I admit it, I’m a music festival lover and attend at least one a year normally, from Download to Glasto to Reading, I look at them every year with delight.
This year, after looking through festival to festival, I came to the conclusion that we are pretty-much being ripped off for our music festivals and it’s a shame. Year to year, they seem to have got more expensive and more driven by money-making machines – last year, I paid to go to Download and it was one of the worst experiences of my life, having spent nearly £500 on a single, crummy day. So, this year, I looked for something a bit different and came across this wonderful organisation – Leefest.
After starting off as a ‘house festival’ in Beckenham in 2006, Leefest has come a long way. Having been funded, this year, from a Kickstarter project, Lee Denny’s (organiser) community has grown from 150 friends to roughly 5,000 fans as part of the growth of the independent festival. With an ethos including fun, organic growth, non-profit, opportunities for unsigned acts and a friendly community, I knew I was going to be in for a good day.
Leefest showcases some of the best musical talent in Bromley, South London and this year is no different with bands playing such as The Noisettes, King Charles, To Kill a King, By the Rivers, The Lost Cavalry and Professor Penguin. They also sponsor a different charity every year, this year being the Kids Company, working with children in London. To find out how you can support them, see here.
I attended the Saturday and upon arriving was immediately hit with the atmosphere. Leefest felt unique as soon as I met with the welcome artwork and wristband check. It was by far the smallest festival I have ever been to but it made up for this in its character and clear community that the organisation had help foster. Normally, at a festival, you are hounded by the odd drunk person and squished into boiling tents but there was none of this uncomfortableness here. You always felt like you had enough room to breathe and someone who you could randomly strike up conversation with, just sitting next to you, enjoying the laid back vibe this festival creates.
Starting off the day with a cool, delicious Strawberry and Lime Rekorderling, priced at least half the cost of those at a larger festival, I watched The Lost Cavalry on the main stage from the bar… this was a treat in the 30 degree heat! The charming folk band helped set the mid-morning scene – relaxed, friendly and unendingly cheerful, as campers from the night before wandered into the festival area looking for their morning bacon buttie.
After sweltering under the sun for a couple of hours and gradually turning into a tomato, I enjoyed the music from both the main stage and the Colin Denny Lava Lounge. This included the Placebo-esque Charles Anonymous. I then wandered around the site looking at the visual and performance artists as I went, over to Wonderland’s Wonder Sands to listen to the DJs playing tunes from Paul Simon and Phil Collins. Sitting on the haystacks surrounding the makeshift beach and paddling pool, filled with both children and party-goers alike, you could really take in your surroundings and appreciate just how special this place is (with a cider and peanut butter ice cream aswell). Everyone here looked they were having the time of their lives, with smiles on their faces.
Mid-afternoon I made my way to a rammed Professor Penguin set, yes, I went to see them because of their name. I made my way to the front and watched as the seven-piece won over the crowd with their vocal harmonies and good-natured commentary. Playing a mix of old classics from ‘Planes’ and a couple of new tracks from their forthcoming album, it’s fair to say this was one of the best performances I’d seen all day.
As the temperature cooled slightly and the smell of the most delicious Thai noodles filled the air, it was time to welcome on the act that I had been waiting for – King Charles. Having just discovered the half glam rock – half indie act, I was glad to see this singer/songwriter on the line-up. After the release of Loveblood, which has sported many a sing-a-long classic with lyrics that could stand the test of time (in my opinion) it was great to see him live for the first time in all his glory.
Lastly, as the sun went down on Highams Hill Farm and the main stage crowd began to swell, The Noisettes took to the stage with a killer set list showcasing why they really were top of the bill after seven years in the biz. Seeing them back in the ‘early days’, supporting Muse at Wembley Arena, it was easy to see that they had really come into their own.
Shoniwa dominated with her shocking and colourful flair, as her idols Hendrix and Bowie would have done before her, their performance was enthralling. Cracking out the classic No.2 UK hit ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm’, everyone recognised who they were and began dancing along in the cooler night air. By ‘Never Forget You’, it’s fair to say they had younger and older fans in the palm of their hand. It was great to see that after all this time, this powerful and provocative band still have much more to give.
The perfect end to a wonderful, awe-inspiring day.