Rockaway Beach, Butlin’s Bognor Regis, 7th-9th January 2022
Planning a festival for early January with the very real possibility of venues being closed again after Christmas has to be a fairly onerous task. Getting safely into the new year with no restrictions announced would seem a good reason to breathe a sigh of relief, but then to have artists dropping out on a daily basis due to positive testing takes things to a whole new level.
There were points in the run up where it looked like Rockaway Beach wasn’t going to make the finishing line this year but, despite the odds, it proved to be a gamble that paid off. Some inspired last minute substitutions were made and the crowd embraced the changes in good spirit. Here are some of our best bits…
Big slots at Centre Stage on Friday were filled by Buzzcocks (replacing The Futureheads) and Do Nothing (subbing for Working Men’s Club), sandwiching a tricky set from Tricky. A more than solid start to the weekend with much audience appreciation.
No tents to pitch or portaloos to queue for at Butlin’s, and after a night in your chalet or hotel room of choice, there were plenty of highlights on both stages throughout Saturday.
Italia 90 have clearly kept up momentum during lockdown, drawing old fans and winning new ones with an early slot at Reds.
Maria Uzor (one half of Sink Ya Teeth) was an unexpected yet memorable surprise, showcasing glitchy electro-soul with hooks and melodies aplenty.
And darling of the London scene Nuha Ruby Ra proved that her performance works equally well on a bigger stage as it does in a smaller setting, making the most of the light show and never using one mic when two will do.
It’s probably unavoidable that some people will come to see Imperial Wax to check out what some of the ex members of The Fall are up to. The reality is that you very quickly lose the need to make comparisons as they really are a strong enough band in their own right, their musicianship highlighted by overcoming technical difficulties with ease and making the set look effortless.
Another very late addition, Crows pulled in a big crowd who will doubtless be pleased to hear that they followed up their Butlin’s trip by releasing new music and tour dates.
Thankfully one act that didn’t cancel was the incomparable JARV IS. Always one to walk his own path, Jarvis Cocker has become cemented in modern day culture as a storyteller extraordinaire; who else would you find headlining in a beige velvet jacket throwing mini Bountys into the crowd while chatting about Shirley Bassey? An expert in giving the crowd exactly what they want but very much on his own terms, this was undoubtedly the biggest draw of the festival, and rightly so.
Rockaway Beach certainly have a knack of scuppering any chance of a lie in, kicking off Sunday with TV Priest waking everyone up with an animated set turned up to the max, their energy only surpassed by their gratitude for the equally lively response from the early risers.
Another crowd favourite, Hull’s bdrmm continued the clever pick me up to battle Sunday fatigue with their well honed mix of hazy shoegaze lifting the late afternoon timeline.
For a band that’s spanned decades, A Certain Ratio still sound surprisingly fresh, with tracks like Lucinda sounding as good as ever and new vocalist Ellen Beth Abdi fitting in perfectly. With much dancing in the room, it’s fair to say there was plenty of movement with no room for improvement.
In a fine way to end the weekend, Porridge Radio took to the stage. The transition from small, quirky DIY band to festival headliner isn’t an easy one to pull off but they managed to retain the feeling and nostalgia of performances of old, while impressing their newer fans with tracks from Mercury nominated Every Bad.
And that was that, festival complete. Talking about being at home at Christmas, Jarvis told us that he said, “We’re supposed to be playing this concert but it’ll never happen”. Happily he was proved wrong as it turned out that the ever changing line up added some spontaneity to the already eclectic proceedings. With amusement arcades, silent discos and DJ sets into the early hours, Rockaway Beach really is a festival experience not quite like any other. See you next year.
Words / photos by Callum / Siobhan
17th January 2022