Curated by the Boileroom team and back for its second year, Guildford’s Always the Sun Festival was expanded to three days this year and saw the likes of Public Service Broadcasting, Idles, Inheaven and The Strypes take to the Park Stage, along with acts from near and far hand-picked by local labels and promoters including Failure by Design, Rose Coloured, Quatre Femmes and Beth Shalom. More than just a music festival, there was also a huge community aspect with craft, theatre and food stages all well worth checking out.
We headed down to Stoke Park on the Sunday and first up was the always-welcome sight of Joe Booley on the Andertons Stage. With Parachute for Gordo playing as his backing band, Joe’s heartfelt songs gained extra impetus and remained just as – if not more – goosebump inducing. With songs tackling issues of friendship, mental health and how important it is to talk to people, the message was never lost in the more expansive sound. Following this Parachute for Gordo worked a double shift and played their own set – with Joe joining them for a couple of songs. It turns out loud math rock with occasional shouting is a fine soundtrack to midday on a Sunday.
We then went over to the main Park Stage to catch China Bears. A four-piece from Guildford, they’d been at the festival the whole weekend and specialise in a classic sound that combines the poppier moments of Maximo Park with the more contemplative stylings of Ryan Adams. Their closing song, with its repeated line of ‘meet me in London’ was extremely powerful as the band beat themselves up for not looking after loves ones: ‘Sorry I missed those night calls, what the hell’s a friend for’; ‘I don’t do enough’.
Later on on the Park Stage was Meadowlark – a band we’d been meaning to catch for quite some time as we’ve heard so many good things from so many people. Matching to-die-for melodies with subtle electronic sounds and heart-melting vocals, they’re a band made for festivals and their set was over all too soon. Following this, we caught a bit of Blood Honey (confusingly, Honeyblood were playing later on) and it was a nice contrast – huge stoner riffs in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age.
Drones followed with an in-your-face set and their brash, loud and punky sound (which apparently received a noise complaint from the main stage!) reminded us a little of Marmozets. Shortly after this, we caught itoldyouiwouldeatyou. Playing as a six-piece today, they celebrated (almost) a year since their ‘I am Not Your Fault’ EP was released by playing a old favourites and new songs that hint at another big step up. Recent single ‘Divine Violence’ tackles bigots and homophobes with anger and assertiveness while ‘Get Terrified’ sums up the feelings of hopelessness many of us experience as the world seems intent on burning itself. This song has an Appleseed Cast feel and features brilliant vocals from Joey Ashworth and trumpet player Luke Prosser as they repeat the title over and over again with increasing alarm. A quick dash back to the Park Stage followed to catch half of Tall Ships’ set and we managed to see them run through this year’s ‘Home’, old favourite ‘Books’ and an electrifying version of ‘T=0’.
Due to the adverse and unpredictable weather, there were some stage changes after Tall Ships and we finally saw Gender Roles play in a pretty dark tent. A three-piece from Brighton who are signed to Hanger Records (and Wiretap in the US), they had been picked by Failure by Design to play the festival and have a sound that flits between early ‘90s punk bands with the mid-00s math-pop of Tubelord and early Johnny Foreigner. The last act of the day was Lucy Rose, who played a stripped-back and intimate acoustic set. The crowd was captivated throughout as she bared her soul in reworkings of some beloved songs and it was a fitting end to a day of fine music.