Being as this was the closest ‘major’ festival to where I live this was the first time I’d actually attended The Secret Garden Party. From the onset I have to say it was well thought out and organised. Arriving with my daughter at around 9am we quickly gained access after collecting our various wristbands as it was still quiet from the previous night’s activities on site. The sun was already beating down as we took a leisurely stroll around the place. We noted all the various stages and as there were quite a few to be found. I’d primarily came to see Phildel perform on the ‘Where The Wild Things Are‘ stage, so we made this our base camp so to speak for the day, with a bar and toilets close to hand, essential for all festivals. The lake was just behind us and the main stage was within view too, where our night would end some 14 hours away. This years theme was superstition but to be honest people turned up in every imaginable piece of clothing.
The first act we saw was the highly impressive Josh Record, a singer songwriter who has an exceptional voice I might add. Any artists who starts proceedings has an uphill struggle to retain festival passers-by but he did attract a good audience. In his set he played the latest single ‘The War‘ along with ‘Bones‘, ‘For Your Love‘ and an impressive cover of ‘Running Up That Hill‘ too. The songs were that good and strong it didn’t matter that he played without his full backing band. I was lucky enough to speak a few minutes after his set and found him a very likeable and approachable and above all he was very grounded. I shall be keeping tabs on his career as I feel it may be an enduring one.
Next we had London-based Strangefruit, who were not unlike Florence And The Machine in sound and looks too with their lead singer who also played a mean violin. They produced a solid set with plenty of applause from the sunburnt watchers. After eating some food that wasn’t too expensive we returned to the same stage to see Beans On Toast, a one man band who’s played the same stage at the same time for the last 6 years. He was obviously a festival favourite as you couldn’t move as he performed some brilliantly worded songs about sex, politics and festivals. To me he was a singing version of Ben Elton and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. His language was as colourful as his clothing.
What I hadn’t expected to see today was a Strum’n’Bass act as good as More Like Trees. A three-piece that delivered some really deep cool sounds and what great use of a double bass too. This type of band was geared to being at a festival you just can’t help move in rhythm to their music, even someone like me who’s only proficient in ‘dad dancing’. Tracks like ‘Trees‘, ‘Lady Lay‘, ‘Chilly Water‘ and ‘The Night‘ had the vast majority of the growing crowd swaying in time. Their enthusiasm just rubbed off on the festival goers and they were to play another set later on another stage, that’s dedication. Will have to check these out again when they play locally at the Shambala Festival at the end of August.
The Family Rain are a three-piece rock band who are all brothers including twins. This band raised the noise level a couple of notches maybe to drown out the nearby dance party beside the lake. What I liked about them even though their songs were originals some of the intros sounded like old familiar rock classics, which stopped punters in their tracks. ‘Pushing It‘, ‘Trust Me I’m A Genius‘ and ‘Friction‘ showed why BBC Radio One has taken to them and justify why they’ve been booked also for the Reading and Leeds Festivals this year. Finday followed them which was a band that reminded me of X-Ray Specs meets Blondie. They played with plenty of balls whilst the singer had such a strong distinctive voice that was well received by those in attendance.
Next up was Phildel whose set was delayed due to technical problems with the stage monitors, this didn’t help too by the main stage now being open drawing people towards it. Once it was all sorted the four musicians settled down and delivered an excellent set. I have to say the sound was actually very good for those of us watching it. ‘The Wolf’, ‘Afraid Of The Dark’, ‘Holes In Your Coffin‘ and ‘Storm Song‘ echoed out from the woody stage. Phildel really excels when she can instantly let her voice go up a few octaves as shown today on ‘Moonsea‘, for me her best performance to date of the song. By the end of her set the forecasted rain had reached this tranquil part of Cambridgeshire. Afterwards she came over and spoke to us whilst selling copies of her CD ‘Disappearance Of The Girl‘.
Fellow blogger Leon (do check his site out well worth a look) and I then decided to check out the festival site. There was one stage that looked like a front room, very cosy too. By now the rain was torrential and yet people just carried on as normal. Re-grouped we all headed off to watch the end of 2ManyDJ’s on the main stage but we couldn’t get very close at all. Prior to the head-liners, Faithless, we had what can only be described as the best firework display to music I’ve ever witnessed in person. It was note perfect, so a big thank you to the pyrotechnics who orchestrated that.
Without an introduction on came Faithless and ran through a blistering set which kept the large crowd transfixed. My only gripe with them was there wasn’t as many hit songs performed tonight apart from ‘Insomnia‘ as they had a new album to promote. Saying that they rounded off a very long but awesome day at 11.45pm superbly. With that we said our goodbyes and headed off to find our car and then drive the short journey up the A14.
Thank you again to the Secret Garden Party organisers and helpers who made it so good.