Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cornbury Festival, Charlbury, Oxfordshire Saturday July10th – Sunday July 12th 2009 (the music bit)

Being a relatively new festival there aren’t dozens of stages vying for your attention at Cornbury. In fact there’s just three – The Main Stage (good name there fellas), The Word Stage (sponsored by the magazine…although I saw no presence from them whatsoever) and The Riverside Stage. This makes planning your viewing pretty easy, in turn making the festival a lot more chilled out. The line up was suited to the target audience too, featuring a good wedge of well known, well established artists together with some up and coming talent on the smaller Riverside Stage. The weekend had more than enough musical highlights for me though – some from unexpected quarters. I’d kind of heard The Boy Least Likely To before (their ‘Be Gentle With Me’ track’s used on a TV ad of some sort…can’t remember what…that’s the power of advertising for you eh?), I might even have an album somewhere in my leaning towers of CD’s but they were a real treat. I guess you’d call them tweecore, musically there’s a touch of Too Rye Aye era Dexy’s to their sound these days plus the inevitable nod to the gods of twee, Belle and Sebastian. The banjo-tastic Saddle Up and When Life Gives Me Lemons I Make Lemonades were particular highlights. Perfect music for the English summer…which takes me nicely on to Dodgy…writers of arguably one of the greatest summer songs of all time, ‘Staying Out For The Summer’. I’ve been a fan of Dodgy since the early days and was chuffed when they made it big. I don’t hold with this current sniffiness about ‘Brit Pop’. Like all eras there were some great groups around then and some cracking tunes released. Dodgy were responsible for more than their fair share of them so it’s great to see the band back in their natural environment – on stage at a festival. They delivered a perfect greatest hits set together with a couple of lesser known tracks including ‘UK RIP’ and a new song, ‘New Deal’ about unemployment – both pretty timely these days. Lead singer Nigel also made a plea for people to remember our troops even if we don’t agree with the current war. It was pretty much the only political statement made during the entire festival but it underpins the fact that Dodgy always have made a stand for things that they believe in – from being arrested years ago for playing an Anti-Poll Tax show through to playing a shed load of benefit gigs over the years (including one for Crisis just a few weeks ago). Perhaps if more artists had as much integrity we wouldn’t be in the mess we are now eh? Perhaps the next generation would have more interest in engaging with the political system? Oh good grief I’m turning into Question Time…but you get the point. Anyway, a great set as ever. In fact I’d go as far to say that it was bostin.

Next up we enjoyed another summery set from The Magic Numbers featuring those blissful 60’s tinged harmonies that made the band’s name. Enjoyed a rare backstage view of the whole show courtesy of our Artists passes too (see the non-music bit for details).

Sharleen Spiteri anyone? I must admit I wasn’t really sure myself, Texas did some good tracks but I couldn’t remember that many of them after the first hit ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’ (which I actually bought back in…good lord…1989). She won me over pretty quickly though thanks to a cracking vocal. Great lords a mercy the girl can sing, she’s got a belting voice but with a real soulfulness. One by one I began to remember the hits too, her current band seemed to do them better. Plenty of brass and oomph. I could kind of see her doing a Dusty and releasing something classic pretty soon. Colour me surprised.

The final highlight of the day for me was seeing The Damned. From punk originals through to goth tinged covers they’ve always been an entertaining band and their set covered all bases, Captain Sensible even managed to slip a cheeky ‘Happy Talk’ into the set. Lead singer Dave Vanian still looks cool, now featuring a rather dapper ‘tache he could pass for a gothic Errol Flynn, and the crowd loved every minute of it. One or two even made a desperate attempt to get on to the stage at the end only to be taken down by the security guards. Who say punk’s dead eh? After catching some of Scouting For Girls we ended up dancing outside the Disco Shed having consumed our own weight in Pimms. Game over.

Day Two couldn’t quite compete with Day One but Cornwall’s 3 Daft Monkeys got things off to a fine start with a frantic set that would put The Levellers in a spin. Imelda May proved to be a real treat too, a jazzy, swingy 50’s style sexbomb featuring one of the dudes from Birmingham’s own King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boy (latterly of the awesome Palookaville) in her band. The strangest moment of the entire festival was seeing The New Forbidden (pictured) featuring vowel stretching pasta sauce king Loyd Grossman. Yes…I know. Incredibly he plays a pretty mean guitar and the band played a pop punk set that kept me interested enough to stick around for the whole show. Pretty catchy actually. Looking into this strange event it seems that our Loyd has some previous form here. In the last 70’s he was the lead singer of a punk band called Jet Bronx And The Forbidden who had a number 49 ‘hit’ single with a song called ‘Ain’t Doin’ Nothing’. Loyd no longer sings and the band now has a vocalist called Valentine. I have no idea what his background is...maybe he makes pasta? Ohhh hang on…the surname gives the game away…Guinness…yes that Guinness. The black stuff. Lawks a mercy. Maybe they should do a cover version of ‘Money, Money, Money’? Next up another blast from the past with The Lightning Seeds. Ian Broudie’s got a real knack for catchy pop songs like The Life of Riley, Pure and Sense but, predictably, the crowd wouldn’t let him escape without playing THAT tune. Let’s keep Three Lions under wraps until the England squad bloody win something now. Please.

Irish jazz folk legend Mary Couglan delivered an eclectic, rabble rousing set, liberally scattered (Father Ted style) with lot’s of ‘feck it’s’. She did a pretty haunting version of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ that only someone who’s lived a bit could really pull off. I don’t know a great deal about her back catalogue but I’ve marked her down for investigation. Continuing the Celtic flava Peatbog Faeries (pictured) combined electronica, bagpipes, fiddles, whistles and (probably) a kitchen sink too. On paper it sound like a bit of a hippy dippy mess but live it’s immensely enjoyable and I could swear I could feel the stirrings of my Scottish ancestry deep within. Finally, The Sugababes, although only one of the original band now remains – it probably doesn’t matter as you could replace any of them without doing much damage to ‘the brand’. I’m not being sniffy here but polished pop like this leaves little to chance. You can’t knock planet Sugababe, it’s clever stuff, accessible enough to appeal to a pretty wide demographic. Some of the tunes aren’t bad either – Overload, the Gary Numan sampling Freak Like Me, Round Round and Hole In The Head – all perfect pop. With Suga (and more than a little vodka) coursing through our veins we were on our way back to our tent when we got talking to a couple of mental health nurses just next to us. After talking bollocks in that festival way and polishing off a box of red followed by some hot chocolate and whiskey we finally made our damp £7.50 Tesco tent for 3am. Ouch. I have to say that I enjoyed Cornbury far more than I expected to. Whilst you don’t get the kind of diversity of Glasto or the cool of The Big Chill what you do get in spades is a really well organised event, a beautiful location and plenty of safe hands, musically speaking. It’s the perfect family fest, replete with tea and cake tents, a fun fair and a delicious hog roast in aid of the local school. What’s not to love about that eh? Now, I'm off to bed...oh bugger...no I'm not I'm off to see The Temper Trap at The Rainbow instead. Ah well, who needs sleep...or a liver.

PS: My thanks go to Math and Dodgy for putting us on their guestlist and the lovely folk at The Cornbury Festival for having us.

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