Live Music + Gig Reviews

Guilfest 2011: Part 1 @ Stoke Park, Guildford

17 July 2011

Barely 20 miles away in London, monsoon season hits on Saturday morning. But Guilfest seems to escape the worst of it – intermittent sunshine is punctuated by short bursts of torrential rain that pass quickly, though not quickly enough to avoid leaving everyone soaked. Following on from Fridays unrelenting sun, the ground holds up remarkably well and while wellies are undoubtedly the order of the day, Guilfest stays well away from descending into the mud.

Still, mud or no mud, with the English weather being what it is festivals can stand or fall on their wet weather programmes, and this is one of the many areas where Guilfest comes into its own. A family-oriented, refreshingly local festival, it knows well the value of putting on a significant number of activities, as well as music, in indoor spaces enough, potentially, to house the entire crowd if need be.

So, as the showers pounce, theres the option of diving under canvas to The Big Cheese Cave, the Vive le Rock Cave, the Acoustic Stage, Funky End Dance Tent, eFestivals Cosmic Comedy Tent or the Man in the Moon Theatre Tent not to mention La Discothque where you too can discover the delights of the naff small town disco (soul and dance anthems from Donna Summer to Michael Jackson and everything in between!) and the Ceroc Dance tent.

For those scratching their slightly damp heads and wondering what the Ceroc Dance tent might contain, never fear right in the middle of the main stage bill is the chance to find out. Ceroc Dance it transpires, as the troupe takes to the stage, is a fusion of modern dance and salsa without the complicated footwork (ie. for bored suburbanites more interested in copping off than learning dance) and anyone who likes what they see can learn more, and have a go, throughout the weekend courtesy of professional Ceroc dancers. Its a novel way to get more performer/crowd interaction at a festival, but a fun one particularly on a wet weekend when the dance lessons are inside.

If this doesnt appeal, theres the chance to play at being a hippie in the Eden Peoples Gallery, where extremely brave people are offering free hand and foot massages (to festival goers? Whove been in wellies all weekend? Eeeesh!) but be careful of wandering from here to the Plantation Zone, which sounds as if it might be another eco-experience but is actually full of under-18s desperately retreating to an on-hand Wii as being separated from their electronic gadgets for more than five minutes threatens to take its toll.

Its in this real understanding of what needs to be laid on for all the family that makes Guilfest stand out. The evening music line-up (music? Yes, there is some sorry if it was looking as if wed forgotten) attests to this: N-Dubz for the younger teens, Peter Andre for celeb-obsessed orange older sisters, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel for Dad and Razorlight for the few who really have come because theyre interested in music but don’t know any different.

N-Dubz, as always, excel themselves as the main stage penultimate headliners; Dappy knows how to work the crowd, getting everyone singing along to Happy Birthday Tulisa, while even the compere describes them as Guilfests house band. Theyre perennial favourites, as is their counterpart on the Good Time Guide Stage Steve Harley, also making his regular appearance here and bringing a loyal following with him. Unfortunately, this is a mixed blessing; though he draws one of the largest second stage crowds of the weekend, his more acoustic-than-usual set is a little too quiet to carry across the hordes. It would work better in a more intimate tent, but there would be far too many disappointed punters if it was placed in one.

Then its a quick dash back to the main stage for headliners Razorlight, or at least Johnny Borrell and his new backing band, fresh from a drubbing in the music press about the change of line-up and the delusions of grandeur it suggests. Johnny boy is noticeably circumspect; theres virtually no banter with the audience and the set could be a bit more Radio 2-audience friendly, but he does work in most of the hits, as well as perennial Edwyn Collins cover favourite Never Met a Girl Like You Before. Right until the last, however, it looks as if hes tried to wipe America (and Andy Burrows) from his consciousness, but the band are simply saving it for an encore finale, to be belted out with a whose song is it now, eh Burrows? swagger. Cheeky devil.

  1. Guilfest 2011:
    Part 1 | Part 2

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