“I say scream if you love punk rock! Because punk, it never asked us to punch a clock. It never cares if you’re on time. And punk never told you to shut your mouth; punk loves to bitch and rhyme. And punk never made you feel left out; it goes to great lengths to include. And punk has never been anti-people and if you think so, fuck you! Punk has led us to peaceful, and it’s often led us to bed. Punk fucks with the filthy corrupt, and fucks the 1%.” – These are the words we heard when a familiar face beckoned me into Bar Rossi as I was on my way to catch Drawstring at the Quadrant. At the same time comical and cerebral, both preachy and inspiring, celebratory and vitriolic, everyone sprawled around the very cosy venue is unavoidably gripped – literally unavoidably. ‘None of you came downstairs, so I brought my words up here’, says Nash.
Actually, the entire festival is unavoidable – the city centre is abuzz with the presence of probably the biggest celebration of underground punk and hardcore the South Coast has to offer. Walking from venue to venue you wade through a sea of patch-laden black denim, oversized shirts and snug fitting beanies hugging onto buzz-cut scalps. Spanning across 9 of Brighton’s key music venues, the entire city is amok with attendees, and the reversed ratio of the usually hipster-meets-faux-gouth heavy town is not a riff short of refreshing. Day 1, spanning a more modest four venues, kicked off with the very first set by alt noise rock newcomers Baby Children at Green Door Store, and had Dead Swans reverberate the final riff around the euphoria tinged, sweaty basement of Latest Music Bar. Of the bands I caught, I’ll give a quick run down of my day one highlights:
Gaffa Tape Sandy, Patterns.
I meandered into Patterns to see a stage that was far more ambiently lit than was matched to the high energy punk bravado encasing their surf-pop core. Pushing through the sea of photographers near wrestling to secure the best shot of Alcopop’s latest signing, I saw a grooving 3-piece so much younger than their sound would allude. Offering lyrics with genuine substance and complex, caustic instrumentation, GTS are natural performers.
Plastics, Lates Music Bar.
Moving with confidence around a stage that could fit a 30-piece orchestra, front-woman and vocalist Oli is both infatuating and formidable. Plastics are basically the exact kind of refreshingly authentic punk band you expect to discover at Washed Out festival. They have an unrefined, grit-eyed edge that surpasses their razor precise drum fills and crisp melodies in an enticing powerhouse of raw talent and emotion.
WACO, Green Door Store.
The audience are rearing and ready to go with pricked ears and open arms by the time Waco bounce onto stage. And such a buoyant, encouraging reception seems suitable for a band whose focus is on promoting a positive, uplifting message via danceable punk that delivers as somewhat spiritually inclined. A powerful presence with a talent for earworm choruses, I could barely cling onto my pseudo professionalism for want of a tiny shimmy to their songs.
Dead Swans, Latest Music Bar.
Closing night 1 with explosive authority, we rushed in to see the venue swarming with eagerly poised fans, who launched invigoratingly into a seething pit upon hearing the first riff. Intensely gnarly and impeccably tight, I held onto my camera for dear life trying to catch some footage that would be even half as good as the show. Definitely one of the most gripping, explosive performances of the entire festival, Dead Swans were the perfect end to Illegal Activity Records’ takeover at Latest Music Bar that night.
The following day, despite the celebratory drinks at the end of night one, the city was still vibrant with festivalgoers slumping around in the sunshine between venues. After a few strong coffees I set out amongst it and day two was off to a roaring start! As opposed to the four-venue spread the day before, the Saturday occupies NINE venues, so there is no time to waste (naturally, I was never going to reach all of them, or see all the acts on my list but I mean O gave it my best shot). So, walking into my first venue of the day, The Hope and Ruin, morale is high as the main bar buzzes with a steady hum of natter about who people have seen and who they’re off to see next. Our day 2 highlights are:
H_ngm_n, The Hope & Ruin.
After missing new punks on the block Park Avenue, this emo-meets-pop duo were just second on my list, so the modestly sized crowd I walked in to see was no surprise. And less than two songs into being enveloped in their searing, introspective sound, couched in dynamic melodies, I was even less surprised to turn around to an audience that had more than doubled. Their goofy, fun-loving energy is transcendental, and a fitting – albeit paradoxical – tonic to the very conscientious music they present.
Public Body, The Hope & Ruin.
In the context of Brighton’s underground music scene, these guys are pretty much a supergroup. With all members involved with both former and current local favourites, (including State Funeral, Broadbay, Birdskulls, Gutter Knife and, also playing Washed Out this year, Bloody Death and Plastics), jaunting into their plump, chirpy audience we were confident we were about to experience something memorable. Exuding ironic intellect via their auspiciously quirky form of modern post-punk, Public Body are formal yet funky, and they know exactly what they’re doing.
Nash, Bar Rossi.
The man behind the intro to this feature, witnessing this wordsmith was one of the festivals happiest accidents. Speaking with a fun humour anchored by reverent content and angst, his spoken word poetry was a revitalising change of pace that didn’t compromise on power. I hovered at the back, not wanting to disrupt the attentiveness between Nash and the audience, but could not contain ourselves from edging closer with intrigue when he brought up paraphilia… Somehow, even speaking graphically about such a topic as that Nash remains eloquent and captivating, and the crowd applaud.
Drawstring, The Quadrant.
Knowing they had warned it would be their last ever show, I was one of at least 80 others hankering for a front row spot to watch these dreamy emo pop’ers play their final riff. Ebullient and triumphant was the atmosphere as the room sang along in chorus to their resplendent jangles. What was lovely about the Drawstring show is that somehow the Kent lads created a sort of house party setting, the type where everyone knows everyone then suddenly someone gets out their guitar for your opinion on their latest creation. It was a comfortable space that promoted nothing but elation, and was an unforgettable send off for the bands final performance.
Bloody Death, The Hope & Ruin.
With an air of tentative romance comparable to an early scene in 500 Days of Summer, these guys are just about too electrifying to be considered shoegazers. Their misty, lofi emo quietude exists amidst a haze of distortion-fuelled indie pop, and lead vocalist Ted displays a presence so modest in its notability. This band are heady with infectious melodies, and looking around between their swooping soundscapes, no shoulders can resist swaying. Watching their bashful precision live makes it clear why this band have become quite the household name in Brighton, no doubt they’ll soon receive the same support further afield.
Guru, The Prince Albert.
An undeniable favourite in Brighton – and notorious for destructive, bravado driven live performances – Guru were always going to be a fun watch. Sauntering in to a sparse crowd I thought I’d have to clamber through upon arrival, the bands menacing, lysergic delivery tells of how unfazed they are by the slight turnout. Riffing and a’rolling about the stage, their explosive energy is unrelenting and the few visible faces in the charmingly dingy venue are plagued with awe-struck expressions.
As the festival came to a close there was a distinct and invigorating sense of liberation amongst the attendees and performers alike. Hearing Dead Swans dedicating their set to Plastics, and watching band after band load off stage in record time just so they can run and catch anothers set is a testament to the passion and support that bleeds through the foundations of Washed Out. It’s funny because nothing about this festival is polished. It’s clear how far it has developed since its humble beginnings in 2017, but it still gifts you with the feeling that it is run by mates for mates. I can only speak for myself but we’re am certain I wasn’t the only one to come into the following Sunday feeling a mixture of disappointed that it came and went so quickly, proud to have been a part of it, lucky to have witnessed such amazing musicianship and so incredibly grateful for the friendly faces, both old and new, that got me through the weekend. Until next year Washed Out, it’s been real.
Words: Georgia Balson