music overview Saturday

Wychwood 2008 review

published: Mon 9th Jun 2008


Friday 30th May to Sunday 1st June 2008
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£100 w/e adults with camping; youth/concession £75; campervans £25
last updated: Fri 2nd May 2008

Tents and mornings equals heat, and the buzz of kids playing outside raises me from my broiling bed and out into the sunshine, the fresh air and greenery of the picturesque racecourse soon has me revitalised enough, to forage for breakfast in the arena before realising I have enough time to enjoy some creative arts with my daughter in the 'kids zone'. Wow! Kids get up early, don't they? The place is a hive of colourful active kids.

There's much to do, from making mosaic picture frames (our choice), to recycling crafts, balloon sculptures, circus skills, painting, dancing and much more. While my daughter carefully sticks her creation together I listen to 'Roald Dahl Museum Storytelling' and chat to other parents, whose offspring are making percussion instruments. There's a great atmosphere and I can occasionally hear Marcus Bonfanti & The Bad Boys rousing those without kids from their slumber.


The Wickwar stage then kicks into life with The Nearly Men who sound terrific and one to see properly another time. Our labours complete, and a celebratory ale later, I'm back in the main arena for Stornaway who are full on in the first half of their set, and well worked mellower stuff in the second. A good choice there by Wychwood, they are perfect festival crowd entertainment and the numbers in front of the stage swell rapidly.

Meanwhile Chris Letcher is playing in the Big Top and I rather wish I'd caught more of him, with cinematic vistas and pleasing instrumentation it's no wonder he does film scores. But the tent despite its mammoth size is sweltering, and this year there's no tables or chairs in the space, and so I opt not to remain with the small crowd enjoying his work.

Mor Kabasi it turns out are on after him, and being a Blackbud fan I rue the decision, as Joe from Blackbud works his dizzying guitar magic on stage, and I hear variously through out the day how good they were!

The Piney Gir Country Roadshow

However I do get to see Piney Gir in her Country Roadshow incarnation replete with her own dancing chorus and delivering some lovely country twanged tunes. Either the climate towards country music is changing or there's a lot of country fans in the crowd as songs are well received and the crowds continue to build.

If there's one band Wychwood have had there before that are a must see, it's Heavy Load so despite heat apathy I manage to drag the wife along to see this disabled band, who despite their disabilities deliver a product to appreciate and not just sympathy. Obviously because the members suffer from real handicaps their choice of music is reduced to punk, but that's not a problem, they have their own tunes too, and some good lyrics and balls!

Heavy Load

Loads and loads of them, and once they are released the tent explodes with beach balls flying everywhere, nearly everyone enjoys the experience. There's a few holding on bitterly to their drinks or looking lame as their struck pint explodes over them, but in the main everyone has a ball! They are a real highlight of the weekend and their merchandise is proudly worn by many acts over the rest of the weekend.

Palladium by comparison can't match the energy and fun, despite a Nirvana cover of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' they are suitable mid-afternoon fayre, if nothing to write home about, and so I saunter off to chat to the busy merchants in the main drag and people watch, and enjoy being out in the colour and the sun, and miss Spiers and Boden!

Well, I'm dithering for approaching is my first clash of the weekend, the wonderfully entertaining Blockheads without Norman Watt-Roy, but still blindingly good fun, and the look on my daughter's face (a budding saxophonist) was a picture when Gilad Atzmon decided to play two of the things at once.


The other combatant in my clash was the little known Bolton band Islands Lost At Sea who I happened to have heard on myspace and loved. I left the main arena and went to see them, and I made the right choice. The music is complex and interesting, a PC taking drum machine duties while the front man plays acoustic, accompanied by bass and electric guitar. The song delivery is simple, the trio dressed normally, there's no gimmicks, and their music really appeals to me. I'd describe it as Radiohead meets Air but with Editors like vocals. 'Mouldy Dog' and the 'Platypus Fink' with addition of the vocals of Miss Cook have lovely harmonies, flowing basslines and punctuated guitar flourishes. I suspect this will never be mainstream because it's too musical for the indie kid generation, but it should be, it's all rather lovely and feel good. The windows shut down exclamation at the end of the set was pure accidental genius.

More clever musicianship comes from David Bruce playing his guitar to an almost empty tent, before gathering his cohorts, and swapping to drums in School Of Language in a glorious concept romp through their new album 'The Week That Was'. I'm beginning to fear for the musical credentials of the audience, before I take a look outside the tent.


The crowd is huge! There's more people then I've ever seen at Wychwood before, and it's the appearance of Duffy now hot chart property but astutely by Wychwood before her fame, that has drawn the masses. I'd like to say I didn't like this pop starlet, but I'd be lying - her songs are well written, she sings wonderfully, and fully deserves the plaudits. She has incredible ability, lets hope we (and she) manage not to break this latest new female idol. She sings, so I'm told all her hits, and the crowds subside to jam the bars, and toilet queues once her set is over, and I might even have to buy the album.

I catch the very end of funky group Dirty Fakirs who sport the shortestreal trumpet I've ever seen and have managed to retain a tent full of foot tapping fans despite the onslaught of Duffy.

I do however manage to see the Doghouse headliners The Loungs who play great surf indie rock and have the crowd literally leaping, they complete a most pleasant day's line-up and talking later back at the tent I realise most of my favourite music I've sampled over the day has been in this the smallest venue of The Wickwar Stage.

Orchestra Baobab

It's back to the main stage to catch the end of Orchestra Boabab who are being hugely applauded, the saxophonist returns for a quick solo of 'Summertime' before the band come out to deliver some really dancy Latin/African funk of huge quality. They get resoundingly applauded.

The world music treats are bolstered in the Big Top where Kissmet are delivering some serious dhol, synth grooves. Wonderfully rich music spills from the speakers and they're well worth watching.

On the otherhand, for me anyway, The Divine Comedy probably weren't, with much talking from the stage, and long protracted periods where I wasn't moving, it was a good job the night was so sultry, admittedly then end of the set appealed to me more, but the best thing about the bit I saw between racing back to Kissmet for more groovalicious dancing, was the release of a Chinese lantern into the night sky and Neil Hannon, holding the longest note I've ever heard while on his knees in some slow number. Highlight of the set was the crowd singalong 'National Express' and the lights coming on over the crowd to reveal there were loads of people there.

The Divine Comedy

Further up in the performance space there's El Wire fashioned 2D people juggling and a fire juggling display, to entertain us as we grab a lovely cuppa and hear the trio of pirates better known as Mundo Jazz.

We decided to queue for the Silent Disco and were glad we did, I don't know what it is about Wychwood, but it has the best silent disco of all the ones at festivals we go to. We danced, sang, and giggled late into the night, in a big tent that was nicely busy, and did a fair bit of star spotting too, many of the acts on the bill over the weekend were there strutting their funky stuff to ABBA or Rage Against The Machine or the Northern Soul hits of Liam Q, and once the evening went live to The Netherlands, the place went nuts! We return to the tent, happy, sunkissed, and exhausted!
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Phil Bull / Andy Pitt

Friday 30th May to Sunday 1st June 2008
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£100 w/e adults with camping; youth/concession £75; campervans £25
last updated: Fri 2nd May 2008

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