Festival Preview: Secret Garden Party 2008

01 July 2008

This summer is saturated with festivals. Practically any weekend twixt vernal and autumnal equinoxes, you can take your pick of location, music genre, and preferred sponsor.

To survive in this cut-throat world in which even Glastonbury struggles to sell out, a festival needs a unique selling point. Secret Garden Party has some pretty convincing ones: first and foremost, Grace Jones.
The disco femme fatale here makes her only UK festival appearance. On the back of a highly praised appearance at London’s Meltdown festival, SGP can expect to see a mixture of bone fide classics from Jones’ ’70s and ’80s recordings as well as new songs from the imminent new album – her first for nearly 20 years. Phrases such as iconic are bandied about all too freely, but Jones truly deserves such labels.

Secondly, while I’d be loath to state that SGP is the only festival that can claim complete lack of corporate sponsorship, there certainly aren’t many that can. Not only does this financial purity hark back to the original ethos of the festival, but it means that Grace Jones won’t have to drink Carling all the goddam time, and can get a decent beer for a change, even some exciting fruity beers and the like. Yeah! Stick it to the Man!

The eclecticism of SGP is very possibly unrivalled – centred around an idyllic lake in landscaped gardens decked out in finery for the event, the organisers bring in not only Jones, but the Factory theatre company whose production of Hamlet uses only props supplied by the audience, and a line up of other arts events. With only 6,000-odd people in attendance, there’s a good chance that you will actually get to experience some of this tomfoolery and culture.

But of course, we’re going for the music. Not sure if I mentioned that Grace Jones is playing, well she is; but lest we get carried away with that, the supporting cast includes indie darlings Sons And Daughters, Glasvegas, and Cage The Elephant, and electro-tinged workhorses Late of the Pier and Metronomy. Sweden’s hot-ticket Lykke Li brings some class pop to the proceedings, and Alphabeat infect the site with their musical anthrax. Tipped folksters Mumford And Sons and Noah And The Whale bring some cardigan-sporting acoustic loveliness to the bill, while Florence and the Machine will be as deceptively spiky and arch as a rose-covered trellis.

Grace Jones isn’t the only long-established act though. Morcheeba turn up like a trip-hop bad penny. Perhaps more excitingly the ever charming Saint Etienne will be there, capturing the essence of this seditiously well-mannered event. Throw in DJ sets from Eddy Temple Morris, 2 Many DJs and a host of other up and coming live acts and performers, and a great weekend is pretty much guaranteed.

Oh, and did we mention Grace Jones?

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