Russell Kane by Finn O’Brien.
We woke up early on Friday at Larmer Tree Festival, baked out of our tent by the brilliant sunshine… and turned up to witness the very end of the traditional morning yoga session on the main lawn… hundreds of people sat on mats in front of the Garden Stage in what has apparently become a Larmer Tree ritual. That was swiftly followed by Tai Chi… see if you can spot Tom Leadbetter. I’m gutted I didn’t get to sample these classes, but rain was to blight Larmer for the rest of the weekend.
Polly and the Billets Doux by Claire Kearns.
Their laid back bluesy folk was the perfect accompaniment to a lazy morning with the Guardian (rather amusingly the locally run general store had heaps and heaps of the Grauniad and, for variety’s sake, about three copies each of every other paper…they know their market alright).
During our daily walk through the woods we discovered more interesting stuff… natural dye techniques from foraged plants with Francesca Owen, a bell tent devoted to knitting and crochet, a lovely little cake parlour called Dish.
Of course I looked longingly inside all the healing tents…mmmm….massage. Didn’t have one though.
Cut A Shine Barndance by Hollie McManus.
Then we popped over to see my old band Cutashine teach barndancing in the Big Top.
Outside I was intrigued by indie anthems from Devon based The Spree. Searching for them online proved a major problem though!
A quick scout around the arts tent revealed a wealth of grassroots creativity.
The fine weather continued as children learnt circus skills alongside parents. But we had another destination: Bane, in the Daytime Club Larmer.
Performed as a one man show by Joe Bone (with a little atmospheric help from guitarist Ben Roe) this was an outstanding blend of fill noir, graphic novel, mime and comedy, as narrated by fictional hit man Bruce Bane. An absolute must see if you get the chance.
Back on the stage we listened to The Joker & The Thief, with some excellent sax driven blues tunes… but why the American accent? You’re from London! Someone has been listening to just a bit too much Kings of Leon…
Goodnight Lenin by Sumi Senthi.
Then to visit our friends Goodnight Lenin, with whom I’ve been conversing since I first heard them at Wood. They were as charming as ever ‘We never used to be a cabaret act but we’re branching out…‘ They gave away a signed Bookcrossing book… by Jeffrey Archer, and totally wowed the relatively laid back daytime audience: I had to part the crowds when I went to say hi to them in the Songlines signing tent afterwards.
Mama Rosin must be one of those rare French speaking bands to appeal to Brit audiences. The Larmer Tree crowd thoroughly enjoyed the folky accordion driven tunes of this three piece.
We missed My First Tooth for tea (there was a generally very high standard of food on offer at Larmer Tree) but I could hear some beautiful boisterous sounds wafting out of the ARC. Then it was time to see friends in Kidnap Alice, fronted by (unsurprisingly) a girl called Alice – whom I have known for sometime, but had absolutely no idea could sing so amazingly fiercely well. Also in the band are banjo player Joe Buirski, double bassist Felix and other assorted old time musicians who make up the current version of Cutashine. My friend Dan (also known as Danimal for reasons best not mentioned here) was present on accordion – which he seems to have taught himself in the blink of an eye. Well well impressed… particularly by their own Appalachian inspired foot stomping anthems. ‘How come no one’s dancing… are you dead?‘ importuned their dungaree clad mandolinist. I can see his point. Definitely worth checking out live.
Bellowhead by Amy Rogers.
Friday’s big band was Bellowhead… fronted by Jon Boden, with whom I used to attend folk singing Glee camps (well before the term Glee became fashionable) It’s funny because back then he was a right stickler for sticking to prescribed folk techniques, but Bellowhead takes trad folk and blows it right out of the water with a high octane jump up and dance hoedown of a show. I think that for many festival goers this was an absolute highlight of Larmer Tree this year – it was certainly one of mine. Bellowhead have gone out on a limb with something completely unique and different and it works amazingly well. I suppose I should have known where Jon would eventually go when he turned up on camp one year and played a superb fiddle version of Hit Me Baby (One More Time) by Britney Spears.
Kidnap Alice by Claire Kearns.
There’s a certain beauty in the way that both Bellowhead and Kidnap Alice have grown in part out of a love of fireside singing on FSC camps – Joe and Dan of Kidnap Alice have taken traditional American tunes of the type we sing and turned them into something totally new, whilst Jon Boden has played around with traditional British songs for Bellowhead. And at Larmer Tree they were programmed up against each other…
Ozomatli were something of a let down straight after Bellowhead, but then I’m not the biggest world music fan.
Comedy was compered by a double hatted James Acaster… Tom Wrigglesworth was on first and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember much of it… probably because I was sat squished into a small blob on the floor with no view of the stage: the tent was absolutely rammed.
Luckily I found a boyfriend’s lap in time for Russell Kane, who was my unreserved comedy highlight of the festival. He leapt on stage with a brand new look clearly prompted by a break up that formed the backbone of much of his material… a spinning whirlwind of peroxide blonde quiff and tight jeans. There were many ‘postmodern’ digressions into some hilarious anecdotal stories about the middle class Jemimas whom he had overheard at the festival and I’ve honestly not laughed so much in ages. His hyper energetic set was totally up my street, probably in part because it reminded me of my own manic presenting style (ask anyone who’s seen me talk or call a ceilidh) but also because I could relate so closely to his material… I’ve had my heart totally and utterly broken, and I recognise so many of his traits in other men who would never so honestly admit to their feelings. Want. To see. Again.
Overheard the next day: a group of posh Devonshire teenagers (pretending they knew how to hold a fag) discussing what Russell Kane meant by the word ‘totes’ peppered liberally through his set – they were convinced he meant Tilly or Antonia. ‘Definitely, yar.’ Hilar.
Polly Malone performing in Lyrical Lostwood.
Before bed we took a last minute walk through a ghostly installation in the woods… bubbles of light floating past us as we negotiated the laurel tunnel to the sounds of Brian Eno. Tunnel Vision was put together by Ulf Mark Pedersen.
Amy Rogers, Appalachian, ARC, Bane, Bellowhead, Ben Roe, Big Top, Bookcrossing, brian eno, Camps, Claire Kearns, Cutashine, Daytime Club Larmer, Dish, Finn O'Brien, folk, Francesca Owen, FSC, Garden Stage, Glee, Goodnight Lenin, Guardian, Healing, Hit Me Baby (One More Time), Hollie McManus, James Acaster, Jeffrey Archer, Joe Bone, Joe Buirski, Jon Boden, Kidnap Alice, Kings of Leon, Lyrical Lostwood, Mama Rosin, My First Tooth, Ozomatli, poetry, Polly Malone, Russell Kane, Songlines, Sumi Senthi, Tai Chi, The Joker & The Thief, The Spree, Tom Leadbetter, Tom Wrigglesworth, Tunnel Vision, woodland, World Music, Yoga
- Larmer Tree Festival 2011 Review, Sunday: Show of Hands and the Recycled Safari Carnival
- Larmer Tree Festival 2011 Review, Thursday: Peacocks, Music, Comedy and more!
- Larmer Tree Festival 2011 Review, Saturday: Stornoway, Gabby Young, Caitlin Rose and Mud!
- Wood Festival 2011 Review: Goodnight Lenin, Thea Gilmore, Telling the Bees
- Bellowhead Live Performance Review