The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
Review by Glenn Rossington
Every once is a while, you get a band who deserve fantastic things or are on the verge of this when tragedy strikes. It happened to the Manics when Richey disappeared after releasing their masterpiece ‘The Holy Bible’. Jeff Buckley took his life just as ‘Grace’ was being heralded as a masterpiece, and Matthew Jay fell from a window during the recording process of his second album following a highly acclaimed debut record.
Fast forward to 2010, Camden synth-pop band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were gaining momentum following the release of their debut album ‘The Golden Year’.Having played a gig in Wolverhampton at Alchemy Bar, supporting La Roux on tour and a string of singles, they were heading to Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium. Following a triumphant set, singer Charlie Haddon was rumoured to be distraught following what he feared to be a fatal injury to a female fan following a stage dive he had made during the performance. In the artist’s parking lot after the show he took his own life. In honour of their friend’s memory, the rest of his band and Charlie’s family decided that in tribute to him, they would organise a charity concert titled’ Chazzstock’ held at the Koko in Camden. Playing that bill were The Kooks, Mr Hudson and Tony Hadley amongst others.
This year, Chazzstock was originally to be held at Stanford Hall in Lutterworth over two days with both The Horrors and The Vaccines headlining a day each. The event was subsequently moved to the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton and all bands crammed into one spectacular day with early doors at 3.30. What a coup for the city, amazing bands attracting fans from all over the UK to witness this intimate event.
Kicking off proceedings was the rather cheeky Jen Armstrong. Having just released her debut e.p: ‘Cyber Girl’, the singer dressed in Pink entertained a warm crowd already massing at the foot of the stage. Tracks like ‘Chemistry’, “You Still Turn Me On’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ show potential for the young starlet. The downside to playing the opening slot at a ‘festival’ is that it can be hit and miss what kind of a crowd you get. Jen was lucky in that as people walked into the venue, most decided to check her out first before heading to the bar. By the end of her short set, the round of applause was warm and also showed the respect of the appreciative audience.
Next up were the rather good I Dream In Colour. Led by singer Richard Judge, the band have an arsenal of great tunes ready to unleash upon the world. ‘London’ and ‘Wide Awake’ being standouts. They certainly managed to interact with the crowd which at this point was still growing. IdiC have had support from BBC Introducing amongst others and I am sure will be back. The multi talents of the band showed the diversity of their music. Panning from acoustic piano ballads through to punchy rock n’ roll will certainly appeal to the masses. There was even a small arms of fans at the front bouncing around during their set, some new fans won over already.
The feisty Lois & The Love were up next. They came across as something like ‘The City’ era PJ Harvey and early ‘Florence & The Machine’. They whipped the crowd up and really got the party going. ‘Rabbit Hole’ was certainly a favourite from the crowd tonight. The performance saw front-woman Lois covering all areas of the stage and often reaching towards the crowd which caused mini surges towards the barrier. I think it’s fair to say that the crop of ‘smaller’ acts so far were all received and enjoyed with open arms.
Safari took to the stage quite sharply after Lois had finished. Their blend of Pop-rock was again something the audience seemed to enjoy. By this point, the heat was affecting a few of the die hards on the front row and water was being handed out by the Wulfrun’s staff. Led by Ian Larter the band powered through as many songs in 15 minutes as is possible. Even finding time to take a photo of the audience and some cheeky chatter too. Their brand of music isn’t far from a ton of bands already on the scene, but these guys have been working for their craft and the following here tonight was applaudable. Certainly one of the mid evening highlights so far.
The Ghosts were up next. They were probably my favourite act of the smaller bands, there is something about Alex Starlings’ vocals that make you sit up and pay attention to them. Kicking off with the excellent ‘Ghosts’, it seemed that the rest of the Wulfrun Hall wanted in on this moment. I took a second to look around from the pit and the majority of people were dancing away or using their camera phones pointing at the stage. They managed to instill a new lease of life into those at the front who were die hards for the Vaccines and waining a bit. ‘Enough Time’, ‘Scared’ and ‘Eyes on Another One’ kept the party going right up to the last note of their set. It was fair to say they pulled this one out of the bag and surprised a lot of people in the room.
This was essentially the midway point of the day. Five acts, all of a smaller status and had fired up the crowd ready for the gradual climb towards the big bands. The security in the pit swapped over just as the lights dimmed. Frankie and The Heartstrings took to the stage, marking the start of the ‘medium’ sized acts. Kicking off with ‘She Will Get There’, singer Michael McKnight was in jubilant form. Standing on the monitors at the front of the stage, he was eating up the love from the audience. Their set was pampered with tracks from debut album ‘Hunger’ and also showcased what appeared to be a couple of newer songs too. Highlights were certainly ‘That Postcard’, ‘Photograph’, ‘First Boy’ and ‘Hunger’. The audience were loving this jump to the bigger bands and as they left after closing track ‘Scratching’ the crowd were certainly whipped up.
Next up were the indie darlings of the moment, Spector. From the word ‘go’ they launched straight into ‘What You Wanted’ and flowed straight into ‘Grey Shirt & Tie’. It is easy to see why they are being hyped at the moment. The performance was faultless. High energy anthems in under 3 minutes, frontman Frederick Macpherson knows his game. His look is like a 50′s male geek complete with iconic glasses. Thrashing around the stage elegantly in a suit would send any normal man into a sweat, he can hide it well and then comes back to the mic to give it more. ‘Celestine’ and ‘Chevy Thunder’ were brilliant highlights, the later causing certain member of the crowd to punch the air on the chorus. Completing the set with ‘Never Fade Away’ left the packed out Wulfrun begging for more.
The mood changed slightly as legendary Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess strode on stage. Armed with a harmonica and two friends on a guitar and drums he kicked off with a country-rock version of ‘Impossible’. Giving it enough distance from the Charlies’ ‘Warm Sounds’ EP to make it his own, but still retaining the flow of the original, it was a refreshing take. Next up was a brand new Burgess track called ‘Doors of Then’ which is off his forthcoming new solo record. The short set included another solo track from his debut called ‘Years Ago’. The audience remained attentive throughout but seemed a bit solem until the closing duo of ‘North Country Boy’ played at breakneck speed and sounding fantastic, then the closing mass singalong enjoyment of ‘One To Another’. Tim had gone from being the calm before the storm to a rowsing crescendo sending the entire room dizzy with excitement. With a brief thank you and dedication to Charlie, he was gone.
The final act of the ‘mid-status’ acts was Camden’s Tribes. This also dived into the most poignant and emotional performance of the day. Opening with the trilogy of ‘Whenever’, ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘Sappho’, frontman Johnny Lloyd was in an energetic bubble. There was a brief silence before playing ‘Corner of An English Field’, no explanation was needed. You only need to listen to the opening verse to understand the poignancy. “Took a walk yesterday, to the places we would play, then Charlie passed away, and it hasn’t been the same”. I’m sure the entire room choked when 2+2 were put together… a great testament indeed to have so many people singing that line back, today of all days. ‘Nightdriving’ was another song written for Charlie and again, to have an entire hall honouring the memory at the same time in the same way; enjoyment, is a great testament to his legacy. Tribes tipped their metaphorical hats off to the Wulfrun crowd before ending their emotional set on the epic singalong ‘We Were Children’.
We had a slightly longer break now between the bands and the two ‘main acts’. Anticipation in the room for both of these coming acts was tremendous, especially as both o them would be playing Wolverhampton for the first time. First up as sub-headliners were The Horrors. Faris Badwan and his merry men, high on the success of recent album ‘Skying’ know how to make an impact. Moody back-lighting, causing nothing but silhouettes to be seen by the audience add dimension to the music. Heavy fuzzy guitars and bass driven tracks rocked the core of the Wulfrun Hall. Starting off with ‘Mirror’s Image’ the audience found the groove and moshed out with them. Their set dipped in and out of the first two albums, but relied heavily on the newer material. A dedication was made to Charlie’s Dad who was one of the main event organisers, resulting in a great cheer from the crowd. Single ‘Sea Within A Sea’ followed and gave way to perfect set closer ‘Still Life’. They sounded glorious tonight and promised to see ‘Us’ (Chazzstock) again in 2013. Let’s hope they keep that promise.
10.10pm signalled the arrival of The Vaccines. Kicking off proceedings with new single ‘No Hope’ and segueing straight into live favourite ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ it is fair to say they arrived in style. The reaction of the audience blew the roof off the intimate setting of the Wulfrun. Showcasing most of the debut record ‘What Did You Expect From…’ along with a couple of new songs from the new album, ‘Tiger Blood’, ‘Bad Mood’ and ‘Teenage Icon’ sat perfectly alongside old favourites ‘Blow It Up’, ‘Post Break-up Sex’ and ‘Wetsuit’. The Wulfrunians first Vaccines show was breathtaking. Cramming 14 songs into 45 minutes was immense. Following the closing track ‘Nørgaard’, frontman Justin Young welcomed Charlie Haddon’s friends and family onto the stage to thank them for organising the event. The appreciation shown by the audience hopefully alerted them to how thankful we are for Charlie and the dedication everyone involved. As the lights came on and signalled the end of the show, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s track ‘Dance The Way I Feel’ played out for people to sing along to.
The night was a fitting tribute to a talented young man who was taken from the world at such a criminally young age. The testamanet that the venue was sold out, each and every artist who played was highly appreciated by the audience should prove that a lot of love and respect is given to newer acts on the scene alongside the more established artists. On a selfish note, I hope that we have proven that Wolverhampton is capable of putting on an event like this and that we could be considered for a repeat performance next year. That is of course down to the organising committee, but I cross my fingers.
For more information on the festival, please visit: http://www.chazzstock.org