A one-line review of everything I saw at Rockaway Beach 2023
Nobody has asked for these reviews. They are more for my benefit than yours, I guess. It is usually a monthly series but I thought I’d get all of Rockaway Beach off straight away. Boom. Happy new year. Links go to the artist website. Maybe your interest will be piqued by one of the reviews. Maybe you’ll scroll straight past. Maybe you’ll unsubscribe thinking whatever did I ever see in this blog?
Panic Shack, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – Angry feminist women making Welsh punk but also doing it with incredible joie de vivre – I knew them because the Guardian’s Steven Morris made us watch the video for Meal Deal at work as an example of the current outburst of politically-driven art in Wales.
Deep Tan, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – Sounded much funkier and more powerfully bass-driven than I remember this trio being the last time I saw them. Very good value.
Low Hummer, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – They remind me a bit of the Sugarcubes not in how they sound but in that every time the bloke is singing a song you think, oh I wish it was the woman singing again. I saw them supporting the Manics in Halifax in 2021 and always enjoy them.
LIFE, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – I had low expectations of this as one of those bands annoyingly bracketed in the “They sound a bit like Sleaford Mods/Idles/Yard Act and The Fall” bucket (none of them sound anything like the Fall to me, talking/shouting in a northern accent is not a genre or a shortcut to being as good as Mark E Smith), but I thought they were unexpectedly great and I loved the bassists’ energy.
Acid Klaus, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – Three-quarters of the band seemed serious making electronic music with a rotating cast of decent singers, but then Acid Klaus himself was like a comedy northern bingo-caller character and I didn’t get on with it at all.
Scrounge, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – I really rate them and also appreciate that the drummer looks like David Beckham and his haircut have been time-travelled through from 1998 to the present day where he plies his trade on the sticks.
The Primitives, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – Rattled through about 1,057 songs, more of which I recognised than I expected.
Self Esteem, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – I listened to her album once on a #TimsTwitterListeningParty and could see why people rated it but didn’t feel it was really aimed at me or spoke to me but live, the presentation, her performance, the way it was received in the crowd, unexpectedly the absolute turn of the day. Her backdrop – following her appearance in the Xmas special – demanded “FULL SEASON OF TASKMASTER WHEN?”
W. H. Lung, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – This reminded me of FEWS and The Cooper Temple Clause and World Of Twist and was loud and great fun
Peter Hook & The Light, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 6 January – A load of mostly pissed-up mostly blokes in a room bellowing along to Joy Division and New Order songs while Peter Hook was also in the room bellowing. What could go wrong?
Winter Gardens, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – I kind of wanted to like them as the two women vocalists gave it a bit of a School Of Seven Bells feel when it was more electronic, but they had an incredibly over-enthusiastic guitarist who kept pulling focus with stadium rock moves which was highly irritating. Also every song sounded like it had been made by a different band.
Personal Trainer, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – A seven-piece which made me wonder how financially viable they were but they had infectious bouncy fun vibes about them and reminded me a bit of Flaming Lips / LCD Soundsystem / The Umlauts
Panic Shack (again), Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – Someone had pulled out so we got second helpings, although they did confess they had enjoyed quite a few drinks the night before not expecting to have to play again. I got to see the whole set this time, including the incredible song they have about Jujutsu and the routine that goes with it. Definitely go and see them if you get the chance.
The Goa Express, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – Sounded like a Milltown Brothers-tier 90s indie band doing cover versions of Beady Eye & High Flying Birds. Did not want.
Melt Yourself Down, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – Frontman worked the crowd well with politically-charged tunes driven by two saxamaphones of varying sizes.
The Futureheads, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – The singer had lost his voice so they were making much of the fact that they were having to swap around vocal duties, they pleasingly remind me of early XTC, and they came across as very funny between songs and I should reacquaint myself with their first couple of albums.
Big Joanie, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – I finally saw Big Joanie at the third attempt and loved it, exactly what I expected and wanted, noisy and full of both joy and anger.
The Anchoress, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – Catherine Anne Davies has had such a difficult time over the last few years, and has been very open about how medically vulnerable she is and how worried about Covid she has been, but she has channelled so much of all that into the brilliant Art of Losing LP and it was an absolute privilege and pleasure to be at her first show for three-and-a-half years and the first time she was playing those songs live and it did not disappoint, including a shrewd decision to play her Bizarre Love Triangle lockdown cover to a festival crowd who had been there for Peter Hook.
Scalping, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – Extremely loud and frantic noise-driven electronic rave stuff.
OMD, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 7 January – I love them to bits although I do find it increasingly weird that they do their own shows at the Royal Albert Hall but also do the Butlin’s Nostalgia Bandwagon circuit. Nevermind. They opened with Isotype which is one of my favourites of their modern era and will never not make me think fondly and sadly of Seb Patrick and Dan Martin.
John J Presley, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 8 January – Gravel-voiced miserabilist accompanied by drums and someone with an array of odd and vintage instruments including an unexpectedly noisy turn on the flute.
Modern Woman, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 8 January – I never really listen to their records but this is the second time I’ve seen them live and I really love it – like the Birthday Party but with swooping female vocals and one bloke who plays about fifty instruments including violin and the table that all his stuff is balanced on. Check them out.
Hamish Hawk, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 8 January – Went down extremely well in the room, didn’t do much for me, but pleasant enough Scottish indie.
Fake Turins, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 8 January – Another unfeasibly and uneconomical large line-up, didn’t really engage me with their funk/soul/rock crossover stuff, sorry.
The Beat, Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis, 8 January – Literally no idea which version of the Beat this was and how many were original members but you can’t beat a ska bounce-up on a Sunday evening to round off the music you watch at a festival.
The Sparks Brothers (2021), Edgar Wright – They were playing the Sparks doco on the big(-ish) screen at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis and it would have been simply churlish not to sit there and watch it with other people. May have cried again during several bits of it, couldn’t possibly comment.
BONUS CONTENT: Best quip of the festival went to my mate, who as we walked past the crowd waiting for a Q&A with Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys just casually said to me “How many of these people do you think you’ve argued with in the OMD Facebook group?”
ROCKAWAY BEACH ITSELF: There’s inevitably a bit of faded seaside glamour about being at Butlin’s in January, and you were a bit at the mercy of some sub-optimal food choices, but the actual festival itself seemed very well-organised, the venues were all indoors and incredibly close together and acts spaced out so there were very few clashes, all the staff were friendly and drinks not punishingly expensive, and I would definitely do it again.