Review by David Stone with Photography by Jessica Stone

After losing a battle with the Great British Summer™ in 2017, Y Not Festival rolled into 2018 with a main-stage line up so compellingly star-studded that it seemed like a shoe-in for redemption this time around.

Reverend and the Makers, Razorlight, Manic Street Preachers, The Libertines, Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Kaiser Chiefs, The Wombats and Jamiroquai topped the billing, supported by a solid cast of acts across six stages and four days.

With the opening day preceded by weeks of blazing sunshine and unrelenting heat, those without a penchant for a bit of the ol’ weather forecast would’ve been forgiven for thinking it’d be plain sailing this late-July weekend. But every good story needs a villain, and the one true scourge of British festivals would return for another battle on the Derbyshire Dales…

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2018 is something of a coming of age year for Y Not. The festival’s made it into its teenage years after starting in 2005, with the event moving to a brand new site in Pikehall and a series of measures introduced to improve safety, security and its resilience to inclement weather.

Organisers planned the new layout based on 20 years worth of wind data for the new location, placing the main stage in a dip between two shallow rolling hills. This gave main stage crowds a natural tiered area to stand in, making visibility excellent from pretty much anywhere in the crowd, even during the most popular headliners.

From the moment we arrived at the site on Thursday evening it was alive and bouncing! Reverend and the Makers had just taken to the stage in front of thousands of fresh, energetic early birds and the Yorkshire rockers were more than proving their worth as night one’s hype-men. Grooving around the grounds scoping out the food & facilities to the sound of Bassline was an early highlight, and by the time they wrapped up with Silence is Talking we were well up for the weekend of music ahead.

A quick refuel at The Chicken Shop (My personal Food Truck MVP for the weekend – their sizeable portions of goujons & curly fries were served at lightspeed and super-tasty) and it was time for Razorlight to take to the stage to wrap up the first evening.

Clean shaven with his trademark curls flowing, Johnny Borrell led out his troop to rekindle some memories of festivals past. Launching straight into In the morning and following it up with a bunch more familiar tunes including Golden Touch and Vice, the band reminded us why they’re a staple of the British festival scene and a go-to for all those summer sounds playlists.

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With the band about to release their first new album in a decade, we then got a sneak preview of some of the new material before they closed the night with a few more oldies, wrapping up their encore with America.
The heatwave stuck around for day two, and with this year’s hot festival trend for the LADZ being the bum bag – sorry, waist pack – worn as a makeshift bandolier, it became a day for cultivating unfortunate tanlines across the festival grounds.

Dodgy trends aside, the site is absolutely lovely in the sunshine! A cool breeze blows through the fields and whilst there’s no real shelter outside of the stages, the Rock Your Day lounge and Diet Coke refresh tent provided somewhere to escape the sun and recharge your batteries – both figuratively and literally.

The Sherlocks late-afternoon set was a highlight on the main stage, providing a bit of northern indie mixed with the occasional pop riff and football chant to keep the crowd entertained, and Circa Waves brought their usual best selves in the early evening slot, wrapping up their set with their festival anthem T-Shirt Weather.

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A short stroll around the site to check out the vast array of food options for the evening (we settled on some Chip Shop fare after debating some of the finer points of posh hot dogs, burgers and multiple veggie options) and before we knew it, the Manic Street Preachers were about to grace the main stage.

Things were running like clockwork, time was flying by and the Manics put on an absolutely incredible set, sounding locked in from start to finish and spreading the hits out along the way. You Stole The Sun From My Heart got everyone going early on, with If You Tolerate This… leading into a final stretch that closed with A Design for Life. Genuinely amazing stuff from the Welsh rockers that really stood out, even amongst a cracking Friday line-up.

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Headlining day two were the ever-unpredictable The Libertines, who rocked up on the main stage 15 minutes earlier than scheduled and started banging out tunes with reckless abandon. The waves of people streaming in from the campsites as word spread missed out on hearing Barbarians and Heart of the Matter, with the full crowd forming in time for popular tracks What Katie Did and Can’t Stand Me Now.

Other than the early start, the indie legends seemed to be on their best behaviour. Showing up looking dapper as heck, they ran through almost a dozen songs without many eyebrow-raising shenanigans, bringing day two to an end with a 4-song encore as clouds drifted in overhead.

The Libertines’ exit from the stage also brought an end to Act One of the story of Y Not 2018. Overnight, the Great British Summer™ returned with a vengeance, bringing with it heavy showers and strong winds. Saturday morning saw organisers forced to move opening bands away from the main stage to smaller tents and close the VIP area. Workers were deployed across the site to fix the issues and the battle to secure the safety of the main stage and allow the show to continue was on.

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libertines

Communication was provided by messages posted on the main stage video wall, through the festival’s mobile app and on a screen in the village green. They were letting us know what was happening as soon as they could, even if one or two decisions seemed to be finalised close to the scheduled stage times.

With crowds balooning out of the Flamingo Jacks tent, where Slydigs and Redfaces were opening day three, we took the opportunity to check out the Giant Squid tent, discovering an unexpected gem in Brighton-based garage rock act Gaffa Tape Sandy. The three piece offer a raw, crunchy guitar-rock sound that served as a real pick-me-up as the battle with the weather continued outside.

Amongst the bands scooted away from the under-maintenance main stage were Birmingham indie rockers Superfood, who appeared in the Quarry tent as rain battered the grounds early Saturday afternoon. A packed crowd were treated to a set of their most grooveable tracks, including Natural Supersoul, Unstoppable and Double Dutch.

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superfood

Meanwhile, workers continued to secure the main stage from the winds, but these things take time and the Great British Summer™ claimed its first victim of the weekend as Marika Hackman’s set was cut from the schedule. The crews plugged away valiantly in the knowledge that the onslaught of high winds wasn’t expected to last forever, and got it safe in time for Pale Waves and The Amazons to put on excellent showings to take us towards the evening headliners.

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Seasick Steve was incredible, playing the blues on a range of unique and interesting instruments whilst the crowd chanted Steeeeeeeeveee-Ohhhhhhhh between tracks in appreciation. His positive attitude and ability to make blues tracks compelling to all audiences make Steve & the band a genuine must-see act.

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With the weather situation improving, the VIP area back open and the main stage crowd ever-increasing, the Kaiser Chiefs took to the stage to a huge reaction and launched right into a set absolutely packed with indie rock hits.

Ricky Wilson’s infectious energy makes him one of the greatest frontmen to take to the stage all weekend, pulling by far the largest crowd and getting them riled up from the first beats of Every Day I Love You Less and Less right through I Predict a Riot, before climbing the stage rigging to get a birds-eye view of everyone bouncing to Oh My God. An amazing set from one of the most universally loved bands around.

KaiserChiefs

If the Kaiser Chiefs had the biggest crowd, Catfish and the Bottlemen definitely had the most raucous gathering of the weekend! From the moment they took to the stage, their set was a balls-out, drinks flying through the air riot! The band roared through over a dozen tracks to bring day three to a close, blowing away concerns about the weather and chalking one up in the win column for Y Not, with one day left to go…

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At this point Ill put my hands up – I’m not a camper. Nothing about camping appeals to me, and I’ll happily travel daily to avoid waking up damp, in a wet tent in a wet field on a wet morning. I’m not a fan of the sogginess. Nuh uh.

So I sympathise greatly with those who fell victim to the next barrage from the Great British Summer™. An overnight sneak downpour on people who’re just having a good time is no bueno. Boooooooooo that season. Boooooooooooooo.

The troubles caused by the most recent outburst of inclement weren’t limited to the campsites, either. Sunday’s openers were again moved around, and the inclement weather took another main stage victim in King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys, who had their set cut from the line-up in a last minute decision after a downpour made the stage unsafe to perform on.

Workers again put up a valiant fight, and by late afternoon Tom Walker was able to take to the stage with some soulful yet danceable tunes to lift our spirits and get things going again on the final day. At this point it felt like the battle was heating up – The Go! Team made it through their super-energetic set safely, despite delays in setting up and expressing concerns that they’d been advised not to touch the speakers!

With the weekend’s high point of advertised danger safely averted, the Great British Summer™ tucked tail and succumbed to bright sunshine once more. With just two bands left to play the main stage, for the first time in two days it felt like the battle had been won.

A quick jaunt over to see Lucy Spraggan do her thing in the Quarry tent (she’s still super-entertaining) and it was time to make the trip back out to catch The Wombats doing their oh-so-good thing on a sunny evening! A full 90 minute set heavily featured tracks from their most recent album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, alongside crowd favourites like Moving to New York, Let’s Dance to Joy Division and Greek Tragedy, which closed the set to huge applause as the evening began to draw in.

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Unfortunately, evening wasn’t the only thing drawing in. Some re-shuffling of the main stage left us with an hour to wait before the final main stage set of the weekend from Jamiroquai, and there were clouds marching their way across the skies. There’d be one final battle on the festival fields before the end of the evening.

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Crews had prepared the stage to the best of their ability, and the pop legends took to the stage on time looking and sounding a million bucks. Watching Little L live, belted out by JK with his hat glowing away in technicolour glory was like being transported into a live-action music video.

Content in having heard the Jamiroquai we remembered most fondly, and keen to check out Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s time-clash set closing the Quarry stage, we missed what happened next.

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Whilst we were rocking out to another band who made incredible use of stage lighting to enhance and reinforce their sound, the heavens had opened outside the tent. The Great British Summer™ had unleashed its most powerful weapon on the main stage: It was raining sideways. Directly towards the stage.

With the situation becoming dangerous, Jamiroquai left the stage and the set was put on a temporary hold. That hold later became permanent, ending not with a heroic victory for British Festivals, but with the Great British Summer™ getting the last laugh.

Despite that, there’s a lot to be said for the valiant effort put in by the organisers of Y Not to keep things running, making it SO close to the very end whilst keeping a focus on safety and communicating as best as they could. On a weekend where Camp Bestival called off its final day entirely due to the weather, it was an excellent effort from all involved to keep things running as long as they did.

So whilst they lost the final battle, Y Not should be a festival proud of its actions this weekend. Redemption doesn’t always come through a clear-cut victory, sometimes it just takes an incredibly fun rollercoaster of a weekend.

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