Having taken a year out from taking place last year, the return of Knee Deep festival this past weekend was met with even more palpable excitement than that which met the event in 2014. A rise in attendance was particularly noticeable, appearances from bigger names (American hot topics Whitney and Mothers in particular) a pleasant inclusion and the overall atmosphere of the small farm in Cornwall one of togetherness and familiarity. It seemed everyone knew everyone in some way, and the warmth from that was a surprise treat.
As the huge queue descended upon the welcoming gates, Zee Town and The Dog Boys opened the main stage to a brewing hum of support, the baking sunshine of their early evening set a welcome element. Having scaled down to a three-piece, Tom & Ned Armstrong and Max Jedwab introduced the new form of their live set, their ambience matched with meticulous electronic beats that emanated an embracive spirit. Their harmonies are executed with an ethereal verve, each member providing a different choral that further backs their intimate delivery. As a consistently dynamic group, the trio find ways of morphing their sound and the music they’ve already created to suit- a commendable ability that leaves an interesting feeling of broadness to their music.
Penelope Isles have had their live set tight since before the release of ‘Comfortably Swell‘ last year, and it’s evident in the truly striking set they deliver at Knee Deep. Much like Zee Town, they have a penchant for moulding their sound into something new, challenging the fashion with which they’ve made their songs – and live they are able to do that with power. The group subtly drift between the quaintness of serenity and an all-out experimentation with noise, a continuous thrum of exhilaration running throughout as the group surround the stage and lose themselves in what they are creating. With this capability live, the Brighton group are a must-watch.
With their first EP awaiting release this month, American Enthusiasm blast through a choice selection of newly heard tracks, Sam Bedford‘s verse taking the focus as his incensed vocal documents finding intimacy in discontent. AM-EN is a rougher and less deliberate prospect than Selfish Son, Jack Baker’s unwavering drumming matched with the familiarly melodic guitar work – creating a forceful freedom for Bedford’s words to be conveyed in a live setting.
The return of The Black Tambourines to the Knee Deep festival stage was a marked change to the gang that arrived two years ago. With Lost Dawn / Golden Dregs‘ Ben Woods behind the kit and tracks from their to be recorded third album to play – the Tams retain their untiring presence and deliver a set full of favourites and welcomed new hits. The pristine tracks are distinct in their hooks, fitting succinctly and standing out amongst the ardour of ‘27-25 blues’ and ‘I Wanna Stay Away‘ – it’s a fitting reminder that the group slay live and will continue to do so with their instinctive writing.
A secret, unannounced slot was taken by Bristol’s Fenne Lily for a picturesque evening as the sun set. Having played successful sets at T In The Park and Port Eliot this summer, Fenne has honed a breathtaking live performance where her grounding voice is rightfully the focal point. With a few worries, Fenne encaptures a feeling of sentiment that is easy to lose within a wavering festival crowd, not only evading unneeded anxiousness but delivering with commanding aplomb.
Trust Fund are the surprise package of the day, delivering a set of lo-fi pop gems that really show off their compelling nature when played live. Replacing their fragile tenderness for something much more ragged and energetic, the group smash through a catalogue of Ellis Jones‘ treasured gems, including highlights from latest album ‘We Have Always Lived In The Harolds‘. It’s here that the crowd really begin to settle and warm up, setting the stage for a night of communion that cannot be forced.
We arrive at the other stage to hear the power to the whole festival has cut, yet that doesn’t stop Yama Warashi playing one of the most engaging sets of the weekend. With the power back on, the group led by the wonderfully talented Yoshino Shigihara eclipse their way through a genre-blurring set, creating a liberatingly crafted concoction of eastern-psych and free-jazz. Shigihara’s music has the depth to ponder upon and the rhythm to dance to, a fitting combination within this setting.
Dream Wife make absolutely no meal of matching this performance, calling it and pulling off perhaps the set of the weekend. The drive of their sound and the utterly encapsulating way in which they perform exudes confidence and tenacity, two things for which the group show no end in their pop meets panache. Rakel Mjöll is the ultimate lead, charging through each song with a wry smile and head-banging so much you feel whiplash. Combined with the punk ferocity of Alice Go and Bella Podpadec – Dream Wife are one of the most exciting prospects this year.
Mid-way through their headline set, Julian Ehrlich of Whitney thanks the crowd for welcoming them – not just during their set but throughout the day, marking the festival as being one of the best due it’s not-for-profit values and lack of sponsorship. The band themselves complete the vibe you feel Knee Deep are attempting to capture – a varying array of styles all brought together for the sake of enjoyment. The group play through their accomplished first record ‘Light Upon The Lake‘, bringing with them that joyous feeling of togetherness that we felt as we walked across the field to begin the festivities. Their live set has developed without question, ‘No Matter Where We Go‘ their early wake-up call, ‘Follow‘ their lighters in the air singalong and ‘No Woman‘ their anthem. Do not be surprised if this is the smallest space we see Whitney play again, the way their music is being appreciated it would be duly deserved. We can simply be thankful that on this Friday evening in the dusk of summer in the middle of Cornwall, we could enjoy a group who are about to turn a chapter and more than likely receive the world-wide acclaim their music warrants.
Words: Ross Jones
Photography: Kieran Webber (Clunk Magazine) & Craig Taylor-Broad
Featured Image: Craig Taylor-Broad