2014 was the third year that a small village in the rolling Devon countryside opened it’s arms to the public, inviting them in for a weekend of music, entertainment and a ‘little piece of sunshine’.
I heard from festival organisers that the 2012 event was plagued with typical British summertime weather (that’s rain to anyone NOT accustomed to it), causing people to yomp around the site knee deep in mud (I’m sure it wasn’t THAT bad), 2013 was treated to a heat wave, which, being a welcome site to visitors, bought about its own issues for the organisers.
The 2014 weather was ‘changeable’, which means in English terms that it could be blazing sunshine one minute, followed by a hail storm and some lightning the next. I hoped (and prayed) for good weather and as I arrived on the Friday evening, the sun certainly had its hat on!
My brief for the weekend was to engage with festivalgoers, artists and performers to understand what they were doing, how and when they were doing it and WHY they had chosen to come to what is turning out to be one of the best local festivals in Devon.
Welcome one and all to Glas-Denbury 2014….
The list of acts performing at the festival was impressive (see full list at the end of the review), to think for one minute that I was going to cover everything happening across the site would be an impossible dream, it was after all, me myself and I on the Friday night (hence none of our photos), Saturday afforded me the company of a local photographer (Mike Lister) who agreed to come along and take ’a few snaps’ for the website.
So, the gauntlet had been laid down, the challenge set, I was to spend the next couple of days wandering about, portable recorder and notebook in hand, jumping on visitors and politely asking them if they would mind answering some questions, it took its toll over the weekend and I’d be lying if I were to say that the thought of ditching my tools of the trade for a few pints of cider and a Jamaican lamb and goat curry seemed a far better and more viable option…..but ladies and gentlemen, I remained strong, I let others imbibe and consume the local fayre whilst I plodded on, chatting, laughing and learning more about some fascinating performers over the two day festival.
Friday 11th July
The Friday evening saw me taking in a number of acts including Yes Sir Boss who hail from Bristol, these guys have cultivated a truly original, distinct and indefinable sound that has elements of everything from brooding Balkan blues to horn injected rock and blues. Their heavy blend of horn led hooks, offbeat rhythms and epic riffs provide the perfect backing for the memorable lyrics brought to life by front man Matt Sellors. I was particularly impressed by their version of the opening title music for the cult 1994 Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction (the music that plays after the diner robbery kicks off), the place was absolutely jumping!
Hot Dub were playing the main stage so over I wandered to check them out, they played a range of horn led reggae numbers that complemented the festivals summery feel and everyone was having a great time.
I scuttled back over to the acoustic stage in time to catch the tail end of Dan Fraser and Lydia Wheatley’s set, they were just in the process of gaining some audience participation to assist them with a cover version of Michael Jackson’s ‘P.Y,T’ (Pretty Young Thing) which worked really well indeed (Shamone…).
I stayed in the acoustic tent to catch Totnes singer songwriter Sam Fearon play a few of his own songs as well as a blinding cover version of ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder which had the crowd clapping along and marvelling at his exotic dance moves (mild bum wiggling). Sam has a new EP out on August 1st and is hosting a launch party at the South Devon Arts Centre, tickets available HERE.
Bert Miller stood in for an act that was unable to play and graced the stage accompanied with inhumane levels of bass that was emanating from the dance tent. Bert (ho was on another plain, embracing the bass) went on to play a selection of his songs minus his usual backing band which were really well received.
I ended the evening by squeezing into the main tent to be entertained by legendary one hit wonders Doctor and the Medics who played a great set of mainly 80’s cover versions which kept the crowd on their toes and in good voice. The Doctor dazzled the crowd by announcing that they had another hit song in 1986 called ‘Burn’, it was after this track had ended that a heckler asked them to “play some more covers”, made me smile anyway!
They ended the evening by playing the one track that everyone remembers them for, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ which had the crowd bouncing and singing along until their voices were hoarse and their feet could support them no longer. I made a hasty exit once the band had left the stage, knowing that I was to be back at the site on Saturday evening for another few hours of festival fun.
Saturday 12th July
I arrived at the site just after 6pm accompanied with a photographer (Mike) who was itching to dash off and indulge himself in the festival spirit (burgers, cider and candy floss), we parted company whilst he went to get some pictures whilst I wandered the grounds, chatting to revellers, finding out what they were enjoying about the festival and whether 2014 was the first time they had attended. For many, it was their second, even third visit and they had tales of mud and rain (2012), blazing sunshine (2013) and were speculating if the great British summer would hold out this year.
As well as the musical entertainment, there was a whole bunch of fun to be had around the site, if you fancied a go on the bucking bronco, a surf simulator, beating ten bales out of each other whilst stood on a raised platform with oversized cotton buds or having a go at Hula Hoop spinning, you were in luck, my only recommendation is that you don't try to do this after a couple of burgers and pints of local ale, it could get messy!
Mike and I met back up, filled up on burgers, hot dogs and crepes prior to decamping to the acoustic tent for some entertainment. We caught the tail end of Will Hawkins’ set and managed to catch up with him for a chat, based in Ogwell, he plays original songs and likes to throw in the odd cover version to keep the crowd engaged. He played a blinding version of ‘Last Night’ by The Strokes, which was obviously a favourite with the audience as most people were singing along.
We stuck around in the acoustic area and checked out a couple of tracks from a 3 piece act called The Estuary Boys, we particularly enjoyed their cover of ‘Wonderwall’ by the mighty Oasis which had its desired effect!
We left the acoustic tent with full bellies and smiles on our faces and, armed with a pair of earplugs, headed into the dimly lit, fog bound cave that was the dance tent. We caught Stewart Noise dressed immaculately in black and white and spinning a very odd mix of music, ladies and gentlemen, I was introduced to ‘Swing-Step’, which in layman’s terms, is classic swing, accompanied with modern dubstep. It sounds like it SHOULDN’T work, but it does, it’s EPIC and judging by the looks on the faces of the attendees of the dance tent, they wholeheartedly shared my opinion.
We wandered down to the main tent to check out a band called Shoot the Moon who are a six piece dub/reggae/rock act who sounded tighter than an oversized housewife squeezed into a pair of size 8 leggings. Chatting to the bass player after their set, I could see that members of the band were wandering about attaching clothes pegs to members of the stage crew and even other band members. It was after we left and decided to head back to the dance tent that Mike (my photographer) asked me why I had a clothes peg attached to the hood of my jacket…..Grrrrr !!!
We strolled back over to the acoustic tent to check out a duo going by the name ‘Go Tell Alice’, they played a range of amusing songs including one that they stole from a busker at another festival all about Postman Pat running over his cat and explained during the song why he always has a red nose, highly amusing!
Back in the dance tent, it was BOUNCING, I didn’t get the DJ’s name (I’m sure he said he was from Newton Abbot) but he was playing a mean blend of dubstep that the crowd were lapping up like puppy dogs. We stayed for a few minutes, felt decidedly old and left to see what was happening back at the main tent.
We arrived just as the Saturday headline act The Electro Swing Circus who are a 6-piece fusion of saucy 20′s swing and stomping electro beats, they took to the stage and strode through everything from breakbeat and house to reggae and dubstep, all peppered with their own unique style of swing. They played for over an hour and by the time they left the stage after an encore, the crowd was well and truly ‘swung out’.
Just after midnight when the music had ended and the revelers had all started to leave, I felt just a few spots of rain, I looked up and thanked the big man for keeping it at bay during the day so all in attendance could enjoy the festivities rather than running from tent to tent, dressed in polythene sheets in a desperate attempt to stay dry.
So what was it that made it such a special event for me? I think the fact that it was on my doorstep was a big bonus, coupled with being a family friendly festival meant that the whole family could attend and enjoy some great music and entertainment and dip their toes into the festival lifestyle, without the need to wear the same underwear for a week and wash with wet-wipes and eat tinned food. I am a veteran of Glastonbury Festival, having attended a number of times since the early 90’s until my last outing in 2007. After this last visit, I vowed to stay away, it has got too big, too many people and too much going on. It’s no longer a festival, more of a pop up city that attracts a vast number of people and with it, the problems that large crowds and not enough toilets bring!
Glas-Denbury Festival is a refreshing look back at how the larger, more commercialised affairs once were, a chance to spend a couple of days in the rolling countryside with friends, enjoying local music, produce and some cracking entertainment.
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Mike Lister
List of acts/artists (in no particular order)
Dr and the Medics
Empire of Fools
Yes Sir Boss
Sam Evans duo
Zac Broad & Tom Carr (bassist)
Dan Fraser and Lydia
Electric Swing Circus Electro swing
Shoot The Moon
The Fresh Dixie Project
The Skull Kids
The New Lights
Billy Bottle & The Multiple
Go Tell Alice
Josh and theo
Alice & Katie
Orla, Sam & Connor
Malaika Kegode - host of "Spokes Amaze" Bike Shed
Robert Garnham - host of "Poetry Island Blue Walnut Café Tqy
Daniel Haynes - Bard of Exeter
Jason Eddy & Matt Buck
Toby Spray Painting Outside Workshops
Rachel Belringer Storytelling
Tim King - Host of "Taking the mic" at Exeter Phoenix
Jason Eddy & Matt Buck
Hula Workshops - Grumpy Frog
Elfic The Jester Circus Skills
Hula Workshops - Grumpy Frog
Elfic The Jester Circus Skills
Hula Workshops - Grumpy Frog
Dan Brazier from 4pm ish
Miss Torbay late afternoon Sat
Zoe Chrysanthou silks (not higher than 3m)