James and Hawkwind top off an entertaining second day at Wychwood Festival

Wychwood Music Festival 2012 review

By Tom Smith | Published: Fri 15th Jun 2012


Wychwood Music Festival 2012

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£115 for the weekend, plus £22 for camping
Daily capacity: 7,500

As day broke on Saturday, we ventured around the festival site and stumbled upon the World Vision Tent which encouraged children to play rhythms on the bongos and, presumably, impart a touch of culture through music. This tent stood next to the RSPB tent which added to the general greenness of the festival (many recycling bins were scattered throughout the site too).

Danny Shah
As Saturday unravelled, Danny Shah took to the Big Top stage with his jaunty pop tunes; he seemed to be the lost link between Billy Bragg and McFly. The young Scotsman possessed a kilt-full of charisma and confidence and seemed to cram those traits into his pop tunes. Not only did we leave the tent humming his melodies, but they cropped up again several times throughout the weekend.

Later that day, the one and only Howard Marks took to the stage regaling us with tales of his misdemeanours. This was probably the only part of the festival that didn't fit into the "family friendly" vibe. The most sophisticated drug baron in the world (to quote the press) opened a bottle of red (not his usual tipple) and gave us dubious advice on the legal uses of reindeer urine and lion poo. It was a little trippy to say the least.

Doctor and the Medics
As the one man show was over we left the Big Top tent on a high, until we reached the main stage. Our hearts (and ears) were plummeted into the depths of despair by what can only be described as the world's most gimmicky cover band. Doctor and the Medics' crassly-covered classics went down a storm with the public, as did their unlimited supply of assorted props (ranging from miniature Daleks to a fat man who was overly partial to a costume change or two); high-camp hilarity as the sun rose from behind the crowd.

After these jovial jokers left the stage, the outstanding Juju held court with their unique blend of blues guitar and traditional Gahanna music. Their Bo Diddly rhythms and hypnotic grooves were a real antidote for what preceded them. The legendary accordionist Sharon Shannon followed with a stripped-down set featuring two guitars. Her sweet Irish songs soothed the crowd for the afternoon before the veterans of noise, Hawkwind, took to the stage.

What a sight to behold: a gang of old hippies with their keytars and their Theremins, still rocking the progressive space rock sounds. Although an out-of-date genre and a required taste, they still managed to get a fair few festival-goers leaping up and down at the front of the stage (nothing to do with the semi-clad women with rubber snakes who accompanied the band, I'm sure).

To me, Saturday revealed a chink in Wychwood's armour – possibly the only weakness of the festival – the bands were not staggered from one stage to the next; when a band finished on one stage, they finished on all stages, leaving big gaps with no bands to see.

This aside, there were plenty of other activities to get the punters' hands dirty, especially the kids. Anyway, James followed Hawkwind with a mellifluous set consisting of their most epic of pop songs. Their rendition of 'Sit Down' was a stripped-back version which, although good, didn't seem to have captured the crowd as strongly as the original could have. Unfortunately they had to cut their set a little short due to the other bands playing over their allotted time slots.

review by: Tom Smith

photos by: Rob Matheson

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