Words by Hannah Saul
The island of Guernsey is generally a very quiet, historical place, but for one weekend every summer, the tranquil island says goodbye to the monotony of island life and welcomes families and music lovers alike to grab their wellies and head over to the Rabbit Warren, the location of Guernsey Festival. The festival is in its second year and has already played host to bands heavyweights Primal Scream, Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem.
While islanders jumped at the chance to have the festival experience on their doorstep and flocked in their hundreds to go and see the acts without having to spend extra money on flights, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any interest from the mainland. Days before the festival kicks off, local ferry company Condor becomes frantically busy trying to fit all the serious festival-goers onboard and bring them to the sunny island. Whether they appreciate the mud-soaked, beer-swilling return passengers is, well, another matter entirely.
Despite being a native islander, this was my first year going, and I went with high expectations. I was stoked to see great acts like Hadouken, that hairy, hairy King Charles, Macy Gray, Kassidy, The Charlatans and The Kaiser Chiefs. The weekend was looking to be pretty spectacular, and that is exactly what it was.
I started the Saturday by going to see the young talent of local band and also my very good friends China Aster, who played on the stage known as The Other Stage or the Center Circle Stage. China Aster kicked off the festival nicely, singing songs off their newly released, self-titled EP. Although it was still quite early in the morning, they managed to grab quite a lot of interest. Josh Moore’s voice floated in to the (slightly too strong) breeze, allowing the melodic guitars to build that proper boutique festival vibe.
Next, it was time to see I Am Tich. After doing the rounds at Glastonbury, T in the Park, Oxegen and V Festival last year, she was asked to play Guernsey Festival’s Main Stage, performing a mix of covers and original songs. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of her set but arrived to hear her sing a cover of fun.’s ‘We Are Young’. Her powerful voice made up for the fact that she looked diminutive standing on the stage by herself, and her bubbly character put a smile on everyone’s faces. However, I felt that the constant promotion of herself knocked the performance down a little, but that could just be me.
Next on my festival agenda was to check out Jersey singer Kevin Pallot. He has managed to bring together some of Jersey’s best session artists to create his backing band The Pinnacles and together they played a selection of rich folk music including song ‘The Waving Fields’. Pallot’s deep voice melted into the music, creating a warm sound, which mirrored the already improving weather perfectly.
I felt that after Pallot’s performance, I had a great opportunity to go and check out the VIP tent before King Charles was expected on the Main Stage. I had images of champagne, nice comfy chairs and lovely clean loos. Oh boy, how wrong was I. I pushed through crowds of people trying to spot if there was anyone famous inside the tent, and once inside, my face dropped. The VIP tent looked like something out of a wedding celebration:r bight lights, loud music and loads of very drunk people dancing around. Not only this, but the so-called luxury loos had no running water and there was no sanitizer on offer, unlike the main toilets. My verdict: the VIP tent is not worth nearly £90 extra for a ticket.
Although I had heard of King Charles (pictured at top), I wasn’t too familiar with his work. But my brother and sister had recommended that I go to see him, and I did. Stepping into the audience, I was hit by a mix of furious guitar solos and upbeat keyboard not too dissimilar to that of Vampire Weekend. There was something quite tropical about it, and the audience certainly agreed. As His Majesty played songs of his new album, ‘Love Blood’, he certainly got me grooving.
After a quick chat with Hadouken!, I rushed to the Main Stage to catch them playing. Performing a mix of new and old tracks, the younger audience members found it was their time to shine and came out of their shells (with the help of some illicitly smuggled in booze) and danced to their set. It was loud, it was powerful, let’s face it…it was a festival. It was great and exactly what the day needed to kick it up a gear.
Next it was on to the dance tent. There was a great mix of DJs; Brandon Block was spinning when I went along. I have to say, however, he seems to attract a very young group of teenagers who wanted their first taste of the nightclub experience, so I didn’t hang around for long. Besides, I wanted to drag my boyfriend along to Macy Gray.
The one thing that bothered me about Macy Gray’s performance was why she didn’t headline. Walking up to the Main Stage I could hear her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and my mouth went dry. She sounded amazing. Her soulful voice matched her Tina Turner-inspired glittery bright pink dress. So looked fantastic! You could also tell that she put a lot of personal input into her performance; it was raw, rich and really, really brilliant. Everyone was singing along and having a wonderful time.
Although next act Maverick Sabre got a good response from the large audience, I just couldn’t get into his performance. It might have been because my feet were hurting from my wellies, which were 3 sizes too small, or the fact that Macy Gray effectively blew Mr. Sabre out of the water. I think the latter reason was more why. He did, however, grab my full attention with his song ‘Let Me Go’. I have to admit that he does have a pretty unique voice, but he just didn’t really interact with the audience. It was a bit of a shame. But in ‘Let Me Go,’ he has a crowd pleaser to end all crowd pleasers.
After a pretty successful day, I began my 15-minute walk home along the seafront. That’s the beauty about the festival: you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere inside the compound, but as soon as you leave you are in the middle of a busy seaside town. Bliss!