Call me Russ L

The 2015 Festival Of Music Festivals #1: The Lunar Festival

Posted in Music by Russ L on 20 June, 2015

(Added subsequently: As may be obvious from the format of this post, it was due to be the first of a series in which I wrote about all of the festival-type music events that I went to in year. It didn’t progress any further, because I am lazy).

So what was all this then?

The Lunar Festival took place between the 5th and 7th of June, at the Umberslade Estate in the very posh Warwickshire village of Tanworth-In-Arden (Nick Drake’s hometown, don’tchaknow). It doesn’t really have too tight a theme, but there is a sort of folk-y prog-y hippy-ish vibe to the entire affair. This is only the third one, and only the second that I’d been to – I went to one day of the 2012 one (it was very cold and there weren’t very many people there), but since then they had a year off in 2013 and I missed 2014. I really enjoyed myself, although we ended up leaving before the last band on each day (a shame in the cases of Tinariwen – although I have seen them twice before – and Public Service Broadcasting. Not a shame at all in the case of The Bootleg Pigging Beatles).

Which things that were better than “That was quite good”?

~ Gigantic Woodbird: Aw, the Gigantic Woodbird was lovely. Its inevitable fate was a bit sad, but I liked it. There were also bipedal animals around the place all weekend, seemingly led by Crow and Stag. You also had Badger, Fox etc. This will become important later.

~ The Commentators: I really do believe that there is no public event that would not be improved by having Stan’s Café deliver running commentary.

~ Zervas & Pepper: CrosbyStillsandNashandYoungicespialadocious, even though the sound of it is something quite… lovely, actually.

~ Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin: I’d always assumed that I wouldn’t like Goblin, just from the way that people talked about them. How wrong I was. Heavy keyboard riffs a-plenty, with some quite metally bits and some quite funky bits too. Not as spooky and eerie as I’d assumed old-timey horror film soundtracks would be, but I’m entirely happy to admit that I don’t really know whereof I speak when it comes to that sort of thing.

~ The Fall: The band create fantastic rhythms, propulsive and insistent. Mark E. Smith oafishly groans “WARG BLARG ZARG” (or noises to that effect) over the top. I do think they’d probably be better off without him.

~ Jane Weaver: Ace. Focussing on the recent spacerock-y stuff rather than the older folky stuff, she floated beautifully over those controls that were set for the heart of the sun. One of the highlights, just as she’s been one of my favourite listens of late.

~ Mark Radcliffe & Galleon Blast: I will point out here (as I always point out when I get the chance) that Mark Radcliffe’s “Showbusiness” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read in my life. Galleon Blast were great pirate-y fun, too, particularly when I could actually get into the tent (lots and lots of people were interested. They probably should’ve been on the main stage). “The Theme From Captain Pugwash” was a highlight. Radcl-O was fun as a compère all day, too (certainly better at the job than certain other BBC DJs found at other related festivals *coughMoseleyFolkcough* *coughJaniceLongcough* hint hint hint).

~ My Brightest Diamond: I initially thought (upon returning back from the over-running Galleon Blast) “Ooh, a synthpop Carina Round”. Lots of other elements came in as the set progressed, and I started to think “Ooh, maybe (just maybe) what I actually want current-day Carina Round to be”. Anyone who knows me will know how strong that praise is. It’s a “maybe”, though.

~ Kawa Circus: I really wanted to see their Floriferocity performance, due to the “Alice” connection (one of my minor obsessions), but there was a switcharoo for some reason and I ended up seeing the traditional Rajasthani circus performance instead. Some of the tightrope tricks went a bit wrong and I didn’t follow the narrative elements at all (my problem, not theirs), but it was fun to watch.

~ Pretty Things: – I didn’t really know all that much about them. I really should have (and I will put right this woeful ignorance, particularly after this great set). Like a fried r’n’b-ed up version of The Kinks, before spinning off sideways into hippy-psych fun. And then off sideways again into an extended Bo Diddley sequence.

~ Wilko Johnson: Reports of his death have been greatly etc. Hugely enjoyable (and exceptionally tight) hard-edged r’n’r/r’n’b, but the best bit were the facial expressions. Wilko was casting around murderous looks left right and centre, whilst Norman Watt-Roy… I do not know what the facial expressions of Norman Watt-Roy can be described as.

~ Föllakzoid: I was not aware that Zun Zun Egui had fallen off the line-up until the compère said so immediately before they were due to play (I still don’t know why) (EDIT: Ah, nuts, they’ve split up), and that was a particular disappointment given that they were one of the bands that I was most eagerly looking forward to. Happily, their short-notice replacements Follakzoid turned out to be A-to-the-mazing. Neu! gone dubby, perhaps? That would be too boring a description. I prefer to imagine that the relentless groove of their music pushed me forward a week into an alternate universe version of the Supersonic Festival, where the bass met the Komische met the incongruous between-song references to Sepultura. This was all fine by me. Only the fact that it was taking place in a field in rural Warwickshire posed any sort of conceptual challenge. They seemed to win over quite a lot of other folks too, incidentally, but possibly not in the same way.

~ Rhino & The Ranters: Yeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaa, up-tempo (and ever so slightly punky) bluegrass with sufficient energy and enthusiasm and sense-of-fun to spare. Again, it seemed as though a lot of people were having trouble getting into the tent (I managed to swerve my way in at the front, though, like a proper Man-With-No-Name cowboy).

~ The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Wow. What a time in which to live, when we can see the BBC Radiophonics Workshop playing live. Using actual instruments, though! I can’t help but feel that Delia would have been disappointed with that. I couldn’t be disappointed by incidental music from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, with “Telstar” or particularly (of course) with the theme from “Doctor Who”.

~ RM Hubbert: Auld R.M. Hubbert/Sat in a cubbert/drinkin’ his bottle o’ Bucky/Along came a wee gadgie/He said “Ah, ya pure radgie”/And I’ll end this rhyme now if you’re lucky.

~ Benajmin Folke Thomas: Affable American troubadour-style folk from a Swedishman for whom folk(e) is his middle name. He had a very affable manner as well as nice music and a lovely joke about an ice-cream man. Actually (upon thinking about it) ‘affability’ was a theme of the day, between the singer of Rhino & The Ranters (is his name ‘Rhino’? He should have joined the bipedal animal crew), R.M. Hubbert, B.F. Thomas, and…

~ Julian Cope: There had actually been a little drone flying around all weekend, filming from on high. I was really hoping that it might hover into view in front of Cope-O, solely due the likelihood of him hilariously freaking out at the sight of it. Imagine it now – he’d throw his hands into the air, wiggle his fingers, scream “OH LORDY-LORD THE ALIENS ARE HERE!” and run for his life. None of that happened, sadly. He’s occasionally a bit of a nobhead but a tremendously affable and entertaining one, who could go on for days with his anecdotes if needs be. He kept using the phrase “psychedelically informed” with an air of superiority, though, and things that took place shortly later showed just how small his lysergic worldview really is.

~ The Sun Ra Arkestra: Oh my life, Marshall Allen is 91. The fact that he’s still blowing his saxophone with such gusto is surely evidence that their knowledge and understanding of the celestial balance must be true and correct. You have a solid grooving bedrock with the out-there lunacy over the top, of course, akin perhaps to a solid base of gravity keeping big ol’ rocks in regular orbit around a star and enabling the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life to arise on the surface of (at least) one of them. The music, as I gather they say, of the spheres. At the end of their set, they left the stage for…

~ The procession: … the nicest imaginable version of “The Wicker Man”. The bipedal animals who’d been around all weekend led the procession, followed by the Sun Ra Arkestra (with gentle brass and drums) and a mini-choir. They advanced up to the aforementioned Gigantic Woodbird and then (to my slight surprise) on past, continuing to the Helter-Skelter in the top field. The animals went up and around/down, before returning to Gigantic Woodbird, who was promptly torched while the animals danced and the band played on. It felt like a shame, but as Gigantic Woodbird’s entropy was accelerated and its heat energy returned to the cosmos I began to understand why all of this needed to take place. That sun, those big ol’ rocks, all the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life, all the happy animals, and even the wise Arkestramen with all their understanding… all will eventually succumb to the beautiful universality of heat death. Entropy will increase chaos until there is nothing but. All will be one and one will be infinitely varied.

What could have been better?

A few more bins (and recycling). A lot more space for the second stage (the Bimble Inn tent was quite cool, but often not big enough for the number of people who wanted to see some of the bands playing in there). A heck of a lot more Zun Zun Egui. Fewer cold periods on the first two days. A heck of a lot fewer Bootleg Tossing Beatles.

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