Rhythms of The World Festival held over the weekend of 21st /22nd June is a voluntary run festival in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with its heart very much embedded in the community. The festival was originally started by Oxfam and has grown considerably since its inception in 1992 rising from a single night’s event with 5 bands to the 125 different acts we see today. ROTW show their commitment to supporting a variety of arts and this underpins the core values of the charitable organisation. This year’s event was made up of live music, DJs, acts and artists and over the weekend there was a diverse assortment of entertainment from pop poets to punk acts, little known bands to household names playing on a variety of stages. There was a good choice of street food, fast food, bars and stalls selling festival standards like face paints, flower braids and clothes and there is an assortment of events to entertain children with a whole host of activities available. This really is a family friendly event that caters for all. If you missed ROTW this year then put it in your calendar for 2016 because it is a date worth remembering.
Local band CC Smugglers who played the main stage are an interesting collaboration of 6 band members, Richie Prynne (vocals and harmonica), Dan Edwards (double bass), Ryan Thomas (lead guitar ,dobro and banjo), Sam Barret (Guitar) Flow Toulman (Vox, Drums, Percussion & Mandolin) and Joplin Parnell (Vox, Piano, Accordion). CC Smugglers played a varied set and are musically very broad with a host of influences that range from Blues to Country, Americana to traditional Rock and Roll. This band is fun with a capital F, they injected a comedy element into the performance and the harmonica playing would rival any of the blues legends. Their choice of songs and instruments including a banjo may seem an odd selection for such a young band but they are perfectionists at what they do and they don’t disappoint.
When we spoke to CC Smugglers after the show they stated they had been playing for 6 years and Richie had been in other bands including a punk outfit, Richie then went into an acoustic guitar stage and from this came the formation of the CC Smugglers. As a local band they said they had to give a faultless performance at the festival as they owed it to their followers who had supported them over the last few years. They were without doubt the most inspiring band of the weekend.
Atelier, who are a Japanese duo reminded me of the White Stripes in reverse, however throughout the set they seemed like they were grasping for an identity, penned as a Punk outfit I would state they have their own style but are a million miles from punk as we know it. The drummer had his high points with some strong drumming but I felt they were just missing that elusive something.
Toque Tambor who played the main stage transported the festival goers from the climes of Hitchin to the carnivals of Rio, the co-ordination of the sheer volume of the group is a feat in itself. The hip shaking, toe tapping songs have a holiday feel and the outfits of the dancers are sensational, if I had closed my eyes I could have convinced myself I was in Brazil. The colourful Caribbean feel of their performance from the outset was enjoyable and the crowd they drew clearly loved it too.
New Motion are an indie pop 4 piece who have reinvented the late 80’s and 90’s sound. A classic boy band whose track titled Guilty that they sung from the ‘Kiss’ EP has some interesting lyrics , these are a clean tight band who look the part and play well with simple melodies that work.
Scum of Toytown played the Arcadelectic stage which is a smaller but more intimate stage which was appropriate for this band. Their audience was made up of a section of the most interesting festival goers. This band truly has a punk feel, they look edgy and have a strong female vocalist, and played a mixed set including ska and new wave to the appreciative audience.
Alex Bay & The Blackbirds were on the BBC Introducing stage, singer /songwriter Alex from North Hertfordshire fronts this band with his strong, touching powerful lyrics , Alex’s voice carries the performance and it is this that the audience love. The harmonious enigmatic melodies ring out through ‘No Right Time’ which has a deeply haunting yet simplistic charm. Alex Bay & The Blackbirds are very talented so expect to see more from this ensemble.
The Shires are a recently formed duet of Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes who play soft, reflective country influenced songs. The recently released album ‘Brave’ features some of their finest works including’ Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’. They played a relaxed set that included ‘I Just Want to Love You’ which is a powerful love song that they sung for the crowd and they loved it. In summary, The Shires have climbed their way up and earnt their more recent merits which are well deserved. I believe they will continue this path of success.
The Wholls are an interesting 4 piece with colourful lyrics who injected some drive and some much needed noise into the festival. The Bedford based band made up of Adam Brown (Songwriter, Frontman), Arturo Cocchiarella (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Joe Stevenson (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals) and Daniel De Feo (Drums) projected energy with every song and the un-shirted drummer brought a touch of summer to the stage. These guys look the part and the performance was solid throughout, the set list included ‘Doghouse’ and ‘Unlucky In Love’ which featured Adam on tambourine which was very unexpected but it worked so well. Musically these guys are hard hitting yet cool and are the kind of band I would expect to see performing in Camden Town.
Coasts were the final act on the BBC Introducing stage on Saturday night, they drew a younger crowd and had quite dramatic sounds playing before entering the stage which built the expectation of this band who are fast becoming a favorite of the under 30’s crowd. They played ‘Modern Love ‘and ‘Let Go’ which was well received and they had the festival goers jumping around exactly as it should be. These guys get in, play hard and get out. Coasts are currently touring the UK and have some dates for America lined up. You can catch them at Reading or Leeds festival this summer if you go you’ll be glad you did.
Neville Staple Band was the most recognized line up of the day. When we spoke to Neville before the set he was telling us how much he enjoyed playing to all ages and ensuring that the love and joy of music is cascaded down to the younger generation and this is something he is truly passionate about. Neville stated he loves playing when he gets on stage and that he has a responsibility to perform his best every time to do his loyal followers justice and the fact he cares so much about that is very evident.
Before they took to the stage the audience were chanting ‘Neville, Neville’ and it was easy to spot the Specials t shirts being worn in the front row and the huge crowd that they drew to the Main Stage was warranted. There was an air of anticipation all around and from the moment they came on the audience were in their element as were the band.
Neville, forever the perfectionist, told the soundman to change some settings before he would continue stating if it did not sound right to him on stage then it would not sound right out there in the audience. Once this was solved then Neville and the band ,which has members from the Specials including Roddy Radiation playing, launched into the old favorites including ‘Is it You’ and ‘A Message to you Rudy’ much to the delight of the crowd. Watching them perform transported you back 30 years and the dynamic set was a true hit with the festival goers. What a great headliner for Saturday night, their set is a triumph and it is a real joy to be part of the audience. It is said that ska and two tone has had a bit of a revival over the years, I think they are wrong because watching the Neville Staple Band you can see it never went away.
Los Pacaminos played the Main Stage on Sunday afternoon. This denim clad Paul Young fronted band played their Country, Americana and Tex-Mex music to an older crowd. The Los Pacaminos formed back in the early 90’s and have been playing ever since. This popular band who are well known on the Americana circuit played a set list that includes songs like ‘Wooly Bully’ and ‘La Bamba’ which always get the crowd going. This band has some strong blues influences too and that works well on their own tracks. There was a lot of interaction with the audience and that was a real fun element to the set.
At the other end of the scale was local Biggleswade band Scar City whose rock set did not let up from the outset, screaming out lyrics song by song including their track called City Lights. Scar City are loud, brash and lurid as well as heavily tattooed which is a great look for them. They really know how to crank it up and do it so well.
Chasing Cadence had a very small audience which was a shame as they played a great set with a frontman who was not the bands usual singer who had only stepped in with a days’ notice. This band played some good songs including ‘Street Lights’ , many sings had some raw dirty riffs which made it an interesting set. I enjoyed seeing two of the band members come right out in front of the audience within touching distance which made their set seem more personal to everybody watching.
The most surprising band of Sunday was Canadian born group Double Experience, named after gamer’s terminology which the band said, represented them as the people they are away from the stage as they all had an avid interest in gaming. On stage the set they played was exciting, stimulating and brilliant. Self-billed as Nerd Rock and currently touring Europe this was the 4th time Double Experience had been in the UK playing bigger locations and festivals whereas they had previously played venues like The Shed in Leicester. Speaking after the gig they explained they write collectively, dovetailing all the ideas into one. They write while on tour and have been known once to rent studio space while on tour as they just had to get the songs recorded. Watching Double Experience it is obvious these guys know how to play so put them at the top of your list when they are next over in the UK.
The Skints came next with a set of reggae, ska and dub. The Skints , a London based band made up of Jamie Kyriakides on vocals, drums, Joshua Waters Rudge – vocals, guitar, Jonathan Doyle on bass and Marcia Richards – vocals, keyboards. Playing together for around ten years they performed to a large festival crowd. The set seemed very informal drifting from one pleasant song to another. There were soft interludes throughout which was a good antidote to the loud thrashing music. A popular and easy going set.
By the time rock band Fort Hope perform to the excited Sunday festival goers , who by this time are in fine form as are the band who play solid numbers like ‘Sick’ and ‘Control’ to the crowd. Stevenage based band Fort Hope is made up of Jon Gaskin on vocals ,guitar, piano , Jamie Nicholls – drums and Simon Rowlands – bass guitar, these black shirted, skinny jeaned boys are a great rock guitar band and it was clear the onlookers thought the same. Fresh, powerful lyrics, mixed with flashy guitar is a winning combination so it is surprising to learn they have only been playing together for about 2 years as Jon Gaskin explained after the show stating that he personally put the band together by carefully selecting the members to form the line up we see today. When we asked Jon who he enjoyed listening to he mentioned Kate Bush, Silver Chair, Michael Jackson, Blondie and the Plasmatics. Fort Hope will be writing a new album over the summer to be released by Virgin EMI and as the set finishes they send the festival goers off into the night very contented.
Indie pop /alt rock band Amber Run played a more mellow set as the last act of the Sunday night on the BBC Introducing Stage, having played the same stage at Reading back in 2013 this was familiar territory for them. Their debut album, 5am was released on 20 April 2015. The set was tight and a pleasant way to end the evening.
Words by Jacqui Barnes
Photos Kane Howie