After running in a different format two years ago, Finsbury Park was home to a revamped Community Festival. Over the course of a scorching summer’s day, the one-day inner city festival saw bands adored within the indie / alternative circuit play, as well as acts predicted to break soon. The festival was well organised; each stage was located at either end of the park, with a spectacular Main Stage, and the quirky, cute N4 Stage for the upcoming performers. There was a huge variety of food stalls, selling everything from mouth-watering Chinese and Mexican dishes, chilled fruit flavoured slushes, and a tasty vegetarian and vegan stall. Everything was in walking distance from each other, so there was no need to take a trek from a stage just to grab a quick beer.
The first few performances on the Main Stage were from emerging bands, and groups who have crept back into the spotlight after some time away. Opening the stage was Sheffield alternative rock group RedFaces. I spoke to their lead singer Harry the other week for an interview and he was a genuinely charming guy, so I was delighted that the occasion didn’t faze them. They drew a huge response from the crowd, and more than two people were singing along to their songs, which will have delighted Harry.
Following them were bright and breezy synth indie pop band Fickle Friends. Their fun, unorthodox 80s style sparkled, and their vibe was perfect for a warm sunny afternoon. Their set chilled the crowd and the energy levels dipped a little, but soared again when vibrant rock piece Darlia took to the stage. They’ve been away for a few years after releasing indie rock gems ‘Stars are Aligned’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’, but have finally come out with new music recently and continued their comeback with an appearance at Community.
I took the opportunity after Darlia to explore the talent over on the N4 Stage. Tucked away in the corner of the park, the area was really cosy, with space for people to relax in front of the stage whilst listening to the bands. The surprise of the day was discovering Stereo Honey on this stage. Before Community, admittedly I’d not heard any of their music, but I liked the flavour of their music; it had a Years and Years-esque kick to it. The band has not been around for overly long, but they had a strong, bold stage presence and their own individual slick fashion style too.
The organisers of Community are keen to diversify performers in the line-ups for their festivals; the indie and the alternative scene is overwhelmingly male dominated, and not featuring female bands or performers on lineups only escalates the issue. As it’s difficult enough today to generate income and build up fans through releasing music to the market, performing live is more crucial than ever, and giving more bands with female members slots will increase the amount of female orientated bands acts out there. There were a handful of female fronted / acts with females in performing at Community, including the feisty Anteros. The first mosh pits I saw of the day happened during track ‘Breakfast’.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stick around and watch N4 Stage headliners Clean Cut Kid, who were brilliant supporting Manchester indie greats Courteeners last November, as the raucous, mighty Slaves were taking to the Main Stage. The punk duo from ‘The Garden of England’ is my favourite act to see live – they’re entrancing. You enter another world when you’re at one of their live sets, as their spellbinding ferocity, searing guitar riffs and passionate vocals & screams energise you, and even a person like myself who usually avoids mosh pits suddenly wants to be right in the centre of one. Despite technical problems that struck throughout their set, Slaves carried on like true professionals, and the crowd lifted the band even when the sound from the guitar was temporarily lost. Slaves had the coolest guest appearance that day; the one and only ska legend Suggs from Madness contributed to a verse on ‘People That You Meet’.
The Wombats were the act chosen to precede Catfish and the Bottlemen, and their performance was good fun all round. The longevity of the Liverpudlian group has produced three albums which have soundtracked the lives of British teenagers, and based on this I was surprised they were not headlining the day. However, the momentum belongs to CATB right now. They’ve got the arena and headliner stage performance style perfected, after outgrowing the once tiny pubs, and small academy and venue stages they once played. After some of the biggest indie hits of the past decades were played to hype up the crowd (‘Not Nineteen Forever’ received a disappointing reception from the audience), CATB walked on to an almost hysteric, delighted reception from the crowd.
The quality of sound was great, although I couldn’t hear Van at all as the crowd were chanting every lyric. You don’t really go to a CATB concert to just listen to their songs – it had been a long time coming for me, after missing out on watching the band three times, but the two-year wait was so, so worth it. Although the whole 90 minutes the band played for were amazing, the set peaked when Van performed one of the most stripped back CATB songs ‘Hourglass’, acoustic. For a few moments things were gentle, and lots of people picked the song as the time to get on someone’s shoulders. Ending the set with ‘Tyrants’ was fitting, considering it’s the final song on The Balcony and is proof Van was destined to succeed all along, as some of the sentimental, deep lyrics were penned when he was just 14.
Like every festival there were a few negatives; apparently (as I dared not use them), toilet roll ran out halfway through the day, and sound technical difficulties made it difficult to hear bands further away from the Main Stage and consequently, some instruments lost sound at points. Community was an overwhelming success overall, helped by the high-quality lineup put together – acts on the N4 Stage have what it takes to be future Main Stage performers. I hope to see it return at Finsbury in 2018.