Live Music + Gig Reviews

Guilfest 2011: Part 2 @ Stoke Park, Guildford

17 July 2011

A word of warning when choosing which campsite areas to pitch in at Guilfest: family camping, rather than equating to mud-covered toddler zone, is more inhabited by large groups of puking 14-year-olds who have ignored all signs that underage drinking is not allowed. They roam the family camping field until the early hours of the morning, tripping over guy ropes and shouting at one another, before rousing everyone around them barely three hours later as they wake up to retch and vomit amid screams of IhavetogetoutofthetentNOW. Sunday morning finds large groups of them being reprimanded by stern looking stewards searching their tents and confiscating whats left of their beer.

Back at the arena, Guilfest is continuing its flirtation with covers bands (The Sex Pistols Experience played yesterday), whose ubiquity is growing by the second even Glastonbury had Brit Floyd this year. The main stage boasts an Elvis, Eddie and Jerry Lee Tribute, following on from Rock Choir, who are a covers band in any case, and there are more delights to be had in the smaller spaces around the well-spaced festival, some of which are stumbled upon accidentally.

TV sauce-salesman Levi Roots is performing in the Vive Le Rock Stage tent (as well as hawking his Reggae Reggae Sauce flavoured snacks a few stalls away) but by 15 minutes before hes due on, its too packed to get in, so theres no option but to seek musical thrills elsewhere and, as the skies have decided to open again, its into the Surrey Advertiser Stage where fears of dreadful local pub bands are (mostly) unfounded. On instead are the frankly superb The Mays, who cover everyone from Chuck Berry to The Beatles (not to mention Chuck Berry via the Beatles) and Lynyrd Skynard far better than ones so young should. Theyre self-aware enough to know that the audiences main motivation for watching them is to escape the rain, and seem genuinely touched by how much theyre appreciated. There are far worse things to come across in a festivals minor tents.

Theyre followed by the even better United Stoats of America. Get past the terrible name and the effort is well worth it. A skiffle and bluegrass band covering U2 (I Still Havent Found What Im Looking For), The White Stripes (Hotel Yorba) and The Waterboys (Fishermans Blues perfect for a skiffle reworking), plus their own original compositions is much, much, better than it can be made to sound on paper. Believe it.

After that, though, it’s time for some more conventional festival fare: either follow the ridiculously large crowds of people wearing Saw Doctors t-shirts back to the main stage, the old punks to the Vive Le Rock stage for The Skints and UK Subs, or head to the Acoustic Stage for Two Fingers of Firewater, who have got a bit more melodic than their chaotically bar-blues first album, but are nonetheless worth staying out of the rain to see.

As headline time approaches, theres not likely to be much of a dilemma as to which stage to favour; after a bit of camp 80s electronica reminiscing with Erasure, the crowd goes its separate ways to either wallow in James Blunt housewife-moistening balladry or to be shouted at by John Lydon and Public Image Limited. The sensible people choose the latter of course, and Lydon doesnt disappoint, insulting the crowd at every turn. Whether he’s really a completely manufactured fake, a doesnt-give-a-damn perennially narky man-teen who refuses to grow up or simply a consummate showman, he’s nothing if not entertaining and Rise remains one of the greatest songs ever written. Its a triumphant end to a great festival one that always seems better on the day that it looks as if its going to be on paper.

Give Guilfest a go next year it might not be Glastonbury, but it knows its audience, caters for all ages and all tastes, and has a friendly welcoming atmosphere that lasts the entire weekend. And remember if it rains, theres plenty to do indoors.

  1. Guilfest 2011:
    Part 1 | Part 2

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