Authors: Alan Shaw and Summer Dean
Together The People is a relatively new festival in Brighton, bridging the gap between some of the biggest names in music and a range of local favourites. The centre of the whole affair was the One Inch Badge Main Stage, which boasted a truly impressive line-up on both days, with headliner Brian Wilson providing an exclusive performance of Pet Sounds in its entirety; and bringing a slice of California Sunshine to a soaked crowd on the Saturday night. The festival wound up on Sunday with an impressive performance by Suede, whose frontman Brett Anderson has not lost a bit of his energy or charisma over the last two decades.
Of the local favourites on offer were Concorde 2’s New Bands Stage, Soapbox for the more literary minded and the Incredible Moving Picture House provided by Duke of York’s cinema. With certain exceptions, including the Brighton institution Poets vs. MCs, these local areas were unfortunately rather under-attended – perhaps a place where the local-big name synthesis needs a little work by the organisers. There were some great hospitality spaces on offer though, including a retro games tent, an endless supply of bubbles from Bubbles Inc, and some fantastic Brighton street food outlets; including the up-and-coming and entirely plant-based Beelzebub Kebabs.
Saturday’s highlights included Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, providing some foot tappin’, tambourine slappin’ entertainment to a crowd hungry for more after their set was shortened to just 20 minutes. Rateliff and his band were certainly the energetic boost the crowd needed to keep spirits high in the relentless rain and the lads proved themselves more than capable of warming up the crowd for the legendary Brian Wilson.
Wilson sat behind a piano and was accompanied by founding Beach Boy guitarist Al Jardine and Jardine’s son Matt, whose falsetto vocals evoked the band’s heyday; backed by a nine-piece band that capably recreated the ‘wall of sound’ that Wilson strove for on Pet Sounds. From the opening keyboard riff of California Girls, the crowd was jubilantly cheering and dancing. Classic early numbers were rolled out such as I Get Around and Little Deuce Coupe, before moving onto mid- seventies hits such as Sail on Sailor; as former 1970s Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin passionately handled the vocals and strutted around the stage in true classic rock fashion.
The weather on Sunday helpfully created a more chilled atmosphere allowing people to recline on the grass and enjoy the music as festival-goers should. Among Sunday’s highlights were Songhoy Blues, hailing from Mali, who delivered an exciting set of African desert blues and rock improvisations, with the Touré brothers’ fluid and infectious guitar licks finally enticing the mid-afternoon crowd to get up and dance.
Peter Hook took to the stage donning a t-shirt urging the reader to ‘keep calm and call the crew’, to perform hits from Joy Division and New Order with vocals that could have easily placed him in indie rock group The Wedding Present. Suffice to say, there was a sense that sufficiently Curtis-esque vocals were lacking. Hook was followed by Southend-on-Sea rockers The Horrors who pleased their fans with an electric performance.
The festival came to a close with Suede who really were on stellar form, with frontman Brett Anderson taking to the stage to a euphoric reaction from a crowd attired in a sea of Suede t-shirts. Young or old, there was a sense of collective adoration of a band and charismatic singer whose back catalogue was delivered with passion and visceral energy throughout the entire set. Swinging the mic lead like a glam Roger Daltry, Anderson’s performance was truly a lesson in how to hold an audience mesmerised. He gave a gutsy rendition of Drowners and got the crowd singing along to She’s in Fashion by declaring that “singing is just shouting with confidence”. Songs from Suede’s new album Night Thoughts demonstrated the band’s maturity in dealing with themes such as suicide and loss and Anderson sang a plaintive rendition of I Can’t Give Her What She Wants to a hushed, and sensitised crowd. All in all, a consummate performance by a band still at the top of their game after 25 years.
Overall, it has to be said that the general dispersal of fairground rides made Together The People feel a bit like a village fete with the benefit of some high calibre bands, rather than a music festival. It was a shame that some of the outstanding afternoon acts, such as M Ward, were left playing to an audience that was thin on the ground which certainly did not reflect the quality of the performance but possibly that of the ticket sales.
TTP 2016 was the festival’s second year and it felt a little bit like it was still trying to find it’s feet, but we’re looking forward to seeing how the organisers can learn from this year’s event to make TTP 2017 a raging success. Certainly, their concept and curation is great; and the Brian Wilson exclusive will be going down in Brighton history.