In The Woods Festival
added: 17 Sep 2012
// gig date: 17 Sep 2012
reviewer: Daisy Jones
Now on its seventh year, In the Woods festival is one of those hidden gems that haven’t yet been tarnished; something you’re excited to be a part of before someone chops all the trees down and builds a strobed-up stage to hold N-dubz. However, organisers are keen to avoid this, currently only releasing around 750 tickets, claiming that their festival is the furthest thing away from “warm pints of foamy Carling in a corporate mud bath”
In reality, In the Woods festival feels like something between a countryside getaway, a school trip and a drug trip. It’s tucked away literally in the woods in an undisclosed secret location in Kent (Ok, it’s Staplehurst) and is only reachable by a rickety shuttle bus driven down narrow winding lanes by a woman with an orange mullet and a questionable sat nav.
Created and curated by the band Laurel Collective, the festival really does feel like a gathering of friends, in the best way possible. It consists of two small stages and a silent disco, among which dangles misty dim lanterns, pieces of pastel cloth and trees that look as though they have been grown to sit on. Never have I felt so inclined to sleep on a log. But who needs to sleep on a log when there are hammocks draping from the dipping trees and a bonfire so huge and enchanting you really do need to stop yourself from going all weird and free-dancing or something. And if that wasn’t trippy enough, this year included a selection of incredible conceptual art including an interactive mad hatters tea party in which you couldn’t be sure who were actors and who were guests. One woman, who introduced herself as Ruby Fox, with red pouting lips and a slippery handshake whined that we really should come and see her at the folk tent later as she was worried nobody was going to turn up. It was only when being served imaginary tea by a woman in a patent black dress and an apron did I realize that there was no folk tent. And so off we trotted, past a slingshot the size of a small car which was casually leaning up against a tree (what of it?) to see the range of bands that this year had to offer, in an enclosure surrounded by forest.
Barney Hooper from PRS for Music recently told The Evening Standard: ‘What will keep the festivals market going is innovation: new festivals that are genre-specific in comedy, film and art — not just music.’ This is what makes In the Woods festival so appealing. Instead of slogging from stage to stage, planning what to do next on the timetable, this festival experience is one unto itself and it’s all encompassing. Even the journey to the port-a-loo is a bit of an adventure after a few cheap ciders and half a mushroom.
Although the festival is abundant in conceptual art and creativity it is also very much a classic music festival at heart. This year included an eclectic mix of independent musicians such as Alt-j,( who’s proliferating success has seen them play at anywhere that’s anywhere this year), Fiction, Kwes, AlunaGeorge, Stealing Sheep, Dog is dead and of course the band behind the festival – Laurel Collective. Many of the artists who played this year had previously performed at In The Woods well before their careers took off (Those Alt-j guys again). Just sayin.
Having never seen the duo AlunaGeorge perform before, they were truly brilliant with an energetic and flawless set, with this kind of catchy 90’s R&B vibe going on. The bright pink lighting, beautiful synths and vocals made for mesmerizing viewing and cemented In The Woods festival as perfect as festivals go, and AlunaGeorge an incredible live act. Before their set, we bumped into a nervous Aluna Francis in the dancing crowd, but after coming off stage she shouted “I literally wanna take every person out of that crowd home with me!” Yes!
Peter and Kerry were also another brilliant live act, playing in the lazy afternoon sun as we watched on from a pile of leaves and twigs. They performed most of the songs from their recently released debut album La Trimouille’ most of which was (sometimes gentle) electro-pop with witty and blunt lyricism. It was the perfect set for the move from day to night, and by the end of their set they’d already attracted the tipsy masses as the atmosphere was on the edge of changing.
By the time the hotly anticipated Alt-J played their set, some of the crowd had resorted to dangling from tree’s in order to catch a glimpse. Playing songs mostly from their new album An Awesome Wave, their performance was nothing but haunting and they exuded energy. Speaking to Bang Tidy Music they said “I felt it in my groin it was that great.” And that just sums it up; not only about their set but In The Woods festival as a whole. It was as perfect a festival experience as one can hope to come by. Tickets are perhaps harder to get than the bigger festivals but at adult tickets priced at only £50, I will be getting mine every single year.
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