overview

Eastern Haze

published: Fri 27th Jul 2007

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd July 2007
Somerleyton Hall, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR32 5QQ, England MAP
adult £65, aged 14-17 £45, under 14 FREE. Family tickets available. Parking extra.
last updated: Fri 11th May 2007

Eastern Haze is still a new festival, only in its second year. The name is a giveaway, and it's held not far from Norwich. Having enjoyed last year's event very much, I came back for more, and arrived at idyllic Somerleyton train station at midday on Friday (20th July).

Last year an open van had been waiting to drive us to the site (for a small charge), but I saw nothing of that sort this year. Only a guy who'd come from the site to collect a certain someone who wasn't on the train, and then drove back to the site in his empty car, because whoever he'd wanted to pick up had not turned up. Boooooh. What harm would it have done him to take some people along?

It's a long walk with luggage (about 30 mins), no signposts, and it started to rain soon after I'd set out. And the rain was backed up by some gale force winds. Arriving on site, queuing in the rain at the ticket booth (why was there no shelter - didn't they know that nasty weather was on its way?) and later trying to single handedly pitch my tent whilst the storm was raging around me, I , for the very first time ever, had a doubtful moment along the lines "I'm not sure I am enjoying this anymore". Glad to say it passed - 2 hours later I had warmed up inside my sleeping bag (with a little help from my whisky flask), rain and wind had subsided a bit, and I'd gathered enough will power to make it onto the site.

Good job I did! Shom were playing the main ("Wango") stage to a select group of hardy weather beaten punters. Quality over quantity, I say! More good music was to follow with the amazing Space Pirates (one of the many wonderful bands incorporating present and former Gong members), who played 2 sets, back to back, because Pama International could not make it. The storm did not just bring wind & rain, but a lot of sudden line up changes too. Band members were stuck in waterlogged traffic all over the country. A lot of performers were booked to play Eastern Haze as well as The Glade festival at this particular weekend; throughout Friday reports and rumours kept coming in about the Glade experiencing a mudflood of sheer biblical proportions (akin to Glastonbury 2005), resulting in the Glade site being closed to all traffic - no one could get in or out for some time. Although the Eastern Haze programmes arrived on time this year, a lot of impromptu changes had to be negotiated. This resulted in some pleasant surprises - Here and Now were not billed to play, but suddenly appeared on the main stage on Sunday, much to my delight.

But back to Friday. Searching for a bit of shelter, I toddled over to the excellent Roots/Reggae tent and said hello to DJ Wierditude, then it was back to the main stage for Grooveweird. They too played an extended set, which seems fair enough, firstly they are good, secondly, some time had to be bridged before the Blockheads would take stage, finally, their bass player, Vinnie, is one of the main Eastern Haze organisers! I liked their dancey space rock set so much that I bought a CD of their new stuff (£5! Real bargain!).

I'd never seen The Blockheads play before, so I stayed on for their set, although I don't really believe in bands going on with the same name & tracks after losing their key/front men (or women). Well, they have some great songs, of course, and support from Phil Jupitus, but I was not convinced enough to overthrow my theory. I finished the night off with some gentle dancing at the Reggae tent.

On Saturday the sun came out to play for a bit and I spent some time exploring the site. It had grown in size and was more ambitious than last year. Somerleyton Park is a lovely place with lots of trees, and the organisers made good use of most of the available space; shame about the muddy field at the entrance area, it was the only part of the site that looked a bit barren and underused. Apart from the Main Stage, entertainment could be found at the Next Stage, Hip Hop tent, Drum and Bass tent, Club Stage, Reggae tent, Acoustic tent, Psy Trance tent, Freedome (where people could jam all night), Performance area, Circus & kids area, and there was a whole Green & Holistic section away from the music, pleasantly chilled and uncrowded all weekend. The choice of food was pretty good, but there could have been a few more waterpoints (or perhaps they were there, but hard to find).

Omnia Opera were the first band I caught on Saturday, followed by Nukli, who played a really great space rock set, even better than last year. They don't come out to play that often these days, which is a shame, but a little stall by the mixing desk sold their cds, plus some other hard to come by merchandise.

Litmus, unfortunately, fell victim to the miserable travel situation and did not make it. Kangaroo Moon's set was good too, and accompanied by a beautiful double rainbow. The sky loves them, it seems.

Dream Machine were my Saturday highlight. They were actually a bit thinned out, with 2 of their members (Mark & Joie) still "grounded" at the Glade, so they pulled in another occasional collaborator (Gavin Griffith), who filled the gap admirably at such short notice. Their mix of space, dance, prog, eastern influences and rock is constantly evolving in a good way, and their first CD has been sold out for some time now (even at the well connected little MyChoonzes stall!). More, please, bring on a cd with your new tracks, guys!

Space Ritual sounded a bit odd and tired to start with (perhaps they were simply not loud enough - the mixing desk seemed to have a few problems every now and then), but picked up as their set went on.

Finally, with some delay, the Ozric Tentacles took stage, as a 3 piece - which made them sound and look a bit, how shall I put this....malnourished? Yes, that will do. What a pity. I wandered over to the reggae tent in order catch bit of Zion Train, who were billed to play there, but on my arrival, I found 2 members of Dreadzone occupying the stage! Not half bad, felt a bit sorry about having missed Zion Train, though (apparently they'd played an earlier slot). Some line up changes really could have been communicated better. I wandered back to the main stage, and, in-between, the Ozrics had grown into a 4 piece!

Grooveweird's bass player had joined them, and suddenly, it all sounded a lot more lively; I quite enjoyed the last half hour of their set. They finished about 20 minutes past midnight; I later heard that this over-run could spell serious trouble for next year's festival licence.

I'd heard that there would be a Land of Dreams ambient set that night at the Floating Lotus Café, and made it my business to be there for it. Land of Dreams is a collaboration of Gavin Griffith (Ozrics days of old) and Gabriele Tosti (formerly Thunderdogs, now Dream Machine). Unfortunately some stewards got a bit overzealous and tried to stop the performance, as there was a rule of no amplified music after 2.00am. An odd arrangement, as this set, despite involving amplifiers, was not at all loud (unlike the un-amplified all night drumming coming from the Freedome next door). I would have thought that the locals are not interested in the use of amplifiers per se, but in the resulting noise levels? Anyway, at least some of the set went ahead in the end (quietly!), and very enjoyable it was.

On Sunday, Bubbledubble played their eclectic set at the main stage, those lucky enough to catch it had a great time. Earthling Society followed and my favourite surprise of the weekend, Here and Now. This was the last of the line up adjustments, House of Thandoy (Mike Howlett's post Gong project), Military Surplus RDF (festival reggae veterans) and the Bootleg Beatles all played as scheduled in the programme, and I loved all of them. Yes, even the Beatles tribute band, and so did many people with me - stone us! It was fun to sing along.

For a suitable finale, I tried to share my time between the Bootleg Beatles and Eat Static (some contrast!), Static had managed to get to Eastern Haze from the Glade site, but not many people did!

Arthur Brown compeered the main stage throughout the weekend and broke into song whenever the opportunity arose - try keeping him away from a microphone!

I did not spend much time at the Next stage. It seems not many people did, this might have had something to do with it's location, but personally, I must admit that the bands playing there whenever I wandered past simply did not rock my boat. Could have been just my luck, but it was just the same for me last year.

The Levellers played a much praised set at the Acoustic tent (Saturday), unfortunately I missed it due to overlaps. The tent's line up was impressive, with Rory McLeod (Friday) and Nick Harper (Sunday) headlining, and the Acoustic stage seemed to have the best sound of them all.

It was a pleasure to meet so many lovely people. I spent 2 nights chatting around a camp fire (outside a foodstall, provided by the stall holders who stayed up all night and sold much appreciated hot drinks and food). People came and went, gathered and exchanged stories about festivals old and new. A few moaners drifted by, complaining about no rave tent going on all night (not sure why they did not go to the Freedome, I saw quite a bit of dancing to drums going on there after hours).

Despite the miserable weather on Friday (Saturday and Sunday turned out to be quite pleasant, with little rain and some sunny intervals), the festival mainly had a good atmosphere, peaceful, chilled and jolly. There was a lot of entertainment for kids, and many families in attendance. Security checks were quite thorough, but not as slow and over-fussy as last year (no confiscation of orange juice this time round!). I came across some dedicated welfare people who did a great job looking after lost youngsters. The sad news is that someone died on site Friday night (health problems).

Hope the council & local people will give the festival a chance to continue, despite some complaints. Eastern Haze has a lot of potential and the organisers have taken some of last year's hints to heart, but they can't have made much money, as the weather, more than anything, was a reason for punter numbers not being as high as expected. I wonder how many similar events will lose out because of this monsoon summer?
review by: Katharina

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd July 2007
Somerleyton Hall, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR32 5QQ, England MAP
adult £65, aged 14-17 £45, under 14 FREE. Family tickets available. Parking extra.
last updated: Fri 11th May 2007


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