Live Review: Wilderness Festival (Day 1)

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We are lucky to live on the edge of the Cotswolds and on the fringes of the beautiful Cornbury Park Estate. Previously it was home to the Cornbury Festival, which was unfortunate in, for a few years, consistently having the worst musical line-up you could contrive to put together. It was a source of constant disappointment to us.

However, last year the Cornbury Festival thankfully moved on and in its place came Wilderness. Last year was a toe in the water triumph, and this year it is back bigger, better and about as eclectic as you can get, but best of all, in the blazing sunshine it postitively oozed bonhomie.

The musical headliners have been ramped up a notch with Wilco, Spiritualized, and Giant Giant Sand still to look forward to, but day one was all about soaking up the whole – from playing outdoor table tennis to watching the interactive live show of Bugsy Malone, which spilled over and out into all parts of the festival, and from watching beat poetry at midnight to playing a mass game of paper-scissors-stone and singing songs with molecular scientists about body clocks. Elsewhere we missed the record-breaking skinny-dipping attempt in one of the secret lakes and youngest Mackerel was disappointed to miss out on fashioning his own sword in the craft area.

Wilderness is not a music festival. It is a genuine festival of the arts where the music line-up is as good and as diverse as you’ll find at, well a music festival. And therein lies its appeal – as we wandered through the site last night there were events of every kind going on everywhere, and everything imbued with a genuine sense of fun and discovery. For the children it was magical – where else would one of the cast of Bugsy Malone, a flapper girl, wander over and ask (in character) if “you’d like to get into show-biz honey?

And the music, Willy Mason of course, making true on the promise of his forthcoming album, the brilliantly fizzing and sunny art-pop of King Charles, the good natured and smoky soul of  Lianne La Havas and then a stunning set of frothing folk, dub step and indie dance from the Crystal Fighters was the real treat of the day – like MGMT fighting in a sack with the Levellers. Finally the show-stopping Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings brought the ghost of Motown right back to centre stage, closing the night with their soul-stirring blend of R&B and funk.

A reviving cup of tea at the pre-school tent meant we had just enough energy to head home amongst the giant bubbles, shadow puppeteers, and chinese lanterns.

Download Willy Mason – Restless Fugitive (Daytrotter Session) mp3 (from Daytrotter Session)




Download Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Got A Thing On My Mind mp3 (from Dap Dippin’ With)

Download Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Wild Horses mp3 (from Sticky Soul Fingers – A Rolling Stones Tribute)

One thought on “Live Review: Wilderness Festival (Day 1)

  1. Wasn’t Wilderness 2012 just the greatest thing ever? If real life could be like Wilderness, it would be a kind of heaven. But the great thing is that the message of Wilderness is that life can be like that. It’s about appreciating talent and beauty and the countryside, and realising that all those things are all around us. I know I didn’t see as many main stage acts as you did – I wish I’d seen some more (e.g. Wilco, Grant Lee Buffalo), but there was so much going on elsewhere. The best moments for me came when I just took a wander and opened myself up to all the great stuff going on – so unlike the old stadium-rock format of the old Cornbury, as you say.

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