Little Way Festival, 27th Feb 2016

The Little Way festival is an innovation of a team led by Philippe Nash and Harvey Herman, aiming to create a new simple music festival with a homely local community vibe.

And over the course of an 11 hour day at the charming and historic One Church (arguably Brighton’s own version of Union Chapel) they succeeded. There was a brilliant selection of local and national acts, drawing on a range of musical genres, along with some superb food provided by the Real Junk Food Project (a Mexican plate using salvaged foodstuffs), real ales from the impeccably small Old Tree Brewery and some innovative visuals as the night came down.

Musically-speaking we started off with two singer-songwriters, HIlary Repko and O Chapman, and then the unabashed Americana of the excellent Grand Palace. They were followed by Louis Walkden, a disabled artist and songwriter backed by a band comprising staff from his local college for people with learning disabilities. He and the band were excellent, with a sound somewhere between Daniel Johnston and Mark E Smith’s Fall. This was followed by the angelic delicate sound of Nick Austin and then the dream-pop of Astra Forward and Emi Mundy.

The afternoon sessions were completed by Strange Boy and Marcus Hamblett. Strange Boy are a duo comprising Kieran Brunt and Matt Huxley, combining strange discordant sounds and quiet intimacy. The third song used a pedal to create a startling effect of two voices on alternate lyrical lines, and their final song was one of the most exquisite of the day. Pre-break, Multi-instumentalist Marcus Hamblett combined with drummer Tom Heather to produce another fascinating and enchanting set of improvised jazz-influenced guitar-based music, providing an excellent end to the first half of proceedings.

The evening sessions kicked off as the sun was setting with a fantastic mesmerising set by harpist Emma Gatrill, who was joined by an array of friends for various songs, including the Marcus Hamblett / Tom Heather duo. BMB are looking forward to her second album this Spring with eager anticipation. Emma was followed by Philippe Nash, who had been kept busy co-hosting the festival but with his tight band played a varied and captivating set, drawing on influences such as Nirvana and Radiohead, with some excellent projected visuals. Banu then took the festival into a poppier soulful groove, before Kristin McClement added her special poetic waves of dark-and-light emotional songs, with the beautiful accompaniment of her backing-vocalist, drummer, trumpeter and harmonium-playing Julian Owen.

The final part of the evening got busy with the wild indie-pop of Adam Stafford from Falkirk, and then another Scottish band, Modern Studies, who comprised excellent chamber-folk singer Emily Scott along wih Rob St John, pete Harvey and Joe Smillie performing an array of atmospheric folk-inspired pop songs from their forthcoming album.

Final act of the night was the outstanding Rozi Plain, managing to combine an effortless charm and down-to-earth manner with some complex and upbeat songs from across her repertoire. She left the crowd tapping their feet and with smiles on their faces, a fitting end to a long but immensely enjoyable day.

Photos and words by Jon Southcoasting

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