Eden Festival is a festival of the people

Eden Festival 2010 review

published: Tue 7th Sep 2010

around the festival site (2)

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th September 2010
Raehills Meadows, Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, DG11 1HQ, Scotland MAP
£69 for the weekend
last updated: Wed 25th Aug 2010

The northern festival circuit is providing real choice for the festival goer that likes their time in a field to be non-commercial. Alongside the more established festivals such as Bearded Theory, Solfest and Beat Herder, there are the new players too, such as Alchemy and, celebrating its second birthday (and just over the border), The Eden Festival. The organisers set out "to provide a 3 day celebration of music, dance, colour, culture and community built on an ecologicaly sound and carbon friendly set of principles and to exhibit live music hand in hand with stunning decorations and surroundings", and, wow, did they deliver.

around the festival site (1)
Set a few miles outside Moffat in the rolling countryside of the Scottish Borders, the picturesque site retains very easy access amongst the trees and fields that surround it. It provides music over 4 stages as well as a variety of soundsytems and ad hoc performances around the site and runs from Friday lunchtime until the early hours of Monday.

The non-arrival of the mainstage headliner would, for many festivals, be a huge problem. On Friday, the Eden organisers had to cope with the arrival of Gil Scott-Heron's band, but not the man himself. Whilst there was obvious disappointment amongst the crowd at the absence of the weekend's biggest act, nobody let it spoil the fun they were already having. Gil Scott-Heron rang in sick, which wasn't too much of a surprise to anyone who knows his past or his current state of health. A cynical ploy by the organisers to sell tickets? I'd say almost certainly not - they'd already been stung by a dodgy promoter and had nothing to gain from doing so.

On the indoor Furry Chillum stage, Scottish ska legends Bombskare provided an absolutely blinding set. After a false start from initial sound problems - it cant have been easy for the sound engineer to get mics and monitors set up and balanced for 9 people on such a small stage but he got there in the end - the band launched into their set of full-on upbeat ska and had a rammed tent bouncing for all they worth - Bombskare drew easily the biggest crowd to the second stage all weekend. From ska to dub and it's straight back outside to the Devorgilla mainstage for dub legends Zion Train.

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Zion Train have been playing for years and have a huge reputation and following inside the underground alternative culture. Their performance on Friday night illustrated exactly why. Full on dub and reggae beats from voices, instruments and mixers, the packed crowd kept the chilly evening at bay by dancing themselves warm and were ready to take it up a notch with Friday night headliners Hilight Tribe.

Hilight Tribe brought their excellent trance sound over from France and were an excellent choice to close the mainstage on Friday night. Another packed field was drawn in and danced themselves daft to the full on trance beats augmented by vocals, didges and just a mass of different sounds, all coming together to produce an organic trance party. The crowd loved it.

around the festival site (2)
The layout at Eden was clearly well thought out. The 'arena' area was set in a long, narrowish strip of field and it would have been easy to lay it out in straight lines, music at one end, other entertainment and happenings at the other. But with well thought out planning, there were avenues off the main drag and, especially at night, it felt like there was a surprise around every corner and for such a small site it was great to just wander and explore. There was lots of art and decoration around the site, some of it begged, stolen, borrowed or maybe even bought from Glastonbury. I certainly felt I'd seen the mushrooms in a Somerset field before and I know for sure that the 12ft wicker violinist that welcomed revellers into the arena at Eden had earlier said hello at the entrance to the Green Fields at Glastonbury. It was fun to just wander and see all the sculptures around the site, some hidden away, some big and bold and unmissable, the recumbent wicker lady outside the Vishnu Lounge was beautifully simple yet simply beautiful.

At 10.30 on Saturday night, 3 Daft Monkeys fiddle player Athene Roberts and guitarist Tim Ashton were happily enjoying a pint and chatting with anyone who wanted to say hello (bass player Jamie Waters had been spotted earlier being enigmatic in the Ghillie Du dance tent). At 12pm lunchtime they had opened the mainstage. If ever there was a time two events should have been the opposite way round, this was it. 3 Daft Monkeys have a national reputation, 4, soon to be 5, albums of material and have toured with the Levellers and played to a packed Glade stage at Glastonbury.

3 Daft Monkeys
Goodness me, they even get played on Radio 2! To put them on as the opening act on the mainstage felt like an error of almost criminal proportions (I may be going slightly over the top). They played a brilliant set of older material such as One Fine Day, Eyes of Gaia, Hubbadillia and Social Vertigo, as well as new material from forthcoming album The Antiquated and The Arcane, of which the title track stood out as a fine piece of folk. They deserved a much bigger crowd than they had, but those that did turn up - and there were more than might be expected at such an ungodly hour after the music was still playing when the sun came up earlier that morning - had an absolute ball to a full 90 minute set (100 with an encore!). The band seemed to enjoy it too. It would have been so much better later in the day with a full field dancing to their infectious folk.

Biggles Wartime Band provided an hour of folky fun, a talking fish and the worst jokes and puns ever heard. A traditional arrangement of Jilted John was a classic, but the absolute best was "If you're dancing, this one is in the key of d". An impromptu set by samba and brass outfit Puff Uproar halfway down the field drew in an interested crowd, many of whom went to see their gig in the dance tent. As a samba outfit, they played an excellent selection of South American tunes alongside some equally danceable klezmer. Everbody danced and danced some more when they obliged with an encore. And then another.

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The Ghillie Du Dance tent provided a mix of bands and DJs over the weekends, covering a host of genres. Electro swing and electro balkan were well represented alongside the usual drum n bass, house, techno and psy you might expect in a dance tent. Whilst this eclecticism made the line up and tent feel a touch disjointed at times - switching from one genre your dancing to into another completely different one isn't always easy, overall the variety was a very positive thing - if you dropped in for a dance and didn't fancy the beats, you could try again a little later and find something more appealing.

Pama International
Back on the mainstage, the suited and booted dub/ska/rocksteady outfit Pama International opened their set to an empty field but soon drew a crowd with their UB40 esque sound. Playing a mix of old and new tracks, Happenstance was a stand out track with it's extended instrumental reggae riffs whilst lead singer Finny provided a more than excellent number of 'chikas' for a ska gig. After a blistering 2009, it's easy to see why they continue to grow in popularity.

Rabbie's Tavern was an excellent venue at the festival. Ale on sale at one end, a stage at the other and a selection of old church pews to rest your feet, barrels to rest your glass and plenty of floor space to dance. The friendliness of this festival was well illustrated when the bar temporarily ran out of change. Instead of making those without change wait, the barman simply pulled you a pint and asked you to come back and pay later. When this reviewer did just that, he gave me two pints for a fiver instead of the normal six. Decked out to reproduce the atmosphere of an auld scottish bar, it had some of the best music of the weekend inside. It wasn't easy, however, to work out who was producing some of the music - the line-up timings outside bore no resemblance to who was actually playing inside.

around the festival site (1)
This nearly resulted in Spartan Tartan featuring here as Blood Slugz. Spartan Tartan are a folk act that played some great tunes, including a cover of Heart Of Glass arranged for acoustic guitar, daughter and very Scottish male vocal. Opinion on Blood Slugz was split. The very nice Dani with very attractive piercings outside the bar thought 'they were ace' and wanted to join the band. This reviewer, on the other hand, thought they made a right racket.

Timings were no better on Sunday and a similar reviewing mix up was narrowly averted. Banjovi, very sadly, turned out not to be a banjo led Bon Jovi tribute act but a soulful acoustic outfit. Glasgow band The Clachies, however, were a full on folk experience. With obvious Celtic influences that moved occasionally into the finest styled Americana, this was one of the sets of the weekend that had everyone dancing, inside and outside the bar. Indeed, The Clachies would have been my band of the weekend had it not been for the performance on the mainstage straight after their set. More of that later.

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Over in the dance tent, a late evening set by Niteworks was very worth a mention, playing some excellent trance tunes very much in a Zetan Spore style. Over on the mainstage playing next to the top was Belleruche. He could definitely play the guitar. She could definitely sing. And the other he could definitely mix and scratch on the decks. But as a cumulative effort, it had no spark, no atmosphere and nothing really to dance to. Simply Red with scratching. Closing the mainstage on Saturday were Freestylers. These guys did have a spark, they did create an atmosphere and they did give us something to dance to. In fact they gave us two hours of something to dance to, mixing across virtually every dance genre you can think of and keeping a full field dancing through the passing showers.

around the festival site (1)
If you are up for a late night party, Eden could be your festival. Once the mainstage finishes - around 2am - there is music to be found across the site from full on dance action to more trippy chill out tunes in the Vishnu Lounge. As a chill out space, it takes some beating anywhere on the festival circuit and took this reviewer back to when Wickerman used to have a brilliant dance line-up and a place to relax between and after sets. It's a great big carpeted tent with acres of space to sit and chat, share a smoke and have a cup of tea or even a dose. It was a hugely popular space all weekend. And if you didn't fancy being indoors, the great big communal firepit outside was another great space to chat with old and new friends.

Outside of the music, there was a massive amount to keep everyone entertained. My Giddy Aunts had a host of performances from puppet shows to poetry. There was the chance to join in drumming workshops, wood turning classes and a host of other arts and crafts. The Northern Green Gathering had much to offer in terms of how one might lead a more environmentally friendly life (and a super bicycle powered soundsystem banging out some great reggae tunes) whilst the Permaculture people had practical advice on the benefits of food produced locally with rather than against nature. Elfwierdigans cafe was another great space to relax and have a really great brew in a real cup and some delicious homemade cake. Indeed, there was an excellent choice of food across the site, with plenty of vegetarian and organic choices. For kids, the list of activities is huge and includes multitude of games, drawing, colouring in, creative writing, cabaret, arts and crafts and mini Olympics with the excellent Ladybird people - who also produced the Sunday afternoon carnival parade round the site with all the children involved clearly enjoyed. Throw in face painting, horse rides (or pony and trap for the less courageous) and circus skills for kids and adults and its clear the festival wanted families there.

Horndog Brass Band
Opening the mainstage sunday were The Dambuskers who played some easy enough diddly dee with Levellers covers thrown in for good measure before making way for the excellent Horndog Brass Band. They played a mixture of Jazz and swing with some Klezmer (the sound of the moment!) thrown in. Amongst there own excellent material, they played a couple of covers including a version of Praise You way better than Fatboy Slim's own excellent mix.

The set of the weekend came late Sunday afternoon in the form of local legends The John Langan Band. A three piece outfit comprising Langan on guitar and foot tambourine, Ali Caplin on fiddle and Dave Tunstall on double bass, they are joined this afternoon by Chandra who adds a beautiful female vocal. With many previous festival appearances under their belts including a support slot to the excellent Show Of Hands at Celtic Connections last year, the band have an excellent presence on stage and Langan is a comfortable raconteur between songs.

John Langan Band
Playing a sometimes folky, sometimes rootsy, sometimes bluesy sometimes just all sorts of great noise, the band play a hugely popular set that has the entire crowd dancing throughout the 90 minute set, playing a mix of old and new tunes. Folk music at its finest.

One critical word - too much glass on site people. Glass is a no no at festivals for very good reason - it can cause a lot of damage when broken. Given the number of kids wandering happily about and the number of people going barefoot, the outcome could have been appalling. The security and stewarding was as laid back as the festival - lets self police ourselves and decant it into plastic before we get there next year.

Whilst this festival has so much in its favour, the best thing about it was the people who went. There is much talk of 'the festival community', a community that at many festivals is more fabled than real. Eden felt different. It felt like a community of people come together for a weekend of outrageously good fun. Whilst many festivals this summer have struggled with young people drinking too much and behaving like obnoxious young people who have drunk too much, Eden had no such problems. There were plenty of young people there, there were plenty who had drunk plenty. But they didn't behave like knobheads.

There was a real mix of ages from the very young to the very old. There were lots of dreadlocks and lots of bare feet. And there was lots of getting on. An absolute ton of getting on. People of all ages danced and chatted with each other, friends and strangers shared their summer experiences. People looked out for each other when people needed a bit of looking after. Much credit goes to the organisers for putting this party on. But just as much goes to the punters that brought their dancing shoes and left any attitude they might have had at the gate. For this reviewer, a perfect end to the festival season.

around the festival site (1)

review by: Phil Adcroft

photos by: Willie Macdonald

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th September 2010
Raehills Meadows, Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, DG11 1HQ, Scotland MAP
£69 for the weekend
last updated: Wed 25th Aug 2010


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