Kent Stand Me Now – The Libertines’ love affair with the southeast coast continued at Wheels & Fins farewell-for-now show

The Libertines curated their own Sharabang day of the Kent festival near their new Margate HQ

Words: Bess Browning

Thanet in Kent – once notoriously the shabbiest place on the south east coast – is going through a style renaissance. No longer known for just donkey rides and cockles in a polystyrene tray, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate’s backstreets and postcard-perfect beaches have been revitalised.

It all started with the regeneration of Dreamland in Margate, which was dragged from the ashes as a post-apocalyptic theme park and transformed into a pioneering music venue that hosts Gorillaz’s Demon Dayz festival.

Londoners are flocking in their thousands on the one-hour pilgrimage out of the capital. So it may come as no surprise Libertines frontman Pete Doherty has taken a shine to this once down-and-out corner of Kent. He’s opened a hotel called Albion Rooms, sponsored a local non-league footie team and risked death by massive breakfast. But last weekend, his sights were set on Wheels and Fins festival, a three-day music, skate and surf event on the picturesque Joss Bay.

Broadstairs-born-and-bred brother duo Dan and Dave Melmoth, who’ve run the surf school on the bay for the last 20 years, are the driving force behind the festival, but this year, the Libertines curated an entire day. Rejigging the main stage on the Sunday and renaming it Sharabang, they said their headline slot would be the last performance for the ‘foreseeable future.’

Though highly anticipated, the weekend wasn’t solely about the Libertines. Friday started at snail’s pace, but powerhouse singer Rothwell’s creamy vocals captivated a small crowd, belting out her recent collaboration with D&B maestro DJ Metrik, ‘We Got It’. Feisty local quintet Rapturous fused hip-hop, reggae and heavy bass, with frontman Ashton Lilburn relaying quick, imaginative, poetic raps, bouncing off his co-star Luke Barratt’s dry, lucid vocals.

Over in the dance tent, Philip George’s more ‘beefa than Broadstairs track ‘Wish You Were Mine’ brought the youngsters to their feet, but a multi-generation crowd gathered for D&B pioneer High Contrast, who reminisced with tracks like ‘If We Ever,’ and brought it back to the future with tunes from his 2017 ‘Questions’ EP.

Friday headliner Sister Bliss, one third of Faithless, sent nostalgic ripples across the festival site with ‘Insomnia’, and Saturday kept the beats coming. Sub Focus had revellers piling into a dance tent pulsing with bass like a pneumatic drill, setting the pace for an epic day of drum and bass, with Camo & Krooked and Friction taking over the decks later on.

 

Calming the pace in the intimate Tim Peaks tent was a lad not old enough to buy himself a pint of beer, but possibly one of the most talented acts of the weekend. Just 13, Tom ‘Mouse’ Smith, famously turned down an offer to go on Britain’s Got Talent and there’s a reason he’s in demand – he may be small but his voice is Herculean. As well as a Led Zep and Madonna cover, he brought the crowd to the brink of tears when he called his little sis up on stage for a duet.

Grunge pop trio Hey Charlie – proving it’s not just the blokes that can rock – and Feeder provided the blazing rock thrills, but it was Sunday’s Sharabang the indie faithful were waiting for, with thousands waving Union Jacks and wearing the iconic Libertines’ blood-red bandsman tunics.

Cabbage kicked Sunday awake, screeching into the mike and pulling animated dance moves, before festival favourites Reverend and the Makers had everyone singing along to ‘Out of the Shadows’ and playing air trumpet to ‘Silence is Talking.’ And after a calm and collected set from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Libertines – despite the sweaty mops of greasy hair, the vests and the blatant overindulgences their performances would be so dull without – did not disappoint.

There was bountiful banter between Pete and Carl, proving their mutual adoration for one another is still electric, and their drunken-yet-eloquent limericks and simplistic-yet-witty chat had the crowd spellbound. Bringing on MIC Righteous, a Thanet rapper who’d played earlier in the day, they attested their genuine love affair with the area – even more so when Albion Rooms’ cleaner Viv made a brief appearance on stage.

Their boisterous dance moves and hilarious confab, peppered between some of the best songs of their almost 20-year career, made it a riveting performance. ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ sparked mosh-pits aplenty and ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ had the crowd wistful.

Their last track was ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun,’ surrounded by fire breathing circus performers, before Pete hurled his guitar into the crowd. It’s apparently their last gig for a while, and what a finale it was. Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside.