In case you haven’t heard, Margate is now cool. Gentrification has hit the town, sticks of rock have been replace by lattes, rubber rings by ironic sunglasses – and The Libertines recently bought a run down B&B here. “Who’s from Margate?” Pete shouts from the stage at their headline slot at Margate Winter Gardens. “We’re neighbours.”
Less a festival, more a gig that’s burst its seams, By The Sea is this seaside town’s attempt at celebrating the music scene, both local and international.
The fringe takes place amongst dusty artefacts and prized possessions – not a dodgy old bar, but Margate Museum. The highlight was Sweet Baboo, who channels rainbows of optimism with his light and jangly multi instrumental indie-pop, although the brilliant break-up songs of Rozi Plain are far more enjoyable to listen to that the experience presumably was.
At local Olby’s Soul Café Annie Hart, from Au Revoir Simone, spins the synths from her first solo record, Impossible Accomplice. What starts off as a sparse room soon becomes a mass of rocking limbs as Jen Cloher’s drawling rock tunes are given a boost by none other than Courtney Bartnett on bass. We’re assaulted by the pummeling rhythms of Scotti Brains, riled up by the pop punk acrobatics of AlaskaAslaska and soothed by the happy jangling of Trudy And The Romance.
Fairground park Dreamland hosted everyone from the shimmering shoegaze of Girl Ray to the twenty strong flaming choice Deep Throat Choir, the trippy psych travellers Flamingods and south London post punk rockers Shame. On Friday night, after a storming set from Dutch Uncles and the blisteringly brilliant British Sea Power, the squealing beats and jubilant synths of Everything Everything turned the hall into a glistening easy rave. Racing through buoyant dance tracks from across their history, the day-glo tunes seem a well-suited end to a day by the sea. On Saturday it was the turn of electro-rockers Metronomy to entertain the crowd with old and new tracks from their five album catalogue. Cow bells, bongos, rhythm sticks – whatever frontman Joseph Mount could lay his hands in he played, even swapping places with drummer Anna Prior at one point. Their 2011 album The English Riviera was penned as a love letter to the British seaside, apt given the coastal setting.
The peak of the weekend was always going to be The Libertines, headlining Sunday’s shenanigans at Margate Winter Gardens. Belting through ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, ‘Horror Show’, ‘What Katie Did’, ‘The Boy Looked At Jonny…’ every sound that came out of Carl, Pete, Gary and John’s mouths and instruments was greeted with chucked pints, flailing limbs and screeching lungs. They continue to be chaotic and ramshackle live, but what was once endearing and romantic is now a bit frustrating. Still, as new neighbours go, there’s worse ones to have.
Photos by Joseph Singh.