Take a Peek Inside Our Sea Change Festival Diary

Take a Peek Inside Our Sea Change Festival Diary

Words Clara Finnigan
Images Aubrey Simpson

Discover all of our favourite bits from the Totnes-based music event.

While travelling to your home county to escape city life, sometimes you might feel as though you’re journeying to the end of the line to see tumbleweeds, some cows and sea water. However, my final stop, Totnes, is my home county of Devon and this time, I felt I was taking a trip into the heart of something— a centre of musical prowess and cultural charm. Almost as though my music taste followed me on the train from Waterloo to greet me at Sea Change festival.

Luke Turner at Sea Change Festival

Sea Change festival was born from Rupert Morrison’s beloved and acclaimed record shop in 2016. The family run, independent music shop, DRIFT opened in 2003 and had since gained recognition from both Pitchfork and the Guardian. Now climbing to higher feats in the music festival sphere, Sea Change raucous’ into its second year with a glittering line-up.

Inspired by the spirit of Austin’s’ Texas festival SXSW, Morrison modelled a festival for easily strolling from one unique venue to another and seeing incredible music. In packed bars, spacious halls and high ceilinged churches, Sea Change captures the magic of music. The intimate size of the town lends itself well to convenience, as I weave between market stalls selling fresh produce and vintage knick-knacks there is no fear of missing out on something in the city.

Aldous Harding at The Barrel House Ballroom

Friday kicks off at the Barrel House Ballroom – a venue some would consider cramped, others intimate, but all would agree has character. The venue once hosted a young Ben Howard before his Brit award success. Wovoka Gentle is the first on stage, a British trio developing a new vocabulary in their electronic folk sound. The trio blend luscious harmonies with ambitious electronic technicality and relish in the joy of experimentation. I move down to the Civic Hall, poised to hear the ethereal and powerful, LOWLY. The Danish band dissolve varied music tastes into one indistinguishable sound, electrifying rhythms entwined with soaring vocals creating music that is both emotionally and physically moving.

Later, we are graced by the presence of Aldous Harding, the crowd with heads bobbing and tip toes clenching to get a glimpse of her strange, expressive face as she invites the room into her gothic world. There is a palpable intense intimacy in the room with the audience but a few feet from her face, Aldous is, of course, unflinching, relishing in such awkwardness. She stares down her audience as if they are ex-lovers and battle opponents.

The Orielles behind the Civic after their set

W.H Lung follows with bursting sound, having only just released their first EP this Manchester band are fascinating. Swirling rhythms, graduating melodies and droning bass toxify in the indulgent 8-minute-long ‘Inspiration’ these guys are on the cusp, and Sea Change is right on edge with them.

The sun shines through on Saturday as I listen to talks from Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins and Bella Union, I hear him deconstruct record label success and swoon over the talent of Liz Frazer (sadly no Cocteau Twins reunion in sight). Nadia Reid and Julie Bryne both join to discuss their song writing process and the friction between home and away, success and failure. Later festival goers gathered in a church to witness these two musicians separately charm the audience with their soulful voices and beautiful music. Both artists grace and ethereality akin to the setting of St Mary’s Church, their vocals reigning out across the rooms acoustic depth.

As I move through the town I am struck by the amount of female talent driving Sea Change, diverse female sound, passion and technicality drives across the venues. Brilliant examples of such feminine power come from PIXX and Girl Ray, with confidence and mastery these acts are bringing fire to British music. And for the finale in Civic Hall, Temples dazzle with flamboyance in their psychedelic set of indulgent guitar solos and sonic vocals, full of sugar and Bowie-esque synths; Temples make Totnes the centre of the party.

Portrait of Douglas Dare behind the church

Although Sea Change suffers the growing pains of a young festival, grappling with some oversubscribed venues and strenuous sound errors, the impressive lineup and the audiences eager spirit shines through the technicalities. Sea Changes brews with anticipation for the immediate acclaim of its up and coming line up. Acclaim and success which I am sure will also continue to grow within the festival, harbouring in wider audiences beyond the Devon sphere as industry insiders and music fanatics will discover this hidden gem.

Discover more on Sea Change festival via their website.