Wednesday, 13 June 2012

12 Things We Learnt About No Direction Home Festival 2012 (A Review)

Last weekend Breaking More Waves opened its 2012 outdoor festival season, attending a new festival on the Wellbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. Here’s our review (of sorts) of No Direction Home 2012.

1. It doesn’t matter how many times you check the weather forecast before going to a festival – until you get there you never really know how things are going to be.

Let’s face it, outdoor music festivals are never as good when it rains and the site becomes a slip-slide mudbowl. Forget all that ‘it brings everyone together in true British community spirit.’ That’s just people justifying their empty bank balances after a drowned dog of a weekend, freezing cold, damp and caked in disgusting brown gloop.

With a forecast that promised strong winds and heavy rain for the first two days of No Direction Home, things didn’t look good. Yet the reality was far better. On arrival the majority of the site was still green grass, with mud limited to a few isolated areas. Until Sunday it was undeniably anti-summer cold with a few showers meaning that some of the main pathways could only be traversed sensibly with a pair of wellies, but the rain was less frequent and intense than predicted and by Sunday umbrellas were being used as sunshades rather than their more traditional forms.

2. Teething problems for new festivals are not a given….

Especially when they’re created by someone who already has experience in running them. No Direction Home is the new sister festival of the much celebrated End of the Road Festival and is very much a mini-me version of its bigger brother. The festival oozed goodness in every aspect and really we can’t find anything negative to say about it at all. From the local farm shop that sold high quality home produced cheese, fruit and bread to the blend of alt.folk, country, indie rock and late night electronic acts on the roster.

3. You wait for a bus and then two come along at once.

At No Direction Home one served cider, the other served tea and cake. Both were delicious. The Somerset Cider Bus even sent some of their ladies to the main stage to deliver pints of cider to Richard Hawley during his set, which upon drinking he described as being ‘like acid’. We’re not sure if he was referring to the druggy kind or the taste, but he seemed to be enjoying it.

4. The Lost Picture Show Cinema actually smelt of popcorn.

Which was nice. If you like popcorn.

5. There was a distinct lack of twats and idiots.

No Direction Home had a complete absence of twats, more than any other festival we’ve been to in the last few years. Hipster types were largely absent and the ones that were there were the slightly older ‘Ex-Shoreditch but now has 2 kids and lives in suburbia’ type who were actually enjoying the music rather than trying to out cool each other. No Direction Home was very much a music festival, for music fans. Quieter acoustic and folk acts were listened to rather than talked over. It was an absolute pleasure to see a large audience respect the artists playing. This was a grown up audience with grown up behaviour.

6. The best stupid dancing of the weekend we witnessed was at Slow Club and Django Django

Probably because both bands were very good. (It was the audience doing the stupid dancing not the bands.)

7. Festival toilets don’t have to be disgusting.

Compared with many other events the toilet cleaning crews (and punters) did an excellent job of keeping the toilets as close to perfect as you can imagine for an event involving several thousand people using portaloos.

8. The Electric Dustbowl Stage was and is a rubbish name for a stage.

It was a big top, on some grass, near some trees. Maybe if would have been a dustbowl if it had been hot all weekend, but it wasn’t. The Lake Stage was however by a lake, so we’ll call it a draw on that one.

9. Sometimes getting old is lovely.

The Cornshed Sisters were so good that we saw them twice; once on the rather inappropriately above named stage and once in the more accurately named Rough Trade Store where they played unplugged. Amongst their number was Marie Du Santiago who alongside Lauren Laverne (off of BBC 6 Music and general culture vulture fame) used to be in indie-power-pop-glamour-kittens Kenickie and subsequently Rosita. Now however Marie is all grown up, having worked in music management and as head of communications for the Northern region of the Arts Council. Marie performed alongside three other equally talented singers / players that form The Cornshed Sisters, and both of their sets were beguiling and beautiful; a mix of country, folk and pop with gorgeous harmonies and sparse instrumentation that was one of the unexpected highlights of the weekend. Listen to Dresden streaming below and see what we mean.

10. Folk music doesn’t just have to be fiddles, acoustic guitars and accordions.

The Unthanks, a very modern folk band who take the oldest of traditions and add their own sense of contemporary still beauty to them played one of the sweetest and unusual sets of the weekend. With the stage full of the many members of the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band, the bold dynamics of the sound gave a new sense of purpose and delight to The Unthanks music. This wasn’t just a diversion but a musical performance that headed directly for the soul, from a Manhatten Transfer style version of Queen Of Hearts sung by Chris Price to the gutsy spit of Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk. It was superb stuff.

11. No Direction Home isn't a cheesy festival, except when it is.

The School of Artisan Food were on site doing food demonstrations and tastings.. They taught us more about cheese in just over half an hour than we have learned in our whole lifetime.

12. No Direction Home may be the little sister of End of the Road but it feels like there’s space for growth.

The advertised capacity for this debut event was 5000 people. It didn’t sell out but there were plenty of punters there. However the spacious site seemed much bigger than many festivals of similar attendance and we suspect that there is more than adequate room on site for increased capacity, although the smaller stages would probably have to be redesigned somewhat to take the additional load.

Overall for its first year No Direction Home Festival can be considered nothing more than a triumph. Early bird tickets are already on sale for 2013.

The Cornshed Sisters - Dresden

No comments: