Bushstock 2013


As someone who lives in west London I can say with conviction that it isn’t a place of obvious musical buzz, especially when it comes to live performance. The perverse thing is that it actually has a very rich crop of songwriters and bands. These bands and artists are faced with very few local venues, and an extremely stayed set of stages from which to perform. If London’s live music scene could be represented like a map of mobile phone signal then it would all be a pulsating hyper-green with a beige circle about 5 miles wide that represents west London.

It is reassuring to see that someone has clocked this mismatch, and is willing to set a stage for these bands – on their home turf. Enter Communion. The project was founded by Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons) and over the past few years it has steadily grown its reach and influence. It started as a regular night of live music in The Notting Hill Arts Club, then grew into a record label and now they have Communion nights running internationally. Bushstock is a celebration of all that they represent, and what they have achieved. It is based on their patch and involves a lot of bands that they manage and that they have previously billed on their shows.

With the added bonus of a meteorological miracle the festival was off to a fortuitously but suitably good start. The performances were split between four venues. Ginglik (the converted public lavatory), The Defectors Weld, Bush Hall, and the crown Jewel – St. Stephen’s Church. It really worked. All of the venues were extremely close and so the day had a feeling of community and togetherness. It was fantastic to see the area in such a good mood. Amid uninterrupted sunshine merry souls skipped up and down the streets from venue to venue, from band to band.

First up I saw Freddie Dickson – one of the more exciting prospects on the bill and someone I think has an extremely exciting couple of years ahead. He moved away from his usual electronic sound to deliver a heartfelt set accompanied by just one acoustic guitar. The transition worked fantastically, down largely to the strength of Dickson’s voice and presence on stage. If I can recommend one thing it would be to listen to his new single Shut Us Down. It is a stonker. I then sat on the green for a pint of light ale with my brother (who accompanied me to take some snaps, a few of which are above). It was a real pleasure to see that perhaps west London CAN host a band.

Josh Weller was A LOT of fun. His energetic folk hyper-strumming kept us all wide-eyed and his humour had the hordes creasing. Bears Den played to a packed Bush Hall and delivered a performance full of smiles. There was a very obvious rapport between the band and the crowd – many of whom were probably delighted to be able to see their local faves…locally. It has to be said that the star of the whole show was, all the way from Martha’s Vineyard, Willy Mason. Playing in St. Stephen’s Church, a space of immense atmosphere, he had us completely at his mercy. He was in a jovial mood and administered a soulful but largely upbeat set that culminated in I’ve Got Gold that brought the congregation to their feet. We remained upstanding throughout the encore and were serenaded by a song written by his parents as his farewell. We left with big grins on our faces. Mason was the blockbuster act of the festival and he went beyond justifying being set on this pedestal.

I don’t think that the lineup was as good as it was last year, it certainly didn’t have the same consistency of exciting and well-known bands – but this really didn’t matter. West London was brought to its feet for a day – a chink of light has emerged in its live music scene. I unreservedly applaud Communion for making it happen, and for taking on the challenge of waking the beast. I hope this momentum can be carried on and that more people will try to do some interesting musical events in that part of town.