This Must Be the Place 2016 Roundup (Part 3)

By on Wednesday, 8th June 2016 at 2:00 pm

Words by Adam McCourt

Following the overcapacity fiasco at Headrow House earlier in the evening, I decided to stay put and fight the grain of the exiting crowd to make sure I didn’t miss any of the next act, 20-year old singer/songwriter Julien Baker. I joined a handful of punters at the front of the room who were all facing the stage despite the clear lack of commotion. Ms. Baker soon appeared onstage to unpack her pedal board and work out how to connect her American plugs into UK converters.

We didn’t have to wait long before the 5-foot-nothing Tennessee native struck the first notes of the title track of her debut album ‘Sprained Ankle’. Anyone unfamiliar with Baker’s music was in for a very emotional treat, as Baker rambled through seven depressingly honest songs that touched on subjects such as rejection, forgiveness and alcohol abuse, all with undertones of love and heartache.

From the first collection of harmonics until the last click of her pedals in the final song, Baker’s audience were totally transfixed. After her first two songs, she took a moment to address us with a light-hearted story about being trapped in the venue’s elevator, which translated as her way of saying ‘it’s okay to smile’ whilst subtracting some attention from her openly revealing songs. I think at this point, people were laughing to hold back any other emotions that had culminated upon watching. The highlight of the set was Baker’s third song, ‘Vessels’. The incredible vocal projection from someone so small in stature and fragile in nature left a few audience members in tears, and her slight but effective melodic variations were happily accepted. Baker finished off her set with a major crowd pleaser from the aforementioned album, a track titled ‘Something’. The intensity of the song grew with each added layer of looped guitar, and its final lyric ‘I won’t think of anyone else’ left us with a spine-tingling feeling of fulfillment.

I took the time at this point to recuperate with a coffee before final act The Wytches took the stage to finish the day off. As I peacefully observed the bar, it was as evident as ever that This Must Be The Place exists for its love of the unusual, and the growing scene that is of quirky, neo-hipsters and surf-psych garage music. As the crowds went either to get a good spot at The Wytches upstairs, or to Headrow House to catch Tom Vek, I noticed flannel shirts, Doc Martens, skinny jeans and tote bags were the trends that carried through to the décor of the Belgrave, with its neon signs and long shared tables. It was a community more than anything, and with a community showcasing so many esoteric acts of music, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

I finished my coffee and made my way upstairs to the back of the hall so not to disturb the diehards at the front. The Wytches plodded on stage 15 minutes after their start time and instantly began terrorising the audience with sinister, shoegazey guitar melodies on top of equally sludgy grooves. The atmosphere in the venue was incredible. As you looked across the crowd you could see a clear circle set out as a mosh pit, filled with heads that continued to bounce up and down for the next 45 minutes.

The Wytches’ second song ‘Robe For Juda’ was the welcomed with open arms. As soon as the drop tempo of the chorus burst our ears, the crowd let out their anticipation in an eruption of moshing. Despite the furore of the audience, The Wytches kept calm and collected as they powered through their list of chaotic, feedback ridden songs, overloaded with screechy high gain vocals that to a certain degree sounded like Kurt Cobain if he were in more pain…if that’s even possible. There were other close connections to Nirvana within the trio, mainly in their stage presence. Singer and guitarist Kristian Bell stood idly hunched over as he wept into the mic, as if possessed. Bassist Daniel Rumsey had a floating, hoppy thing going on similar to Krist Novoselic, and drummer Gianni Honey smashed away at the kit in typical Dave Grohl fashion.

The crowd began to die down towards the end of The Wytches’ set, and in the back of the hall in what is more of a lounge area, some festivalgoers had given up and found seats. The fall in numbers had no effect on the three dark figures on stage. Finally ending in typical fashion, they set the feedback to full on their pedals as they struck the last chord and walked off, leaving the room filled with cheers and noise.

As we filed out of the venue and I made my way home, I thought to myself how friendly and undisturbed the festival was. It is inevitable that at festivals there are always groups who cause havoc, usually in the form of fighting, indulging in drugs, or doing something as stupid as walking between sites, shouting, “lads, lads, lads!”. But there was none of that here. This Must Be The Place attracted very like-minded people to a day where they could sit on old sofas in cool bars and sip craft beer in peace, whilst simultaneously taking in some of the country’s or even the world’s best up-and-coming talent in a subculture with an ever-growing market.

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