The first ever Good Weekend festival took place on 22-23rd July 2011 in the green fields of Hampshire. A truly independent festival, put together by a group of friends with the vision of creating their own event after attending many festivals themselves, it showed just what could be done with determination, hard work and significant financial risk.
With just a few hundred people in attendance, Good Weekend offered a baby beauty of a festival that lived up to its name. The debut year of any festival runs the risk of being a botched and disorganised mess – thankfully by not over reaching their ambitions the organisers of Good Weekend managed to create an event that was good value, friendly, relaxed and on occasion had some great music as well. The only areas for improvement should the event run again would be to ensure batter stage management; the main stage on Saturday ran an hour and a half behind timetable at some points. Also an improvement in that stages sound at certain points would have helped - as several bands suffered from bouts of feedback and poor balance, although the likes of Worship, Hot Club de Paris and Art Brut all sounded excellent.
This is not to take away from the fact that bar these points Good Weekend was a fun-filled, carefree and highly enjoyable festival that for those on a budget prevented a welcome alternative to the bank-robbing corporate giant festival monsters. Here’s some of the key facts.
Organisers worked as hard as possible to keep prices as low as possible. Early birds were just £35 with the rest being £40.
Saturday was almost perfect festival weather – sunny but without ever being too hot. Friday started well but unfortunately for Southampton face-painted electro kids Fly Frankie Fly the heavens opened for the totality of their outdoor second stage set leading to a mass evacuation of punters. To their credit the duo power-raved on commanding respect from the tree-sheltering crowd who remained. “God hates us,” they announced as their set and the rain finished.
Good Weekend was located at Vicarage Farm, Woodmancott near Winchester easily located just a few minutes drive off the M3 motorway. It is also the new location for the larger Blissfields Festival that ran a few weeks before. The site itself is a gently sloping field dotted with trees. It was the antithesis of Glastonbury with nothing on site being more than a couple of minutes walk away, plenty of areas for those who want to relax, lots of camping space and a simple pocket sized layout. The main stage was located in a large white rectangular marquee, the second stage being outdoors, near the top corner of the site near a cluster of trees with a semi-circle of hay bales providing seating.
A mix of older festival heads, younger teens, twenty somethings and the odd family, Good Weekend was notable for its lack of hipsters, scenesters and posers, probably due to little media coverage, giving it very much an underground vibe.
Friday night quickly grew from laid back excitement into a vibey hedonistic rush of fun particularly by the outdoor second stage and the bar area where a DJ rolled out old soul classics in an atmosphere akin to a brilliant party in your own front room. On Saturday a combination of lovely weather and hangovers meant that during the day many were happy to chill out in the sun, so many of the bands on the indoor main stage suffered from small audiences, but by the time the likes of Hot Club De Paris, Kurran & The Wolfnotes and Art Brut took to the stage the place was rocking again.
Usually the biggest let down at any new festival, with organisers often under estimating capacity, but Good Weekend got things right. Whilst the toilets were only standard plastic portaloos, there were enough to do the job and to the organisers credit it did appear that they were topped up with both toilet roll and hand sanitizer several times during the day and were relatively clean.
We never queued for anything.
A limited choice given the size of the festival, but it was more than adequate. Delicious wood fired pizzas, home-made burgers, paella and great coffee, cookies and muffins from the bar all of which was reasonably priced compared against standard festival prices. Burgers were £3.50, paella between £4 and £6 depending on size. Pints of lager and cider (Stowford Press) were £3.50.
Musically Good Weekend went for the eclectic. On Friday Marie Naffah charmed as the perfect bohemian festival singer-songwriter with a flower garland in her flowing hair, summer dress, acoustic guitar and soulful-folk songs about real life. Lighthouses strobed-up ravetronic pop provided a real hands in the air moment, whilst Nedry soothed and coaxed the crowd into their warped world of dubstep wobbles, twitching beats and otherworldy vocals; if you closed your eyes it was possible to believe that Massive Attack and Bjork had climbed down from the nearby trees and invaded the tiny stage.
Saturday highlights included the suave mic-swinging geekiness of Eddie Argos and his indie-guitar rocking band Art Brut – there can’t be many headline bands that will ignore their set list and take requests. Berkshire’s four piece Worship (music below), fresh from a recent BBC Introducing slot at Glastonbury sounded sublime, shrugging off the Radiohead comparisons to provide tense cinematic and very modern electronic rock – in terms musical polish they shone outstandingly. Southampton’s Arp Attack (music also featured below) found themselves transferred to the outside stage rather than their timetabled earlier slot on the main stage and it worked in their favour with the bands smart sassy electropop reviving tired dancing feet as darkness fell. Lead singer Frankie gave a masterclass in pop-star moves and added further life to the bands already potent arsenal of enticing synthetic tunes.
In summary, Good Weekend provided a welcome low budget alternative to bigger festivals and should the organisers choose to run it again they could find it becoming a word of mouth success.Arp Attack - Sugarcane
In Our Blood by Worship