Back after a year off & positioning itself as the first UK offering of the festival season (if a year-long period can be described as a season), Rockaway Beach once again boasts a good variety of old and new acts so, on a personal level, I can see a number of potentially exciting prospects for the first time whilst taking in performances from other acts I’ve not seen for anywhere between five and 20-ish years.
Friday night’s bill perfectly illustrates that element of the event as I’ve not seen Honeyblood before but have high expectations, I haven’t seen The Orb since sometime in the ‘90s and the last Horrors gig I took in saw them still shouting & screaming, rather than performing their lusher current sound.
All of the above performed admirably - Honeyblood were an energetic opening act with plenty of chat to get the audience involved, fighting off the last vestiges of the flu in the process. The audience were pretty static but certainly knew the recent singles such as 'Babes Never Die' as the duo saved the best for last.
The Horrors were sublime & easily the best act of the whole weekend. Given the direction they've gone over the past three albums the sound itself was obviously no surprise but the assured manner in which they now perform was an obvious step forward from the last time I'd seen them. Faris even took the time to pass on his new year resolution - to talk more and be nicer to people and then barely said a word after. Tres droll but in keeping with the overall wit of the show.
Sound-wise The Orb were a bit of an odd choice to come on next but they started off with a couple of numbers even I recognised (they've had half a dozen or so albums out since I last paid them a great deal of attention) & so they brought a solid & groove-filled end to the night which saw quite a few in the crowd loosening up in advance of Tim Burgess's closing DJ set.
Saturday's stand out performance came from Snapped Ankles, sweating themselves thinner in the smaller Reds performance space. Those ghillie suits they wear aren't I imagine that breathable. Air hockey's their game of choice it seems & the audience were welcomed to challenge them at it after the show. They bring a great deal of energy to the stage with their tribal-influenced sound, which felt a lot more immediate than on record. They'd a very good looped back projection on the go too.
Pulled Apart By Horses were the final act of this afternoon, a band I know by name but have never really made the effort to listen to. On the evidence of the show today I don't see that changing anytime soon. They're chat was pleasant enough, they're loud and pretty fast but somehow I found the whole thing unconvincing.
Into the main hall we all then trooped for British Sea Power & the apparently final festival show from Wild Beasts. BSP I've seen a number of times but tonight they seemed rather one dimensional, despite the nice foliage they'd had the stage decorated with. The rest of the audience lapped it up but I felt that each song was in the same gear, with no obvious changes in pace and whilst they had a good amount of chat I found myself largely disengaged. Wild Beasts were another act I've known of but not actively listened to so I wasn't expecting the Dutch Uncles-esque sound that came forth when they took to the stage. Again I seemed to be out of sync with the rest of the crowd so I left them to it after a couple of songs.
Sunday's highlight for me was again in Reds where punk-pop stalwart Helen Love and her band held sway for a fast, fun and frivolous set which greatly appealed to the (smaller than usual) crowd who clearly knew what to expect and loved every minute of it. It was pleasing to finally have caught a live show by the group after many years of enjoying their output.
I've never 'got' Alabama 3 & tonight's show from them brought me no nearer to doing so. I presume the bouncer on stage during their Blues Brothers-esque performance is part of their schtick. They can't have been worried about stage invaders, given the age and condition of the bulk of us watching. I'd last seen the band at Rockness in 2008 but at least there there was another stage or tent in which to seek entertainment. No such option this time around so I ended up taking the short walk into Bognor Regis itself in search of an ale.
Whilst the event has introduced interview features in the bar during the afternoons as well as films each day (which I presume were chosen as much for the music in them as the stories) the problem it suffered from in the main was that of being more like three all-dayers in a row rather than a proper festival. When last here in 2015 there were three stages with acts overlapping each other so you could wander from one to the other, see more & have more chance of viewing a whole set. This year there was no overlap so you either stuck around or wandered off back to your apartment or to eat and/or drink (or to play the tuppenny falls). Given that there were fewer bands than three years ago this was probably though the only way to operate things.
Making it back with more time to kill than necessary it was handy that Peter Hook & The Light, an act it was obvious many fans had come mainly to see, came on stage around 45 minutes earlier than billed. I've been wary of this act since first reading about it and it took no time at all for my suspicion that it's an ego trip to be confirmed. Nostalgia's all well & good but if Martin Gore started fronting a Depeche Mode covers band (or tribute act depending on how you choose to word it) or Lol Tolhurst did the same for material from his time in The Cure it would have the same ring to it. Bernard Sumner doesn't really sound right singing Joy Division songs (as witnessed on the recent New Order live album) so how's the band's old bassist going to? Deciding to stick with the recorded versions of the songs in question it was bed before midnight for me.