A tractor rolls through the narrow back-lanes, meeting an already slightly damp Wax Music gang as we make the short trip across the Tamar Bridge from Plymouth to Bethany, a countryside-hamlet home to Knee Deep Festival and it’s secret location, a Cornish farm and the some 200 tents that have taken over it. For one weekend getting stuck in a country lane with a pissed-off young farmer in the South West meets some of the invigorating, unique and fuzzy bands that are the sound-makers of this year so far, and with a stellar line-up of local contemporaries and nationally known noise-makers, no rain or local traffic will hamper the weekends events.
Cardiff’s Scriber step up to the plate as the first act on the second stage, a glorified shack with a polished wooden finish that gives the festival a homely feel that many do miss. Joshua Price, the young man behind the delicate murmurs of National-esque progressions filtering from the stage, is backed by a full-band this afternoon, giving his introspective tales added dynamism and an unfaltering weight of emotion that would have perhaps felt lost on the arriving crowd had it been Price alone. The group provide a provoking performance nonetheless, Price’s vocal a string-tugger at it’s most fragile, exposing a tranquil essence to the festival that simmers across the field.
It lasts for a brief period as Theo Verney turns everything up to 11 and powers through a blistering set. Single highlights in the 60s hedonistic sounds of ‘Sound Machine‘ and reverb-drenched Sabbath prayer turned lo-fi, warmth-kissed ‘Heavy Sunn‘ are taken down a pace slightly from their recordings, feeling all the more cataclysmic for it. The surf-psych infused verses take a grungier path while on the road, Verney a grinning devil of garage that’s at ease in a live setting, yet in no way does his music lose it’s eerie polish that is has on record. With a rocking stage-light close to knocking out the bassist and a suitably warmed crowd, Theo Verney bids Knee Deep adieu, safe in the knowledge that he has provided a rollicking afternoon set.
Back on Stage ‘A’, London producer-come-singer Peter Lyons is the first of the two-dayer to head on an electronic route, his 90s deep house-influenced synths and trip beats not providing anything truly original, but enjoyable still. A cover of Rui Da Silva‘s classic ‘Touch Me‘ is is his highlight, a stripped-back interpretation invokes a haunting element to Lyons’ performance that James Blake has brought to the fore-front of a minimal electronic scene. Adding a full-band to take on the duties Lyons controls via backing tracks would certainly add a grandiose layer to his sound, perhaps engaging that original element that he needs to truly shine in a saturated genre.
Come Saturday and we’re starting to regret missing the tribal dance party that was Flamingods‘ hour long set the night before. We console ourselves with the fact that the torrential downpour of yesterday has been replaced with glorious sunshine and the prospect of Happyness who, having released their debut album just weeks before, have become this years hot ticket. Perhaps struggling somewhat with the 2:30pm slot, the three piece nevertheless receive a warm reception from the sunbathing crowd as they breeze through the likes of ‘Naked Patients’, ‘Anything I Do Is Alright’ and ‘Its On You’. Singer/bassist Jonny Allen comes alive for the minute slab of skewed lo-fi punk that is ‘Refrigerate Her’ and along with album standouts, ‘Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste The Same’ and ‘Leave the Party’ leave the longest impression.