“Girls to the front” is the mantra of the day at FESTEVOL GARDENS. Taking over the whole of Invisible Wind Factory, the line-up is dominated by a smorgasbord of brilliant and unapologetic female-fronted acts. One of whom, Liverpool’s PINK KINK, provide their own protest to another act on the line-up. CABBAGE’s singer Lee Broadbent has faced allegations of sexually assaulting a young woman during one of their gigs in the weeks before FestEVOL, and despite multiple witnesses testifying that the assault happened and the subsequent storm on social media, that cloud seems to have passed without much repercussion for the Manchester five-piece. Which makes Pink Kink’s protest feel all the more pressing – during their set of unpinnable, tropical art-pop, lead singer Bridget and keyboardist Inés chuck a cabbage between them, tear it up and stomp on it. It’s a not so subtle declaration of their stance. We choose to boycott Cabbage’s set but reports from trusted pals suggest it’s a limp disappointment.
Far from anything disappointing, DREAM WIFE blow the roof off the Caladan main stage. The project that started off as an art school joke (“let’s make a fake girl band”) has developed into a sort of angry Spice Girls with high art aesthetics. Shouting, screaming and, occasionally, singing feminist anthems, the repeated “I’m gonna fuck you up” and “I spy bad bitches” refrains of FUU are refreshingly direct. The perfect antidote to a pale, male and stale realm of music. PINS follow suit. Packing out the cavernous main stage area, lead singer Faith Holgate invites women to the front of the stage just in time for the moody, glowering post-punk of Girls Like Us. It’s a moment Kathleen Hanna would be proud of. The evening could really only have more girl power punch if Madonna was playing – and, lo and behold, THE BIG MOON cover one of her best 21st century offerings in the psych-pop of Beautiful Stranger. A real coup de théâtre.
Away from the main stage, in the basement Genesis Cave, a succession of blossoming local acts impress. ST JUDE THE OBSCURE offer up luscious, brooding electronic pop to a steadily filling room, with last track Ruins especially well-received. AGP delivers dreamy psych-tinged shoegaze with enough melody to stay with a crowd – recent single Motionsickness is the epitome of this, while Chester three-piece PEANESS’ gorgeous guitar tones and knack for melody gains the indie poppers some new fans. Back with the big hitters, headliners WILD BEASTS continue the feminist theme of the day, leading their set with the polished glare of Alpha Female – three quarters of the song is repeating “alpha female, I’ll be right behind you,” so we guess they’re supportive guys.
Descending again to the basement, Madrid garage rockers THE PARROTS steal the show with their fuzz-disguised pop, chock full of whoops, hollers and reverb. Lurching into an extended version of Peruvian garage classic Demolición, the room thrums with sweat and energy – it’s been one hell of an initiation for the underground belly of the venue (a pipe was torn from the basement ceiling, yikes!) but one you’d have been sorry to miss. The trio are even joined by their Heavenly Recordings buds The Orielles for a sing and dance along. It’s real heartwarming stuff, and the perfect all-inclusive way to end proceedings – those Spanish rascals could write the textbook on how to put on a live show that’s notorious for all the right reasons.