Belting Bedfest at Henshaws, Knaresborough

The Shades at Bedfest 2014 in Knaresborough. (Picture by Stuart Rhodes)
The Shades at Bedfest 2014 in Knaresborough. (Picture by Stuart Rhodes)

Review by Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers

Bedfest, various acts, Henshaw’s Arts &Crafts Centre, Knaresborough.

Standing indoors in the café stage of the quadrangle that is Henshaw’s Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough, I realised with a thud that it’s been 20 years since I first saw the lead singer of the band currently on stage.

Arc of Manapples are one of the loudest bands on the bill at this yera’s Bedfest day, yet it’s been two whole decades since I saw Jeremy Grove’s first band Enamel Camel support Shed Seven in what was then the Lounge Hall in Harrogate and is now Wetherspoons.

Fortunately, the comparison is a good one. Jez and the rest of this three-piece remain unique in the local rock scene in being properly ‘rock’ – in an American way – and being neither alt nor indie nor mainstream but, somehow a bit of all three.

With passionate vocals, fierce guitar playing and a fluid rhythm section, Arc are a bracing, invigorating experience rather than a tired set of veterans.

And when they experience sound problems, Jez reveals himself to be a very funny MC in a way his younger, more tightly wound self wasn’t all those years ago.

With three stages going simultaneously plus pop-up poetry from Henry Raby thanks to Release the Hounds fest, there’s always something for everyone at Bedfest organized by the likable Rufus Beckett.

On the acoustic stage two young men of roughly the same age who often play together follow each other and put on radically different performances.

Aaron Bertenshaw is a man of poise and style – the on-trend dress code of quaff, skinny jeans and tight button-up shirt matched by the sharp Ed Sheeran-style singer-songwriting and heart-aching reach for an audience.

Adam Tait, on the other hand, acts like he’s singing to himself.

Head down in lumberjack, checked shirt like a backwoods poet, he comes across like a very young version of a very old Johnny Cash.

Non-communication turned into a positive.

While the self-confident and accomplished young pups Red Ocean Nectar and The Shades are performing on the outdoor stage, inside the loudest band of the entire day (forget PseudoNympho!) are boiling music down to its barest essentials.

For a two-man garage blues band, Hell Fire Jack make a hell of a racket.

Imagine The White Stripes without those softer country music and Beatles’ White Album influences.

Imagine last year’s next big thing Drenge if they didn’t have one eye on what the NME and trendy websites thought.

All the carefully bequiffed Alex Trewhitt and impressive drummer Josef Karl on his tiny kit want to do is kick up a storm.

I’m not sure what a Hell Fire Jack album would be like (you need well-written songs for that, usually) but live this most visceral of duos rock like the devil.

On a well-attended day, this explosive duo get the best reception of Bedfest with whoops and shouts and, even, whistles from an excited crowd.