Shaun Mooney reports on the highlights from this year’s In The Woods Festival, which scooped the coveted Golden Welly accolade at last night’s AIM Awards.
1. Lianne La Havas, The Quarry Stage, Friday
What a way to kick off a festival! Lianne La Havas first graced the In The Woods’ line-up back in 2011 so it was a welcome return for the folk and soul chanteuse. Her set was high energy, sung from the heart, and had the crowd packed out to the treelines that skirt the stage. The icing on the cake was the new material she treated us to. She bashfully admitted that it wasn’t finished, but sounded as though she’d been performing it for years. A true talent.
2. Silent disco
Where do you go when all of the acts have played but you’re not quite ready for bed yet? The silent disco of course! A great way to expend that excess energy that you didn’t quite burn off swaying to folk music, silent discos are also hilarious when you take off your headphones and listen to a drunken crowd completely bludgeon classics with slurred consonants and missing lyrics. However, everyone knew the words to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and lost their minds when that dropped.
3. Sivu, The Quarry Stage, Saturday
I recently saw Sivu at Camden Barfly and remarked to myself that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by that man’s tender voice and heart-crushing lyrics. He was accompanied by half of Raven, the all-female violin quartet, whose strings beautifully underpinned that set, so I was chuffed they were also in tow for In The Woods. The festival set topped anything I had heard from him before. There is something, dare I say it, ethereal and otherworldly about the setting of In The Woods and sounds just sound… different. Better. More hard-hitting. So suitably moved I was.
4. My best friend’s cooking
You know you’re camping with someone of Italian blood when she shuns the typical festival staples of burgers and falafel and instead produces a frying pan and fresh produce from her pack. My best friend Emma never travels without homegrown basil and some garlic, and so for lunch she made a simple but delicious pasta dish to prepare us for the day ahead. Yum.
5. Young Fathers, The Quarry Stage, Saturday
Picture this: an alt-rap trio that effortlessly fluctuate between Boyz II Men and a male version of Gaggle, with heaps more scuzzy guitars and synths. This trio from Edinburgh rap like they’re straight out of Harlem and I can safely say I’ve never seen anything like them before. These three boys could surely outdance anyone at Notting Hill Carnival.
6. The art and design curation
Okay, so technically it’s not a ‘top moment’, but a large part of what makes In The Woods so magical and fun is the art that decorates the site and hangs from the trees. There’s something slightly different every year; last year there were giant monster head sculptures that you could try on, and this year there were windmill music boxes. There was even a giant-sized box of matches constructed from cardboard propped up against the bonfire. It’s the little things that make a festival.
7. Fimber Bravo, The Laurel Lounge, Saturday
I’ve never really thought of the steel drum as a mainstream instrument, but Fimber Bravo wants to change all that. He recently put out his debut album on Moshi Moshi, and wants the world to embrace the steel pan. His songs don’t quite follow the traditional linear structure of crescendos and denouements, and there were very few lyrics in his set, but instead lots of steel drum and heavy, brooding synths. Definitely worth a listen.
8. Drenge, The Quarry Stage, Saturday
I haven’t liked grunge or thrash rock since I was 13, but a one drummer, one guitarist combo from Yorkshire could have me convinced otherwise. Drenge completely tore up The Quarry Stage with thrashy riffs and some of the best drumming I have seen in a long time (I am convinced the drummer is a double-jointed octopus in a man costume).
9. Ghostpoet, The Quarry Stage, Saturday
Laurel Collective and the organisers of In The Woods were a sneaky bunch by not announcing this year’s line-up in advance. However, even when they told everyone on-site, they still kept the headline act to themselves. So when In The Woods compere John Kennedy introduced Ghostpoet onto the stage, you can imagine the cheering and whooping. Nobody likes having the ‘difficult’ second album hanging over them, but Ghostpoet turned it out for his sophomore set Some Say I So I Say Light. The London artist translated the new tracks into a live setting brilliantly, as well as slipping in old classic Cash and Carry Me Home, much to the crowd’s delight. Ever the humble artist, he was taken aback by the applause and remarked as a born and bred Londoner, playing in the woods was really quite special (‘You’ve got trees, man’).
10. The bonfire
The bonfire is a tradition at In The Woods. The festival itself takes place at the last weekend of the summer, so the whole event feels a bit like a pagan holiday, a farewell party for the sun with music and gaiety. And what would a pagan festival be without a bonfire? Staring into the flames with several hundred people around you, there’s a sort of shared consciousness; you’re sad the festival is over but you’re so very glad you came.
You can read our interview with Laurel Collective, who organise In The Woods, here.
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