After the hugely successful Northern Star Weekender of 2013, the three-day festival is returning this March. Housed at The Windmill in Brixton, London, and running from the 28th until the 30th of March, this year’s Weekender is promising punters the same friendly atmosphere of last year, with more bands, more variety and a reputation to live up to.
Stepping up its game before the gigs even begin, Northern Star is giving away a free compilation album to give fans an idea of what the Weekender holds for them this year. To download the Northern Star Weekender Sampler, click here, and as you delight your ears with the sounds of last year’s festival, read on to hear all about what else you can expect from this year’s Weekender.
Event manager and Northern Star Records co-founder Scott Causer gave his time to Britpop News to tell us all about this year’s event and the craziness of last year’s, which naturally begs the question: what happened at least year’s Weekender that made Northern Star want to indulge in the madness all over again?
“If you’d asked me this the day before the 2013 Weekender kicked off I would have told you ‘never again,’” Causer begins.
“If you’d asked me on the Sunday night after the last band had played I’d have said, ‘Let’s do this EVERY night.’ I can’t explain it, I think either I must be f**king crazy, or it’s the greatest thing to do. Probably elements of both. ”
“I’m doing it because no-one does it like we do. Ain’t no party like a Northern Star party… All I’m saying is that bad behaviour is not only tolerated but actively encouraged.”
And apparently the anecdotes of last year’s badly behaved adventures come thick and fast.
“Some I can say, some I can’t,” Causer says, though he admits, “Most involve The Greencoats, Youngteam, The Electric Mainline or The Carousels or various combinations of those bands…”
“For the purposes of this question I’m going to go for the Carousels. They were the first band 5:30 on the Saturday afternoon. They came down with a whole crew who proceeded to drink their way through the Windmill. By 6pm there were people drinking and dancing to country-tinged psychedelia in Osama Bin Laden and Maggie Thatcher masks. I knew at that point that the night was totally going to go off and go off it did. There’s actual videos on YouTube. This NEVER EVER happens at London psych gigs – Gram Parsons would have been proud.”
And it’s this element of fun and the atmosphere of lack of inhibition which characterises the Northern Star Weekender and sets it apart from other psych festivals, for both bands and punters alike.
“The quality of the bands is immense and there’s a friendly vibe and each band wants to do their best,” Causer says.
“The crowd are great too… You even get dancing at our shows – this is unheard of in London!”
But the madness and fun doesn’t mean a lack of camaraderie, as Causer explains of the feel of last year’s festival.
“It was really beautiful. Really crazy but there was a lot of love in the room. Good vibrations all around. The bands looked out for each other, the punters looked after each other and everyone partied and became friends. What more can you ask for?”
“If you go to psych/shoegaze gigs in London it tends to be very male dominated and scene orientated, you get a bunch of bands who all sound like 10th rate Brian Jonestown Massacre/Spacemen 3/ Black Angels tribute acts, and the audiences are made up of middle aged nerds or scenesters, all staring at their shoes and nodding approvingly or dis-approvingly as the case may be.”
“I don’t give a f**k for all that. We’re out to have a good time and a party. Everyone’s welcome here. At the Weekenders you get people from 17-60, pretty much a 50/50 male/female split, all different backgrounds, its an all inclusive environment. People fly in from all over to come and join the fun – it’s a beautiful thing.”
And that’s exactly why the Weekender exists.
“I do it [put on these festivals] because no-one does it like we do,” Causer says.
“Sure there’s people putting on psych shows but not like Northern Star. There’s much more to it than calling it ‘<insert placename> Psych Fest’ and putting on 10 BJM soundalike bands. That’s not what we’re about at all.”
It’s this uncompromising attitude to Northern Star shows which has earnt Causer the respect of both the punters and bands, who regularly remind him of the market only Northern Star are filling and demand more shows be put on. With such crucial support from both parties, it’s no wonder the biggest challenges the Weekender has faced is a lack of support from UK press and the underground scene.
“It’s because we do this and achieve a certain level of success without their permission,” Causer is frank.
“It’s not the done thing. People don’t like it. I find it really sad to be honest. The culture of music in the UK is schmoozing and arse kissing and I don’t and never will subscribe to either.”
And so, the Weekender focuses on what it handles best – rounding up quality bands and putting on a quality show. This year’s festival sees some familiar faces (Soundwire, The Electric Mainline, The Carousels, 93MillionMilesFromTheSun…) but also some new bands making an appearance, and Causer says there’s “no real formula to” putting together a bill for a festival like the Weekender.
“I generally put on bands that I’ve been listening to, bands that have impressed me and bands that I want to see,” he explains.
“For instance, there’s an Italian band called Le Case Del Futuro who I saw at a festival in northern Italy back in the summer. They were so good I asked them to play. There’s a London band called Dead Rabbits I really like, which just got in too late for Psychedelica 5, but they’re really good and I’ve never seen them so I asked them. ”
“A Swedish band called Edweena will be opening the Weekender on the Friday night. I’ve been selling their album from the site and wanted to see them play. There’s a new band called Pusher who are currently making waves – really buzzing to see them. Plus there’s your usual Northern Star favourites and waifs and strays returning to the fold. I’m really excited this year as White Noise Sound who go back with us a long way have chosen the Weekender to make their live comeback. Youngteam will also be launching their 2nd album which is phenomenal.”
Clearly, the Weekender has diversity at its heart, but it’s not just geography that sets these bands apart – its their music, too. This year’s Weekender promises a larger scope in sound than last year, as Causer explains.
“Although my definition of psychedelic is kind of loose anyway, its not all about the psychedelia or shoegaze this time. We have a couple of legendary C86 bands playing [14 Iced Bears and The Wolfhounds]. Both bands were a big influence on my musical development and as such Northern Star, so it’s great to have them involved,” he says, admitting familiarity is still a factor at this year’s Weekender.
“Other than that, I’m not going to change a thing [this year] – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What we’re doing here is so beautiful… I’m just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.”
Until then, the Northern Star Weekender is somewhat of family unit revelling in undisturbed bliss in a unique soundscape that it is more than willing to share with those who happen upon it.
“It’s a family for sure – one of The Lost Rivers once pointed out it was a family but without the pervy uncle, so I introduced them to Youngteam and that blew that theory out of the water,” Causer laughs.
“Seriously though, we’re open to all and closed to none, bands are very welcome to get in touch. They just have to be great and get involved… that’s all I ask.”
For now, though, the 2014 Northern Star team is all set to explode at this year’s Weekender.
“It’s going to go off. I can feel it and I can’t wait,” Causer muses.
But what exactly “it” means will only be known in time, because the detailed happenings of a Weekender are always spontaneous.
“You can only plan the bands at the Weekenders. You never know what’s gonna happen at a Northern Star show… although everything usually does.”
For more, go to: http://www.northernstarrecords.com/
Tickets options and details of the 2014 Northern Star Weekender can be found at https://www.musicglue.com/northern-star/listings/