LIVE: Community Festival 2019 @ Finsbury Park, London

By Yasmin Brown

Based just outside Central London in Finsbury Park, Community Festival has become a mid-summer favourite for festival goers of all ages. With a line-up that combines the best of indie and alternative music, there’s something for almost everyone.

The Punktastic team braved the intense sunshine, downed a few ciders, and popped down to the park to see what alternative goodness this year had to offer.

It’s barely gone midday when Californian pop-punk band SWMRS embrace their position as openers for Community Fest’s main stage, but with the makeshift Finsbury Park venue already jam packed and seemingly endless lines of people still filing their way through the entrance, SWMRS receive a response worthy of an early evening slot. Front man Cole Becker declares that this will be the best rock show of our lives, and the crowd takes this comment as a challenge, throwing all of their energy into the set and paying no attention to the sweltering heat. The band refuse to let anyone stand still, although little encouragement is required as the sea of pop-punk fans dance wildly to favourites such as ‘Trashbag Baby’ and ‘Figure It Out’. Beyond the bright neon green hair that Cole Becker proudly carries and the political comments graffitied on his guitar, it’s difficult to see this as a ‘rock show’ per se, but however you choose to define it, this 30-minute set is a vibrant and energising start to the day – one that could be rivalled by few in our scene today. As the set draws to a close, we’re left feeling uplifted and excited for the day ahead as Becker leaves us with one final statement: “Music doesn’t solve problems, people solve problems, but music will help you – the people – figure it all out.”

Sea Girls are no strangers to festival season, having played more than anyone can likely count over the past 12 months and gaining momentum at an unprecedented rate. The crowds the band have been faced with since summer 2018 have grown exponentially, and today is a defining moment in Sea Girls’ career as the floor in front of the main stage is crammed with fans pressed together, arm to arm, happily sharing perspiration and singing along aggressively to every word that passes the lips of front man Henry Camamile. With that in mind, it seems anything but hyperbolic when Camamile expresses his delight at the sight in front of him, claiming that this is, “the best gig of [their] fucking lives”. Even their stage presence is representative of their recent growth, as they’ve ditched the t-shirts and jeans in favour of more formal attire, with Camamile rocking an all-red suit with absolute confidence. Even the presence of a new, unreleased song on the setlist is met with enthusiasm, with the crowd not taking a single moment to breathe but instead continuing to launch themselves into the air as the sun gets ever hotter and the crowd gets ever more saturated. Following the final notes of the final song, fan favourite ‘Call Me Out’, Henry throws himself into crowd to show his delight and gratitude at the experience these fans have just helped to make unforgettable. With Sea Girls’ latest track, ‘Damage Done’, sitting comfortably on Radio 1’s current playlist, these early sets will soon be a distant memory as we inevitably see the band moving their way up festival bills towards those coveted headline slots. Watch this space.

Bloxx sit alongside Sea Girls as being one of the UK’s fastest growing bands at the moment, and after finding themselves signing a record deal for the first time in the past few weeks, the profile of the London band is only going to increase from here on out. Despite their recent signing, Bloxx have garnered an impressive following over the past year or so, with catchy pop-rock tracks such as ‘Coke’ and ‘Monday’ seeing some of the most positive responses. This response translates directly to the live show, and the few hundred fans that attended the band’s small Reading Festival set last year has turned into a few thousand at today’s Community Festival, and for good reason. The energy that reverberates between the four band members is tangible, spreading throughout each member of the crowd right to the back where drunken, sun-soaked fans dance wildly. The musical performance is tight and a definite highlight of the day up until this point. The crowd is – to put it plainly – crazy for Bloxx, and they are thriving on it with grins stretching from ear to ear until the set ends, arguably, far too soon.

No strangers to a live show, The Hunna know exactly how to work up a crowd and it’s less than 10 seconds before the mass crowd that has turned up to catch this Watford band descends into a wild, uncontrollable pit. There’s no escaping it. Wherever in front of the main stage you’ve chosen to enjoy the band’s set, you can’t help but getting pulled into the mayhem, and on more than one occasion tens of fans fall down simultaneously in a heap, only to help one another back to their feet within seconds. It’s total madness and anywhere else it might seem frightening, but the community that has been created by The Hunna prevents it from being anything but a bloody good time. It’s unfortunate that the stage’s sound setup means that anyone past the front few rows will struggle to hear the vocals, but this is a band that, despite having a particularly rocky start to the year, have developed an intense and loyal fanbase, and almost anywhere you look, you can see lips moving perfectly in sync with those of front man Ryan Potter – regardless of whether we can hear him or not. Having played a few shows back in April, even the two unreleased songs are met with pure joy, and despite not having a studio version to listen to, many fans already know the words to at least the choruses, spreading excitement for the releases that are set to (fingers crossed) hit our streaming service of choice by the end of the year. It’s a perfect start to the second half of the day, re-energising those that may have hit a sun/alcohol induced wall and leaving us in good stead for what’s to come next.

As far as alternative music goes, Don Broco are the peak of Community Festival. If you’ve ever attended one of the band’s live shows before, you’ll know just how mental they can get, with a fanbase that matches the energy of the band members on stage. Front man Rob Damiani has one of the most unusual voices in our genre today, his impressively low tones sounding just as strong in a live setting as they do on record. Blasting through hit after hit from across their discography, Broco put on a technically faultless performance, highlighted by the fact that from the outskirts of the crowd, you can hardly see the stage for all the people. For the band’s first show as real Londoners (originally hailing from Bedford), it’s certainly one for the books. With the sun beating down and fans eagerly following instructions to crouch down on their knees before jumping back up during 2015’s ‘Automatic’, you’d be hard pressed to find something to complain about during the band’s extensive set.

It’s a great end to the day, leaving us happily sweaty, ready to sit down and enjoy old favourite, The Kooks at the end of the night. Community may be small, but it is mighty, and today only further proved that it’s one of the best one-day festivals the south has to offer.