Every year for the last few years my other half and me join a few friends for Wilderness Festival, an event spanning four days and a wide array of cultural activities: music, spoken word, theatre, dance, swimming in the lake, a very silly cricket match, and lots of nice food and drink. Also, being in a field outside somewhere in Oxfordshire, the cell network can’t cope with the sudden influx of 30000 mobile phones and you have no Internet access for most the event, so you can just switch off and immerse yourself in all the fun thing on offer.
What’s on music-wise varies from year to year. In particular, there’s one stage (this year called The Hereafter Stage) which seems to get a very different set of programming each year, so hasn’t always been to my tastes; but this year it was mostly focussed around blues rock, so Laura and I spent a lot of time hanging out there. Pretty much all the bands were small up and coming bands, none of which I’d heard of before, but now I’m slowly working my way through the list I build up. Here’s a few of the 17 bands we saw over the weekend that I recommend you check out, just in the order I saw them, so you can make up your own mind about which ones are the best.
- Elles Bailey is a great blues vocalist and made a great start to the festival with her songs
- Cosmic Strip were more psych-rock than blues-rock, but their general spirit fit in well on the Hereafter stage. Sonically very different to most things we listened to, with more ambient sounds and delays segueing to more straight rock, but great stuff all the same. They also did a cover of a Dandy Warhols song, which is a sure fire way to seal the deal for a big Dandy’s fan like myself.
- John Fairhurst did some amazing solo guitar work, just him and his resonator guitar, lots of blues textured fingerpicking songs, often without lyrics but still very captivating (which solo guitar can be quite hit and miss with). We unfortunately missed his electric set later on the last day, but definitely a very talented guitarist worth checking out.
- True Strays are a crazy bunch: we saw them late afternoon, after they’d driven up from Brighton starting out at 6am having just finished a festival they were hosting, and still put on a rocking show full of energy. More at the rock end of blues rock, it was still great music with heart; their singer/guitarist rocked some great slide guitar on another resonator guitar. They’ve just put out an EP on band camp, so you can go listen to that.
- Whiskey Shivers are a five piece from Austin, TX that describe themselves as Trashgrass. For their last two songs, having already done a high energy set that got the crowd on their feet, they got off stage and into the crowd and just played acoustically, finishing with a gentle rendition of Daneil Johnston’s True Love Will Find You In The End, which was such a touching way for the last act of our festival to end.