2016 brings the tenth Butserfest to Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. It is an event that has been cherished as an alcohol-free home for teenage fans of pop punk since 2007. That said, some bands might be a bit too profanity-laden to be ‘for all the family’.
We asked writer Nick Pollard and photographer Natalie Lam to get toned up for the weekend and take a trek up and around Butser Hill.
Metalheads might also find it sacrilegious for a festival crowd to be singing Bangarang by Skrillex while waiting for a band fronted by a YouTube star (more on them a bit later), but it is no concern that young music fans, as well as up and coming bands, will be especially upset.
Faultlines frontman Jake Noakes wearily asks the audience “How many of you came in here to get out of the rain?” considering how they are on the Crossroads Stage – the only stage on site that provides shelter from the abysmal weather. There is very little reply. As it turns out, the melodic metal of Faultlines, led by the powerful vocals of Christina Rotundo, would have attracted the same enthusiastic audience on any other day, having unleashed smoke and strobe lights upon the crowd by lunchtime.
Over on the main stage, The Gospel Youth really are a band that everybody had to tolerate the rain for. Fans gladly get drenched on TGY’s behalf, and even get a second opportunity to see them over at the Acoustic Shack – an acoustic stage where a select few acts perform short and quiet sets. Gravelly lead singer Sam Little belts his heart out for twenty minutes with only two acoustic guitars behind him.
Though WSTR’s crowd seem thin, everyone is immediately blinded by fans’ loyalty and exuberance towards the band. Despite the grey sky, chilling winds and typically British rain, the five-piece perform to please, playing the tracks that the fans are guaranteed to dance to. Watch out. WSTR are going to be all you hear about in 2017.
As It Is are clearly one of, if not the most eagerly awaited band of the day, judging from the screams upon the announcer’s words: “the band you’ve all been waiting for”. That is quite a title to live up to, and with such a tiny slot given for their performance (perhaps shortened more by the fact that they have arrived onstage thirty minutes late), they need to deliver something special.
Musically, their emo pop-punk might not be especially remarkable, but grinning frontman Patty Walters is definitely the most in touch with the audience, much to the probable irritation of the guards – : “I’ve seen a few crowd surfers, but not enough. So if you want to come visit…”. While the circle pits are calm enough to contain a conga, they have everyone around their collective little fingers.
It is the early evening, and Butserfest is luckily no longer underwater. The sun has set and there is demonic mist over the hills. The alternative rock of Young Guns decides to make a point of how there is no more appropriate scene to bring closure to the day, firing rapid red light flashes over the crowd. Vocalist Gustav Wood makes his stern point – “Do you mind if we play a new song? We are playing it anyway. It’s the end of our summer. Let’s end it with a f—ing bang!”
Each stage goes about this closure with serious force. The grand finale begins back on what was earlier the Acoustic Shack, which has been invaded by talent due to perform on the Introducing Stage before the weather forced it to close. Quick-paced, but brilliantly intricate hard rock from Loyd is coupled with mischief, as an engaged audience begins the part by throwing around a giant inflatable slice of pizza.
Horror punks Creeper cannot be much more appropriate to the mist, as they arrive with violet light behind them, casting silhouettes at the front of the stage, delivering their signature tongue-in-cheek doom and gloom.
It is Mallory Knox, today’s main stage headliners who have prepared the most impressive stage set – two giant luminous ‘MK’s. They strobe in time to Knox’s signature alternative pop-punk with an additional British twist of post-hardcore. This lasts from the strangely atmospheric gospel of Shout at the Moon to fan favourite Lighthouse.
It goes to show how far that they have come, this being their third time performing at Butserfest, and they are now atop the bill. And that is why Butserfest must live on. It is now a far more important event than its creators could have imagined in 2007.
In spite of everybody sinking further into the mud, it is safe to call the tenth Butserfest, the festival’s tenth success.
Live Review and Photography Butserfest 10th & 11th September 2016 by Natalie Lam and Nicholas Pollard.