Wish You Were Here Festival

HARRY WRIGHT wishes you were here, as he sends us back a postcard from one of Cambridge’s best small festivals.

Bo Ningen Cambridge Football Club chelsea Echo Lake festival Fuzzy Lights Indie Spinal Tap spotify The Boat House The Portland Arms Turbowolf wish you were here

Held in the backrooms of two of Cambridge’s best pubs, and featuring a mix of local talent and emerging names, Wish You Were Here is certainly an intriguing festival prospect.

Whilst it’s an all-dayer, I’ve never believed in the concept of suffering for one’s art, so decided to give the mostly boring afternoon slots a miss in favour of doing something productive (i.e. listening to everything by the bands I did want to see on Spotify, and deluding myself that thinking about it really hard counts as doing work).

The evening bill looked much more interesting, and we duly went along to collect our tickets (just £15). As a lifelong Chelsea fan, I don’t believe that non-league football actually exists, so was expecting a difficult journey to the pickup point – Cambridge Football Club.

As it turns out, I was proved right. The organisers decided that instead of promoting their event with posters, or even flyers, the best way to ensure an efficient and organised ticket collection was to stick three small directional arrows on a hedge. There’s such a thing as being too alternative for your own good, guys.

Anyway, after a trek round the outer regions of Cambridge, we eventually arrived at the newly refurbished (and pretty classy-looking) Portland Arms in time for ECHO LAKE.  The London four-piece play deliciously distorted dream-pop which perfectly complemented my slightly woozy post-pint condition. By the end of the first song, my friend was in love with the singer. By the end of the second, so was I. A charming start to the night, then, but not the kind of thing that’ll change anyone’s life.


Up next were FUZZY LIGHTS. I’d not listened to them before, and I won’t be doing so again. While it’s possible to be a good band and to be contrived, or to be messy, Fuzzy Lights are both and are singularly dreadful. All false emoting and howling violins, they couldn’t leave soon enough for me.

Talking of howling, Bristol’s TURBOWOLF upped the ante with a gorgeously frenetic half hour of hirsute rock posturing, fun riffs, electronic flourishes, and unnecessary floral shirts. They all look like members of Spinal Tap, but their music is genuinely original, stapling post-hardcore noise to catchy pop hooks and a punk attitude. Ones to watch.

However, they were nothing compared to the night’s headliners – Japanese psych-metal quartet BO NINGEN. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in Cambridge, nor anywhere else for that matter (I’m just a kid from the rural North, all this going out to gigs is terribly nouvelle). Floor-shaking bass, white noise, rock choruses, guitar squalls, extended improvisation, kids going mental down the front, me going mental down the front… god, it was good.  You hear talk of the importance of stagecraft and putting on a show, but these four shy, long-haired music nerds absolutely destroyed the crowd by letting their music speak for itself. It’s abrasive, difficult stuff, yet weirdly danceable. Bo Ningen aren’t for everyone, but if you like them, it might well be for life. I don’t really know what else to say beyond this – please, please give them a listen! Their new album’s out now. Buy it.

Overall, Wish You Were Here is an enjoyable night out, and I’d go as far as calling it a credit to the Cambridge music scene. The organisation could be better, and the quality of a mostly local line-up is always going to be patchy in places, but hey – anything’s better than another evening in Cindies.