Y Not Festival, Pikehall, Derbyshire Friday, August 2–Sunday, August 4
An hour before The Horrors are due to headline the Y Not Festival, their show is in jeopardy. Things start looking pretty bad when Mystery Jets, just four songs into their Main Stage support slot, are forced to abandon their instruments and nip backstage to safety as rain batters the Derbyshire countryside and the night sky is torn apart by relentless bolts of lightning. Things start looking a whole lot worse when a message appears on the big screen saying the festival will be “back as soon as we can”. As damp bodies squeeze under any kind of shelter they can find to avoid being electrocuted, the words read like wishful thinking.
Sixty minutes later, Horrors frontman Faris Badwan is pacing the same stage and punching the air. Above him, black clouds with nothing more to give move across the sky like he’s conducting them. The 26-year-old looks like he’s enjoying the swamp-like chaos in front of him, and takes it upon himself to crack a wry smile and congratulate the crowd’s perseverance: “Well done for sticking it out.” Despite nearly derailing the entire festival, the shitty weather actually helps The Horrors inject their set with a sense of Biblical drama. These are the end times. In opener ‘Mirror’s Image’, Faris’ ferocious barks of “walk on into the night” sound like the Eleventh Commandment. Josh Hayward’s guitar fills the stage with reverb and spiked noise, and the demonic red strobes envelop the band. ‘Who Can Say’ follows (Faris dedicating it to “anyone who watched our soundcheck”, knowing full well that no-one watched their soundcheck), allowing Tom Cowan’s bright synth and Rhys Webb’s bass to fire a bolt of hope through the dark fuzz. The good feelings don’t last long, thanks to a spoken-word slot from Faris in which he details the tear-stained dissolution of a relationship in his unwavering monotone. Misery and despair are back to the fore.
The intention tonight though, as with all The Horrors’ performances this summer, is to give the crowd a taste of the band’s upcoming fourth album. But ‘First Day Of Spring’ and ‘Elixir Spring’ – both given a run-out at Glasto and the band’s headline set at Truck – are ditched as the storm forces a shorter set time on the band. Fresh sounds will have to wait for better conditions. Instead they play a rippling ‘Scarlet Fields’, again introduced with compliments – this time about the crowd’s energy despite “standing in the pissing rain all day”. The mighty ‘I Can See Through You’ sees Rhys spinning and twirling while plucking his rumbling bass strings, before a familiar double whammy of a mellowed ‘Still Life’ and an extended ‘Moving Further Away’ bring things to a grand close. That finale in these conditions is everything The Horrors in 2013 are all about: classy, theatrical, more than capable of harnessing the immense power of nature.