Over the weekend of a rainy 2018 March I attended the 20th anniversary festival of Rocket Records, Rocket Twenty, at the Garage in London. It’s been a while since I went to a gig, never mind something more sustained. Basically cause I am always flipping tired. So to head to the festival meant that there was something special that drew me to it. Obviously this was mostly the bands, but also I expected a good crowd. I expected to see bands that I didn’t know and enjoy them. I expected to buy a lot of vinyl albums. I expected the sort of festival I have not been to since ATP. Sure ATP had no idea how operate from a business point of view but damn they knew how to fill a line up and a crowd that was full of ‘my kind of people’ rather than your standard festival going fare.
So yes, I was very excited. So excited that I got up really late and missed the train I’d intended resulting in my missing my first intended band, Flowers Must Die. Well, mostly. I caught two songs. It would have been more but there was a queue to get in – thought It wasn’t too bad given the event. Actually, the staff and bouncers were really pretty friendly and chilled – something to note I feel given how the staff at some venues can be. Still, back to the music and yes, I heard two songs. No idea what songs they were – I was told that I must see them and so I attempted too. The two songs I heard were amazing, good heavy psych rock with about 2000 people on stage. Well, a lot of peeps on stage at least. It was enough for me to grab their last album, After Gong, which is outstanding. Shame I missed most of the show. They were really lovely when I spoke to various members too. I like friendly bands.
I then checked the second stage out. To be honest, it was packed and whoever was playing didn’t really take my interest. We hung out at the bar chatting and deciding who we were most excited to see the rest of the weekend. It was pretty clear we would spend much time up stairs. I am sure everyone up there was great, but I was doing my thing downstairs.
Next up were Julies Haircut. Hmm, they were all right but I wasn’t too fussed to be honest. We can’t like everyone and the crowd seemed into it – it just wasn’t quite for me. After that was probably my biggest anticipation of the weekend, Josephin Ohrn and the Liberation. I have the last two albums and love them. Great dancey psych, a little poppy. Just really good fun, so I was really excited. Unfortunately I was left disappointed. Whilst I hadn’t enjoyed Julies Haircut much, they were a great quality band. Live, JO sounded a little basic – lacking something. Sure, I danced but I wasn’t blown away as I’d expected. Compared to the previous two bands, they just didn’t feel like they could compete in the same lineup. That was a really shame, but what ya going to do? We watched the band, finished our drinks and headed home leaving some friends to dance away at the venue until 2am or some such time. I needed to crash.
Saturday arrived and I woke up… late. I was so tired, and met with the main Nurgle himself, Tony – the founder of http://apathyandexhaustion.com/, along with his little dude. That was lovely but not what I am here to write about. I went home, had actual cooked for the first time in 5 days (I know, right. The life of a trans activist is a busy one right now!) and headed out managing to, again, miss the first band I aimed to see, Mamuthones. Feedback from my mates was that they were ace but I had chosen eggs and beans over them, and I did rather enjoy / need that too…
Gnoomes we the first band I saw, and wow I enjoyed them. I’ve known of them a little while but just not gotten around to listening to them. But they were great. Hailing from Russia, it is always a little difficult to know what to expect from people (as is true for life in general). Lets be honest, there is a view of Russians based on media portrayal and, to be honest, actions of those in power. As a trans person, heck as an LGBT+ person, I am very aware of the treatment of the LGBT+ community in Russia and that can rub off on our view of Russians. But it isn’t Russians, it is Russia that implements these things. Gnoomes were just a bunch of psych loving indie musicians. Very talented but really lovely. After the show I got them to sign a copy of their last LP Tschak!, and they were adorable. Plus they had really cool turquoise tote bags on sale. Score! Musically, it was one of the bands of the weekend that take a more electronic experimental approach to psych. Much more mellow than other bands on the lineup but quality music non-the-less. So far, my favourite act of the weekend.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs were due up next but unfortunately they had to cancel. Shame, I have heard nothing but great things about how crazy their stage show is but, alas, I didn’t get to experience it at this event. The were replaced on stage by Housewives, an electronic due from the looks of it. I had a bit of a listen but we had just managed to get a seat in the bar area and I discovered cheapish, decent doubles so we decided to hang out and take the mick out of each other for a while. Which, silly enough, was one of my favourite moments of the weekend. Ha.
However, this left me nice and rested for the amazing Hey Colossus. I had the last few albums by Hey Colossus (more now), but not the newest album so I didn’t know what to expect. Also, I had never seen them live and they are a heavy band on record. Live they didn’t disappoint. In fact, they cranked up the heavy and songs I didn’t know fit along side songs I did perfectly. For my first live show of the band, I was not disappointed. A new favourite for the weekend, and one I had been looking forward to for some years.
Headliners of Saturday, and arguably Rocket Records most famous act of the moment, Goat were next up. They came on with their usual flair, sweeping onto the stage in colourful robes and masks emulating pagan culture. They danced, sang, pulled out recorders to play on and everyone went wild. Well, most people. The crowd was clearly excited, and swelled. However, once the initial thrill was over, about two songs in, I found myself stood there rather bored. For me, Hey Colossus had been so good, scratched that heavy rock itch so nicely that Goat never really stood a chance. About half way through the show I headed back to my mates house for some kip, none of us fussed to see more. A cup of tea felt like a much more exciting prospect.
Sunday was the last day of the festival, and started of with one of the few bands I had seen before, Bonnacons of Doom. It has been a fair few years since I last saw them, but in anticipation of their debut album I was excited to see how they had changed in that time. An experimental band with capable musicians, Bonnacons were great. Ok, so I missed the first part of the set as was the way of the weekend. But what I heard was a real surprise for me. Compared to the single, and previous live shows, I did not expect such a heavy and loud sound. In my head I expected minimalistic rhythmic sound. What I got was a wall of rock. Fantastic. Like Goat the night before, Bonnacons were dressed up, this time in black robes and with reflective round masks looking rather more nightmarish than the gaudy Goat. I couldn’t help but joke whether it was to hide the identity of any geography teachers that are part of the band. maybe…
Once I’d got a nice cup of coffee, another great thing about the venue, I was set to watch Kuro. Experimental, to be sure, Kuro are a two piece band. the two pieces being a violin and a cello. Not what I expected when I walking in to see them, but a welcome change of pace and another throw back to the mix of bands you would get at an ATP festival. Like Helen Money, the band require a particular mood and atmosphere to listen to. However, on that rainy Sunday in the Garage I found myself perfectly set to listen to them and enjoyed them immensely. I didn’t pick up the album at the time, figuring again that like Helen Money it was one that I would listen to pretty infrequently. However, having listened to the album since I realise that this was in error, if better for my poor bank balance. I shall correct tis error at some point.
Zimpel Ziolek followed with their own brand of spaced out experimental psych. Very chill, very relaxing, and just generally lovely. Live the singer sounded a l lot more like eighties Bowie than on the record, and the oboe was rather more front facing. But non-the-less, it was a lovely chill time to dance gently and recover.
However, I was ready for some rock and Anthroprophh provided this in spades. Kicking off with additional drumming by the bassist, and finishing in a similar method, the show hit hard from start to finish. With a new album due out shortly, they certainly made their sales pitch and I ran to the table afterwards to grab one of their pre-release copies that they had brought for the festival. Unfortunately I did so rather slower than the unwarranted use of ‘run’ suggests and I missed one of the 25 copies they had brought with them. This is high up on my pick up list, if I have any money left…
After Hey Colossus and Josephin Ohrn, Teeth of the Sea were high on my ‘excited’ list. I think that they would probably have been top, except I have seen them a few times and I hadn’t seen the others and the ‘new’ of the other bands pushed them up. Of course, one disappointed and one was amazing – but I knew I would enjoy Teeth of the Sea. And they did not disappoint. In fact, this was my favourite show by them. All weekend the sound at the Garage was phenomenal. Bands like TotS, Hey Colossus and, next up, GNOD took advantage of the amazing sound on offer to produce walls of high quality sound that would not have had the same impact should they have been let down by the sound. TotS played a whole bunch of songs, but no where near enough for my liking. The band seemed a little different than at previous shows, with extra brass instrumentalists I didn’t recognise. But this just added to the sound. There were also songs I didn’t recognise that mean I am more than a little excited about a new album (that I hope is in the works). Finishing with Reaper though was, as always, and amazing musical moment.
GNOD were the final band of the weekend. I didn’t know what to expect, but hard and heavy are words that do not emphasise just how hard and heavy the band were. Or loud. For days my ears hurt. It was pretty amazing. Ear plugs may have been a good move given that I spent the gig right in front of the left speaker but too late now. Still, a week on and my ears have recovered. My mind though is still stuck on the barrier watching the awesome unwind. Honestly, what a sonic assault in such a fine way. The set flew by in far too short a time, with the ‘JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE’ opener ‘Bodies for Money’ the absolute stand out.
Needless to say, by the end of Sundays show I was half deaf, tired and ready to crash. Yet, I would happily have listened to a double length set from GNOD. I was not quite ready to leave. However, leave I did. I think that, all in all, sums up a wonderful festival. Once I got home, all the new vinyl were listened too and plans for catching Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs were being made.
All in all, Rocket Twenty was ace. No two ways about it. The crowd was pretty much awesome, there were always great bands to hear (even if I wasn’t much of a fan when I did) and I could get a brew – something you cannot underestimate.
Happy birthday Rocket Records. I look forward to your future releases.