Lemonfest 2017 was the first time that the event stretched over 2 days, opening for Friday evening and Saturday. The site on Newton Abbot racecourse is easily accessed, level and a good choice of venue. There is a main stage for the big acts, a smaller Locally Grown stage for up and coming local bands (local included Bristol for Laid Blak), the Big Top for DJ sets and the Shack for more different DJ sets. The rather dubiously named bar, The Hairy Beaver (1970’s comedy anyone?) had a small stage and the best beer on site along with a proper beer garden. Mr Whompy’s ice cream van played some tunes as well adding to the mix. For those that needed a little extra there were some fairground rides, shopping opportunities and even a place to get glittered.
Food and drink was adequately catered with an efficient main bar that never had any sort of queue due to the large amount of staff and speed of service, could be a model for some others to follow; beer choice was good and reasonably priced. There was a dedicated cider bar around the corner with some very odd rhubarb cider, various fruit flavoured versions (other than apple) including mango, lime and ginger, and 2 normal ones. The Hairy Beaver had a couple of cracking ales and the usual lager choices. Food was well served with the usual pizza / fish and chip / burgers, but also the Vegan Pyramid for non-carnivores, and some very good pasties.
Friday opened with the joyful strangeness of Oh My God! It’s the Church, Alabama gospel based entertainment. The crowd was a little thin, day tickets were on sale and the weather was looking a bit damp for later. The main stage also saw Chainska Brassica, Gentleman’s Dub Club and the headliner Shy FX smash it out of the park. Craig Charles shook up the Big Top for a couple of hours, The Shack saw some quality House/techno from Jasper James and all was good with the world. There was a bit of drizzle late evening but nothing to concern anyone particularly. We all wandered off happy at the Midnight finish. Camping and CV were next to the fence so there was no distance for anyone staying to go if staying on site.
Saturday started with drizzle varying from 45 degrees to horizontal. To paraphrase Peter Kaye, it was that fine rain that gets you wet. Again, it seemed more annoying than a serious problem and we launched into the main stage with Sadie Horler, a very decent set from Alice Jemima, loudness from Reigning Days and a stormer from Shanty. It was starting to get a bit wetter by this stage and problems were starting with electrics, Reigning Days bassist was suffering from water ingress at points and apologised in case he got electrocuted. The Big Top was enjoying a Drum and Bass takeover courtesy of RINSE:IT, the tent was rammed and that may have had something to do with the roof. The Shack similarly was popular due to a cover but with the quality DJs it would have been popular anyway (just less of a tightly packed penguin creche).
The drizzle had become a problem for the main and Locally Grown stages, the angle of rain was making operation unsafe and soaking the electrics. We lost a set and it did at one stage look like it may be over unless the rain stopped. Some clever thinking and the willingness of the bands to accept the risk saw Little Comets get going to the delight of the fools like me that continued to stand out in blowing drizzle. The organisers had put the guitar amps in a van and set the rest up at the rear of the stage to minimise water damage. It worked and the stage was back. Not such good news for the Locally Grown, the stage was angled directly at the weather and it never got going again.
The rain got worse but the crowd invoked their inner Dunkirk spirit and just got wet whilst enjoying Fenech Soler, Dreadzone and the headliners, We Are Scientists. The Big Top was full meanwhile, The Hairy Beaver similarly full of dry people, and the shack continued its House powered Penguin Creche.
The weather probably kept some people from attending, it had started well before gates and was never likely to stop. It was a shame that it kept main stage numbers down and probably overall attendance, but I never saw anyone having a downer about it. The party continued with a small squelch and rain dripping off the nose.
The organisers must take credit for getting the main stage back when the sound guys thought it was dead, a bit Lazarus like but some good problem solving saved the day. I had a great time and will be going back again next year, for me it is a day and a half of bands / DJs without having to take another day off work and that is a bonus for me. The sound on all stages was excellent and worthy of mention. The line-up has good variety and quality, the organisation is sound, and the staff and volunteers are happy smiley even when soaking. See you in 2018.
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