Saturday morning, and the rain shows little sign of easing off. Luckily, there’s plenty of undercover activity on offer, from the very welcome and very good fun music-themed pub quiz in what is, at other times, the comedy and literature tent, to a diverse range of music on the Far Out stage, where today’s musical delights include Avi Buffalo and Egyptian Hip Hop. The cinema tent offers arty shorts, Fairport Convention biopics and live music from The Balearic Folk Orchestra, who reinterpret acid house beats in acoustic style. Just close your eyes and think of Ibiza sunsets.
The rain comes in fits and starts, conveniently and thoughtfully easing off every quarter of an hour or so for just long enough to enable a quick dash from one indoor tent space to another. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to partake in food and drink under canvas, as well as entertainment, with a wide range of food stalls and cafes on offer. Gastronomically, the festival can’t be faulted.
By lunchtime, the situation underfoot is getting even further out of control but there’s enough overhead cover to make the weather tolerable, and enough of interest around the site to tempt even the wimpiest rain-hater to go for a wander between the drizzle.
Choose from a giant inflatable elephant halfway up a hill, to swingboats and drumming lessons in the kids’ field, to the giant straw Green Man structure looking down over the site. There’s no doubt that this is a proper festival – something more than just a few gigs in a few fields, it has an identity and uniqueness of its own and this helps to lift it out of the mud. Independent and small enough to feel intimate, there’s a lot to commend it, along with the promise that in better weather it could be something really special.
There is of course music aplenty, tucked away in the background as well as more prominently strutting its stuff on the main stage. The Green Man pub stage, located in the corner of a walled garden filled with food and drink stalls, tables and picnic space, plays host to famous names including Sean Rowley and Neon Indian, as well as lesser-known folkies such as First Aid Kit, two Swedish sisters whose set includes Fleet Foxes covers, and local singer-songwriter The Gentle Good.
Pick of the day is These New Puritans on the Far Out Stage, their energy and anger perfect for shaking a fist at the grey clouds as they revisit two decades of Manchester ghosts in a set that channels everyone from New Order to The Fall to Paul Oakenfold. Always a pleasure, they are in particularly good form here.
Meanwhile, out on the main stage, Rachel and The Unthanks are in danger of sending the audience drifting off to sleep with a set so soporific it needs Billy Bragg railing against the world, the government, capitalism and the usual stuff that make him angry to snap back the attention of the masses. If only he knew that half the people cheering him on have paid someone else (i.e. Tangerine Fields) to erect a tent for them and have spent the last half hour wondering how much it might cost to hire a holiday cottage next year.
Still, no matter how much the rain refuses to let up, nothing can dampen the weekend when Flaming Lips are headlining. A note-by-note, track-by-track rerun of their Glastonbury set it might be, but what a set – starting with Wayne Coyne being “born” onto the stage through a film-screen vagina then riding the crowd in an inflatable balloon before rattling through as close to a greatest hits rundown as his band can manage, and finishing with an explosion of tissue paper confetti and lasers to the beautiful and haunting Do You Realize??. Wet, yes. Cold, yes. Happy? Of course. But sun tomorrow would be appreciated.