So here we are again, the start of another festival season, after a maiden voyage to Wychwood festival last year, it was a nice familiar feeling arriving early Friday evening this time around, lessons learnt from last year meant no lugging of camping gear, this year I made the most of being able to drive onto the camp site to drop all the gear off, which on a Friday night after a long working week is a HUGE plus! This means you can really bring the kitchen sink if you wish, as I noticed in other people's camp set ups throughout the weekend! With plenty of space left it was not a battle to find a suitable pitch.
Having arrived thrown the tent up and readied our camp, we crossed the race track just in time to welcome the bard of Barking himself Billy Bragg! With a fiery pre general election week show he really put his heart and soul into his set, receiving nothing but huge cheers all the way through his pro labour, anti May charged set full of adaptations to many of his long standing favourites, he brought down the curtain with a battle cry sounding and tear jerking rendition of 'There is a power in a union'. This Left The Buzzcocks to finish the night off, and finish it off they certainly did. With the weather closing in, they hammered through a barrage of fast and furious hits, the crowd reserved their biggest of cheers for a barnstorming performance of 'Ever fallen in love'
Though it wasn't their last song, with the rain lashing down, for many it might as well have been, as there was a clear exodus on completion.
Saturday morning we woke to a clear blue sky, just in time to make a short trip into Cheltenham, after picking up a few supplies for the weekend and watching the first British lions tour match, we hopped back into the perfect weekend family escape bubble that is wychwood 2017.
After cooking up some food on the campsite to feed the troops, we went for a wonder around, the kids (11 and 13) found plenty to keep themselves occupied all weekend, with fairground rides, circus workshops, craft making and even dance and rap skills master classes I didn't see all that much of them on Saturday, and I didn't feel ill at ease at all. Wychwood is the perfect festival for giving them the freedom they need to explore, adventure and develop. After a few hours reading and listening under greying skies to a few interesting talks in the Waterstones tent on site, I went to find a spot to sit and listen to Saturday's first big hitter, Aswad took to the main stage under a now blue sky! The perfect soundtrack to sup down a glorious pint of hobgoblin gold one of the flagship brews from the Wychwood brewery. 'Don't turn around' and 'Shine' brought everybody to their feet to dance the afternoon away! Following Aswad, Kanda Bongo Man brought their distinct Kwassa Kwassa sound to Cheltenham, they really got the crowd moving, but in my eyes paled into the background in comparison to their succcesors! The Dhol Foundation, who for me were easily one of the two best acts of the weekend! Mixing up fresh beats with a huge bangra influence, the crowd was in rather dancing and partying turning wychwood into a scene reminiscent of the finest of Bollywood movies! Between the Bongo man and Dhol foundation, this truly was round the world in 80 minutes!
And so to the headliners, I have to say I personally wasn't overly impressed by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, but pretty much everyone else who I spoke to said they loved the show, I think age may be quite a contributory factor involved here and they just didn't do it for me, each to their own. we decided to leave early to make sure we could get into the Headphone Disco, Wychwoods famous late night silent disco, having cut the size of the big top stage approximately in half, getting in had been an issue many people had reported from the previous night.
Before we knew it Sunday had soon rolled around! With a break in the clouds drying the tent out after a few pre sunrise showers, we took the chance to pack the tent down with work looming just over the horizon a Sunday night exit was a necessity. We wondered over it into the arena to try out some great Chinese food, there is a great selection of many world foods available in the food quarter at Wychwood, before heading down to catch some bands we tried to attempt some circus skills, after dicing with death, well it felt like it attempting a slack line, and learning to juggle a little, we made it over to the main stage in time to watch Duncan Reid and the Big Heads. A 4 piece band playing a great set of rock with a fine infusion of punk about it, the 4 piece band took the crowd through the motions well, and true to Wychwoods family ethos we had our youngest photographer at Efestivals taking the shots. We nipped to the big top stage to catch professor elemental take to the stage to stretch his lyrical skills, fresh from delivering a rap school tutorial earlier in the day, he had the crowd in stitches with his colonial rhyme flow. After a double assault on the senses had been provided by surely the loudest act of the weekend, Jesus Jones. And their following act the ever energetic, Electric Swing Circus, there was some bad news, the main stage penultimate band, The Strypes, had been forced to cancel their appearance, this place would be taken up by Flamingods stepping up from the big top stage, before this took place the evenings headline band The Levellers made an appearance in the merchandise and signing tent, this provided the largest queue I had seen since the entry gates at last years Glastonbury! Not ones to dissapointed the band made time for everyone, engaging in many a pre election day pro socialist discussion. And so the weekend was drawing to a close, but it was going out with a huge bang! The Levellers for me were head and shoulders above anything else on display over the weekend, the stage presence and showmanship showing exactly why they were the weekends headline act. Fans old and new, kids from 4 through to, well I won't mention numbers, sang danced and let loose all there emotions through a set of true greatest hits! At that moment in time it t felt like there really was 'Only One Way Of Life', and it rounded of a 'Beautiful Day'!
Again a perfect relaxing weekend for all the family thank you Wychwood!
See you next year.
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Wychwood Festival 2017 review