Think festivals: think mud, insanitary toilets and over-priced, warm lager. Think Homespun: think mud-less, indoor plumbing and reasonably priced, locally sourced bitters and ciders. But you see, Homespun isn’t just your average festival. Homespun, whilst only in its second year, has already established itself as the festival of choice for Medway musicteers and sonic adventurers.
Homespun 2014 kicked off last Wednesday in the bucolic splendour of The Barge, Gillingham, on a glorious July’s evening. Performers and revellers alike gathered in the garden to bask in the great views over the Medway and listen to the folk stylings of Black Lion Courtiers, Rastko and Jowe Head and The Demi-Monde, whose brand of alt-folk was riotously exhilarating.
Thursday, Homespun went multi-media with a screening of director Fred Burns’ acclaimed documentary, Basically, Johnny Moped at Sun Pier House. I missed Johnny Moped first time round, my excuse being that I was only five at the time and my playlist consisted more of Play Away; on subsequent revisits to 1977 and all that, I had overlooked the Moped Band, but Burns’ film perfectly captured the fervid atmosphere of that time and the energy and chaos. The Moped Band was the sound of the suburbs, Croydon to be precise, the anti-capital of rock. The Moped Band in its various incarnations (including Captain Sensible and Chrissie Hynde) captured the dis-ease of the epoch and spun it into incendiary three-minute salvos, to which the only sane thing to do was pogo. The Moped Band never broke through and, despite critical acclaim, faded away, leaving an enduring legacy of having fused punk sensibility with an oft-missed quality from the scene – humour – the kind of humour that keeps you laughing long after the credits have rolled. The coda for Johnny Moped was a set from The Masonics, playing their own jet propelled rock and, to popular acclaim, some Moped’s classics. As the crowd dispersed into the Medway night, there was a feeling of having witnessed something special, something that really communicated what music, music played from the soul and with mordant wit, can do.
Homespun Day 3, venue – The Gordon House Hotel. On the bill tonight, Medway music royalty (quite literally) with Stuart Turner and His Flat Earth Society, Theatre Royal and The Wolfhounds, veterans of THAT tape the NME released in 1986. 2014 thus far has been an annus mirabilis for both Stuart Turner and Theatre Royal: critically acclaimed albums, headlining gigs across Medway and airplay, locally, nationally and internationally. Stuart Turner recollected in tranquility is always a pleasure, but it’s when playing live that he and his band really come alive. Playing a unique brand of foot-stomping, Medway Delta blues, Stuart bestrode the stage as an old testamentary preacher, cajoling and exhorting his audience; the audience, in turn, willingly obeyed, and just a little of the Mississippi flowed up the Medway.
Over recent years it’s been impossible not to have noticed the rise and rise of Theatre Royal. Their reputation has been built on a series of blistering live sets across Medway and beyond and studio albums that recapture that energy to listen to in the comfort of your own home. Their shows have become communal experiences: front man Olly Burgess calls, the audience responds. And so it was on Friday night. With a set list of newer and classic material, Theatre Royal tore up The Gordon Hotel to confirm their status as foremost exponents of what no less a luminary as Steve Lamacq has called the ‘paisley sound of the Medway meeting the American West coast’. The Wolfhounds, living legends, but not fossils, as their headline gig demonstrated. The fierceness and conviction of their playing were almost palpable; the sound generated by their wall of guitar was physical and testament to the enduring appeal of guitar, bass, drum and vocal. Medway was, again, in the presence of something remarkable.
Saturday, the closing set and the most ambitious day of music that Medway has witnessed. Fifty performers across eight venues, with everything from slam poetry to Medway garage, and all points in between. Homespun took over the High Street and visitors, some bemused, all curious, witnessed a twelve-hour document of what Medway is and what Medway does, does bloody well in fact. Limits of space and time prevented me attending all spaces, but the sheer crackling energy and vitality along the High Street were fantastic. I ultimately ventured to Sun Pier House which boasted a line-up to die for. First on were the worshipful company of Hand of Stabs. Describing their soundscapes ain’t easy, but, to me, if Hieronymus Bosch, Goya and Aleister Crowley hit the Mescal and ended up jamming, they may sound like the Stabs. Follow that! Which the Sine Waves, with their white-hot, futuristic synth-rock ably, did – as did Medway stalwart, Allan Crockford (formerly of The Prisoners) with a tight, rhythm led set from the Galileo 7.
By the time The Parade took the stage, Sun Pier House was its busiest ever. Crowds packed four, five, deep, craning necks to get a view of the band led the shamanic presence of Lupen Crook. Mr Crook may presently reside out Medway City limits, but he’s a true ME Man. With tremendous physicality, he led his wonderfully percussive band to a crescendo of acclaim. The Parade, remember that name, they deserve to be bigger than Nelson’s Column.
Finally, Younghusband. Well, what to say, except believe the hype. Younghusband just keep getting bigger and the opportunity to watch them in the intimate surrounds of SPH was not to be missed as they’ll be selling out stadia soon. Exponents of what’s been called psych drone core, Younghusband build their songs with densely packed, over-arching guitars, to create something epic. When they make it big, thousands will claim to have been at that Sun Pier gig; if you WERE one of them, remember it and tell it to the kids! Even after leaving Sun Pier, the music hadn’t finished with a boisterous crowd outside Poco Loco, but, for me, my Homespun was over, until 2015 that is.
This necessarily is only an impression of the festival and apologies for omissions such as Bear vs Manero, Balance Lost and Broken Banjo. Thanks must go to (in no particular order) festival organisers: Rob Flood, Gary Barrell, Bob Collins, Suzanne Wise, Emily Parish, Olly Burgess, Joseph Wise, Michael Taylor, Louise Micklewright, Matt Harvey, Kevin Younger, and Robert Lindsay. Thank you to all the venues that hosted the gigs and thank you to Medway for turning out in numbers to support the festival. Tell your friends, so that next year is even bigger and, in the meantime, get back out there supporting the best live music scene outside of London!
Words: Guy Jordan
Check out the excellent photos of Homespun 2014 taken by Phil Dillon, at https://www.flickr.com/photos/thepaisleycravat/