Sunday, 19 September 2010

Summer Festival Roundup Pt 2

Truck FestivalA Weekend in Oxfordshire countryside

Beautiful countryside - cows and all - conspire to make a trip to Truck feel like you’ve left all your worries behind. Maybe it just coz I'm from t’north, but even the sun seemed brighter and warmer too. A lovely place to spend a weekend (8). The Line-up this year, as ever, had a good quality mix of local oxford bands (good place to find potential ‘next big things’ too) and more well known, but relatively obscure bands, like Teenage Fanclub and 65daysofstatic. It was clearly well thought out, and as a weekend, the variation really worked. You had options, basically; depending on your mood you could chill by the main stage listening to some pleasant shoegaze, or risk getting down the front for Pulled Apart By Horses. Though it perhaps lacked, for me, a truly great headliner, the majority of the crowd seemed to love it all the same (8). And that was what made the festival for me – the atmosphere and general feeling of goodwill around the place. The diversity of the crowd, in terms of age and taste gave Truck a real positive feeling all round. It balances being homely and inclusive, alongside the feeling of occasion you find at larger festivals. At 5000 people, it feels just right (9).

Stages are good, professional enough certainly for the calibre of bands they display. There were issues with actually getting into the second stage at times which could really do with looking at. Perhaps more ‘impromptu’ gigs around site would add to the fun, but you can’t really argue with a stage in a cow shed. Cool (8). Organisation was good, easy to park, I gathered from others travelling by train that there were no problems there either. Staff were friendly too (8). As for the food & drink, well it was good once again to see a variety of local ales available. I don’t even really like ale, but it always pleases me to see a festival support its local brewers. Rest of the food was decent enough, though perhaps more variety would have helped; if I’d been eating from there all weekend it would have got a little repetitive. Good Donuts (8). No problems with the camping, perfunctory but to the point (8) as were the facilities (8). Value for money, as ever is difficult to measure. There were enough good bands this year to just about warrant the entry price of £80 (8). At an ‘average’ festival (whatever that is), I may have bemoaned it slightly, but at least 50% of truck is the atmos, the gentile charm of the place. Yes, there were quite a lot of young people around (by that I mean under 18), but for once that didn’t make me feel sad / old / angry, I just got with it, and so did they, and because of that I felt it was well worth the entry fee. A good time all round and I look forward to next year with great eagerness (8).


Leeds FestivalMassive Weekend of Massive bands

Leeds Festival takes place in Bramham Park, not far outside Leeds. It sounds kind of regal. Stately pastures and elegant pathways lined with imposing oaks. Course, its nothing like that at all. Leeds Fest could take place anywhere, really. Just take a large, characterless festival site and dump it wherever there is space. The setting is irrelevant and no attempt is made whatsoever to tie the festival into its surroundings… Still, it’s out of the city, so there’s a mild feeling of being away from the chores of regular life…(6). The Line-up is vast. Unlike many other festivals, there is likely to be a band, hidden somewhere in the line-up you will want to see, no matter how obscure your taste. Course, that means that you’ll probably despise a good 70% of the remainder. I think the variety is a good thing though; some huge bands that you probably wouldn’t give a second listen can sometimes turn out to be the perfect mid afternoon festival band. It all pretty predictable and mainstream, but that stuff has to exist somewhere and piling it all together in such a peculiar fashion kinda works (8). However, the vibes at Leeds Fest seem to have deteriorated over the years. I think it’s a young persons festival, in that you don’t really give a shit about much when you’re young, its just great to be at a festival; any festival. But even so, there’s a high percentage of what are technically known as ‘wankers’ parading around the site – people who don’t even know what bands are on, just hanging around, shouting, falling over and generally acting like the ‘Nuts’ reading masses they most surely are. I go on holiday to GET AWAY from shit like that. Its also incredibly busy and hectic, not especially friendly… it becomes a chore moving from one place to another. It’s like being in a city centre on dinner hour. It’s like being up town on a Saturday night. You just have to get hammered for it to make sense… which is fine, since you’re at a festival. But it nicer to get pissed coz you want to, not coz you have to. And back on campsite, it’s rare you feel especially safe. Unless, again, you get off your face… I heard of a lot of people being robbed and pick pocketed. In short, it’s not a positive vibe at all, and only in the mass crowds for the large bands does anything approaching a ‘festival atmosphere’ emerge (4).

The stages, of course, are very good, with a huge range, including the unsigned stage, meaning there’s always something going on (8). Its pretty well organised in terms of getting your ticket and getting in etc. Course, there are queues everywhere, but to suggest this was poor organisation would be incorrect. It’s designed to be like that, because the only way to alleviate them would be to sell fewer tickets. That would mean less profit, so its not gonna happen (7). Food & Drink stalls are plentiful, though are all tied together by the fact they are pretty shit, and pretty overpriced, with no connection to the local area at all (4). Camping, as ever, was a chore, tightly crammed in. I guess to some this is part of the experience – who are you gonna get camped with? Will you become great friends? But of course, you always get camped next to the nobheads that sit up singing til 6am. If you wanna camp with nice people, go to a smaller festival. Bordering on nightmarish (4). Facilities…Good God. I would consider ‘toilets’ a pretty basic human need. I’ve known people who’ve tried to hold it in all weekend rather than use festival toilets. Sound mad? You’ve never been to Leeds Fest. On Friday – Day 1 – they were overflowing – literally – and the smell was making people physically sick (which only added to the ‘pile’ that was reaching out from the toilet bowl). To get this wrong just shows utter contempt for your customers, I reckon. How many years they been doing this? It’s a FESTIVAL not a POW camp…(2). And value for money… well it’s a hard one to call, it depends on how many of the big bands you like. Once you’ve got your ticket, added up your spending money etc, it works out the same price as an actual holiday (minus the bands naturally), so really I would expect more. For myself, who doesn’t spend much time on the main stage, it is hugely over priced, though to be fair, the expanded stages this year have helped towards it. But still, considering the first year I went, I paid the price of a 2010 day ticket FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND, I would expect major changes to have taken place. I don’t really see it, and, for the price of a weekend ticket, you could go to almost all the other festivals in this round up… Personal thing I guess (5). And similarly, personal enjoyment means something different to everyone. Leeds Fest is good, and with your mates it can be a real laugh. But it’s a chore too; it feels, at times, like your having a good time in spite of the festival, not because of it. With so many options out there, this would never be my top choice, or anywhere near it, unless some radical changes were made (5).


Fell Foot Sound2 nights in the woods of Cumbria

Set within a woodland, 2 minutes from the shores of Lake Windermere, Fell Foot Sound was the most isolated festival I visited this year. A very peaceful location, you feel a million miles from the worries of the real world (9). This year’s festival was curated by British Wildlife Records – I understand it is curated by someone different each year. As such, the line-up this year had a distinctive ‘Leeds’ vibe to it. Even more than that, a distinct ‘Brudenell Social Club’ vibe, which is a pretty niche idea for a festival. The majority of the bands were instrumental, featuring the usual ‘odd’ time signatures and seemingly random song structures. I don’t mind a bit of whatever that is called, but a weekend of it was too much for me, far too repetitive. The last few bands of the event really turned things round though, That Fucking Tank, Cowtown, Munch Bunch and Bo Ningen all supremely entertaining. Overall though, not enough to keep me enthralled (6). The general vibes were cool though. Very laid back and relaxed. There’s not much to see or do, bar sit around your tent or the stage talking and drinking. Which is fine. The guy who runs the wood occasionally read some of his ‘mystical’ poetry from the stage, which was amusing and brought a bit of character to the whole event. It’s not the best festival for a ‘mad one’, but I really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere (8).

There is only one stage, but that’s all it needs really. There’s an open hill in front, so you can sit on benches up there, or get closer (7). The organisation mirrored the vibe – laidback. None was really required to be honest; people turned up and pitched their tents of their own accord. I didn’t really know who was in charge though… and we were actually the first people there, the whole site to ourselves, not even the organisers were there! (7) Food and Drink options were limited – a very small bar and a food shop that sold very nice but slightly expensive burgers. There was a range of local beers and you could get a cup of tea all day long, which was good. For the amount of people in attendance (200?) nothing else was required, but if we had not brought our own stove we would have got a bit bored with the selection (7). The camping was great though. The setup was unusual; a gravel path, just wide enough for a car, meandered in a large circle through the woods. Scattered around amongst the trees are small pitches with room for 2 to 5 tents. So, if you are with friends you can get your own section, meaning you don’t have the problem of getting stuck next to some noisy bastards for the weekend. I liked this approach (8). The facilities were great, good quality toilets and large sinks too. No showers, but for a 2 night festival, I don’t think it’s necessary. The only thing lacking for me is a focal point for the whole festival. Whether this would be a larger ‘bar’ tent in which people could stand and meet one another, I’m not sure. As it stands, it all feels a little scattered. Small niggle though (8). For £30 odd quid, you can’t argue really, not much more than the cost of camping at other places (9). Overall, the location is very peaceful and I enjoyed having a bit of quiet time – a slight change of pace to the usual. However the line-up wasn’t quite up to scratch for me, and the majority of people didn’t turn up til teatime Saturday, meaning prior to that it was, at times, eerily sparse. Success of this festival may vary each year, depending on who curates it, and the bands they manage to coax along (7).


Dean Freeman

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