Little Way Festival - Brighton, 27th February 2016

Little Way Festival – Brighton, 27th February 2016

A new festival is an exciting thing. As the days count down you start to wonder if it’ll live up to the hype that has been created, or will it just be a massive anti-climax? Little Way Festival – an all day event located in central Brighton – is the brain-child of art students Philippe Nash and Harvey Herman. Their vision was to curate a day that members of Brighton’s burgeoning music and arts scene, young families who want a safe environment to introduce their children to diverse live music, and the rest of the community could all enjoy. The line-up was a mixture of local heroes O Chapman, Nick Austin and Louis Walkden, and established acts like Rozi Plain, Modern Studies and Adam Stafford.

The day was broken up into two sessions. The first half of the day was a fairly gentle sojourn through spiky lo-fi, Americana, dream-pop, re-imagining the classic singer singer-songwriter and full blown sonic soundscapes. It told the audience “Good. You came. We’re going to show you things you are used to, but also things you aren’t. Don’t worry it won’t get too ‘out there’, but if it does bear with us, as something you like will be on soon”.

After Marcus Hamblett’s genre splicing set at 16:30, there was an hour break. With the break, Nash and Herman wanted to start conversations between strangers, but it perhaps didn’t quite work the way they had hoped. The hall immediately became congested  and moving to and from the food and drinks stalls was made all the more difficult by the numbers of people who were eating on the floor. But the main problem was it broke up the flow of the morning. There was a really good rhythm building but the break effectively killed it.

When the afternoon session resumed, it started with Emma Gatrill, whose harp infused songs of love and redemption were beautifully written, but by then everyone was in a food coma and needed a sudden jolt to get the momentum going. Next up was Little Way co-founder Phillipe Nash. Sounding like Jeff Buckley fronting Lift to Experience, with occasional synths it helped to wake everyone up a bit, but it took until BANU at 19:15 before the momentum of the morning session could be restored. Their blend of Twin Peak’s inspired lounge music really won the crowd over, and they got the biggest applause of the day so far. As the gloaming descended, the room took on a slightly spooky vibe. Coats were pulled tighter, collars turned up and the children either started to get restless or they silently fell asleep and their music fitted this perfectly.

Kristin McClement’s blend of classic British Folk with social commentary twists followed on nicely. McClement’s vocals and guitar was backed by multi-instrumentalist Jools Owen on drums, trumpet and harmonium, though sadly not at the same time. I overheard a child next to me say to his Mum of the harmonium “THAT’S what I want for my birthday!” His mother smiled, nodded and gave me a look that said she was never going to buy him a harmonium. As the lights dimmed for a moment you almost felt you were in a secluded wood at Latitude or Camp Bestival watching an intimate performance while some big named headliner went through their greatest hits.

The stand out set of the day came from Adam Stafford. When you listen to Stafford’s albums you don’t think anything of it, but seeing him live puts a whole new spin on his music. Instead of being backed by a band, it is just him and a bassist. All the guitar and drum parts are played live by Stafford using an array of effects, reverb, distortion and loop pedals plus his guitar and voice. He created a maelstrom of sound from a few subtle notes here, and tapping pick-ups there. At time it sounded like Philip Glass with his endless layered repetitions of the same riff. The only downside of his set is that it was cut short. This was because of over running earlier in the day and due to the lunch hour coming back later than expected.

When the night finally descended, people huddled together in groups, letting their conversations ebb and flow while enjoying the intricacies of the music from Modern Studies. Their blend of chamber pop, with country and western stylings, really hammered home the ethos of Little Way. Again it was the group’s use of a harmonium that grabbed people’s attention. Rozi Plain then closed the festival with a set that proved why she has been winning over audiences and reviewers since 2008 with her blend of euphoric Alt-Folk.

The overall vibe of Little Way was that of a new age bring and buy sale. Everything was slightly rough around the edges and the bars had a slightly ad hoc feel about them that Robert Tressell would have approved of. It worked perfectly with the overall feeling of the day. Everyone was pulling together for a far greater cause and didn’t seem to mind if things took slightly longer than usual. But as can often happen in such situations no one was really sure exactly what was going on. From the team that welcomed you, to the bar, merch staff and even the artists themselves.

Jeremy, the sound man, did a great job all day, but during some of the later sets the sounds were lost as you could not hear all of the subtle nuances of instruments and their interplay. This was down to the choice of venue. While performing in an old church does look very impressive and re-defines the old binds of preachers giving sermons, due to the height and structure of the building it does not always carry over where electric instruments are involved. Let’s hope that this was just first night nerves and the organisers can get it all sorted out for next year for Little Way has the potential to be really something special if they can only work out what they want to be.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.