Gabby Young and Stephen Ellis at Larmer Tree. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
By Saturday the rain had well and truly settled in at Larmer Tree Festival and it was quite a struggle to get out of the tent.
Our first stop was Daytime Club Larmer for the second part of Bane, which was equally as much fun as the first episode. Apparently there is a third one kicking about too and if you are going to Secret Garden Party this weekend then you will get a chance to see it! Well jel.
Overnight a host of art installations had sprung up around the Larmer Tree Gardens, including this magical bottle top Chameleon by Fiona Campbell…
…and a peacock hut inspired by a poem called The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon Sinkinson, a tale of a poor boy who asks the advice of a peacock on how to win the heart of the girl he loves. How? Under the Larmer Tree of course! Simon is a thatcher as well as an artist, and he was also responsible for the ten hidden miniature woodland doorways dotted around the site. Sadly I didn’t find any myself.
At the Mis(Guided) Protest by Fuse these girls were bearing placards with slogans such as Processed Cheese, Yes Please and Bunting for All Ages. Worth protesting for I’m sure you’ll agree. I do find it intriguing that protest has become ripe for artistic intervention – wherein ‘revolutionary rhetoric’ is rendered utterly banal.
The Oxjam stage was hosting an open mic when we wandered in and I caught the tail end of Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart duetting with Rosie Doonan (I sadly missed her own slot). Beautiful folk harmonies, and great yellow wellies!
Pete Lawrie is a Cardiff based singer songwriter who nearly played on my Climate Camp stage at Glastonbury last year but had to pull out with a throat infection at the last minute, so I was excited to finally hear him properly. Since then he’s released an album and gained an enthusiastic following for his soulful singalong folk. His easy banter explained the premise of songs, including one dedicated to all those who’ve worked in shit jobs at petrol stations. At this show it was really brought home to me just how impossible it is to place a sound anymore – he may be Welsh but Pete’s music, as with most musicians now, boasts a host of international influences.
On the Garden Stage Nashville born Caitlin Rose lucked out with a bit of brilliant sunshine for her lush country-influenced tales of love and loss. Americana never sounded so good: I particularly loved the laid back dude on the steel pedals. Read our interview with Caitlin Rose.
I’m not sure if the Bill and Ben Flowerpot Men were meant to be performance art or extreme fancy dress but who cares when they look this fab?!
Over at the Wishing Tree I took a few moments to read through the fabric wishes. The most striking thing was the amount of wishes that children should grow up to be healthy and happy – another indication of the demographic at this family friendly festival.
A festival favourite: Moustache on a Stick.
Gabby Young by Gilly Rochester.
Gabby Young was accompanied by boyfriend Stephen Ellis at the ARC, dressed, as usual, with impeccable style (with a little help from Amelia’s Magazine contributor Katie Antoniou – the lilac striped dress cost £7 on ebay). Her opera trained voice sounded as beautiful as ever, and she closed the set by leading the captivated crowd in a rousing singalong of We’re All In This Together. This was Gabby’s only festival appearance this summer because she’s busy working on a new album. Very excited about that.
Film critic Mark Kermode performed some well arranged covers and plenty of old sounding new songs with his band The Dodge Brothers for the early evening slot at the Garden Stage, entertainment geared towards those who had dressed up for the 50s themed fancy dress parade.
But it was Stornoway that I was most looking forward to on Saturday (read our pre-Larmer Tree interview) and they didn’t disappoint. Classic tunes such as Zorbing and Here Comes the Blackout from album Beachcomber’s Windowsill were played with great gusto – the guest violinist perched like a mascot at the top of the stage. Stornoway manage that masterful trick of combining folk elements and great song writing to create a new and instantly recognisable sound of their own.
Stornoway by Meg McCarthy.
Lead singer Brian Briggs had a slightly deadpan style of banter so it took me awhile to understand his comment about picking up two small buoys from a Stornoway beach to include in their act. What I hadn’t anticipated, climbing into the photographer’s pit, was just what a boyband Stornoway are. The audience was a sea of screaming teenage girls disappearing into the horizon… and they all seemed to want one particular band member: ever so cute drummer ROBBIEEEEEEE, owner of the aforementioned buoys and brother of equally cute guitarist Oli Steadman. The signing tent afterwards was a seething mass of prepubescent excitement that any sane adults had clearly balked at joining.
For the finale Stornoway released a couple of giant Prisoner-esque white balloons into the audience to bounce about over our heads. The band liked one of my twitpics so much that they posted it on their website. A wonderful set and one of my festival highlights.
Over at the Big Top the ever so smiley Vieux Farka Touré finally took to the stage for his delayed performance (passport problem apparently). He’s an exceptionally gifted guitarist from Mali… the son of renowned musician Ali Farka Touré, and purveyor of that unique Mali sound: an adept blend of Western rock riffs and traditional African beats that have given him the moniker of the African Jimi Hendrix. Best of all Vieux Farka Touré was totally laid back and made it all look so utterly simple to play the guitar with such skill. Maybe not quite so rock and roll then! His drummer looked about 12 years old but played an amazing beatdown on a large halved gourd for the encore.
From the back of the packed main stage we caught the tail end of Asian Dub Foundation, who provided a suitably energetic party vibe for Saturday night.
Finally we headed back to the ARC for our daily dose of comedy, compered by kid’s TV presenter Iain Stirling. Gareth Richards attracted some drunken heckles, which he bashed off admirably… but I have to say they weren’t totally undeserved. Mediocre.
Headline act was ‘old git’ Arthur Smith, who did a sturdy routine of well rehearsed classic one-liners before ending the show with his pants down.
50s, African Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Toure, ARC, Arthur Smith, Asian Dub Foundation, Bane, Beachcomber's Windowsill, Big Top, Bill and Ben Flowerpot Men, Brian Briggs, Buoys, Caitlin Rose, cardiff, Chameleon, comedy, country, Daytime Club Larmer, Fancy Dress, Fiona Campbell, folk, gabby young, Garden Stage, Gareth Richards, Gary Stewart, Gilly Rochester, Iain Stirling, Katie Antoniou, Mali, Mark Kermode, Meg McCarthy, Mis(Guided) Protest by Fuse, Moustache on a Stick, Nashville, Old Git, Oli Steadman, Oxjam, Pete Lawrie, rock, Rosie Doonan, Simon Sinkinson, Stephen Ellis, Stornoway, The Dodge Brothers, The Prisoner, The Thatcher and The Peacock, Vieux Farka Toure, Wishing Tree
- Stornoway talk about playing at the 2011 Larmer Tree Festival, 13th-17th July in Dorset
- 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, Friday: Bellowhead, Russell Kane, Yoga, Bane
- Gabby Young describes the making of the video for new single Walk Away