Words: Simon Opie
A few weeks ago, I went to the most boutique of boutique festivals at a secret location in the woods. In fact it was not far from the secret location where I live. At first glance the In The Woods line-up didn’t look to be exactly my kind of thing but the weekend turned into a very rewarding voyage of discovery. It really is in the woods and the laid-back vibe and smallish, friendly crowd make this a festival I can highly recommend.
The In The Woods Festival also has a secret headliner (which three years back was Alt-J) but the Friday night was headlined by Laura Marling performing a solo acoustic set. Having just been out recording a new album and not playing live for eight months, it was a somewhat ring-rusty effort. As she admitted herself, she could have practised but her rapport with the crowd and the magical setting carried the occasional muddy chord.
Saturday was the main event and the aptly named Quarry Stage kicked off in earnest with a terrific set from Shopping. I was really impressed with their energy and songwriting, and guitarist/vocalist Rachel Aggs is as dynamic and talented a front woman as you could wish for.
Shopping were followed by some RnB from a young man called Kyan – who will definitely make an impact for those who are into that particular genre. I stepped across to the Laurel Lounge stage to catch the entertainingly eccentric Ichi making songs inspired by insects and other animals using an eclectic mix of instruments and noises.
Then next up at the Quarry were Temple Songs from Manchester with some psych rock of the highest order. Their off-kilter melodies and angular riffs were just the right side of grating and their set built to a nice climax. Great stuff.
Nao, playing only her second ever gig, soon had the crowd on their feet and in the palm of her hand with her dance oriented electro pop. For such a newcomer, her poise and stage presence was rather remarkable. I’m sure she’ll go far.
Compere John Kennedy planned to have his first beer listening to the alt-rock of Francobollo and you’d have to say it was a perfect choice. Francobollo is Italian for postage stamp as their bearded and slightly mad frontman – reminiscent of a euro Kurt Cobain – frequently reminded us. He then went on to emphasise that the band were four fifths Swedish and had no Italian connection other than their name. Tremendous songs played with swagger and a crazed energy reminiscent of fellow Scandinavians Kvelertak, this was definitely a set to drink beer to. Hugely enjoyable. Like most of the bands here their debut album is just recently released.
As the evening drew in, Kate Tempest took the stage and took the place apart. Made even more topical since by her Mercury Prize nomination, I couldn’t really understand why she didn’t headline. Especially as she was followed by notional headliners Glass Animals, who played a quite dull and earnest set of derivative indie. Kate opened with an a capella rap on the state of the nation that was quite astoundingly good but far from uplifting in its analyses of UK Plc. Joined by her skeletal band, she then ripped into a selection from her new album and the controlled anger and aggression coupled with having something serious and perceptive to say made for a compelling listen. I wished she could have played for longer but technical problems meant things were running late and her set finished all too soon.
After the aforementioned Glass Animals’ anonymous set, mystery headliner Toddla T took the stage and despite having only 20 minutes to curfew, which he extended to 35, he managed to compress his set into one amazingly high energy burst that provided a rousing conclusion to proceedings. Much frenzied dancing ensued.
So a very worthwhile trip to the woods concluded and I compliment the organisers on their powers of organisation and the perspicacity of their line up selection. Lots of newcomers from whom I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. Nice way to say goodbye to summer.
Find more info at inthewoodsfestival.co.uk. Contact Simon on @nzgater or altrock(at)fadedglamour.co.uk.