Review: Y Not Festival at Matlock, Derbyshire

It was reminiscent of a scene from an apocalypse film, as dishevelled people trudged through deep mud, carrying their worldly belongings up the long hill to the car park, tired, in some cases broken.

Elbow at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson
Elbow at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson

This wasn’t the result of a nuclear winter but a typical Peak District 48 hours of intense wind and rain, a natural phenomenon that appears to plague the Y Not Festival, cancelling it in 2017.

2019 was made of sterner stuff however. Hatches were battened down, jaws clenched and the show went gone on, just.

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There was no sign of the impending deluge on Thursday when the festival opened, perhaps taking the organisers by surprise when it did as the gates didn’t open in time for the early bands to have any audience greater than a couple of sound engineers. White Lies headlined that evening, triumphantly touring material from a decade spawning five albums of ‘danceable indie’, Joy Division colliding with Talking Heads, ably supported by The Pigeon Detectives.

The Blinders at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson

The line-up for Y Not wasn’t exactly a myriad of musical styles but, now heading towards its 15th year, what it lacked in variety it more than made up for in quality, in both established artists and those looking to forge a career.

Nadia Sheikh was the latter, her latest track Toxic a driving force of guitar and bass. Cassia were up on The Quarry stage, a huge crowd descending down the hill, clearly in the know of their reggae tinged rock. Gerry Cinnamon appeared on the main stage, The Big Gin, to the sound of KC and the Sunshine Band – perhaps a premonition of what was to come – and performed his arena-friendly punk Sheeran set.

The Blinders were a late addition to the line-up and performed a show stealing 30 minutes. Describing this young band’s debut album Columbia and how that translates to a live set is difficult without an unrestricted number of superlatives, they are due a huge 12 months. The sounds of King Kartel and Skinny Lister, whilst polar-opposites, dragged people into their respective venues.

Another superb highpoint was the Franz Ferdinand set. If you think you don’t know a Franz Ferdinand song, you’re wrong. You do. All of them. Similarly outstanding, as ever, were Elbow, closing the evening with songs spanning their entire career, stand-outs being The Birds and My Sad Captains, One Day Like This the ideal festival tune.

Idles at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson

One thing that the organisers got spectacularly right was the early Saturday afternoon Idles slot, the Mercury prize nominated songs dragging a large crowd out of their tents and into the heavy rain. The amazingly named Bitch Falcon provided a punk element to the afternoon, the antithesis of Leeds’ Talkboy and their The Magic Numbers influenced set. Late Dermot Kennedy replacement The Slow Readers Club showed why they are gradually building a fervent fanbase outside their home city of Manchester before Two Door Cinema Club headlined the evening, a slick performance dominated by the largest stage of the weekend.

Pulling wet clothes back on for Sunday morning was tough, but those who did were rewarded with Wolf Alice and Miles Kane and their consistently high standard sets. Elsewhere in the arena, Band of Skulls headed a strong showing from Lucy Rose, performing tracks from her excellent new album, and Echo and the Bunnymen played ‘the best song in the world’ (The Killing Moon, in case you’re wondering).

Sunday night headliners Foals were a weight of guitars, drums and tickertape, In Degrees and Mountain at My Gates indelibly inked into people’s collective conscious.

On this showing, Y Not will easily be around another 15 years. Ownership of the festival changed hands prior to this weekend and whilst they can’t control the weather, they can control the quality of the line-up, a long may they do so.

Slow Readers Club at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson
King Kartel at Y Not Festival. Picture: David Hodgson