Y Not Festival banishes the storms with an indie onslaught 

The Midlands indie party remains an essential gateway for both youngsters who haven't yet solidified their own tastes and older generations looking to find hidden highlights. 

Indie’s muddiest get-together, Y Not‘s 15th iteration is returning to the vast fields of Pikehall, Derbyshire for the first time since 2019. Originating back in 2005 as an alternative to a back-garden gathering, the Peak District’s notoriously chaotic party has only grown in ambition. 

The Kooks kick things off and make early entry worth its admission fee with a set that harkens back to the youthful innocence that Y Not seeks to embody. It’s a fun coincidence that their debut breakthrough ‘Inside In / Inside Out’ has also recently boasted its 15th anniversary and, based on the reaction down at the Big Gin stage, hasn’t lost any potency. It’s juxtaposed against the fresh taste of the band’s recent sixth studio album ’10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark’, a euphoric exercise in imagination that captures the crowd’s hearts before ‘Naïve’ is whipped out.

Photo credit: Ami Ford

It’s not all about the (relative) old timers, though. Pale Waves top the Friday bill in the blaring Quarry tent, where Heather Baron-Gracie’s vocal flexes a gratifying urgency that compliments her substantial showmanship. Elsewhere, while The Courteeners’ flare-fuelled anthems paint the town red, Mae Muller brings empowering pop beats just off the beaten path. Turning the pain of intolerable and misinformed men into cathartic gains for women, mostly significantly herself, Mae encourages Y Not to take control of their own joy with ‘Better Days’, claiming the hot summer buzz that it has more than earned.

All the current indie staples are littered across the weekend too. Sports Team enthral an energetic Friday night tent with their trademark raucousness, leaving fans far happier than the festival security team as they mosh their way from breakout ‘Kutcher’ to LP2 tease ‘R Entertainment’. Marching on in a cape and crown, Alex Rice leads the gang through a dripping performance, only getting a break from relentless sweat when Rob takes over for ‘Long Hot Summer’.

Photo credit: Ami Ford

Easy Life don’t waste any time bringing their consistent vibrancy to life as frontman Murray jumps straight onto a speaker and into ‘Pockets’. Shedding a few of the old garms (and hairstyles) for a clean, slick image, they eagerly head into their own second full-length record. Despite ‘peanut butter’ claiming, “I put some serious thought into my outfit”, the five-piece must have been sweltering in those embodied leather jackets. Beach balls fly in all directions, and when the audience is asked to get up on some shoulders for ‘daydreaming’, they don’t disappoint.

Five years after their cancelled headline slot, The Vaccines return and bring national-scale glory with them; “Is it now officially home?” Justin Young asks as chanting dominates the field following the Lionesses’ mid-set 2-1 victory. Each band member fights to drive their joyful contribution to the forefront, collectively pushing the limits of how fun an English indie-rock group can become.

Photo credit: Ami Ford

Under these bigger names lies an array of new soon-to-be-favourites. In the rock arena, Liverpool’s STONE preview their appearance at Dork’s Day Out by warming up early attendees with an unfiltered live approach only recently uncaged from the sweaty basements it’s been festering in. The Pale White’s fresh four-piece crew cause carnage with the filthy guitar lines of ‘Medicine’. Daytime TV look the part, and their glistening heft sounds it too – penultimate tune, ‘Little Victories’, seems aptly titled. 

Dream Wife counter a peaceful Sunday afternoon with socially conscious punk and contrast riotous rock with neon costumes – their money cannon may suffer technical difficulties, but the ‘bad bitches’ watching don’t need to be bought.

Master Peace suffers a similar fate as he tackles his own sound system just two songs in, but manages to pull the crowd back in with the invigorating pop combo of ‘PDA’ and ‘PNE’. NOISY bring their magic to the daytime; when Cody Matthews sings, “this feels like a moment,” he is not mistaken. A quick cover of ‘Praise You’ unites ravers of all ages, and a tease at upcoming release ‘Desire’ extends this bonding promise. 

Following a support tour alongside Olivia Rodrigo, Baby Queen is able to dominate the main stage with ease. Her pulsating pop choruses get the festival jumping, and ‘Nobody Really Cares’ verifies the thematically poignant intent of her new guitar-led direction.

Standard Y Not nonsense provides future talent with a backdrop full of merry shenanigans – Mr Motivator somewhat cures those hangovers with bizarre aerobics, The Lancanshire Hotpots’ folk-comedy pleases fans of ‘Chippy Tea’, and ex-Teletubbies’ stars King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys jazz up the Big Gin stage. The Nighthawk Cinema runs all night, Club Malibu inspires endless queues, and the brutal collision of a fancy dress competition with a paint party leaves marks that will be tough to remove.

There is time to relax if you so desire, as Billie Marten’s delicate third album ‘Flora Fauna’ lulls listeners into a shared trance. The buzzy, endlessly-original Pixey delivers dreamlike, textured soundscapes that hold onto every inch of space in the room before Matilda Mann’s whispering optimism narrates her friend’s love lives – ‘Bloom’ is a mesmerising highlight here

Photo credit: Ami Ford

Concluding all festivities, Blossoms’ well-deserved finale sees frontman Tom Ogden effortlessly delivering a relaxed masterclass in satisfying listeners of any type. Bucket-hat wearers join their own mothers in singing defining tracks like ‘I Can’t Stand It’ and ‘The Keeper’, with latest LP ‘Ribbon Around The Bomb’ revealing a more vulnerable layer to the group. Rising star Brooke Combe joins them for a quick Human League cover, and the sparkling tones of ‘Charlemagne’ are a fitting way to round off the weekend. 

Y Not always plays out with an element of familiarity, and the soggy-to-say-the-least Saturday night is one element of that, but a sense of promise miraculously banishes the bad vibes long before the jubilation comes to a close. The Midlands indie party remains an essential gateway for both youngsters who haven’t yet solidified their own tastes and older generations looking to find hidden highlights. 

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