The 3 Chords festival returned to Penzance this weekend, bigger, louder, and punker than last year.
[This is an expanded version of the short review I wrote for the Falmouth Packet, which was abridged further by the editor. There’s a couple of snippet reviews of my fave bands at the end too.]
The festival brought together everyone from grizzled 70s survivors to enthusiastic teens for two days of pogoing on the Trereife Estate.
The atmosphere from start to finish was fantastic, grassroots and inclusive with everyone bought together by a passion for the music and out to have a good time. It was rowdy, people got knocked about and put down in the mud, but there was always a helping hand back up.
Falmouth band Bobby Funkhouse kicked off a Saturday set that was pretty much straight up punk, bands with three chords and a whole lot of attitude such as Bus Station Loonies and Control.
Then the legendary TV Smith slowed it down with a typically political solo performance – ending his set with a few Adverts classics – before the tempo got cranked back up for the Lurkers and Vice Squad.
Two more Falmouth bands opened a Sunday line-up, the Red Cords on fine form for starters, followed by the Eyelids, whose set featuring a standup bass as well as a Blondie cover heralded a more eclectic programme to come.
The afternoon moved from returning favourites B Movie Britz to the young and talented ska punks Skaciety.
They were followed by the all-girl, almost post-hardcore Hearts Under Fire, the laddish punk of the Wonder Beers, all scatology and drinking, and their mates the Lagan, who packed the tent for their Celt-rock packed with fiddle, tin whistle, and good old foot stomping air punching tunes.
Heading into the evening, things got silly with Dirtbox Disco in a variety of fancy dress, before Goldblade and then final headliners the Restarts, keeping it political to the end.
Now in its third year, 3 Chords somehow manages to be a family friendly festival, with kids activities and a roped off section for children, while in the pit fans slam-dance and the beer tent keeps everyone’s spirits topped up. It’s healthy but not sanitised, with some of the sweariest songs imaginable but bands urged to keep it clean in between.
Packing in 24 bands in 22 hours, it would have been nice to get some slightly longer sets, but quick turnaround times meant this little two day festival really delivered.
Organiser Pete Kliskey said: “The band quality is so high because we have over 600 band applications”, and added a “massive thanks” to the steward team that helped the event run smoothly.
Pete has built the festival year on year, with more and better food on offer this year, with around 800 people on site plus nearly 100 kids with tickets, and even proper festival wristbands.
The community feel is helped by the fact that over the two days funds were raised for the Sophie Lancaster foundation, which fights against hate-crime directed at people because they choose to like alternative music, there were two shout-outs to a long departed friend who passed away due to cancer this year, and each day a raffle was held with all proceeds going to help the younger up-and-coming bands.
The festival’s DIY, by-punk-for-punk ethic gave fans and bands a chance to chat over the merch stall or grab a drink and watch the acts all as part of the same crowd – a bass player for one set becoming a crowd surfer for the next – while no amount of rain could dampen the spirits, or the mohawks.
Super early bird tickets for 3 Chords should be going up soon at http://www.3chordsfestival.bigcartel.com/
As promised, a few snapshot reviews. These were bands that grabbed my attention, for one reason or another:
TV Smith – The grizzled ex-Advert spent all day at the merch stand and in the crowd, before pulling out a stunning solo performance in the evening.
He blew the festival out of the water with his highly politicised punk, and all with just a guitar and a voice that has kept going for the best part of 40 years. Even a broken string and no roadie couldn’t slow him down, (well, maybe a bit).
He cracked out some new songs, but finished with a couple of old Adverts hits, proving punk certainly ain’t dead.
Skaciety – God knows how young this ridiculously fun and energetic ska-punk outfit from Kent are, but they cracked out the brass for an amazing set that had everyone skankin their muddy boots off.They paired great tunes with even better banter, holding their own with all that was thrown at them from the pit.
The one downside to such infectious, Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish inspired ska was the American accents those influences seem to bring with them, occasionally creeping in and bringing a jarring note.
Hearts Under Fire – A soaring melodic Surrey-based four piece, almost post-hardcore, or screamo-without-the-screams.
So fucking tight, across the board, with song inspirations from the everyday to the truly leftfield (Birds? Really? Well, it was awesome anyway).
Dark and driving awesomeness, basically.
The Wonder Beers – When these guys appeared on stage in their polo collars and started singing about beer, it seemed like time to hit the beer tent.
But given a minute, and their laddish punk-rock really got swinging. Songs anyone used to working for a shitty wage and waiting for the weekend can totally identify with. Sham 69 for the Thursday-is-the-new-Fiday generation.
Their jumpalong numbers certainly struck a chord – or three – and the beach balls they chucked into the crowd certainly helped get everyone bouncing.
The Lagan – A confession – I absolutely love the fuckin Lagan. Kingston boys into stomping and drinking, their Celt punk anthems always warm the cockles, and their 3 Chords set was no exception.
Alternating original songs with a punk twist on Irsih favourites, plus the odd high-octane jig which saw everyone moshing, they packed out the tent, and for good reason.
One question only, boys – where was Fields of Athenry?