Monday, 26 September 2011

2011 Summer Festival Roundup PT2

(Part 1)

Indietracks - 29-31st July

An Indiepop festival at a Railway Museum in rural Derbyshire

Last year’s festival of the year obviously had a lot to live up to. And what it provided was simply more of the same. Indietracks is what it is. Due to where it takes place, it cant grow any larger or expand. It just does what it does, which is provide obscure and brilliant Indiepop in a lovely setting (9). The site is small, but the fields in the distance and the trains in the foreground offer a vibrant yet quaint place to spend a weekend. Value for money (7) is a different issue. The weekend ticket is a fair £70 and prices within the festival itself are acceptable. It does suffer from the lack of on site camping, meaning the only real option is to go to the private one next door at £25 a night. As this is integral to the festival I’m deducting points under VFM instead of camping. It heaps the price up massively.

The range of bands this year was, to my uneducated Indiepop mind, a little lacking. There were what I presume were great bookings from bands all over Europe, mixed in with local up and coming and various legends (7). What was lacking was a genre straddling ‘big name’. Edwin Collins and Herman Dune were interesting, and quality, but I needed something more. It’s designed as a niche festival, I accept, but after the brilliance of the lineup last year, the score had to come down. However the stages (8), exactly the same as last year were still pleasingly variant.

The facilities (8) were great (I’ve never seen so many decent toilets at a festival) and there was plenty of parking and all that. Food & Drink options seemed a little more limited than last year, but what was there was fine and fairly priced (7). The inclusion of local ales was a big plus.

Excluding the actual price of camping, as mentioned, the quality of the campsite was the best at any festival this year (9). There was plenty of room for a start. Millions of water taps and often cleaned toilets. Very good showers, if you are into that kind of thing. And an onsite shop for forgotten items. They also put on an after party in a marquee if you want to party into the early hours. I guess the only downside is the 10 minute walk to the actual site, prohibiting the old ‘nipping back to the tent for a beer’ thing.

The organisation was well put together, with plenty of helpful staff directing cars and sorting out any problems (7). Kind of runs itself in many ways. The vibe (9) is hugely laid back, more like a gathering of friends. Because of that, perhaps, there isn’t often a rush of excitement when a band hits the stage. But it is very appreciative and inclusive and celebratory and the general atmosphere is what makes the festival the success it is. I had a great time at this years Indietracks (8). It scores lower because the sense of something new wasn’t there and I realised I wasn’t as big a fan of Indiepop as I thought (last year I was deceived by a more Indie…rock? Lineup). I still love Indietracks and it is a festival to be proud of. The lack of a hook for me personally altered the scorings but overall the festival continues to provide for its fans, which seems to be enough.

Score: 79%

Clarence Park

A Free festival in a park, Wakefield

Bar a break for a couple of years, Clarence Park Festival has been running since the early 90’s and is organised by the ‘Wakefield Music Collective’. That is to say, a group that calls itself the Wakefield Music Collective, not a collective of Wakefield musicians / promoters etc.

The value for money is unarguable (10) since it is free. The setup seems to change from year to year, but 2011 saw one main stage, the bandstand, with some bands also in the beer tent. It’s a nice location (8), especially on a sunny day, with a large grassy hillside rising up from the front of the decent sized stage. Parkland surrounds if you want to go for a wander and Wakefield Town Centre is just a 10/15 minute walk away.

The bands and artists were traditionally a mix of local acts and travelling ones. This year we had a pretty lacklustre collection of bands (3). We had diversity, but quality? The thing that really winds me up about Clarence is that it makes no effort whatsoever to represent what is happening in Wakefield. The scene Rhubarb Bomb knows and supports was represented by Piskie Sits alone who had the honour of playing in the beer tent at midday. This band has been part of Wakefields live music scene for nearly ten years.

I don’t know what the criteria is but the only audience it seems to be catering to are people who just need a bit of background music to their mid afternoon beer drinking. Or ‘families‘. Which is fine, but it could be so much better. The stage itself is a great focal point (7), it’s just a shame that there aren’t two stages, as there used to be, as change overs are slow and disrupt the flow of the day.

Facilities (5) are basic as can be, as is the food and drink options (6). Thankfully Ossett Brewery were supplying the booze which added much needed local flavour. Elsewhere, the absolute bare minimum. Just the same lack of imagination evident in the lineup. Where are the local producers? Farm shops, cake shops, RHUBARB! Something to give it some character. As for accommodation, you aren’t really expected to camp so the general score is 5, but I’ll give it one more (6) since it finishes nice and early, in time to get the bus home.

Organisation (3).Again, I’m coming from the perspective of someone who spends a lot of time trying to promote Wakefield and culture within it.. Turnaround times were mammoth and a general sense of chaos and lack of direction prevailed. In short not very professional. Is that important? Well, as ‘Wakefield’s longest running festival’, yes, it is. Because to be going this long and be this inept sends out a message to the audience, to the bands playing, to Wakefield in general. To be this half-arsed is OK. Perhaps ‘professional’ is not the word. It should have been ‘Is this inspirational?’ That IS important. And the lack of cohesion and vision in the organisation brings the whole thing crashing down. Hence a poor score for the general atmosphere (5), though people just out for a sit on a hill enjoyed themselves.

Clarence is a frustrating experience (4) for anyone artistically driven. The opportunities for improvement scream out to anyone with half a brain. If this were the festivals first year, I would be right behind it. The knowledge that this is the result of so many years work is simply depressing.

Score 57%

Leeds Festival - Sunday 28th August

1 Day at the massive festival in Bramham Park.

As detailed in the review at the time, Leeds Fest was a refreshing change from the rest of the festivals this year and despite reservations, a decent conclusion to the summer festival season that gave me something to think about. But here at the fest of the year awards (please note there is no physical award) we about cold, hard scoring. So here we go.

Value you for money is always tricky (6). But £90 for a day (placing it as more expensive than most whole weekends in these reviews) is pretty massive. I want a lot for that. All in, food and booze if you are really going for it, you are probably near £200 for the day out. But it can still be good value. In terms of amount of bands, you do pretty well. And variety too. But by my reckoning you have 11 hours of music over the day. With going to the bar and eating, I reckon you will do well to see 9 full sets. At a tenner a pop, it’s ok if you see all the biggies. But only just. If you pop to the Introducing stage, maybe not. I still think it is over priced as, aside from the bands, there is little else going on.

The setting (6) is non descript, a big festival plonked randomly in the countryside. The only engagement with nature is the churning of grass into mud. The drive in was great though, I hadn’t realised how beautiful the surroundings were. I wish they could find a way to make better use of the park. Couldn’t they open up a few other fields, just wide open fields with hay bales to sit on and acoustic acts and NO FENCES OR BURGER VANS? It would be nice to escape in to the country for when it all gets too much.

Band wise, well, nothing much took my fancy in terms of big names, but the variety is there big time. I saw some new things I liked, some I didn’t but I was grateful for the choice (8) and the amount of stages and the quality (9) meant there was always something going on somewhere, contributing to a bustling, energetic atmosphere.

The toilets! Yes, no problems this year, no horror stories as previously, which is good considering I was there on Sunday. But I only went once, so maybe I got lucky. Still a shortage of them though (6). The quality of the food outlets is alright, the quantity overwhelming. I think it’s just a sign of festivals improving generally that the old cliché of the dodgy burger van has all but vanished. Still, would have liked to have seen stalls selling more local stuff, something to tie it in to, y’know Leeds and Yorkshire and that. And some cheaper options.

Probably the biggest reason I haven’t returned to Leeds is the camping. I didn’t mind it when I was younger but I couldn’t deal with it now. I didn’t stay over this time, but I make my judgements from the condititions in the GUEST camping section, which were pretty terrible. The main issue is overcrowding. So many tents are squashed together, I find it awful. I like the camping aspect of it, the social thing. I like making my tea there and having a mid afternoon can back at base. I found it all very uninviting and rather unsafe. God knows what it would be like at night (5).

Organisation was impressive I thought, with everything running smoothly from arrival to departure with one massive exception. There were no timetables available. Anywhere. I saw one guy selling programmes for a £10 outside. I didn’t get one and never saw anyone again. Not that I’d want a weekend programme anyway. But I didn’t know what time any bands were on. Bar staff couldn’t help. I found a tiny A4 timetable on the outside of the Alternative tent but had to rely on asking passers by for the rest of the stage times. I really enjoy looking at the schedule and planning my day, instead I was left wondering aimlessly. Terrible (but overall, pretty good – 7)

And so, the vibe. Well, go to my Leeds Fest review for more detail here. There was a positive, excited, frantic vibe; part 18-30 holiday, part musical exploration. You kind of need to be outside yourself to enjoy which I think means being a combination of a) young b) drunk c) REALLY into music. If you start thinking too much it doesn’t work. But if you are out for a good time and/or really want to see lots of music it works. It’s just tiring amongst the crowds and doesn’t often feel inclusive, bar great moments on the main stage (7).

But I enjoyed it (7), more than I expected. It does its job. But it’s far from being the best of the year because it lacks something very important; personality.


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