Lakefest 2018 was the first festival I could go to with my partner without him saying he’s been there heaps of times before. It takes place in Eastnor Castle Deer Park in Ledbury with a prime view of the castle from the camping site. It Is a four day festival from the Thursday to Sunday. Big names from the line-up included: Marc Almond, The Waterboys, The Darkness and Peter Hook and The Light. Unfortunately, neither of us could get time off work on Thursday so we headed up early on Friday morning. Those who were lucky enough to be there on Thursday night would have been able to see Dr and The Medics.
It is an understatement to say that Lakefest is a child friendly festival. With it’s own miniature theme park with a Ferris wheel, a helter skelter, teacups and several other rides the kids are sure to have something to do. If the rainbow lights of rides and the smell of candyfloss and sweeties isn’t enough, then a circus skills workshop was taking place all weekend as well as crafting, slacklining and cute games of shooting soft balls into a hippos mouth (no, Lakefest’s lake doesn’t have hippos in it!). There’s certainly lots to entertain the children.
There are four main music areas: the Abbey Stage, the Floating Globe, BBC Music tent and the Secret Ibiza tent. The Pen and Parchment also had it’s own tent and included interviews, comedy, spoken word and poetry. John Robb from The Membranes was conducting interviews on Friday and Saturday. I was desperately looking forward to his interview with Rat Scabies, an ex-member from one of my favourite bands, The Damned; sadly it was cancelled. However, there was still interesting interviews with other musicians. The Pen and Parchment was also scheduled for events catered for children such as the talent show, silent disco, spoken word/poetry workshop and a magic performance. Another great attraction was the BMX Bandits, which had two shows daily for the entirety of the festival. This was great so everyone had the opportunity to see and do everything they wanted to do without missing the tricks and stunts of the BMX bikers. The Land Rover experience was also taking place, which is something I’ve never seen at festival before and I’m sure is fun if it’s your kind of thing.
The Abbey Stage started Friday off with alternative indie band Nuns of The Tundra, who were very well received by the crowd. There second song ‘Booty’ was about someone’s behind and was the least appealing. The easy pop rhyming lyrics did not seem to be given much thought. From the beginning of third song, I could definitely see their talent as a band. Their band name doesn’t seem to have much substance other than iconography on slightly spooky media releases. I feel they are probably headed to being the alternative scene’s Cold Play *shudders*. Following them were the four-piece Arcadia Roots, who were a laid back reggae band. Their singer is multi-talented, playing both the bongos and a small drum-kit.
Pop Will Eat Itself was really the first band on the mains stage that really breathed energy into the festival. Even though they originally started in 1986, the two vocalists Graham Crabb and Mary Byker did not stop for half a second and captivated the attention of everyone in sight. They ensured that attention by coming off the stage and up to the barriers to really connect with the audience. The bassist Davey Bennett was a delight to watch as he could not stop smiling throughout the entire set, you could really tell he definitely did not want to be anywhere else.
Hooky, Hooky, Hooky, I cannot even express how much I cherish the bloke. Peter Hook and The Light are a band fronted by legend and previous member of Joy Division and New Order, and their set is usually split between both bands’ material unless advertised differently. The first half included irrevocably gorgeous Joy Division songs such as Transmission, Isolation, She’s Lost Control and Digital. My undying love for Joy Division was annoyed at the crowd: they seemed only semi interested from where I could see on the barrier but absolutely lost their minds for the New Order set. However, everyone is allowed to revel in what they enjoy best. Hooky conducted the uttermost of respect for Curtis’ lyrics in his temperament and delivery, as he always does. The set ended just as Joy Division did with their last media release Love Will Tear Us Apart. Peter Hook and The Light were my musically highlight of the festival and I would happily watch them play every night of the week.
One thing I will always be grateful to Lakefest for is being able to see Marc Almond. It’s a blessing I did not think I would be able to see. He certainly is not as nimble at the age of sixty one, which is to be expected. He offered jumps that consisted of his heels leaving the ground but not his toes and seemed to be concentrating on his vocals. A couple of times he stood between the two backing singers who gave support for certain parts. He was terribly sweet apologizing for sound difficulties in one song that were not his fault. Almond performed a mixture of Soft Cell and his own material. Cell’s most successful cover Tainted Love was played in an entertaining medley. ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ felt like him saying goodbye to everyone and was thoroughly enjoyable to sing along to. We were then surprised by a cover of T-Rex’s Hot Love. Overall, seeing him live would perhaps be a fulfilling experience for a long term fan but not particularly for the most exhilarating concert of your life.
The final headliner of Friday night consisted of The Darkness. This was quite a nostalgic experience for me, even though I am only twenty, as their song Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) was an amusing music video to see at Christmas time. They opened up with ‘Solid Gold’, which was released in 2017. Lead singer Justin Hawkins was incredibly egotistical as expected commenting “Don’t forget we are... The Darkness. Make some noise”. Literally commanding applause for himself and the band. He also shared that the disco music he could hear (from the Secret Ibiza tent) was “irritating”. My partner’s responsive thought to this was “well play louder then”. That comment then followed by Hawkins’s extended insult about the use of drum machines. My response to that was “The Sisters of Mercy”. Simply but perfectly that. Despite the continued narcissism, Hawkin’s vocals were of the clearest I’ve ever heard at gig, when he’s not doing his typical Darkness high-pitched vocals and I could understand every single word that he sang. They of course played their very popular song ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’.
There was an excellent mix of vendors in the Food Village and I was greatly impressed with the variety of options. Some included stands all different types of cuisine including American, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mediterranean, British and one dubbed as English-Indian style. The vendor that we revisited time and time again was Lalita’s who served filling tasty authentic Indian food. There two mains Masala Dosa and Thali curry were both amazing and my partner and I had two of each. They also sell two large onion bhajis for £3, which were delicious and are served with an accompanying sauce. All of Lalita’s food is also veggie and vegan friendly. The English-Indian was serving a meat and veggie option of chicken, halloumi or half and half, all of which included spiced chips, beans, slaw and chilli sauce. Despite this, on Saturday we did happen to see one of their servers handling both the chicken and haloumi with the same hand/glove a countless number of times. Their food sure did smell delicious and you have the option to go large for an extra £3 but if you’re vegetarian, I’d make sure to ask that the haloumi is handled separately to the chicken. One Catering who were selling burgers and fries were doing a ‘Hank Marvin Challenge’, where if you hang on the bar for two full minutes you won a free burger meal. Noodles City had several option for Chinese and Thai food, however their dishes are not vegan friendly. The Fryer Engine, a big orange truck with built-in kitchen were simply offering battered chips for a £5 with the option for cheese and gravy. But, I thought that an extra £1.50 for gravy on a regular sized tray of chips was steep. Nevertheless, the staff were friendly and were kind enough to offer free samples around the site. Vendors simply called Hot Dogs, Pies & Mash, Mediterranean Wraps and a fairground style kitchen were also present.
Erica, an unsigned electronic indie band were very impressive on Saturday and lots of people had their band t-shirts on for the gig. They have an enthralling stage presence and their vocalist Dalton Woodward is a complete natural performing. Their newest single which is not formally released yet ‘Home’ was played and was well received. Following Erica on the Abbey stage was the Bristol nine-piece ensemble Dr Meaker. They were energetic and were eager to engage and liven up the crowd for a dance. Out of the three singers, there is not one that stands out particularly as they all share the role and work together. The Dub Pistols really kicked it out of the park in the afternoon, they really know how to showcase themselves to an audience by their dancing and non-stop nature. Both vocalists are comfortable sharing the space and having a laugh whilst the instrumentalists do their thing. They are not of a genre I particularly go for but were fun to watch nevertheless.
Reverend and The Makers were not for me and I did not understand the appeal of their music. I take that as a thing of personal taste because they were not boring and their music was not bad. The Waterboys headlined Saturday night at Lakefest. Mike Scott, the band’s singer and only consistent member from their origin in 1983, stopped one of their songs to instruct the lights crew to stop changing the lighting on every single beat. He said “The audience are not stupid enough for that” and “we just need a well lit space and we’ll create the movement on stage”. This gained applause from many in the crowd, the lighting was adjusted and the song recommenced. They were pleasant to watch and their two backing vocalists and dancers were talented and pristine in their movements.
Gaz Brookfield played in the Floating Globe after the nine o’clock curfew. He was a delight as always, I do not have a bad word to say about the bloke and his music. Some songs from his set included ‘I Paid My Money’, ‘Thin’, ‘I Know My Place’ and ‘Cursed’. If he’s playing in a place near you (which he probably will be at some point) and even if you don’t know lots of his songs, I’d certainly recommend going anyways. His lyrics are catchy, funny, relatable and it’s great to support great people.
The Membranes were brave to be opening up early Sunday afternoon as everyone and the site were soaked through and hung over. I saw them open up for The Sisters of Mercy last year and thought they were mentally on another planet. This still holds true for their otherworldly subject matter. But at Lakefest we heard a couple of classic style punk songs and some spooky ones too, as well as the alien nuttiness. My favourite songs were ‘In The Graveyard’ and ‘Black Is The Colour’. The Membranes also had a choir accompany them who were angelic mostly but for the three spooky songs they sounded ghoulish like Lock, Shock And Barrel from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was lovely. I never would have imagined them with a choir but they pulled it off and it worked really nicely.
The last band we caught on Sunday was The Roving Crows as we unfortunately had to go home as I had a plethora of illness going on. But I am absolutely sure that everyone had a cracking day, especially as real ales were now on for only £3 a pint. The frontman for The Roving Crows, Paul O’Neil, introduced all the acts on The Abbey Stage on Lakefest and therefore asked his two adorable daughters to introduce his band. We were given insight to the inspiration for Crows’ song ‘Nancy Valentine’ as O’Neil told us the story of time spend in a coffee shop with a certain fan of the band. O’Neil introduced a song by saying that “God is a woman. Yes you heard me, a woman, because only a woman could create a world so beautiful and the man is the devil, as he’ll always come to f*ck it all up”. That instantly made me have respect for him, not that I completely agree that what he said as no gender deserves to be the evil of two aspects. Just for the fact that saying that God is not a man because if God is ‘The Divine’ and is a man, that insinuates that women are lesser and inferior. The Roving Crows really were tremendous to see play live.
Overall, Lakefest 2018 was a delight to attend. It was mostly rain but when you have great music, great food and great beer (and also a gorgeous blueberry vegan cheesecake!) you cannot go too wrong. Thanks everyone for making our first Lakefest an amazing one.
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