Beautiful Days 2003

OVERVIEW (2)

published: Wed 24th Sep 2003

Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th August 2003
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
w/e: £55, £35 aged 5-12; days: £27.50, £17.50 aged 5-12; FREE under 5's
last updated: Fri 11th Jul 2003

Festival veterans have increasingly mourned the loss of the "traditional festival feel" by lambasting what they see as the corporate takeover by consumer culture of the festival scene. On the other hand, perhaps this is just a sign of how the festival has become part of the mainstream.

Whatever your opinion of the state of festivals, Beautiful Days was something special. Held in the serene beauty of Escot Country Park, Beautiful Days was intended to "create a festival that not only had great music but also an ethos, an ideology".

Fronted by infamous Levellers vocalist Mark Chadwick, Beautiful Days was organised by festival veterans including Glastonbury alumni David Farrow and Colin 'Biff' Mitchell (the dynamic duo behind the storming success of this year's new 'Lost Stage'). What can only be described as ergonomics in action, the superb site layout was managed by David 'DB' Blencoe. Intimate but without being claustrophobic the site was easy to navigate but with so many things to see and do.

With a 5000 capacity Beautiful Days was never going to have the somewhat manic feel of Pilton but the atmosphere was laid back and calm. A grown up festival. With only 3 venues neither was it going to require the energetic dashing from stage to stage that many adopt at the larger events in order to catch favourite acts.

Highlights from the main stage included an energetic set from Ska heroes the Stateside Hombres, brainchild of former EMF heavyweight Milf. Lee "Scratch" Perry at 67 years young put on the performance of a lifetime, leaping about the stage like a man possessed.

Lee Scratch Perry

Hybrid, those veterans of the house and break beat scence, laid down a scintillating set of electronica that got the crowd grroving and moving, an early warm up for the Levellers. Dreadzone - festival favourites - certainly got the audience jiving to their melodic dub/ragga vocals, their stint on the mainstage made a memorable end to their summer festival tour of duty.

However, it cannot be denied that the performance of the weekend was undoubtedly given by the Levellers. Playing to a capacity crowd Mark, Simon, Jeremy, John, Charlie and Steve (guesting on the Didgereedo) laid down a stormin' set in their own inimicable style. The Levellers were top dogs at Beautiful Days and they knew it, laying on a performance that resonated power and style, charming the audience into feeling a heady rush.

Levellers

It would be remiss not to mention the bizarre charms of Café Clandestino. The festival's late night venue, the Café was a surreal mixture of musical venue and seedy cocktail lounge. Coming into its own after dark the café buzzed with throngs of people sipping freshly made cocktails long past the witching hour. I'll be damned if I can remember what I heard in the café but music I heard, of that at least I am sure! Applause must go to Baggage and the crew for laying on what I am sure will become one of the more infamous festival venues and one of Beautiful Days' unique features.

Beautiful Days wasn't just about the music though. The whole festival had a sense of oneness, of people coming together to be part of something special. Everyone - including the local constabulary - relaxed into the vibe!

For a real ale drinker it was a relief to find excellent Devon ale on hand from the local Otter Brewery. who had even brewed a special beer called Beautiful Daze ... which certainly put me in a daze ... or perhaps it was it a coma?

around the site

With gorgeous weather throughout the weekend, eyecatching site art and cheerful people everywhere this was the place to be. Certainly no one can complain that Beautiful Days was a event which lacked soul. Well managed and with an excellent and eclectic range of music Beautiful Days was for this writer the show of the summer. Beautiful days 2004: a triumph for all involved!
review by: Vijay Luthra

photos by: Karen Williams

Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th August 2003
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
w/e: £55, £35 aged 5-12; days: £27.50, £17.50 aged 5-12; FREE under 5's
last updated: Fri 11th Jul 2003


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