Monday, 26 September 2011

2011 Summer Festival Roundup PT1

Live@Leeds - 30th April

A Multi Venue All Day trip around the city of Leeds

For the third year running, the Rhubarb Bomb festival season begins with Live@Leeds. The scale of the event works to its advantage for me. I never get a feeling of fatigue when considering Live@Leeds, because I always end up somewhere different. I don’t dread sitting in the same soggy field that I was in last year; it’s something I very much look forward to.

This year saw a price increase on the ticket. It’s still £17.50 for a massive amount of bands and as such value for money is a definite plus (9). That the festival takes place in a city is a plus point too (8). I’ve actually rated that one higher than last year – though I assure you, it is the same city. The difference is that I appreciate the city festival more now. It has so much to offer and it is so easy to make a brilliant day out of it. The only negative would be if you happen to go there a lot anyway. I don’t as much as I used to, so I enjoy it.

The selection of bands this year almost matched the standards of previous years (8). A big negative for me was the scheduling, in that every big band seemed to hit the stage at the same time, which was likely a ploy to enable them to run at a larger capacity. Although not the organisers fault, I also found myself only visiting 3 venues, due to scheduling. I missed the element of walking around the entire city from previous years, but the lineup didn’t draw me enough. I had to decide my final band out of a range of 3 or 4 and reverse engineer the day, which means I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked.

However, for pure levels of choice, Live@Leeds is pretty unbeatable. The range of venues (9) is colossal, meaning you can be lazy and hang around your favourites, or head out and explore. With events taking place in spaces as different as the uni and tiny Milo’s it’s a great experience.

The fact it all takes place in venues that already run and exist means to facilities all round are above your general festival standard (8) and the range of food and drink options is staggering (10). None of them are officially connected to the festival, but you have the choice of anything from a quick Subway to a full sit down meal and, aside from the range of venues included, you can always sneak off for a cheeky Sammy Smiths pint, or for an overpriced cocktail. Totally down to you, and I enjoy building my day around a top quality meal.

Accomodation (5) does lose Live@Leeds some points. Obviously, camping is not included, or an option. I would like to see some kind of discount service set up with a hotel chain, or some other options explored. A taxi home is a good £25 for me, so some form of accommodation might offer another option.

There was some good organisation (8) on display this year – ticket exchange was brisk, staff were very helpful, through to the doormen and the bar staff. Areas for improvement would be the placing of bands in venues. The Well was a problem again, with their room being rammed full and no one managing punters trying to squeeze in. Are they booking bands too big for that venue? Or is it just fluke they get the cult favourites? It’s two years running I’ve not been able to get in there now.

The overall vibe of the festival (8) is a positive one; music lovers wandering the streets on the lookout for something amazing. I marked it down slightly last year for lacking a sense of community due to the way it is spread thinly across the city. I would say the festival lacks an overriding ‘personalilty’ or atmosphere; you are largely left to create your own buzz and you don’t especially feel part of something, unless you make the effort. But the tools are given to you to do that, so ultimately it is down to you.

This year I thoroughly enjoyed myself, DESPITE not getting to see or do much. I wasn’t too pleased with the scheduling and I have a suspicion the festival is really starting to spread itself too thin. For this reason, it has ended up with a slightly lower score than last year. But, though having some reservations, I had a fantastic day (8) out for very little money and will still massively look forward to it next year.

SCORE: 80%

Wireless Festival - 3rd July

3 Day Festival in Hyde Park, London.

A newbie for Rhubarb Bomb, Wireless was a three day festival that I attended on its final day only. For this there was one reason, and one reason only; Pulp. It had been the first date announced when their reunion was confirmed and my eager friend gobbled up some tickets whilst I was in Japan. As a massive Pulp fan, he knew I’d be chuffed to see them.

So initially the £50 entry fee had seemed a bit of a rip off, until I realised it wasn’t a Pulp gig, but a whole day of music. There were numerous stages with bands on all day, and although some were the kind you would have seen at a festival 10 years ago, overall the value was pretty decent (8). The setting itself was rudimentary. Though the idea of a festival in a park in London sounds good, and the excitement walking through the park towards the site, seeing people play cricket and sunbathe really brought on the summer atmosphere, once you were inside, it was like any other corporate festival. And once you were in, you weren’t allowed back out, so in theory it could have been held anywhere (6).

There was a decent range of bands; from The Horrors, to The Hives; from Roky Erikson to Yuck. But in fairness nothing that really excited me as I was there for Pulp only. I didn’t feel encouraged to go seek out new bands as I already had an impression (whether correct or not) of those on the lineup. It would only take a couple more bands to have swayed it (for fans of Grace Jones for example, the score would be much higher). As it was, the bands I saw were good background music whilst waiting for the main act (7). The stages themselves were typical big festival set ups. Absolutely fine, but nothing interesting or unique, though the sound was decent throughout (7)

The facilities (7) were above average, with stewards managing toilet queues. The range of Food stalls was great and the prices not too steep. Drinks wise, prices were impressively low, with a pint under £4 – cheaper than the pubs just outside the festival. Course, as a northerner I was always going to feel scandalised (7).

Accomodation issues (5) as this wasn’t a camping festival. Again, no effort to help out financially with overnight stays – perhaps more crucial in London than anywhere else. We were lucky in that we found a very reasonable hostel. But no thanks to the organisers.

The organisation was standard throughout (7). As mentioned, good work with the toilets, though there were problems with huge queues getting into the site. The tickets had barcodes on, so surely it should have been a doddle? I think it was the very security conscious security guards holding things up, which is hard to complain about, but I will because we missed two bands waiting to get in. And it’s not like they were thorough as I sneaked in 3 cans of Strongbow upon my person.

The general vibes were good, in that the sun was out and there were plenty of places to sit and chat whilst taking in the tunes. The image the festival was trying to project (as mentioned in my review) was confused – it wasn’t some ultra cool youth orientated event; it was a pleasant but ultimately bland festival. The relaxed vibes were appreciated, it should try build on that instead (7).

My overall enjoyment was massive – but thanks to Pulp. If this were judged as a Pulp gig with ‘extras’ it would score a lot higher. But as an actual festival? Doesn’t make the grade. It is COMPLETELY dependent on the line-up. You wouldn’t go to just hang out and check out some new bands. It doesn’t have the personality or the bands for that. All said, I had an amazing time watching Pulp, who were fantastic and the rest of the day was a build up to that, in a safe and steady environment (7). If there were someone brilliant playing next year, I’d be happy to go but otherwise I wouldn’t even consider it.


Latitude - 15th – 17th July

Massive Arts Festival in a forest in Suffolk

Latitude was the first ‘big’ festival RB had encountered for a few years. As such there was a mix of excitement and serious doubts. Could I really be bothered with the crowds and the mess and the hassle? Thankfully, Latitude turned my expectations on their head and it lived up to the 2nd hand hype I’d received from various friends.

As it’s a large festival, it has a large price, in the region of £170. But for that you get an AMAZING array of entertainment. If you approach it as a music festival you may be disappointed; compared to something like Leeds Festival it doesn’t have the biggest names or the sheer amount of bands. But the ones it has are great. Quality not quantity. The attraction for me though was the other things, which are given equal billing; the comedy, the theatre, literature, film. The kind of thing I wouldn’t go out of my way to see usually, but it’s all there for you and you end up places you wouldn’t expect. It IS a lot of money, but in terms of what you get, brilliant (8).

As for the setting, well I loved it (10). It was a big site, bit it wasn’t crushed at all. Some elements were typical corporate festival, meaning lots of stalls and open spaces. But there wasn’t advertising everywhere. Even the big screens by the stage, between bands, weren’t showing ads. Just the logo. So it has the advantages of the large festival, but then also exploits the landscape to genius effect. There are stages hidden in the woods. Performances take place on and in the lake. It feels like every nook and cranny has something going on, yet you still feel like you are in the countryside and away from ‘life’. A perfect balance.

As mentioned the range and quality of the artists is exceptional (9). I don’t know much about theatre but my friend did and he assured me some of the stuff there was a major coup for Latitude. Some performances were Latitude exclusives, never to be repeated. Perhaps the only downside for me was the lack of an AMAZING headliner, but fuck it, they had The Cribs; they were headliners for me.

The range and number of stages was excellent but one major downside for me was that some were far too small. Perhaps it’s more a ticket / organisation issue, but I missed a lot of things I wanted to see because I couldn’t get into the tent. Fair enough, some were just really busy, but I question the logic of putting a Q&A with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in the tiny Film Tent. Still, it’s likely me and my lack of recent big festival experience (7)

Range and quality of food and drink was good. The choice of food was endless and these days, with a tiny budget I tend to cook at the tent. So it was really hard to decide which stall to visit with for our one allotted ‘bought meal’. Beer was pleasingly cheap for a festival too, around £3.50 for a pint and bars were plentiful and we rarely had to queue. (8)

I heard mixed reports on the camping. There were issues with water supply at some campsites. Ours was fine and there was plenty of space, but then again, it was ‘guest’ camping. From what I saw of the main camping areas, they were slightly squashed in but totally manageable and close to the main site (8).

Organisation was good (8) and I felt like everything was under control. From people managing toilet queues (and explaing how the female urinals worked) to the masses of ‘helpers’ stood around waiting for questions and offering directions, it seemed well managed. It was good to see so many staff around. The bar system with the recyleable cups was a great idea too, and worked without a hitch.

The vibe around site was spot on (9) with no scenes of idiotic inebriation witnessed, instead a polite and engaged crowd. I accept that my tastes may have changed and younger crowds may find it a little too steady, but I felt very much at home there. It was certainly one of the best festivals I’ve been to (8) and perhaps my actual enjoyment was only brought down by the weather, which is well beyond the fault of the organisers, but it did make life a little more difficult. With an improvement there and a couple more bands I REALLY want to see, plus being able to get in the tents and we would have something close to a perfect outdoor festival experience. Im just hoping I can afford to go next year.

SCORE: 83%

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