Hastings Fat Tuesday Festival 2022: live report
Photos: Mark Richards
It’s about making things happen.
Ideas. Vision. Action.
The Fat Tuesday festival in Hastings is now in its 13th year and its transplant of New Orleans’ legendary Mardi Gras (French for Mardi Gras fact lovers!) to the resort town of Hastings is helping to lead this town to a salt-stained new musical future. Like New Orleans, there seems to be a musician on every corner creating a new tradition on the coast that makes Hastings one of the UK’s unlikely musical epicenters.
With a mix of cutting-edge music, theatre, fancy dress and a big, crazy parade through the streets, Fat Tuesday is a five-day event that celebrates a Hastings fast becoming this crafty bohemian enclave of the UK. The faded Hastings of years ago is still there in the corners and there are pockets of stubborn poverty, but many of the seaside regency blocks are freshly painted and it’s now the kind of town where you meet people you haven’t seen in a long time who have moved here to create.
The brainchild of Adam Daly, Fat Tuesday somehow ties all of these details together and showcases the music and the city with up to 40 locations. Using a diverse selection of spaces from the grand backdrop of the White Castle Theater to the St Marys in Rock Theater which is carved into the cliff face, to the endless twists and turns of the street bars Old Town’s main and smaller pubs, cafes and bars are packed with music and craziness. It’s a mix of fun and a platform for many touring bands as well as big young bands from a city that has already been a springboard for the recent success of Kid Kapichi and, hot on their healings, Blabbermouth and Hotwax argue that Hastings is really happening and Fat Tuesday is a big part of that.
Thursday’s opening night is the White Rock Theater Grand Ball which sees a host of garish costumes and entertainment. It still has the flickers of that post-rave culture where acid house has mixed with theater in the post-traveler world and everyone is dressed brand new in a mix of Edwardian glitz, sawn-off Mad Max styles and of bohemian splendour. The live set that stands out comes from the Manchester and Calder Valley based band The second line of Mr. Wilson who dress like a band from the Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts club and play various horns with a drummer who has his kit on a wheel. It’s kinetic and fun but also very effective. The deep growling sax holds the bass and rest of the horn textures and layers the party sound with a New Orleans swing. They’re a bit like acid brass, and their set includes surprisingly effective covers of The Prodigy’s “Fire Starter” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.” Track 10, The Future Shape Of Sound, aptly claims to be a “Rock’n’Roll Crime-Gospel outfit” and whose gospel circus blues fits like the exquisite white glove of a big band leader and the night is brought to a long and messy close with a Horse Meat Disco DJ set.
Saturday afternoon, Mr. Wilson shows up again to play outside the Albion seaside pub, which is a great space (great vegan dinner!) and the hub of everything happening in the city. Roger Daltry stands outside the pub and groups pop up in the streets. Kid Kapichi jumps out of a car driven by a Nova Twin – it’s like a treadmill of the new wave of British bands that will dominate the landscape for years to come.
From warm feet to St Leonards, where many locals find the one-mile walk through Hastings an epic and long journey, a micro scene is thriving. Its main street has its own handful of trendy bars and spaces in the rapidly changing seaside landscape. Saturday afternoon Air conditioning play in a tight back room and announce their arrival to the world with an excellent hypnotic set of krautrock fused with electro. The trio is built around Justin Welch (Piroshka, Elastica, Suede and Oliver Cherer (Gilroy Mere, Dollboy, ATL etc.) with Katherine Wallinger on bass who is an excellent player and has lost none of that idiosyncratic foursome style. strings and that sumptuous cool. There’s a spark of creative energy in the band and so much potential to make something serious out of it. Saturday ends with magic numbers exquisite harmonies and classic chords and feel-good guitar at The Brass.
Preservation Sunday is a time to kick back and immerse yourself in the subterranean ambient lair of the circuit’s former venue, the Crypt, where spaced-out lysergic sounds merge electronics with traditional travel music and in a trifle of mind-blowing hallucinogens. Before entering this space-time portal, the Umbrella Parade had galvanized through the city where Fat Tuesday showmanship saw an almost steampunk parade with an added color palette along the waterfront, each twirling an umbrella.
Slim Monday arrives with an unlikely sun and his shirt sleeve weather and time to take stock.
Or add broth to the potent brew.
One of the neat things about Fat Tuesday is that it’s extremely eclectic. One minute it might be post punk in an organic tea room and the next it might be dirty acoustic blues in a crowded salty pub at the trawler end of town. Unlike many seaside towns, Hastings still retains its own micro fishing fleet, but with its own twist with the iconic large hangars for drying nets hugging the beach near the old town. Just back from the harbor and down the winding street where you can still smell the pirates and hear the snap of Long John Silver, is The Lord Nelson pub – the kind of barnacle-encrusted hole that was once a big part of British life but sadly only seems to survive in places like this. It’s Monday night and the rains have come but the venue is seriously packed while local legend Slim King Size delivers his charismatic blues in his first set followed by an offbeat reggae set with virtually the same double bass, acoustic guitar and percussion as the blues maneuvers. The charismatic Tom Waits’ bearded man is one of those people whose lived face tells a thousand stories and his convincing croaking voice delivers them one by one. Some people seem to have the music flowing from them like beer from the nearby bar taps and like some sort of British version of Seasick Steve King Size Slim emphasizes the authentic.
And finally Mardi Gras has arrived!! The Mardi Gras night visit is the most important. There are so many bands playing that it makes sense to hold the fort in one place… I’m at the Carlisle Pub on the seafront – a biker pub that offers punk and rock gigs and is the classic hard work, good times, lightly beaten around the spit and sawdust place where reputations are earned.
This is a great place for live music.
Dubinsky traveled from Edinburgh and were born from the ashes of their former band, Ded Rabbit with such a tight ensemble it was ridiculous. Delivering the zesty Britpop genre with a heavy dollop of punky new wave, they were like a Steve Lamacq band come true. Full of thorny hooks and cheeky riffs, the band was a burst of energy and a melodious brawl of ideas.
Murderers are optimists are fascinating. They play intense lad rock but with a heavier edge pushed by the intensity of the mod-ish scarf-clad vocalist and the animalistic gonzoid performance of the aptly-named bassist, Jo Gonzo.
It’s quite compelling to watch. A truly frenetic performance with catchy and catchy political songs that also found their own niche. Is it because Hastings is a relatively isolated place 90 minutes by train from London? It seems to spawn bands that have kind of carved their own groove and played their own version of indie and rock without the constant reference to “how it’s supposed to be done”, which makes them all the stronger. .
A few minutes after their very physical performance left the stage, three 17-year-old girls from Hastings mesmerize us with their mind-blowing music. hot wax rip the model and tear the scenes apart with a thrilling deconstruction of their grunge roots in a post-punk landscape.
Hot wax is so hot it hurts.
Of course, there are still the intense anthems with huge choruses dealing with life like on their next single which roars like Hole did a long time ago. The band deliver their songs of modern girl life screaming at the stupid world and standing up for themselves in the great old tradition of girl power grrrl. They have the firepower of the pioneers of grunge but there are also many moments of reinvention where they create their own soundscape. This is what makes Hotwax surprisingly important. They take the noise away with inventive brilliance. There’s a post-punk adventure where they turn a song into a clipped hi-hat or another built around an inventive bass. They break the norm and their music is full of surprising and effective twists that somehow manage to create a new landscape in guitar music.
The musicianship of the band is off the scale – the bass does things I’ve never heard before, the guitar switches pedals to create nuance, tension and texture, the drums keep the power but don’t never does the obvious thing and the vocals are exciting and gut.
Just when you thought it was all done, someone comes along and reinvents the wheel yet again.
Hotwax is the latest new future in the musical narrative of the new century.
Blabbermouth have already been reviewed on the site in 2020 when we saw a group on the verge of a breakthrough. The pandemic got in the way, but now, with local pals Kid Kapichi very much in vogue, they’re next in line for the escape. They wasted no time and in 2022 they have now transformed into a well-oiled indie rock machine. The rush of vibrant good times is in that backcountry between indie anthem and Queens Of The Stone Age pedalboard had they been raised in an English seaside town instead of the deserts behind LA. Their songs are catchy and run full of high-octane adrenaline. The place is in full debacle and the mosh pit extends to the back door. The band have the songs, the swagger and the style to own a big stage spot at a Reading-type festival and are on the cusp of a great beat-hungry breakout.
The night never seems to end as we hunker down in The Brass where buddha triangle dish out their mix of hip hop, ska and high-octane brass to a crowd that squeezes every last nerve to party again. As the venue finally closes, even the seagulls circling around dawn seem stunned as Fat Tuesday creeps darkly into “Normal Wednesday” where the real world resurfaces.