’s ‘Roadrunner’, which is good fun, but it’s the band’s own material carries the day. Catch them live before they start playing arenas.
Yard Act setlist:
‘The Trapper’s Pelts’
‘Land Of The Blind’
‘Ten Thousand Apologies: Fat White Family And The Miracle of Failure’ is a recent biography of the band, authored by Lias Saouidi and Adelle Stripe. On seeing the title of this book, one could be forgiven for thinking that the band were on their last legs. Well, I can happily report that Fat White Family are very much in rude health, and on great form. Despite opener ‘Worms’ being a discordant instrumental featuring a beer keg being played like a drum of sorts, and the vocals consisting of chants, the musicality of the Fat Whites remains pretty impressive.
The set features classics such as ‘Wet Hot Beef’ and ‘Whitest Boy On the Beach’. However, ‘Bomb Disneyland’ makes for a more than fitting finale, ending with a cacophony that Hawkwind would be proud of. Lias may perhaps consider the band to be failures, but I’m pretty sure nobody else does.
Fat White Family setlist:
‘Wet Hot Beef’
‘I Believe In Something Better’
‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’
The next stage (pardon the pun) in my Wide Awake Festival adventure is to see Tropical F*ck Storm at the Bad Vibrations x So Young Mag stage. I must confess that before today I knew little more about Tropical F*ck Storm other than their name (it kind of sticks in the mind). The band was formed in 2017 by Gareth Liddiard (guitar, vocals) and Fiona Kitschin (bass) from The Drones. They soon recruited Lauren Hammel from High Tension on drums, and Erica Dunn from Mod Con on guitar and keyboards. So they are something of an Australian punk/alt rock supergroup.
They are certainly very arresting live. Their music is arty and experimental ethereal psychedelia. There are elements of post punk too, particularly The Slits and early PIL. If this sounds a little too arty, there is also some severe guitar mangling on display too. This band are probably my best discovery for a while. Unfortunately they don’t have any UK shows scheduled at the moment, but when they do I shall certainly be there!
Tropical F*ck Storm setlist:
‘Lose The Baby’
‘You Let My Tyres Down’
As we get closer to the headline event, Amyl And The Sniffers take to the main stage. Not that they are in any mind to play second fiddle to anyone, not even Primal Scream. Amy Taylor is a brilliant front-person, and soon has the audience eating out of her hand. Since I last saw the band at Camden Electric Ballroom in November, the band seem to have grown considerably. There is a maturity about them that wasn’t there before. They look perfectly at ease playing a big stage in front of a large audience, which wasn’t necessarily the case before. They certainly deserve to be confident. Live they are tight and powerful, and their material is as excellent as it has always been. Unfortunately today’s set is relatively short, but it still packs a memorable punch.
Amyl And The Sniffers setlist:
‘Guided By Angels’
‘No More Tears’
‘Don’t Fence Me In’
And so we arrive at the main event, the reason why most people are here: Primal Scream performing ‘Screamadelica’ in its entirety. I must confess that I have somewhat mixed feelings about this: on the one hand I’ve waited the best part of thirty years to hear this album performed live (although I have seen Primal Scream on a number of occasions in the past); on the other hand I’m a little concerned – does this reaching for the nostalgia dollar mean that Primal Scream are now a heritage band?
Today’s Primal Scream are a quite different animal from the band that recorded ‘Screamadelica’. Guitarist Robert “Throb” Young is sadly no longer with us. Neither is vocalist Denise Johnson. Although officially a guest on the album, she is all over the record and toured with the band on the ‘Screamadelica’ tour. Today she is replaced by four backing singers, which in many ways tells you all you need to know.
So, was today’s performance of ‘Screamadelica’ any good? Well, yes it was. Indeed, it was awesome; an absolutely unqualified success. The performances were authentic, and the order of the album is largely followed, although ‘Loaded’ is saved for the encores. The question of whether Primal Scream are now a heritage band is more difficult to answer. The most recent song played tonight was ‘Country Girl’ from the ‘Riot City Blues’ album of 2006. Primal Scream’s most recent album was ‘Chaosmosis’ which was released in 2016, and nothing was played from it tonight. I would conclude that Primal Scream are certainly in danger of becoming a heritage band. However, I well remember the impact that ‘Screamadelica’ had upon its release in 1991. I also remember the ‘XTRMNTR’ (pronounced ‘Exterminator’) having a not dissimilar impact in 2000. I feel confident that Primal Scream could still create that kind of stir in the 2020s.
Primal Scream setlist:
‘Movin’ On Up’
‘Slip Inside This House’
‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’
‘I’m Comin’ Down’
‘Higher Than The Sun’
‘Shine Like Stars’
And so the Wide Awake Festival ends. Today has been very enjoyable, but there have been some organisational glitches which did raise cause for concern. Firstly, one of the stages was not available for use until the middle of the afternoon, causing a reshuffle of the running order. Secondly, the PA started distorting badly towards the end of the afternoon, and the problem wasn’t rectified, with the result that the sound for Primal Scream was compromised. Still, I’m sure that measures will be put into place to ensure that these problems won’t re-occur if the festival is held again next year.