This year saw the tenth anniversary for, perhaps one of the most family friendly music festivals on the calender, as ever the organisers of Wychwood delivered an incredible weekends entertainment covering everything from comedy, children’s workshops and book reading to relaxing massages and spa’s and of course a diverse, intriguing musical program that brought together festival favourites to brand new buzz bands across a handful of stages and tents.
Like any festival it’s impossible to cover every performer and mention every event over the course of three days but I’ll try to break it down and give you a feel of the festival.
Day One. Friday
The rain had fallen and left the site with a boggy squelch underfoot, but despite the conditions the early entrants were ably warmed up by the likes of A Way With Words on the mainstage but our first port of call was over in the BBC Introducing Tent for a blistering set of guitar histrionics from Bromsgrove based blues rock heroes, Virgil And The Accelerators, creating an early storm with a dazzling flurry of riffs, solos and bombarding drums. A quick dash across to the mainstage to catch a bit of Newquay Times before heading into the Big Top for the first time for early highlight, skiffle blues band Railroad Bill who welded acoustic guitars, washboard, tea chest double bass and infectious tongue in check vocal harmonies to create a riotous take on the genre complete with a rock n roll attitude, gurning, hook-laden sing-a-longs and more foot tapping rhythms than most bands can muster in a life time. From there on in it was dash after dash across the site to catch further up and comers in the Big Tent and Worcestershire’s finest over in the BBC Tent, with the occasional pause at the mainstage. BBC Hereford And Worcester did a stunning job of showcasing the regions finest as many mainstays from the Introducing program graced the stage and gave their all, the likes of The Misers with their rootsy take on rock n roll, the ever dependable and uniquely contagious alternative pop rockers, Jasper In The Company Of Others and stage headliners, The Stiff Joints drew huge crowds in the cramped tent, whilst the brassy Collective 43 drummed up support outside drawing in further revellers to the sounds of Hereford And Worcester. Smashing Blouse were providing a party of their own over in the Big Top as they hosted a number of stunning, evocative sets from a host of newcomers. Whitechapel based trio Glitches made an immediate impression with a blend of dark electro-indie topped with a stunning almost falsetto vocal, cutting through the melancholic synth/guitar based backing to create a fragile, yet compelling sound. Lloyd Yates, provided a folkier, more organic sound incorporating acoustic and electric guitars alongside a deep baritone lead vocal, instantly bewitching the audience. back to the electronics (and a debate over whether using synths and computers makes the performers any lesser musicians, personally I love a bit of live electronica!!!) for the likes of the hip-hop/sax flavours of Benin City and the rather more moody but no less interesting No Ceremony. Inbetween bouts of electronic goodness, ventures into the sunshine provided wafts of the likes of Graham Gouldman and pals delivering acoustic renditions of Dreadlock Holiday and unwanted blasts (my personal opinion, though the masses love them!!) of The Real Thing. As the first day drew to a close we were treated to one of the sets of the festival. in the shape of Bipolar Sunrise, a chilled out soulful collective that effortlessly blended R&B, electronics and pop to create a stunning set that was rounded off brilliantly with aptly entitled mantra, Love More Worry Less. As we left the site on Day One The Stranglers were inciting mass sing-a-longs for the likes of the always punchy Peaches and No More Heroes, whilst Golden Brown had pretty much the whole site swaying along.
Day Two. Saturday
So I admit it, I’m a wimp, but I just don’t do camping, sure I’m up at the crack of dawn but I’ve still had a good nights kip ready for another packed day of festivities. As we hit Wychwood, Justin Fletcher was leading all the children on a merry song and dance on the mainstage, with the kids obviously lapping up the Mr Tumble/Gigglebiz performer we decided to hit the Big Top for first, a dance to Cuban big band Ran Kan Kan and then an introduction to something called Chap-Hop by the rather delightful Mr B The Gentleman Rhythmer, who took hip-hop, shook out all the posturing and profanity, added a banjolele and a heap of humour to create a gentleman’s take on the genre. Mr B’s history lesson of hip-hop took in snippets from the likes of Run DMC and The Beastie Boys along with Northern indie legends Primal Scream, Stone Roses along with Kraftwerk and the alike as he delivered a mirth filled set that left people proclaiming his genius (myself included!!), as his own song proclaims “All Hail The Chap”. Being an avid reader of R2 I already had great expectations for Wigan based folk rockers Merry Hell as they took to the mainstage and their set of high octane rockers and soulful laments captured the imagination from the outset. Their set had it all, male/female harmonies, biting social commentary (Love The Skin Your In), touching love songs (Lean On Me Love) and even a clanging slice of hammer and spade percussion (Bury me Naked) as Merry Hell showcased just why they’re so highly regarded in folk circles and beyond. By now the temperature down the front was rising and the multi cultural collective La Chiva Gantiva added to the sweaty humidity with a dazzling combination of Latin rhythms, Afrobeat percussion and funk-driven rock, driving the audience into all new frenzy as their undeniable groove took hold and their infatuating frontman revved up the intensity further. Bad Manners were welcomed to the stage as conquering heroes, Buster Bloodvessel and his energetic horn section delivered all the ska party favourites from My Girl Lollipop to Feel Like Jumping all the way to Special Brew And Lip Up Fatty inciting outbreaks of skanking and mass sing-a-longs along the way. Newton Faulkner took to the stage for an early evening slice of acoustic pop and after a couple of technical hiccups, seduced the audience with his deft finger picking and gentle croon delivering stunning takes on Teardrops by Massive Attack and his own effervescent Dream Catch Me along the way. With every festival you get the obligatory stage clashes, for me day two presented a couple to ponder upon do I see Reef or venture to the Big Top for Kyla la Grange? I originally went with the former, but after Place Your Hands and Come Back Brighter, my interest quickly began to wane and my feet to wander, in contrast Kyla was simply mesmeric, the blend of pop infused electronic/indie compels, whilst her vocals transcend you to another world completely, that voice is a bewitching thing of beauty that captivates anyone stood in earshot, whilst the songs themselves wrap their talons round both your head and heart….wow!!! Day two was completed with foppish indie dandy King Charles elegantly sashaying across the stage whilst The Levellers brought out a greatest hits set over on the mainstage featuring the likes of Hope Street and One Way Of Life among their supercharged setlist.
Day Three. Sunday
The final day of Wychwood’s birthday celebrations, the sun reveals it’s full potential, folk begin to look a little weary after two days of singing and dancing, yet still seem to be in high spirits as the first of the days band’s take to the stage. KSH & The Going Goods open the mainstage with a fine line of acoustic hip-hop (acoustic guitar. human beatbox, etc), the likes of Happiness with it’s hook-laden chorus and The Day After Friday soon entice the first sing-a-longs of the day as they end set to a great deal of acclaim. Polly And The Billets Doux continued to rouse a weary audience with an incredible, early afternoon set of harmony infused blues, soul and folk, complete with clever guitar work, throbbing double bass, harmonica blasts and powerful, passionate vocals that yank at the heartstrings, originals such as Money Tree and Black Crow instantly cast a spell over the audience, whilst their rendition of House Of The Rising Sun was not only a completely original take but also jaw dropping for the instrument swapping mid song. Baracka brought a delicious Caribbean stew to the proceedings with a combination of world grooves, reggae, soca and calypso vibes as the sun proceeded to shine brightly on, a now carnival like atmosphere. Whilst baracka were busy creating a sunshine state, Craig Charles dropped the funk bomb with a hot and sweaty DJ set to a jam packed tent for the second year in a row. Gabby Young And The Other Animals took to the stage and instantly demanded attention with a flash of red hair, circus swing, spaghetti western and off the wall rock n roll, the band’s flamboyant singer, Gabby proved to be a captivating focal point, not only did she had a rather unique style but also one of the most impressive set of vocal pipes over the festival, whilst the other animals ably backed her on the likes of I’ve Improved and the Morricone inspired Horatio (did I spot a Calexico influence?). Whilst Sadie And The Hotheads and the regular workshop showcase took up the main arena we retreated to the Big Top for a stunning set of glacial Sigur Ros meets Radiohead (with added trumpet) soundscapes from epic indie rockers Racing Glaciers, whilst over in the introducing tent up and comers Pretty Rascals delivered a Beatles/Oasis/Artic Monkeys inspired set topped off with a fantastic run through Come Together. Due The Champs have been picked for bigger and better things with their brand of acoustic harmonised indie folk and their set of Turin Brakes like originals did have a couple of stand out moments such as My Spirit Is Broken, but for me I would of like a little more variation, perhaps ones to look out for in the future. Back over on the main stage a one-two punch of ska with The Gentlemans Dub Club and Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra, with the former proving to be highlights with their dub fuelled rhythms and infectious ringleader commanding the audiences participation on the likes of If The Truth Be Told and the frantic Fire. All good things must come to an end and so be it with Wychwood’s birthday party but before we go there’s time for one more band, a legend perhaps….the crowd pushed forward for the arrival of Sir Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, from the off, Bob strutted, pouted and gesticulated wildly, with the crowd lapping up every swing of the fake snakeskin clad hips, whilst his band pounded out the hits and what better way to finish off a perfect weekend of entertainment than a holler along to She’s So Modern and the obligatory I Don’t Like Mondays.
I could go on and on about this year’s Wychwood, but I should sum up, if you weren’t there you missed out on perhaps the festival of the Summer, if you were there, you don’t need me to tell you how damn impressive this year’s shindig was, bring on the eleventh birthday!!!
Words Will Munn
Photos Graham Munn