Community Festival 2017: inside London's new indie festival

IT was overcast Saturday morning in London’s Finsbury Park. I was particularly bleary-eyed from a heavy and dramatic evening the night before, and the sight of over-excited indie kids in dungarees and mismatched socks made me a little nauseous.

I dragged my friend to Community Festival, a brand new one-day festival celebrating the best in new music. As a repressed indie-kid, I’ve been excited about this festival for a while, but watching the demographic of post A-Level kids form a disorderly queue to get into the festival grounds has me wondering if I should’ve worn more denim.

Looking wholly inadequate in our all black ensemble of ripped skinny jeans and mesh tops, we decide to down three cans of assorted alcohol outside the nearby Tesco, because we realised there is a certain level of drunk we will have to be to assimilate with such a sub-culture.

After grappling with the concept of an “e-ticket” (now feeling adequately ancient), we were greeted by the main stage at the front of the field, and multiple bars and food stalls lining the park’s perimeter.

After gorging on a vegan burger and fries, we sat down to try and make out if we knew any of the bands that were up first. My friend, to her credit, freely admitted she did not. I, on the other hand, wanting to uphold my indie rep, pretended I did but also had little to no clue.

First up was band Fickle Friends. Hailing from Brighton, the breakthrough five-piece are known for their ‘80s-style synth pop and performed hits “Glue,” “Cry Baby” and “Brooklyn.” I even surprised myself by knowing the latter track as it appeared on my workplace’s playlist, and was delightfully reminded of drowning in pairs of jeans and rude customers.

Lead vocalist Natti Shiner brought up a very pungent issue considering the horrific attack that recently occurred in the area, reminding everyone to “look after each other” and that “this is appropriately called Community festival, and I think we need a very strong sense of community right now.”

After taking a wander and sipping a very overpriced, very watered down vodka and orange, I was feeling a bit sleepy. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I’m taking a full on nap in the middle of a field (my friend has video evidence of this, although I will continue to convince everyone that I was just being at one with nature.)

Unfortunately for me, I slept through two songs from The Hunna that my friend actually knew. I did manage to stay awake through the rest of their set though and was glad to see that the band that often popped up on my Facebook news feed convincing me that they were for “fans of the 1975” (*rolls eyes*).

Next up were Nothing but Thieves, a favourite amongst Radio 1 junkies and hipsters on the lookout for “new, interesting sounds.” I was generally unimpressed by their set; all of their songs had the same tone and in my opinion, failed to keep the audience engaged.

The winners of the night for me were Kent based punk band Slaves. I’ve been a fan of the duo ever since their genius cover of Skepta’s “Shutdown,” and with just two microphones, a guitar and a stripped down drum set to their names, they had a lot to prove. With their shouty lyrics and unfiltered political criticism (they paused their set to chant “Ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn!” clutching a sign reading “TORIES OUT”), the pair managed to create the first successful mosh pit of the day and, after the few hectic days my friend had had, became her new favourite band (“I feel they have a lot to be angry about. I get that.”)

Not knowing quite where to place all of my newfound pent up anger, I decided to take another nap. Hey, some people take drugs, some prefer caffeine or alcohol, and some of us sleep.

The weight that the name The Wombats carry amongst the indie community drew the biggest crowd the festival had seen thus far. Delighted to know every single word to their first song, “Give Me A Try,” my friend flew into the throng of people keen to relive their teenage angst. Keeping energy levels high with hits such as “Greek Tragedy,” “Moving to New York” and “Tokyo,” the festival finally felt like a party.

As the sun set on Finsbury Park and fishnet clad groups of girls tried to figure out when the last train home was, headline act Catfish and the Bottlemen took to the stage. I’m a massive Catfish fan so sang along to every word, clapping my hands and swaying side to side because I’m not quite sure how one dances to indie music. Reeling off tracks from their first and second album including “Kathleen,” “7,” “Tyrants,” “Twice” and “Pacifier,” the highlight of their set was when lead singer Van McCann performed an acoustic version of “Hourglass,” leaving it to the audience to fill in the gaps.

By the end of the festival, I didn’t feel so out of place. I felt like I didn’t want to go outside of the now chip and cider can littered park and face the real world, where the concept of “community” was feared to hold little significance.

It’s clear this festival has a lot of growing to do if it proceeds to following years. Messy, disorganised and unfiltered, no one, including the acts themselves, seemed to have a clue what was going on- but that was kind of the beauty of it. Community was the first festival I’ve been to where I didn’t feel pressured to be in a mosh pit, pretend to like cider or know all the words to the songs of obscure bands. Everyone was free to do what they wanted at their own pace, and people did look out for each other, to the point where I witnessed several attempts of groups trying to reunite individuals with their friends.

Community doesn’t have the renowned indie status or edginess of Reading/Leeds, but the atmosphere could sure teach the real world a thing or two about community.