Y Not review – fast-rising festival gets stuck in the indie mud

Pikehall, Derbyshire
Acts like Wolf Alice are a welcome break from the hordes of white blokes with guitars, who don’t reflect the eclectic taste of the crowd

‘Y Not festival. Why not go home when it’s fucking thrashing down?” asks Shaun Ryder during the Happy Mondays’ Sunday afternoon set, as freezing cold rain batters the audience. Although a huge chunk of them already have, driven home by nonstop rain and a site turned to brown sludge.

Located in the beautiful Peak District and one of the fastest-growing festivals in the UK, Y Not has an unusual demographic that is almost a perfect split between teenagers and over-40s. It’s a divide that Sports Team notice, as one half of the crowd bounce along in sweat-drenched clusters while the other nods reservedly. “Is this the parents’ side?” asks singer Alex Rice. “How’s the craft beer tent? Sorry Idles couldn’t be here.” However, this attempt at caustic wit quickly stumbles as the band immediately mess up new single Here It Comes Again and have to start over. It also doesn’t help that it sounds like past-their-best Art Brut.

Idles do indeed turn up the next day and play an impassioned set, one that gains a sad relevance when singer Joe Talbot introduces a song about depression, 1049 Gotho, having just found out a friend took their own life. Some accuse them of mere sloganeering, but it’s a spiriting thing to witness a band with an audience as large as theirs declare, “Long live the European Union and immigration”, to a cross-generational audience united in the pit.

Days earlier, Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis tweeted: “With love & humility ... we’re the best band in the world.” His claim is neither humble nor accurate, but Foals are the perfect band to headline this kind of festival, crashing between heavy riffs, pop hooks and indie disco hits. From one band who claim to be the greatest in the world to another, with Echo and the Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch proclaiming “This is the greatest song ever written”, as the band whip up a stirring version of The Killing Moon. Having seen the Murder Capital play post-punk dress-up in raincoats, suits, malevolent stares and freshly lit cigarettes to walk on stage with, it shows how little the new Irish band have expanded on the true spirit and dynamism of the genre – their conceited affectation is even more transparent compared to the clattering ferocity of the Bunnymen.

Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice.
Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice. Photograph: Adam Burzynski

Indie dominates Y Not. It’s a bit like being tuned into Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music programme for three days solid: a haven for some, but eclecticism suffers. One of the mid-2000s indie boom acts to come out of that era with memorable tunes, a shred of dignity and free from a crippling drug addiction is Franz Ferdinand. They play a brilliantly fun, punchy, at times almost cheesy set, with frontman Alex Kapranos playing the role of suited compere.

Rare variation of genre is welcome, such as rapper Wretch 32’s fluid vocals and heavy bass diverting from the band format. Similarly, sets that weave between the sparky, grungy and poppy from Sunflower Bean and Wolf Alice are a much-needed break from the fairly omnipresent sight of four white lads playing guitar music as if the last 15 years hasn’t happened.

This is the frustrating dichotomy of Y Not: it has done a brilliant job of attracting a huge number of engaged young people, but the lineup fails to reflect their post-genre sensibilities.


Daniel Dylan Wray

The GuardianTramp

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