Despite it still being relatively early on this bank holiday Saturday, London fuzz punks Honey Joy (7) are on prime form. A band who are a product of venues such as The Stag And Hounds, the group fly through a set of corrosive colours, with their riot grrl and DIY sensibilities shining wonderfully through the haze of distortion that’s synonymous with their live performances.
Whilst the Honey Joy are certainly born from a love of modern punk, over in The Exchange it’s the south wales collective Sssnakes (7) that embody the timeless ideology that’s synonymous of the genre. Much like their moniker, the flavour of punk the group provide is utterly venomous. Much like sinking a poorly brewed pint of snakebite, Sssnakes are dizzying, scrappy and if consumed in large quantities, potentially detrimental of one’s health. However, this is perfectly how authentic punk should be; offensive, riotous and above all else, hedonistically inclusive.
Back within the ancient timber of The Stag And Hounds, Don’t Worry (8) provide a short, yet delightfully sweet set of frustrated, apathetic yet impassioned emo. Performing within the beating heart of their label’s headquarters, tracks from 2018’s Who Cares Anyway? twinkle with despondent energy and adolescent grievance, resonating with the ever so slightly intoxicated youth in attendance. Relatable on a spiritual level Don’t Worry should be an act on everyone’s radars in this day and age.
Hailing from the emerald pastures of Dublin, The Winter Passing (8) display an infectious level of charisma and confidence this afternoon. Laughing in the face of potentially set ruining technical issues, the Irish indie pop quintet deliver hook after snaring hook, with content from their back catalogue bouncing from all four corners of the room, engulfing every punter in attendance in heart warming talent. The Winter Passing have earned a reputation of charming wholesomeness, one which they wear on their collective sleeves for the duration of their set. A wonderful demonstration of well meaning and earnest pop sensibilities and talent.
Playing at a volume that’s most probably permanently damaged the structural integrity of this ancient estate, Fights And Fires (7) fully resonate the intoxicated and tumultuous spirit of this festival. Blasting through tracks from their string of previous releases, the group animate their take on post-hardcore with energetic physical vigour, with the group treating the upstairs of The Stag as their own personal playground. The premiere of their new track ‘I Want Napalm Death To Play At My Funeral’ demonstrates the group’s continuous growth in regards to skill and writing whilst still retaining their personality and classic self deprecating sense of humour. Either way, with drinks being sunk and kicks being flown, it’s a surprise that this set doesn’t end with someone falling out of a window into the traffic below.
Cathartic and trailblazing, whilst the respective turnout may be criminally lacklustre, Hora Douse (8) blast through their set with both passion and reserved fervour with the Manchester trio filling the void within the Exchange with their heartfelt, earnest and therapeutic sonic art. Shunning all conventional genre cliches, from this set it’s evident that Hora Douse are indeed a rare breed, one that uses every performance as a platform of cathartic and authentic personal release. With a cheeky guest vocal spot courtesy of Lucinda Livingstone (Cultdreams, Nervus) thrown in for good measure, you can not help but think that the ones choosing to spend the time of this set for other things are truly missing out on something special. A wonderful band that’s well worth your time.
With the upstairs back room of The Stag completely packed out ahead of Fresh (9), one can not help but wonder if this room was seemingly originally built as an execution chamber where the condemned where sentenced to death via swift heat stroke. Anyway, with sweat peeling from the walls, Fresh are clearly in their element this evening. As the group fly thorough their free spirited, sugar coated material, with select choses from their now released record Withdraw going down utter treat, it becomes swiftly clear that Fresh will be headlining events such as this in the coming years. Fresh are absolutely brilliant this evening, with the group displaying talent that’s akin to that of an artist at the peak of their career, with the energy radiated from the group being mirrored by the packed in crowd before them. Ending on the life affirming bounce of ‘Fuck My Life’, it’s clear this delightfully charming band are destined for massive things in the coming months.
The second set from the Michigan based punk stoner wizards Bong Mountain (8) this weekend, with the band headlining the launch party the night prior, the midwestern collective provide a set that is exactly what you would expect from a band called Bong Mountain playing a festival called Booze Cruise. Loose, but never disarranged, it’s approximately 30 minutes of pure intoxicated good-natured punk hedonism, with the group flying through numbers from their 2016 debut You’re Doin’ Great in an ever so slightly inebriated fashion that only animates the inclusive warmth within their content. With drinks in the air and with the gangs-all-here vocals being mirrored by the merrily loaded gathering, it’s a celebration of not just the act’s music, but of evenings such as this as a whole. With the band now returning back to the haze of their home territory, we can only anticipate the return of the sonic dank Bong Mountain are renewed for in the coming years.
With today’s undercard being filled with acts that celebrate the acts of jovial debauchery and innocent indulgence, it seems only a slightly bit odd that the fantastic Cultdreams (8) are headlining and representing this festival tonight. Granted, they were never the original choice with the shoegaze duo only being given the coveted slot following the departure of Tiny Moving Parts. But still, given the contrast between the band’s sobering exportations of mental health and xenophobia and the festival’s jubilant ideology, it’s difficult to ignore the almost ironic contrast. Never the less, as the duo launch into the impassioned fuzz pop of the personal horror story that is ‘One Young Man’, it’s clear that Cultdreams couldn’t care less about the contrast in respective philosophies.
A short yet critically crucial set, the duo blast through material from both 2017’s Seafoam and 2016’s Sad with tactile prowess and focused drive, placing emotive emphasis on the deeply personal narrative’s behind each track. However, it’s the premiere of unnamed content that truly stands as a testament to the band’s skill as musicians and storytellers. Dynamic, crucially important and frankly honest, this new material highlights the group’s talent for utilizing the power of music as a rallying point for those oppressed and seeking refuge. As the group end this day with the righteous riot grrl war cry of ‘KG (CD?) Go The Pub’ and the deeply personal, yet relatable narrative of ‘Berlin’, those leaving the Exchange tonight will have most probably been the first few to witness the ushering in of the next chapter of Cultdream’s continuously blossoming career.