If it really came to it, and I had to choose between Glastonbury and Bushstock, I think would choose Bushstock. Call me crazy – but there’s some potent magic in the intimacy that Communion have created with this little festival spread across Shepherd’s Bush that really makes you feel like you’re in the thick of it – that you’re immersed in emerging talent, part of a narrative that unfolds with each set, each song and each note. You’ve done it again Bushstock – and there’s a whole new host of talent to divulge.
I love every venue here. From the quiet grandeur of a lantern-lit St Stephen’s Church to the wild intensity of Albertine’s Wine Bar. I love Bush Hall because I’ve seen some of my favourite acts play to an audience who rise from the floor to hear them sing; I love Defector’s Weld because each year new bands create an infectious buzz amongst us all; I love the Sindercome Social for its corner stage and deep red hues. In a city so cavernous, so impossibly vast, it’s here you find moments of deep, surreal and infinite warmth. Where artists and audience roam the streets alongside each other, find favourite new bands together and develop a bond that can never be found amongst the divided stages of Glasto. Here is where your music education begins.
First up, the bellowing, thunderous voice of Joseph J. Jones, who fills up St Stephen’s Church with howling intimacy. Standing behind just a microphone and hiding from nothing, his confidence is commanding, and we are all transfixed. One of Communion’s latest recruits, his lyrics cry out with potent heartbreak. I meet him afterwards: he’s a true Londoner – he tells me they’re a dying breed – and he has a way of capturing you through his stories, both musically and personally. He’s a keeper.
Onwards to the Defector’s Weld for a band I was truly at Bushstock to see. I played a Communion show with Martha Gunn last year, and since that moment in soundcheck when I heard front woman Abi’s soaring vocals, I knew they would do great things. The venue was full to the brim. You could barely fit the 5 of them on stage, but they manage it and launch into the set with a bone-chilling a cappella rendering us all speechless. They go on to perform 5 more outstanding tracks – their latest single Heaven being one of them – and you can feel the excitement. Watching bands who really love what they do is pretty special. They all look at one another with constant smiles, Abi commanding the stage but sharing it with her bandmates. It was the start of something big for them, that’s for sure.
The day followed with dreamy sets from Amber Run, one of the secret acts who graced the Albertine with their dulcet harmonies; a soulful and sultry Matt Maltese; the riotous The Big Moon, a mesmeric Albin Lee Meldau (all the way from Sweden) and Meadowlark, who I’ve seen grow from strength to strength over the last few years.
Ever hopeful, I rush back to St Stephen’s Church to catch Matthew & The Atlas – although I’m a little delayed by a run in with Flyte – but can’t even get through the gates for the crowd who are gearing up for Bear’s Den. A quick dash to see Flyte who sing like the wonderful handsome angels that they are – Light Me Up will most likely go down as one of my top ten songs of all time, whilst a friend referred to their acoustic version of Faithless as so good it should be illegal – and a timely jog back to St Stephen’s Church to hear Bear’s Den belt out a few tunes whilst I press my ear to the church door.
I don’t make the whole set which I am gutted about because I knew that MarthaGunn were heading over to play an encore. Luckily some angel recorded it and whacked it on YouTube and I at least witnessed the spine-tingling wonder of Abi and Max from MG singing a duet of Wild Horses. This is what music really looks like. (4 minutes 25 is the real golden ticket. Warning: this may make you weep with joy and excitement, and make you realise why you listen to music at all. I’m really not being hyperbolic).
Dan Croll headlines the Bush Hall with meticulous musicality and I’m so happily surprised at his set. It’s exciting to see him embark on a new adventure with Communion. Job well done.
So there you have it. Bushstock strikes again. This is the place to be to discover rising talent, run amok with mates and find some new ones on the way. The swirling, effervescent energy of Bushstock is alive in us all after that day – same again next year.
Words by Cat Sarsfield