folk & World music acts really deliver on a sunny Sunday

Wychwood 2009 review

published: Fri 5th Jun 2009

Dhol Foundation

Friday 29th to Sunday 31st May 2009
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£110 w/e adults with camping; youth/concession £85; campervans £30
last updated: Fri 8th May 2009

Hot, no clouds, more spectacular weather, and for me a day full of folk and world music bands I want to sample, plus some new acts to check out. I'm not out of 'relaxing in the campsite in the lush grass' mode fast enough to catch the very first acts of the day. I do see The Beetroot Kings and their foot tapping rock is unoffensive on the ears, it's reasonably catchy and their tales of bad weather hitting a festival they played a few weeks ago draws chuckles from those enjoying the sunshine.

I return to the Childrens Literature Festival to watch Cat Weatherill and the writer and storyteller is highly entertaining, and involves the crowd well, I'm glad to see despite the location of the tent which I think is too out of the way, she still draws a decent crowd.

around the festival site (1)
Next up, via a Roald Dahl story in the busy Kids Area, more weird story telling from an act that I just didn't get, Shtetl Superstars boast members of Oi Va Voi, but lack their vibrancy, it needs something more than a narrative to work, it's bizarre, accomplished, and not my cup of tea, some kind of Russian influence here, possibly too much vodka.

Fortunately there's an alternative the utterly brilliant Attila The Stockbroker, in a busy Big Top, still after all these years spitting feathers, and talking sense. Everything from the BNP Nazis next door, to Eminem and his misogyny are the subject of the man's poetry. He also plays homage to Joe Strummer, a bloke he never got round to thanking for inspiring him.

Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson are too damn young and talented. So, I decide to lounge in the sun to the laid back sunshine suited highlight of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara who bring the latter's '2000 year old rock n roll' of the one stringed ritti, a bit of world music fusion thrown into the mix lovely.

Following the children's parade, which was surprisingly long considering I'd estimated that numbers were down slightly this year – no idea why as Wychwood always has a lot to see even if you don't like the act that's on there's always something else on, and the kids do like to make something to show off in the parade. In fact I reflected at this point that there was not one thing to moan about so far all weekend.

Cara Dillon
Next up another clash, Cara Dillon's sweet songs, Maghribibeat's infectious dance North African groove, or new band Rook And The Ravens, of which I knew little about but the blurb said influences Neil Young, and The Travelling Band. So I opted to see them first, and ended up staying a surprisingly long time, as they play the kind of sound that captivates me, and do indeed show the hallmarks of both their names influences.

I rush passed Cara still singing beautifully and get to The Doghouse who are presenting the Moroccan Gwana music of Maghribibeat. They were in full flow, their acoustic guitars and drumming created a world music feel that had people outside clapping along, and some of those inside dancing, a rather different gem, and a great improvement on many of the acts which preceded them on this stage.

The Travelling Band
Following them are the drunk, dishevelled and absolutely brilliant The Travelling Band, who once again return to the third stage, surely they are bigger stage material these days? The crowd however is attracted to the sounds of Bellowhead, and having seen the Manchester outfit lots of times now, I feel like a deserter as I head to watch the ten piece folk groove machine led by Jon Boden. Before long I'm jigging and then singing and jigging, with what for me was the highlight performance of the day.

The crowd were thinning badly, and some of the workshop tents have closed early, so I return again to the Independent Mains Stage and the delicious Moroccan Food Stall selling Meze, which together with the olive shop were the catering highlights of the weekend. The next act were Dub Colossus who mixed Ethiopian music with jazz, I hoped for something more bass driven, but it was a lighter more airy offering, something that I was less excited about. Although less dance driven, it was pleasant enough, but the musicians seemed to lack the ability to transfer their energy to the crowd.

Dhol Foundation
I suddenly realise I've missed Red Light Company, but any regrets of missed bands over the weekend are blown away by Dhol Foundation who deliver a fantastic energetic set to the dissipating crowd.

So another year, another Wychwood, the site's perfectly set up, the balance of music on offer right, the weather gorgeous, some great headline acts and yet the festival was definitely less than full. The festival still offers a diverse mix of acts of a high enough standard that there's no one I take a dislike to all weekend, although I can't work out what Shtetl Superstars are trying to do. Some people blamed the line-up for the lower crowds, but in fact they all delivered, some like Super Furry Animals, The Beat, and Bellowhead did so fantastically well.

Surely though, as anyone who goes to Wychwood knows it's not all about the popular music, it's about enjoying a festival that's well planned, has decent, clean facilities, and offers a diverse range of acts, some old and some new, and a host of other activities. Plus, of course it's great for kids.

around the festival site (2)
What this year has highlighted is how much Wychwood thrives with a good crowd, and I was rather surprised to see the event less busy than last year. Wychwood is one of those festivals where the attendees really make the festival, and with some great early bird ticket offers, I hope that if you're reading this you take my advice and buy a ticket for next year, you won't be disappointed.

I really like this festival, it's really well thought out, and it needs to be fully supported in order to continue, a big crowd creates a wonderful atmosphere at Cheltenham, and it would be good to see them back next year.
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Scott Williams

Friday 29th to Sunday 31st May 2009
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£110 w/e adults with camping; youth/concession £85; campervans £30
last updated: Fri 8th May 2009

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