Chazzstock crowd by Anthony Rees
Chazzstock crowd by Anthony Rees

Chazzstock is a new one day Festival at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. It’s been organised as a tribute to the late Ou Est La Swimming Pool singer Charles Haddon and some of the proceeds are going to local charities. The organisers hope that it will become an annual event. The line-up features some top indie acts and some up-and-coming bands. Headliners are The Horrors and The Vaccines.

Lois & the love by Anthony Rees
Lois & the love by Anthony Rees

Unfortunately I missed the early acts Jen Armstrong, I Dream in Colour, Lois and the Love, Safari, Ghosts, and Frankie and the Heartstrings (sorry, I didn’t have the stamina for the whole day!), but I arrived in time to see Spector.

Spector and Frankie & the Heartstrings by Jane Williams
Spector and Frankie & the Heartstrings by Jane Williams
Spector by Jane Williams
Spector by Jane Williams

Spector are a five piece guitar band from London. They are a smartly dressed bunch. Indeed, lead singer, Fred Macpherson, looks rather like 1950s British film actor Richard Wattis, with short brylcreemed hair and black round-rimmed plastic glasses. The performance was pretty rousing stuff, particularly the closing number ‘Never Fade Away’.

Tim Burgess by Jane Williams
Tim Burgess by Jane Williams

Tim Burgess is widely known as lead singer on The Charlatans, but tonight he is solo, with his own band. As this is a festival, all the sets are rather short, but Tim’s is regrettably only 20 minutes long. Backed by just two excellent musicians, a guitarist and drummer, he delivers a great low-key set. I didn’t recognise all the songs, but they included material from his 2003 album. ‘I Believe’. Tim’s understated performancet was one of the highlights of the evening.

Tribes by Jane Williams
Tribes by Jane Williams

Tribes are from Camden, London, and produced a well-received new album (‘Baby’) at the beginning of the year. I liked the set, which is dominated by a great and somewhat epic twin-guitar sound that has a lot of influences, from grunge to The Cure. There was a lot to like, even if they are not particularly original. Their songs, like ‘Sappho’ and ‘Girlfriend’, are quite memorable too.

Horrors by Anthony Rees
The Horrors by Anthony Rees

By nine o’clock the tension is building as we wait for the final two headline acts. The stage is darkened and we see the five silhouetted figures of The Horrors looming, particularly the tall lanky figure of singer Faris Badwan. They are the band I really wanted to see tonight, having missed seeing any of their recent local gigs. They play psychedelic soundscapes with great tunes. ‘Skying’ was one of the best of last year’s albums and tonight they play songs from it, including the single ‘I Can See Through You’, while their set closes with ‘Still Life’. They play a good set, but it’s a bit too loud and dominated by the bass and drums, which drown out the guitar and keyboards some of the time. As Tim Burgess’s set proved, you don’t need deafening volume for effect.

Horrors & Vaccines by Anthony Rees
The Horrors & The Vaccines by Anthony Rees

The day finishes with The Vaccines, who are visiting Wolverhampton for the first time. They are another new British guitar band, who have drawn comparisons with The Strokes, among others. Their set is from their singles’ and from their acclaimed 2012 album ‘What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? They also throw-in a new song from their forthcoming albums. The audience seem to know most of the songs backwards and sing and chant along. The band put on a real show, including a bit of collective heads-down headbanging like Status Quo. They play well and show that indie guitar music is still alive and thriving. However, there isn’t much original or particularly interesting here and personally I don’t really get their appeal. Nevertheless, the crowd obviously loved their show, judging from the reaction.

Vaccines and Tribes  by Jane Williams
The Vaccines and Tribes by Jane Williams

Hopefully Chazzstock will be repeated next year. On the plus side it is a great way to see a range of indie bands, from top names to up-and-comers. The changeovers between bands were really done well and efficiently by the roadies and the timetable ran unbelievably smoothly. The audience was not kept waiting long and there wasn’t must time to get bored.

Vaccines by Anthony Rees
The Vaccines by Anthony Rees

Overall, I found the range of bands was a little mainstream and crowd-pleasing (unless I missed something ‘different’ earlier in the day?). But that is probably what you need at this kind of one day festival with only one stage. It was very much what you would hear on a Steve Lamacq radio show. It would have been good to see some more challenging and experimental acts on the rota as well. Also it would have been great if that had been more than one stage so you could choose who you watched. However, that’s just my view and the audience seemed very happy with what they saw.

Also a one day indoor festival in summer gets a bit stifling and the smell of chips and beer gets a bit much after a while. There wasn’t much to do between bands except for people to go to the bar. As a result the floor was covered in beer and some people were tanked-up and behaving like idiots. A lot of beer and unknown other liquids were being thrown about and it didn’t get cleared up. This resulted in one or two incidents! However, these are small gripes and overall I would say the festival was a resounding success.

Festival review by Alec Eiffel
Photographs by Jane Williams and Anthony Rees

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