Y Not is always a whirlwind affair. I live about 20 minutes from the 3 day fest’s Pikehall stomping grounds, and stopping by in the first week of August has always seemed like a liminal state between the start and end of the summer for me since my first joyride in 2012. Since then, campsites, stages and ticket prices all seem to have bumped up in scale – but deservedly so. This year, Y Not boasted a lineup to rival its Radio 1 grade festival peers, carrying massive headline slots from Editors, Madness, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and had the chops in its atmosphere to suit them.
Rolling in on the Friday was all smiles, grit, and Special Brew, soundtracked at first by the noticeable absence of Kelis from the Big Gin stage. A noticeably large crowd were met by disappointment at missing the rare opportunity of hearing “Milkshake” live – but no matter. Camps had been well established, and I’d already managed to lose a lighter and hat by the time Everything Everything took the stage. Garish orange and purple uniform jackets aside, they delivered a powerful and pointed set, delivering earlier surefire hits like ‘Kemosabe’ early on and closing with ‘Distant Past’ from last year’s Get To Heaven. It was early in the day yet, but spiky harmonies and synths from 2010’s Arc still elicited a good bounce out of the drawing crowd. Having passed out by the time Editors met the main stage, my fill of Friday guitar bands was brought to a halt in the form of The Cribs – just as electrifying as they were headlining in 2013, they established a clear fence of calibre between themselves and the other bands in the lineup (maybe harder to climb than the one around the campsite). Twangy tracks like ‘I’m A Realist’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ are relatively timeless, propelling the band straight through to the end of their set.
I resurfaced in the earliest hours of Saturday to catch a DJ set from Craig Charles, bringing his Radio 6 funk and soul slot to a sweltering tent. I don’t recall much except for Charles’ distinctive hat, but he brought the same punch to the role as he has on Red Dwarf – I’m hoping it’s a staple from now on.
Saturday was probably the most potent day of the fest in terms of music for me. The Giant Squid stage always manages to cut its teeth on the punkier side of things, this year delivering pop punk upstarts Moose Blood and Milk Teeth to us. Moose Blood in particular delivered an intense and punchy set, mostly filled with tracks from their new sophomore LP Blush. It’s a little breezier than the last few times I’ve see them, but still worth chucking yourself about for.
Moving back into the main fray, I caught Peter Hook and the Light careening through a set of Joy Division and New Order covers in the Quarry tent. It’s close, but no cigar – harkening back to the previous year when a set from Britpop alumnus Johnny Marr was dotted with Smiths classics. Still, it’s a nice touch, and warms up for Noel Gallagher’s headline tour-de-force at the end of the night. Though I’m by no means a fan of the Gallagher brothers, High Flying Birds and Oasis songs alike struck a chord in the thronging crowds – ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ brings out a crowd singalong even played over speakers between sets, so hearing it live was unifying to say the least.
I didn’t catch much of Sunday, but closed it out with a burrito and a good skank. Madness drew the biggest crowd of the entire weekend, as well as the largest amount of sunglasses worn at 11pm. After a slightly lacklustre set of indie pop tracks from Blossoms (still met by a teeming crowd), the 80s veterans were a definite peak of the festival. There’s something distinctive about pop ska that brings people together, and the air was alive with chorus, amongst other projectiles. They’re certainly going to be a difficult closer for Y Not to top.
As Y Not’s grown over the years, you’d expect it to lose some of its intimacy and particularly eclectic lineup patterns – but 2016 has shown it to be evergreen. The food and drink is still excellent (noodles and local moonshine cider in particular), the headliners remain iconic, and all in all, it’s still a point to look forward to in the summer; albeit for a great deal more of the country than just Derbyshire now.By Jowan Mead