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Zooquarium Reviewed

Hastings newest event held on the recently refurbished pier

Headlining Zooquarium’s first edition on a dry but windswept Hastings Pier was Ratboy, who proved a big hit with the young audience at which the festival had marketed itself. Sadly due to over-running earlier acts and a strict curfew he played a reduced set, but the crowd didn’t seem too fussed, having already had a great day of varied music for just £15.

Ratboy .Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
Ratboy .Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

In Zooquarium’s defence, this was the first instalment of the festival on the newly refurbished, award-winning pier and had been largely organised by young people themselves. New events need to learn from these sorts of issue and schedule more carefully in future to ensure there is time for all the allotted acts to deliver what they have planned.

Some of the other standout sets of the day came from the tightly chaotic We Are Z and Hastings’ emerging stars, Kid Kapichi. Both bands have big local followings, and the only question asked by some was whether the ability to see them play for free on a fairly regular basis nearby may have put off those asked to shell out hard-earned cash for entry to the pier and its rather expensive and limited bar.

Kid Kapichi. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
Kid Kapichi. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

The answer to that is that it was a small price to pay to get to see bands move up a gear from pub venues to bigger stages. For those who really support local live music this sort of entry fee should be no barrier. Also, as an inaugural event it made sense to provide a stage for the cream of local talent. And as for next year, we’re promised that the bar offer is under review, so fingers crossed that will be one issue that won’t be a problem for 2018 if Zooquarium II is announced – which we hope it will be, because it has huge potential.

As for the shows themselves, anyone who has been following Kid Kapichi’s local gigs and who saw them at Zooquarium will vouch for the fact that they stepped up a gear and delivered an impassioned set that would have stood up on a main stage at any of the UK’s bigger festivals.

someone/anyone and Alibi were another two bands from the prolific and talented local scene who were very rightly given good slots in the early evening, and between them laid down a mixture of smoothly funky jazz-infused grooves and uplifting guitar-led pop songs of the highest order.

Special note goes to someone/anyone, here’s a band playing songs that have the risk of resonating down the years to be played to appreciative audiences decades from now. They offer proper earworms that burrow deep into your psyche.

someone/anyone. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
someone/anyone. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

Alibi may have suffered from the lower-powered vibe of the second stage – but they hold a similar potential if they can move up to larger spaces that will allow them to fill out their sound.

Elsewhere on the bill Barbarella’s Bang Bang brought an element of twisted Balkan folk to proceedings, whilst Bless and Dorey the Wise proved that solid songwriting is alive and well in the UK music industry. Billionaire (the side project of Gang of Four frontman John Sterry) was another high point of the day, and for those who’ve not yet checked out this band – make a point of it.

Ever-graceful and with a voice that is maturing as fast as her ability to write original radio-friendly songs Kayleigh Ann and her band should probably have been given a later slot on a bigger stage. However, despite being tucked down the bill on the smallest of the three outdoor stages, they still offered up a delightful slice of summery vibes…as well as banging out a blistering version of ‘White Rabbit’ to the crowd’s immediate delight.

Kayleigh Ann. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
Kayleigh Ann. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

Up on the main stage, doing a creditable job fighting against the blowy conditions in the early afternoon were The KIFFS, a riff-heavy female four-piece whose songs tread a line somewhere between prog rock and shoegaze. Elsewhere, the unmistakable voice of the ever-more-popular Jamie Smart lured in a decent crowd for his set on the festival’s only indoor stage, where deckchairs provided a comfortable space throughout the day to watch acts who delivered everything from creditable covers to avant-garde spoken word crossover performance poetry.

Dr Savage. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
Dr Savage. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

It wouldn’t be a party in Hastings if Dr Savage wasn’t invited, and his second line band helped out with the craziness by playing their usual mashed-up drum ‘n’ brass versions of pop standard classics – including the crowd favourite, Tainted Love. Equally fun was the quintessentially Hastings set played out by Blair and Friends – a musical collective fronted by one of the town’s most recognised songwriters who brought the main stage crowd to life in the way only they know how.

Zooquarium Crowd. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey
Zooquarium Crowd. Photos © Sara-Lou Bowrey

Zooquarium proved that Hastings’ modern take on what a pier can be has the makings of success – let’s hope they can capitalise on events like this and return the space to the position it held in its former heyday of being a must play venue for every major touring on the circuit.

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Review Info

John Bownas
15th July 2017
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Zooquarium Reviewed

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