Godiva Festival 2024

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Godiva Festival 2024

Review

This article is pretty much a mirror to my anticipatory one on the 2024 Godiva Festival which I wrote a month ago: having looked forwards to certain acts, here's my experiences & reactions to having had the pleasure.

I didn't catch everyone I had on my list: circumstances do tend to get in the way don't they & over the years I'm slowly learning to get the "quantity/quality" balance better for my own enjoyment. The rushing between stages to hear snippets of sets is giving way to hearing more complete ones & accepting that I can't get to every one. However that does mean a few regrets I must say.

First up: a huge appreciation to the Festival organisers. Obviously there is a massive amount of work they do completely out of the public eye without which it simply would not happen. Most of it is terribly detailed too. Every Festival is at the mercy of the weather & Godiva 2024 suffered more rain than in previous years: and critically the show went on thanks to prodigious efforts.

The public possibly don't see the evolution of the Festival quite as much as I do, so kudos for changes this year. There was more curation going on (their term seems to be "takeovers") and I think this results in more diversity & the right grassroots artists getting a chance. As with the last few years, the Boudica slot (this year it was The Go! Team) acts as a mid-Festival pivot & vital catalyst for those experiencing it.

With quite tightly focused stages (for example the Cov ConneX Kingston Stage), the sense that particular threads & genres can be found more easily by the right audiences is a good move. It's also great that despite the changes at the BBC, their stage was a highlight still: and I saw more there than anywhere else.

Above all, I felt that Godiva 2024 is their closest ever to surfing the zeitgeist in reflecting where Coventry & Warwickshire music currently is. To feature artists such as Duke Keats or Bar Pandora who are redefining local music along with stunningly original talents like Ace Ambrose, Duck Thieves and the fresh from Glastonbury Izzie Derry is what Godiva should be about, as is the featuring of continually evolving artists like Abz Winter or completely leftfield bands like The Caroline Bomb.

But to me, if there was a highlight, it was that both (very) young bands from the Live On Stage project based at The Tin, that is Project Overload & Loophole were showcased on the Main Stage. This was a very significant moment (well two moments) as both bands have the clear potential to go much further & to have them in such a high profile position is arguably what Godiva 2024 should be most pleased with.

I've been praising Project Overload all year (and clearly I'm far from the only one) and to watch their growth in live confidence is a privilege. The slight nerves I saw during the opening number at their HMV gig are long gone and they spread themselves across the huge Godiva stage space without needing to stay close together: and they really used it well, despite obviously never having been on anything like it before. The one most liberated I suppose was vocalist Emily who is swiftly developing into the onstage focus, not just moving around to generate energy but also in her song introductions (which have come a long way in three months), working the crowd & the power of her singing is now just right for even spaces this large.

The material too is now showing just what it can do when given the opportunity it was given on Saturday. All the hours honing it are paying off entirely. Towards the end of the set, such were the dynamics, sassiness and confidence of the performance, that a comparison with ‘Plastic Letters' era Blondie entered my head when they unveiled "Wildfire": a brand new song.

I felt really privileged (second use of that word in three paragraphs, but it's the best fit) to have witnessed this set. I think Project Overload can go a long way & to be able to say "I was there" is quite something. It's hard to think of too many artists over the 25 years of Godiva (it's been going far longer than any of the band have been alive) who have made such an impact so early in their careers.

The following day, fellow project members Loophole were up there too: even younger than Project Overload (whose guitarist Lucas sings with Loophole), they were up there entirely on their own & separate merit. They are still at the stage where a few initial nerves could be detected, but they soon blew those away & attacked their set with gusto.

Lucas was something of a revelation: being the youngest in Project Overload, he gets on with playing his guitar. With Loophole, he not only sings, but sings lead and does the introductions. Bass player Nancy also sang lead on some numbers giving variety to their sound. Instrumentally the band were really tight & that no doubt contributed to their ease up there: and I wouldn't want to leave out the names of the other two members, the guitarist & drummer, but since they share the name George, I only need give one.

I've seen Project Overload several times now & am long sold on them. This was my first Loophole gig though and I look forwards to many more.

In fact, that leads me neatly onto a plug for the Live on Stage Summer Showcase at the HMV Empire on 16th July where I can see both bands and all the others involved in the project & you can see for yourselves if you missed them at Godiva. (Tickets via this link:

https://www.eventim-light.com/uk/a/62aaf91212e4de0a6a8997a8/e/6661ab6637745539edadad19)

If those two bands were revelatory, then they were not the only ones: and each was revelatory in their own fashion.

Ace Ambrose unveiled her latest version of The Oddity (as you will possibly be aware, health & other issues have thrown her challenges over recent years and keeping the previous lineup together during periods when performing wasn't an option was not feasible) and (as you would expect), they brought whole new perspectives to her music. I've heard "Jukebox Time Machine", her signature song, in various arrangements, but never with that full on and powerful approach. Their names? Jack Tate on lead guitar, Joey Celino on rhythm guitar, Keith Kasama on keyboards, Luke John Chapman on bass guitar & Joey Adkins on drums.

They took "A Town Called Love" to entirely new places: since the arrangement reminded me of Crazy Horse, this presumably was deliberate & raised the already great song to new mythical heights.

"Jericho" was very much made for these times (I anticipate its release) and as Ace swapped the mask of The Stranger for a Palestinian flag themed jacket, this was the ethical/political highlight of the Festival. Ace is a passionate artist anyway, but what her family suffered in Gaza is almost beyond reflecting in mere music. A true artist though has the opportunity to speak for the oppressed & the voiceless & stand witness to their stories & frankly she does that extremely well. I just wish she didn't need to.

Politics is of course (or should be) a personal thing and the Duck Thieves are no less political than Ace. In fact they also favour striking visuals & reference (pop) culture but few people would find it difficult to confuse the two bands.

As per my review of the most recent EP, ‘Eyes Up Here', the songs tackle weighty issues such as misogyny & racism head on (there is no compromise in their lyrics) but they sell their values with lashings of humour which in no way undermines the messages: in fact laughing at bigots is a pretty good tactic. They really don't like being mocked.

The lack of lyrical compromise inevitably had to lead to some toning down of the expletives on the Family Field: but again, the message was clear.

However, despite the power of the recordings, you only get a slice of Duck Thieves' majesty by that route: they are so much a live band with key parts of their identity impossible to capture on disk.

Not only is there a wealth of visual input, but they work so hard on the details (literally). Yesterday, they distributed hand made frisbee viruses (well, threw) during "I'm Not A Virus", lugged an exercise cycle onstage from which Justin performed "Geeks Make Better Lovers" (never seen that before), waved hand made placards during "For The Love Not The Money" and the duck plumages were the most lush to date.

Part of their charm is inciting the audience so your attention is split between the two: significant members of well-known local bands were encouraged into dancing to "In Liverpool We'll Barn Dance" though none of them won the prize…. Thank goodness for festivals or you'd never see them in their full glory.

Stylusboy & Monday Nights are both very different types of artist, but like Ace & everyone else here, deserve fully attentive audiences to appreciate the subtleties of their songs: not always easy at festivals, but they got it here.

Stylusboy tends to appear in early slots (why I wonder?) which doesn't help his audience sizes which is a pity: he's an excellent performer & his songs which celebrate lives in a gentle & respectful manner and which he works so hard over deserve plenty of hearings. I always enjoy his sets but I wish I had more company at some of them.

Monday Nights provided me with my main conundrum of the weekend as their set clashed in theory with Project Overload. My first (stupid) strategy was to catch the first half of the latter & dash over, but they were just too terrific & I stayed for the whole thing before hurrying over, fearing that Monday Nights had finished. Fortunately the usual stagetime slippage had occurred and certainly more by luck than judgement I caught 80% of their show. Which was gratifying.

Monday Nights (in trio mode on this occasion)  offer something considerably more rewarding than the plethora of bands trying to emulate famous acts: theirs is a sophisticated repertoire and it's occurred to me since, possibly the best place in a lineup might be the more chilled out parts of a festival: the sort which Bar Pandora had the following day.

I reckon it was before COVID19 that I last caught a live Shanade gig (though lord knows I saw plenty before then) so it was with much pleasure that I got to see her on this occasion. What with motherhood, it was inevitable that her previous high work rate wasn't going to be sustainable, but great as it was to see her back, the revelation was how much she has been writing: so much so that she had a set of songs I'd never heard (though I was pleased that she popped a personal favourite "Lessons" in by popular demand as an encore.)

On a moving note, she dedicated her first song to Matt Mansfield/Hernández which in itself was highly appropriate, though what made it more so was how suitable it was: obviously she wrote it long before his passing. There was of course much talking about Matt & how he touched lives and careers throughout the weekend.

More revelatory still was the sound of the songs: really different to anything you've heard from Shanade in the past: this is a stunning new collection & I can't wait to hear them recorded… though she did make it clear to me when I put that to her that what with everything else in her life, we might best not hold our breaths. Still: there is a magnificent record out there for future pleasure.

You'll know from other articles that Izzie Derry arrived at Godiva having played twice at Glastonbury 2024: I hope to feedback much of what she told me in another article, but it's so uplifting to watch an artist who's played locally so much (including many times at Godiva) reach a new level & it's good to think that her experiences doing so helped lead her along that path.

Not only will I be reporting separately about Izzie's Glastonbury, but tomorrow you'll be reading a review of her new single "If We Don't Laugh We'll Cry" too & there is a big danger of my repeating myself between three pieces…. So as not to bore you in that way, please keep an eye open for the others and for now I'll reveal that she previewed the new release for us, that it works just as nicely solo as it does in its full arrangement (though to be accurate she plays all the instruments on that too) and to my surprise (a pleasant one), most of her set was of recent songs, especially from her ‘Til We Reach The Sun' album which I thought were too complex for performance in this way.

I think "expect the unexpected" is a link between the musicians of whom I write & Levi Washington epitomises this. I've possibly heard him play some original compositions more than once, but the man is so prolific across so many styles that music just pours out.

Even so, his new collaboration, named "Washington X Bridge" with keyboard player Charlotte Faulconbridge took me by surprise.

If her name is not familiar to you either, that's understandable. An accomplished jazz player, nevertheless, not only was this her live debut with Levi, but her live debut full stop. Levi has been mentoring her while they've been working together & I'm obliged to Dan Sambell who interviewed her on the BBC about her book "Too High To Function" for filling me in on much of her story, challenges & triumphs and why it's taken Levi's encouragement to reach this significant moment  (that's a plug for the book by the way).

Speaking with her afterwards, it was clear that she had the debutant's lack of reference points to know how well the gig had gone: so I was more than happy to tell her it was faultless. Levi had gone to the jazz end of his repertoire to create this body of work, though Charlotte's playing went from the highly melodic to the funkily rhythmic as required. This was very special: I hope that this is merely the first of many such events: equally the songs were just too good not to be recorded, which is a point I made with some urgency to Levi: not that I was the only one.

Festivals (if they are any good) have characteristic vibes and Godiva on a sunny Sunday is no exception. Thankfully the deluge which came just before Washington X Bridge went on stage had dissipated completely for Bar Pandora's quintessential Sunday afternoon vibe set. (Credit to Levi maybe: that's twice this summer (after Motofest) that his music has summoned up the sun.)

It's tricky to say much more about Bar Pandora given my review earlier this week (I saw both of them & Project Overload at the Love + Madness event at the HMV Empire mere days ago. How lucky am I?), but this was the first time I've seen them outdoors and the music suits it. The flowers all over the kit plays a part (that's a plug for "Bar Pandora and Parma Vi0let's Flower Ball" at the LTB on Saturday 20th July by the way: tickets via this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bar-pandora-parma-violets-flower-ball-tickets-899946533307).

I've been waiting three years for this band who have created such a stir to make the Festival & they provided the culturally fit I always knew that they would.

The crowd soon reassembled from its various shelters & among the many groovers were quite a lot of the great & the good from the local scene. Two of whom were so in a place of their own to not notice their shout-out from the BBC's Phil Upton onstage. Quite a lot of bliss being conjured up. If you run a festival and are looking for the right band for that magic moment, I would suggest considering Bar Pandora.

Happy 25th birthday therefore to Godiva! I honestly think that this was the most forward facing of them all &I hope this continues. Heritage needs celebrating and fans love their established favourites but to stay vital & alive, it also needs to do what it did in 2024 & capture today while keeping an eye & ear upon tomorrow.

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