My favourite festival of the year is rarely the first one; it takes me at least one or two to get into my groove. Choosing Lemonfest as the first of 2015 seemed smart. An intimate one-dayer, set within beautiful Devonshire countryside with one large stage and a handful of headliners would be a nice gentle entry into this years' festival mayhem.
Lemonfest had other ideas. It was so much more than I'd imagined, right from the moment we arrived...
Even though it's now in it's 6th year, Lemonfest still feels like a festival run by friends. From the security team to the stall owners, bar staff and everyone in between we were met with smiling faces and a more talkative bunch than I've encountered anywhere else.
It's not just the smaller size that brings this sense of an extended family gathering though. In The Woods was an excellent small festival experience last year, but Lemonfest felt more close-knit which I think is down to the welcoming Devonshire crowd.
Back to the story...on arrival we faced a short queue of festival-goers, though we were a little later than we'd expected. Most were tipping away leftover alcohol; Lemonfest doesn't allow you to bring in any from the outside, but this was my first taste of the psyche of the crowd. There were no complaints at all. The security team were engaging with the people in the queue, and so polite one even muttered a shy apology as I emptied my pockets.
One of the great things about small festivals is everything (and everyone) is within so much closer proximity. As we met our contact to receive our wristbands, the Dub Pistols pulled up next to us in their van on the way into the festival. Things were definitely looking up as we sneaked a glimpse of the headliners up close in their fancy tour bus, and continued to spy various artists throughout the day roaming around onsite.
Once inside we took a quick wander to get our bearings. It really was a small site but there was more than enough packed into it and had everything you'd expect to find at a decent festival.
We passed through the stalls, engaging with the owners and made quite a few purchases (harems; not mine, beer; mine) and immediately made friends with a few traders. All were lovely and engaging. The beer selection was huge, lots of strong ales, all for £4 a pint, same pricing for ciders (we sampled the Vimto cider and were hooked) and all with seductive names including Teignworthy Beachcomber, Shaldon Shag.
We settled in for some music and caught Your Last Day on the Locally Grown stage. Nice loud guitars, heavy drums and strong vocals. The stage was a simple affair, just the back of a lorry, which we loved, and scattered hay bales for seating. Very country and very cool! Personal favourite from their set was Shipwreck, a nice thrashy pop-punk-rock number.
Next, we dipped into the Souloud house arena and were treated to a packed, sweaty and extremely excited crowd. Smoke machines were on and created a cool effect from the outside, though I did think it was on fire at one point. We caught part of Yiska's set and the vibe was fast and heady.
Super excited to catch the lyrically hilarious Beans on Toast, we took a trip to the main stage next. Bare foot and chatting as much as singing (which the crowd LOVED) he slowly ticked off M. D. M. Amazing & The War on War. Throwing in politics and anti-war talk, he really engaged with the eager crowd. Much more than just a musician, he became one of my favourite acts from Lemonfest.
As darkness fell, we saw crowds shifting towards to middle of the site where theLords of Lightning were about to start. Throwing bolts of electricity at each other from their heads, hands and swords was a noisy affair and a delight to watch.
Another highlight were the energetic three-piece, The Subways. Wolf Alice were one of my 2014 favourites, and Charlotte from The Subways has such a similar energy; a constant jumping, head-throwing, hair-flicking whirlwind that you can't help but get a buzz from. Billy Lunn on lead vocals also delivered a great performance, often interacting with the crowd, and is an excellent front man.
Lemonfest did an awesome job on the production side of things. The on-stage lighting accentuated every set played at night; lots of vibrant colours bathed the artists and crowd in beautiful hues and created some magical photos for the photographers present.
Last act we saw, the headliners, were the Dub Pistols. The crowd went wild when they arrived, the biggest cheer went up and we were lucky enough to be on the edge of the stage to see their opener. We'd actually met Barry earlier in the day, he'd been intently watching all the other acts from the side of the stage, sipping away at his beers, taking it all in just as eagerly as the crowd.
They were an excellent act to finish off Lemonfest, playing songs from their newest album, Return of the Pistoleros, and some older classics like Rub A Dub.
Other artists worthy of mention were DJ Yoda, 3 Daft Monkeys and and hip hop party trio Too Many T's. All contributed to a lively and eclectic line-up, and for a small independent boutique affair Lemonfest packs as much punch as some of its larger siblings. Looking forward to next year already!
latest on this festival
Lemonfest 2017 review
plus Dr Meaker, The Allergies, Bloxed Beats, Mr Whompy & Vinyl Avengers join the bill
line-ups & rumours