Review by Nathan Westley with Photography by Mike Burnell

Once upon a time there was a firm belief that music festivals should only take place during the summer months and which should also entail several nights camping. The annual Rockaway Beach festival offers a festival experience but without a portaloo ever coming into your vision.

Maximo Park at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3562

Self painted as a ‘Boutique indoor festival’ Rockaway Beach combines the best parts of a music festival but with a healthy sized dollop of extra comfort, and the added delights that a holiday park brings.

With music spread across two indoor stages; the smaller Reds bar for the afternoon performances, whilst the evening saw activity transferred to the larger Centre Stage.

The opening night saw us gently eased into what the festival had to offer. Goat Girl have the hallmarks of being a modern day Electrelane. Their relaxed on stage stance and delicate lo-fi indie vibes served as a prelude to the headliners exuberance.

Goat Girl at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3390

Goat Girl at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3427

The night had a significant shift in atmosphere when headliners Maximo Park sprinted their way onto stage. This skinny jeaned indie troupe sometimes fall foul of being overlooked compared to many of their mid-noughties contemporaries, but what can’t be denied is how many great pop songs this north eastern group have hidden away in and amongst their back catalogue. Their set was one that was full of energy, and between song banter from lead singer Paul Smith who has become known for his dance moves and acrobatic jumping. Music. Opener ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ sets the tone before a string of much loved indie dance floor fillers such as ‘The Coast is Always Changing’, ‘Our Velocity, and set closer ‘Apply Some Pressure’ ring out of the speakers.

Maximo Park at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3542

If Friday was a day focused on ushering the weekend in, then Saturday was the festivals main course. The afternoon slots allowed people to familiarise themselves with names of acts they may have only previously heard in passing.

Desert Mountain Tribe are a trio who keep to the same well trodden Rock ‘n’ Roll path others have ambled down, but like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club there’s enough personality, swagger and guitar riffs to mark Desert Mountain Tribe as being ones to keep an eye out for.

Desert Mountain Tribe at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2211

Spook School are crafters of jaunty, slight footed indie with a slightly twee disposition that will automatically make people think of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart but with an added Scottish flecked drawl.

Spook School at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2246

Menace Beach have shed their early grunge vibes and have instead exchanged them for psych vibes and theirs was a tight set that saw songs from their recently released album ‘Black Rainbow Sound’ aired to a appreciative audience.

Menace Beach at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2288

If one of the reasons bands decide to play festivals is due to the possibility of them being discovered by a new audience then Algiers stand as one of the most successful of the weekend.

Algiers at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2519

Their interesting mix of funk, jazz and rock leads itself to being an interesting combination but with their added personality, energy and passion for their craft evidently on show ensures that Algiers live show is truly are something that needs to be witnessed.

The Orielles may have released their debut album nearly a year ago but to many they remain one of this years most hotly tipped bands; and their mix of Funk, Eighties new wave and soulful R&B though appreciated by fans of 6music is ultimately one that may not be best placed for being in the slot directly before Gary Numan, and it was undoubtedly a mix that led to some confusion amongst some of the headliners more hardcore following.

The Orielles at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2658

Gary Numan is well known for having some of music’s most dedicated fans, and he maintains to be an artist that is forever pushing forwards with his creativity, but despite his avid fanbase to the populous he is still largely best known for a handful of songs. Arriving onto a pitch black stage his set was one that was hard hitting and which was also the heaviest of the weekend. His newer material has embraced industrial metal and as strobes flickered on and off rapidly in the background, our ears were treated to a string of riff and synch heavy, dark spirited rock songs. With the first half of the set shied away concentrated on newer material; it wasn’t to mid-way through the set that ‘Cars’ was aired but rather then revert back to its origins it was given a heavy makeover, as was main set closer ‘Are Friends Electric’ to ensure the set didn’t become disjointed. Many artists become overly static late in their career, but Gary Numan maintains be an artist that is constantly evolving and for this he should be commended.

Gary Numan at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2892

Gary Numan at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2885

Gary Numan ann John Robb at Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2428

Many bands have suffered small audiences at festivals due to having the dreaded Sunday opening slot, but Squid faced no such issues as there chaotic and inventive blend of disjointed funk, post punk and new wave had enough potency to entice any passing ears their way. At times when their drummer takes charge of the vocals their post punk has shades of Modest Mouse, and their inventiveness should ensure that they become one of festival seasons most talked about new bands.

Later in the day Lorelle Meets The Obsolete offered shoe-gaze, and distortion laden pop songs before Art Brut were the weekends pre-emptive closers. Much like Friday night headliners Maximo Park they are a band that helped define a certain period post 2000 where guitar music was at the forefront of the mainstream. Tonight in this Butlins they had the capability to temporarily return the audience back to that period with a slew of songs that helped define 2005.

With fun placed at the forefront, they powered through songs such as ‘Formed a band’ with front man Eddie Argos updating lyrics with wry humour and offering between song humour around the pains of growing old. Whilst many had gone solely to hear indie dance floor staples such as ‘Direct Hit’ and ‘Emily Kane’ we discovered that new material such as recent single ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out’ contained the same spirit that made people want to first listen to them.

Which left it to Echo & The Bunnymen to close the festival. Monkish chanting greeted their on stage walk out, singer Ian McCulloch arriving in his now uniformed look of sunglasses and black leather jacket. They are a band whose influence can be heard in hundreds of bands that came after. Opener ‘Going up’ set the pace before many of their Eighties classics were aired. ‘Nothing Ever Lasts Forever’ temporarily segues into a brief airing of Lou Reeds ‘Walk On The Wildside’ before returning to its natural anthemic beauty.

It was a set that demonstrated just how many classic songs this band have written; songs such as ‘The Killing Moon’, ‘The Cutter’ and encore ‘Lips Like Sugar’ should be considered as some of the greatest songs ever written.

As a festival Rockway Beach is ultimately going to draw parallels with the now defunct All Tomorrows Parties, but what Rockaway Beach does is maintain the elements that worked well and in addition have added their own distinct flavour.

Rockaway Beach 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-2948

Competitively priced and offering value for money; it has a line up that blends iconic and established artists with some of the best emerging bands ensures that Rockaway Beach is the perfect music festival to kick a new year off with.

See the complete photoset from Rockaway Beach 2019 here.

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