Righteous, I like that. Kinda fitting when you think about it. If we danced and shared music, we'd be too busy en-joy-in' life to start a war.
E A Bucchianeri
There are festivals, and then there is Shambala. The Peoples Republic of Shambala threw open its borders over the Bank Holiday weekend and the citizens came and danced. The crowd at Shambala will dance to anything; bands, DJs, dodgy clothing stall music, or the Police Rave Unit. The enthusiasm is infectious and everybody is determined to have a good time in whatever way they choose. Fancy dress is optional but a large majority partake with a fantastic variety of costumes. Everything from a drag theme on Friday, to aliens on Saturday, and maximum glitter was on display at all times. It seems to be about having a final mad weekend of the summer, before jobs, study or the cold weather curtails the fun. We didn't see a single camping chair in the festival, it is not somewhere that you sit your fat arse in front of a stage and expect to be entertained, you have to work at it to experience the variety and often downright weirdness on offer.The crowd attitude is second to none, the Facebook pictures of immaculate campsites before the litter pick says it all.
The festival itself is a sell out at 10,000 and there are some that subscribe to fight club rules to protect their chances of getting a ticket, "the first rule of Shhh club is that we don't talk about Shhh club". Experience shows that if you tell everyone how good it is and they come, they will keep coming. We told another 4 people how good it was and they came this year, they totally got that this is how it should be.
The line-up is broad, you may not see many names that you recognise at first glance but what it does have is quality in depth and a great variety of international acts. In addition to music there is cabaret, spoken word, debate, discussion, workshops, permaculture and much more. Rebel Soul offered debate and discussion during the day on subjects like Police Surveillance or gender issues but at night switched to acts such as Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem, or Trix and Wiles doing minimal Techno. Compass switched from Cult films such as Beetlejuice to 7 piece Electro-swing, although I never did understand why there were half a dozen empty baths in there that you could sit in. The playhouse had everything from circus to Shlomo's beatboxing workshop for kids. There was the House Party, Hungs' Chinese Laundry Rinse Out, and Bearded Kitten with games and cheesy disco that was packed at night, the Hurly Burly even had a stage. The facilities for kids are excellent with activity, dedicated entertainment and workshops. I could go on and on, there is so much to see or do, you can have a look at the website to see some of it, but there was more.
The site is flat, easily accessible and simple to navigate. Camping is not crowded and all the usual facilities are there in abundance. We were at the far end of the campervans and it was still only a couple of minutes' walk into the arena. Toilets are plentiful, clean and no one seems to need to pee up the fences. The food offering is fantastic, vegetarians are very well catered for as are carnivores. Mama Muna's was new this year and their East African food was outstanding, better than the Goan Fish stall's Masala Dahl of legend.
The Wonky Cock main bar offered around a dozen ales, same number of ciders and a couple of lagers, prices around £4.20 to £4.50 a pint. The other bars were slightly more limited but you were never short of a pint within easy reach. There were cocktails available at a couple of bars, of the choice on sale the Mint Julep and was said to be particularly good. The reusable cup scheme that is in place reduces waste massively, there are no disposable cups at the bars and also no water sold in disposable bottles, free chilled water courtesy of the Frank scheme is widely available. Security are happy and smiley on the whole and what Police there are on site join in the fun, some even patrolling in dinosaur tails.
The festival kicks off on Thursday Afternoon, Chai Wallah's opened their stage at 1830 and got the party started nicely with Subculture Sage, Sola Rosa, and Jungle by Night. Pink Oculus couldn't play as scheduled but did pop up as a substitute on Sunday when Melt Yourself Down had to withdraw. The Roots Yard opened and barely closed before Monday, all the Reggae and Roots that you could want, with Jamaican food from 10AM to 5AM every day. Other smaller venues joined the fun and the party started.
Friday saw the main stage commence with the The Beatbox Collective, By The Rivers and a heavyweight set from Gramatik later in the day. The main dance tent, Kamikaze, opened with the traditional daily Roller Disco, the Kings of Ping table tennis tournament, and later in the evening broke into Dance music. There was a Solid Steel takeover for Friday including DK, Om Unit, and DJ Food. Chai Wallah's was bouncing for DJs Moneyshot & Cheeba doing old school hip hop mixes. Quieter moments could be found in Sankofas, acoustic folk music from around the world gave a small refuge of calm for those that needed it (or a sneaky kip in the dark).
Saturday music highlights for me were a blinding set by the Jungle Brothers, the hugely contrasting Orkestra Del Sol, Roni Size doing an 18 year retrospective on Drum and Bass, and Ibibio Sound Machine closing out the main stage. Sunday saw Horseman and the Uppercut Band, Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba headline the main stage and Sidestepper representing Columbia.
Captain Hotknives in the Social Club is a regular at Shambala, the sing back on “I Hate Babies” was between Sheffield, Bristol and the South West, and the rest of the world, highlighting where the crowd appears to come from. Bristol and the South West (Ciderpaths as he calls us) won. Additional to obscene songs from Bolton were cabaret, comedy, the S Factor talent show, and the hysterically funny Dan Swank Interpretive Dance contest, won by a girl called Miranda.
It is difficult not to enthuse about Shambala, it is the highlight of our summer. There were minor issues, the sound in the Kamikaze was not great inside the tent at times and the sweet spot was 10 feet outside but that is being picky. There are loads of toilets but the girls still have to queue. Apart from that it was the best weekend of the year, only 51 more weeks until next time.
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