Aah, the festival experience was a joy at Wychwood this year with the glorious smells of world cuisine enticing you in and the sounds of incredibly talented artists building up the excitement for the 10 year anniversary of Wychwood festival. The backdrop of the racecourse is the perfect venue for such a popular festival which is growing every year but is retaining it’s friendly and personal touches which make it a safe and fun place to take the family but also still rock and roll enough for the most hardened of music fans.
Quirky little extras are hidden inside such as hot tubs from Superspa DJ, where you can book a session and watch the main stage from the comfort of your own hot tub. There’s the ‘Bombay Shave’ which brings a little piece of Mumbai to your day. Here you can have a proper wet shave, head massage, beard trim..everything you need to make you in to a handsome gent again. There’s plenty of activities for children from the free play area courtesy of Little Tikes (Amy was especially friendly and smiley!) a feeding tent for your very little ones, a circus skills workshop and a Roald Dahl museum providing endless entertainment and games. The extremely popular Bubble Shop was constantly packed with happy children and bubbles, even smoke bubbles and bubble foam was constantly blowing from their pop up shop. I had a chat with the very lovely owner, ‘bubbleologist’ SamSam Bubbleman and learnt that he is actually a 9 times Guinness world record holder. (All bubble related of course) He got his inspiration or ‘bubblepiphany’ at Glastonbury in 1989 while watching some bubbles float by. He now has the most enviable lifestyle touring all the greatest festivals creating some bubble magic wherever he goes.
Opposite the bubble shop is the BBC introducing stage which this year was full of local talent and the acts that stood out for me were Jasper In the company of others who are a Worcestershire based funky folk pop band, bursting with happy energy. As soon as they started playing, everyone was dancing. They reminded me of Scouting for Girls but with a little more edge so, like a pop rock sandwich with no cheese. A lot of talk backstage was had about these guys and I think 2014 is definitely their year.
Cheltenham based Northerner Edd Donovan and his formidable musicians, the Wandering Moles were on the same stage on Saturday and equally, their set was extremely popular. This band blew me away. I just love Edd’s songwriting, the harmonies and the way the band gel together so well.
I am already putting my order in for the debut album which is due out soon. With a completely original distinctive sound, the influences of Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Loudon Wainwright and Fionn Regan shine through. I also heard a few members of the audience that they detected some Bob Dylan influences there too. I am truly honoured to have seen the singing social worker and his wandering moles at Wychwood and if you’re planning any other festival visits, look out for him on the line up.
On the main stage we saw lively covers band ‘Thrill Collins’ who have not long been back from their USA tour, Uke Junkies who I loved for their 50’s style, double bass and quirkiness, Merry Hell who brought energetic Jethro Tull style mayhem to the stage and the glorious Bad Manners.
Buster Bloodvessel is massive. I mean this in both senses of the word. He owned the stage. When he says sing along, you sing along. You wouldn’t dare refuse. In the finest leopard print coat I’ve ever seen, he drew everyone together and the trumpets blasted out across the racecourse. The bass shook the foundations. Buster is one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen. Bad manners are so energetic, happy, dangerous, exciting. When reading up on Buster Bloodvessel I read that during one interview he cut a loaf of bread in half, inserted a pie and ate it. This man is the business.
After Bad Manners was something completely different. Newton Faulkner stepped on and calmed everyone down again with his beautiful, intricate guitar playing. Newton is so suited to the festival scene I don’t think I’d feel complete until he played at any one of them.
Reef were next and yes, they did the ‘hole’ song. The audience loved it and the same energy that Buster had induced earlier was back in force. Their gritty rock was a perfect warm up to the legendary Levellers. The dreadlocks are still there, they haven’t changed much. If any band suits festival gigs it’s the Levellers. They’ve been going since 1988. (I feel old now) Beautifully crafted musicianship. The best way to end the evening.
Sunday was the most enjoyable for one reason only. Craig Charles was back! Last year, his DJ set was so new to me, I’d never really been in to this type of music before. He converted me in two hours. This year was even better. I was prepared so I thought. Backstage, Craig was a little quiet, his lunch from the noodle bar gone pretty much untouched. I sensed a bit of an edgy atmosphere, as anyone is before they go on stage. I took a couple of photos for your viewing pleasure but I felt like a bit of an intruder. Then he was announced and he walked on. The screams and cheers from the audience was just the start he needed as he fired up the decks and introduced himself; “This is what I do!” then it was on. Two sweaty heady hours of non stop dancing. The big top was full, the bar was on overdrive, the bass pounded the tent mercilessly. Let’s hope Craig is at Wychwood every year as he’s a treasure and had a lot of time for everyone, a really nice guy.
Ending this year’s Wychwood was the Boomtown Rats. About a month ago I didn’t know if Bob would cancel after the very sad news about his daughter, Peaches. Yet true to his word, he was there and gave a fantastic show. Dressed in a snake print suit (not real snake he would like to add) He was totally at home on the stage. After a quick chat with the audience, some comments inciting boo’s and some cheers, he kicked off with their greatest crowd pleasers, I don’t like Mondays, Rat Trap, Banana Republic and Like Clockwork. The audience cheered for more, which is a given and after a well deserved encore, they finished with their self titled track, Boomtown Rats.
What a weekend. The energy and excitement was greater than ever this year. Cheltenham is a hugely talented town and we are eternally grateful for this platform that Wychwood have created for us all.
Thank you Wychwood, we love you!