a sodden Friday at Larmer Tree has a strong line-up and a lovely vibe

Larmer Tree Festival 2012 review

published: Thu 19th Jul 2012

Dub Pistols

Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th July 2012
Larmer Tree Gardens, near Tollard Royal (about 16 miles W of Salisbury), on the Wilts./Dorset border, SP5 5PT, England MAP
£190 for all 5 days (Thursday sold out)
daily capacity: 4000
last updated: Mon 9th Jul 2012

Friday seems to start quite brightly and although I'm convinced I've overslept, I'm reassured that none of the rest of our group have been up for hours participating in the yoga or Tai Chi. Instead, they are part way through cooking a fry up, the perfect way to soak up our very slightly fuzzy heads and it really isn't very late.

around the festival site 2
The continued rain seems to have added a bit more slip underfoot, and there are small puddles appearing on top of the mud. Campervans and cars really are struggling to get in or out now and we help a few whose wheels spin looking for traction.

I love the laid back feeling of festivals, but there's something always nagging that if I don't get moving quickly enough in the morning, then I'm probably missing out on something, so we get our stuff together and make our transition from campers to festival goers again.

The main area of the festival doesn't have an arena like feel to it like many other more commercial festivals and although there is only one way in and out of the area where the music takes place, it still has that joined up feel about it. With only one entrance though, the concentrated footfall and additional overnight rain has turned the mud a bit soupy. However, its reach seems to clutch at boots, and then give up quite easily.

Organisers have done their best to alleviate mud stress by adding boards to raise walkways out of the quagmire, and that seemed to work quite well initially, but those boards have now been consumed by the mud witch and can be a bit on the slippery side. With the edges hidden, they become a bit more of a hindrance than a help, but even local forecasts didn't predict the amount of rain that has fallen.

around the festival site 3
I like festivals, and do a few each year, but I honestly don't think I've been to a festival site that is so completely sodden! But where else you can stop and gaze at your feet in a squelchy mass of mud, and then look up and see yourself surrounded by quite so many smiles? I often hear people talking about the vibe of a festival and it's one of these things that you really can't put your finger on how to create it; it's conjured from the magical mixture of the people who build it, the music plays a massive part too, but really, it comes down to the punters. If you go somewhere and expect to be entertained and have no means of having a good time other than shelling out a few quid for a ticket, then festivals generally aren't for you. This year more than any other I've experienced, the people of Larmer Tree seem to know that too. Find a way of having a great time. Better stop there, I'm unleashing the inner hippy.

OK, back down to earth with a splash (pun almost intended): the festival loos. They are a place entered with trepidation by most sane-brained types, but even with the Larmer Tree squelch situation going on, the incredible people looking after the turdis and urinals keep them pretty well stocked will loo roll. Well done Andy Loos! They are as clean as you can reasonably expect a loo to be given the circumstances and cleaner than many I've been to with much less of a mud situation going on.

There is however, something quite 'special' about some of the Larmer loos this year. My first experience of this is a very loud rendition of the national anthem at a time where standing up would be most inappropriate. Someone has cleverly rigged a selected few of the loos to have speakers and a battery attached to the top of them. There seem to be a number of them like this with various different recordings firing off just when you least expect it. To add further complication, the wretched things keep moving so you can never be sure that you're not going to get interrupted. I found myself being instructed in laughter therapy (loudly in an enclosed space), how to cook a peacock (a tar barrel is apparently best), the Jaws theme tune, a car alarm, and various other interruptions.

Piney Gir
Musical highlights are pretty varied and personally, I feel that Friday is my favourite day line-up wise. I've been a fan of Piney Gir for a while and although country music is fairly near the bottom of the list of pigeon holes that I'd jump to, she combines it with a bit of a 1920's undertone that really works. She has a sweet and delicate voice and as her set comes to a close, I consider going for a wander. I'm talked out of it by a guy I've never met and don't see again to thank over the weekend. Pachango are up next on the Garden Stage and he recommends I stay.

The Larmer Tree lawns suit a festival setup perfectly; they have two stages so one can be doing an unobtrusive sound check while a band play on the other. All you need to do is rotate a bit, just after one of the bands has stopped playing – clever! Pachango manage to pull together a huge range of world music genres and make them as muddy as our dance floor. Soca, afrobeat, ska, reggae and a Latino/ Balkan twist poured over the top to produce the most amazing cocktail of dance that I've felt for a while. These guys are utterly brilliant and for the first time in a long time at a festival I vow to watch their later set on 'The Social' stage. I do and they're even better in an enclosed space!

Pachango (Garden Stage)

Three highlights of the weekend perform back to back for me now. I've seen Dizraeli and the Small Gods before on a very small stage, but I really look forward to seeing them take a main stage slot at Larmer Tree. The lead singer says that he thinks he has played every stage here in previous years. Listening to him speak on stage, it's one of those voices packed with charisma and presence that adds a few inches to the crowd listening intently. The message I take from his set is to seize the moment, to talk to people, and tell them how you're feeling when you're feeling it. I think they're great. If they need to be pushed into a genre, good luck. Ah, OK, I'll have a go. He's a rapper, he's clever, and he's got lyrics and rhymes that make humpty dumpty fall off a wall. He is surrounded by very smart and talented musicians who give the overall feeling of something more wholesome than rap or beat poetry. His co-pilot on the vocals has a heavenly voice, she plays the flute very well and it's on the verge of folk music in feel in places.

The Dub Pistols have a new album out but they play a great set full of old and new. Their dubby dance sounds get everyone energised and bouncing. They end on a cover of 'Gangsters' by The Specials but my highlight is 'Gunshot'.

Levellers
I'm quite a fan of the Levellers, so their inclusion in today's line-up has me quite excited. Mark apologises for the lack of Jon Sevink on the fiddle whose tendon operation to his hand that they have had to find a replacement. Mark also notes the irony of their opening song given the festival weather conditions and they begin with 'Beautiful Day'.

Like The Dub Pistols, the Levellers have a new album out, but elect to play most of a greatest hits set. 'Riverflow', 'Carry Me', and 'Cholera Well' ring loudest in my ears from a great set. DJ Derek follows on the main stage but I have left to see Pachango in The Social.
review by: James Tayler

photos by: Andy Pitt

Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th July 2012
Larmer Tree Gardens, near Tollard Royal (about 16 miles W of Salisbury), on the Wilts./Dorset border, SP5 5PT, England MAP
£190 for all 5 days (Thursday sold out)
daily capacity: 4000
last updated: Mon 9th Jul 2012


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