Under The Sea: Larmer Tree festival review 2012

Photographed by Catherine Mason

Larmer Tree Festival took place on the 11 – 15 of July, 2012. This festival review has been written for the Psychedelic Press by Catherine Mason and she gives us a family perspective on the weekend’s events.

The Under the Sea fancy dress theme at this year’s Larmer Tree Festival, which took place on the 11-15 of July, couldn’t have been more appropriate. Yet despite being dogged by a near on constant downpour Larmer Tree ran smooth as silk with something that got all members of the family excited.

The big names headlining at this year’s festival: The Levellers, Roots Manuva, Paloma Faith, Caravan Palace, show how this festival is moving into the ranks of the not-to-be-missed.  A firm favourite on the family festival circuit, this smallish countryside fest is sponsorship free and only sells 4000 tickets so the organisers have the flexibility to do whatever they want inside their own Victorian playground.  And it shows.  The wealth and diversity of music, comedy, workshops and theatre in such a small space was so refreshing I nearly wept.

“Which stage is Tim Minchin on?” I asked a bright-eyed barmaid, “THE stage” she replied.  Amazing! With the mud bath well and truly established by the end of day one, I was not looking forward to the great trudge to the back-side of beyond to get a glimpse of a ruthlessly teased Barnett from a quarter of a mile away.  When I arrived, a thigh burning 200 yards from the beer tent, the crowd, I thought, was the most civilised one I have ever seen; obligingly collapsing their umbrellas so that everyone in the audience gets a good view. With their Barbour jackets and Hunter wellies this crowd had nothing to fear.

First up to get excited about on ‘THE’ brand new Pringle-like main stage was the Australian musician, composer, songwriter, actor, comedian and writer, Tim Minchin. He belted out his own brand of rock on his grand piano.  Favourites, for me, included: ‘The Pope Song’, into which Tim managed to squeeze the word ‘fuck’ 160 times, as well as a hit from the West End musical “Matilda” that he co-wrote.  His style was unique and his open, vociferous attacks on prejudice, racism, environmental abuse and generally anything appalling made us all roar.  A firm friend of the Aussie’s, Paloma Faith, was a popular choice too. She bewitched a crowd of thousands with her ‘I-am-so-not-too-cool-for-school’ self-depreciation act and she enchanted the masses by, oddly, singing about her cellulite.

Friday was all about folk and funk.  Dub Pistols and The Levellers – sweethearts of the Larmer Tree – followed by the legendary DJ Derek who is drastically cutting back on his hectic touring schedule having just turned 70.  I love him more and more.

Saturday night’s show stoppers were Caravan Palace. I never used to make a bee line for electro swing and gypsy jazz but I do now.  Fiery vocals and extraordinary musical talents from this self-contained Parisian party hit top note with the crowds who, despite being at one with the ground by this point, jumped the highest I’d seen. We rounded Sunday off with a tempestuous Roots Manuva and his own reggae-fuelled brand of entertainment.

This being an award-winning festival for families, I took some time to try it out on the family.  My two are still pretty small, being only two and four, so we were denied access to the Youth Zone with its beatbox theatre workshops and jamming sessions. It’s always reassuring to see clusters of kids knocking about festivals on their own, but having such a popular, dedicated “zone” means everyone can do their own thing, in their own space.  I must admit, I scoffed a bit at some of the activities for little ones, pita bread workshops, really? But with face painting and hair braiding on offer my guys were chuffed as nuts with their lot.   They also loved the ‘tree listening’ session, oh yes. They listened to the movements of water from within trees while they pissed about with really smart looking ear phones.

In my old age I am a convert to the smaller, quality, festivals and this one was right up my street.  It has award-winning flushing loos and is very relaxed with a family-friendly atmosphere. The diverse line up was impressive and being able to walk from side of the festival to the other in 500 paces meant the rain didn’t matter, one bit.

Bring on 2013 I say.

Via the House

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