Rockaway Beach 2022 @ Butlin's, Bognor Regis, UK, 7-10 January 2022 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 25th, 2022  

JARV IS...

bdrmm, JARV IS…, Porridge Radio, A Certain Ratio, Thousand Yard Stare, Italia 90, Grandmas House, Buzzcocks, Tricky, Nuha Ruby Ra, TV Priest, The KVB

Rockaway Beach 2022 @ Butlin’s, Bognor Regis, UK, 7-10 January 2022,

Jan 16, 2022 Web Exclusive Photography by Shaun Gordon Bookmark and Share


The weather might be freezing but you’re sure of a warm welcome at Rockaway Beach, the first festival of the year renowned for its consistently excellent combination of defining big names plus crucial rising stars now coming into their own and it’s so good to be back after two years absence. Just don’t mention the C word which even this year has claimed a huge share of the line-up including LIFE, Working Men’s Club, The Futureheads, Sinead O’ Brien, Big Joanie and more as victims - all eagerly awaited acts forced to cancel. But those disappointments do little to dampen the spirits of both regular Beach Bums and the large number of newbies looking forward to the likes of JARV IS…, Buzzcocks, A Certain Ratio, Porridge Radio and many more whilst getting their head around being at a festival found in Bognor Regis Butlins right at the beginning of January. And what a big Weekender it is! Where else can you also enjoy a pool party complete with slides and flumes, bowling, arcade action and 2p machines whilst enjoying a stellar array of crucial artists?

Buzzcocks
Buzzcocks

Sticking with their tried and tested method, the three days each start on the slightly smaller stage in Reds before moving over to the Main Stage to present their bigger names and headliners with very few acts playing at the same time, ensuring a stress-free festival without the worry of clashes. Also, Rockaway is expertly curated to include a wide range of styles sounds and genres, plus a huge amount of pedigree performers including Bolton’s biggest ever stars Buzzcocks who may have lost some of their energy over time, but not the effect thanks to a hit laden set packed full of punk rock classics like “What Do I Get?”, “Orgasm Addict” and (of course) “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”. It’s a shame Pete Shelley is no longer with us, but Steve Diggle does an excellent job as leader though there are too many trite calls to “Fuck the government maaann!” The House Of Love and Thousand Yard Stare rightly both proved to be a massive pull and huge praise for Factory Records other big band A Certain Ratio who were perfectly placed towards the end of the weekend and classic hit single “Shack Up” sounded more relevant and vital than ever with many attendees feeling like they were the true Sunday headliner.

Thousand Yard Stare
Thousand Yard Stare

Those looking for adrenaline were certainly impressed by shoegaze inflected alt rockers October Drift who kicked off Rockaway as the opening act and brought back for a second helping on Sunday, with both sets displaying a remarkable level of skill and showmanship. Mesmerising, atmospheric and passionate, these boys played more anthems over the weekend than the Olympic Games. And raucous trio Grandmas House whose show is made all the better for having been slightly rough round the edges so its satisfyingly wrong like the feeling of picking a scab - you can’t go wrong with three chords, a couple of distortion pedals and a lot of angst. Also, truly impressive South London producer Wu-Lu (aka Miles Romans-Hopcraft) got all of Reds jumping despite his own broken leg. The set may have been initially plagued by sound problems, but his unique blend of lo-fi hip hop, dub and metal culminated into colossal roaring walls of sound. Screaming “Where the fuck is your energy?” as he and his group tore Reds up, awarding him with some of the loudest cheers of approval all weekend.

October Drift
October Drift

And of course, there was a huge post punk presence thanks in no small part to London based quartet Crows who were an excellent last-minute choice to fill one of the slots now open due to corona. Towering singer James Cox leans into the crowds and bellows before his bandmates savagely stabbing at their guitars and whipping revellers into a frenzy. Having previously impressed with the release of first record Silver Tongues, they now introduce second album Beware Believers with new stomping single “Slowly Separate” which promises to be one of the most exciting releases of the year as Rockaway once again proves they have their finger right on the pulse and present the most vital artists. Looking like a motley crew of art school kids and skinheads all caught smoking behind the bike shed, Italia 90 are brilliantly aggro. And their radical sloganeering put to deconstructed disco is earmarking them as a major threat to become a massive breakout potential in ’22, especially as they announce they begin recording their eagerly awaited first record the following week. Nuha Ruby Ra‘s spoken word set is delightfully dark and beguiling, Imperial Wax step out of the shadow of The Fall to prove they are a formidable force and bruisers TV Priest pleased the crowds but suffered from being chosen to play so early on the Sunday.

Italia 90
Italia 90

When it comes to headliners, Rockaway never fails to impress, and Friday’s offering was legendary trip hop producer Tricky who, with full band accompaniment was every inch as brooding and atmospheric as you would hope. A shorter set than many expected, and semi obscured on the dimly lit stage, onlookers can’t help wondering if the tragic death of his daughter contributed to his abrupt and shrouded appearance.

Tricky was joined by fellow Bristolian Joe Talbot who provided guest vocals. Later, the IDLES leader would later play a late-night techno DJ set met by confusion and even open hostility by those expecting to hear him play his own tracks and other punk anthems, but that didn’t make it any less banging and it was great to see the singer enjoy playing all his favourite tunes which ended with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – of course!

Joe Talbot
Joe Talbot

Many feared the pandemic would force Jarvis Cocker, now working as JARV IS…, to pull out and it’s with great relief when the former Pulp frontman strolls onto the stage with classic song “She’s A Lady“. Sensing the mood of the room, he asks the audience “Are you as surprised to be here are we are?” before giving a masterclass in showmanship with a set that encompasses every stage of his considerable career, including strange song “Sometimes I Am Pharaoh”, big banger “Fat Children” and “Cunts Are Still Running the World” – which he reminds us is directed at the ones at the top ruining it for the rest of us as “this room is a cunt free room.”

The poise, the positioning, the perfectly executed awkwardness, sexy geek chic and warm cosey chats in-between songs including the apocryphal tale of Henry VII’s last words being “Bugger Bogner”; it’s all so very Jarvis and while its not laden with the obvious hits it’s easy to imagine that this is still Pulp, just on another time stream. But freed from the trappings of Britpop, he’s able to be more himself. Darker, stranger and still more energetic than others a third of his age, he closes with classic single “My Legendary Girlfriend” and once again secures his national treasure status.

And whilst no-one doubts the crucial credentials of final headliner Porridge Radio, it may have been a gamble too far placing them at the top of Sunday’s bill. It’s admirable that Rockaway are always so committed to curating a truly diverse bill and giving rising stars an additional bump and the Brighton band never fall flat, it’s just they never quite reach the expected mark to make a real impact either. Certainly, it’s an impassioned performance and “7 Seconds” is especially appreciated whilst “Eugh” sends powerful ripples around the room, but there was no sense of urgency from their presence or crescendo needed to close such an awesome festival.

Porridge Radio
Porridge Radio

Special shout outs need to go to Do Nothing who were drafted in last minute to cover Working Men’s Club. It’s never easy filling another’s place, especially when they were such a major draw for this festival, but the last-minute darlings steal the show with their slow burning pangs of understated yet unhinged anger curtesy of Chris Bailey who stalks around the stage, ranting like a demonic demagogue. The reaction from the crowd is appreciative but not as wild as it should be and perhaps their crooning new wave sound isn’t always going to inspire a wild mosh pit, especially when people feel scared of catching something off each other, but I’ll be damned if you don’t think they’re cool as fuck, and they stand every inch as a future headliner.

Do Nothing
Do Nothing

Another killer act over the weekend was bdrmm who have perfectly mastered the loud \ quiet \ loud dynamic and taken it to an epic scale. Cavernous, joyous, and resplendent the Hull shoegaze superstars are really coming into their own and in an era of stripped-down guitars, basic riffs and bluntly shouted vocals their angelic voices and mighty orchestral music they are a welcome antithesis and the eagerness of clearly being so excited about their own music feeds into audience. Someone yells “Fucking choooon!” and they’re damn right, as every song heralds the arrival of a truly special band who will no doubt rising through the ranks this year – especially as they’re now armed with their new menacing cinematic masterpiece single “Port”.

bdrmm
bdrmm

And electronica pair The KVB were another highlight who I must admit were until recently a new one for me despite already having six studio albums under their belt. And thanks to a well-deserved prominent Sunday slot, have earned many more dedicated fans. Plus, special shout out to the DJ’s over the weekend, including Steve Lamacq, Adrian Flanagan and his Desolate Spools collective, Astral Elevator vs T8MHC (aka Le Crowley and Alex) and especially our very own Dom Gourlay and John Lynch (drummer of The Telescopes) who kept everyone dancing all weekend and brought proceedings to a chaotic close with yet another classic indie disko.

A Certain Ratio
A Certain Ratio

Assuming the ‘rona doesn’t ruin another year, we will soon be presented once again with half a dozen festivals every weekend and its often hard to distinguish one bunch of bands cynically stuck on stage in a field from another. Rockaway Beach is a rarity, possessing a true community spirit amongst its attendees and, dare I say it, even a little bit of magic thanks to the carefully curated music exhibiting the best of old and new and the slightly bonkers setting of Bognor’s Butlins. Two years away was too long, and I can’t wait for ’23 already!




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