Live Music + Gig Reviews

Secret Garden Party 2007 @ Abbots Rippon, Huntingdon

28 July 2007

The croak of frogs and the hissing of grasshoppers is my preferred way to open the day, and it helps when there’s a whopping great blue sky on top of it all. The auspices are good, and I set off for a day of unfettered discovery at Secret Garden.

The food here is great, it’s got all the stalls that are becoming the usual suspects at the medium-sized festivals with character: they’re healthy and decently priced, and if I can one day eat barbecue noodles without getting them on every person within a ten yard radius I’ll be a happy and proud man. I will endeavour, but it’s in this state of mild noodle-eating anguish that ironically I come across Beans on Toast again, this time at the Where the Wild Things Are At arena, and once more I enjoy his downbeat country fare, which is all the better for that extra bit of familiarity.

Jugglers, fire-eaters and some unusual suspects are navigated on the way back to The Great Stage. I’d seen Evi Vine last year, been impressed by her brooding and intense sound, and this year her songs seem to have developed an extra ebbing crescendo that gives them another dimension. Vine, is like a feminine hero from X-Men, heroically holding her guitar like she’s about to save us all from invading demons, but the songs she plays drift in bittersweet tones to cherish, and she’s most certainly one to look out for in the near future.

A deep conversation on the theory of pop sees us stay at The Great Stage for the appearance of Earl Okin, who moves out of Vine’s shadow to create a smokey bar-room atmosphere that’s surprisingly affecting. Okin plays trickling piano ballads with a certain respect and sense of fun redolent of The Puppini Sisters.

The Deadbeats are a bit of a culture shock after Okin’s languid shtick. Most things would be, but their set at the Where the Wild Things Are arena shakes the place to its core. Okin had relaxed us like a wily hypnotist, and the twisting country emanating from The Deadbeats now makes the heart dance subtle shapes, nicely-crafted songs parping with upside down rhythms and melodic twists like the stuff of dreams.

The Deadbeats are a little like a countrified version of Nebraska indiepopers The Little Ones, taking the same kind of delight in playing live that makes for a great, affectionate atmosphere. Stopping, starting again, spinning into the ether and coming back to earth, it’s a great half hour of affectionate tunes that send us away smiling. Next stop, The Great Stage to catch New Young Pony Club.

Yesterday we saw The Noisettes moving towards something pretty special, a kind of liberation from musical trends, and tonight it’s a similar story with New Young Pony Club, who have been born into a genre elevated to mainstream popularity by the music press.

‘New Rave’ is a pigeonhole term that CSS in particular have found themselves swept along to success with, but where they’ve stumbled into it from the outside and become leaders, NYPC seem to rock it from within, inevitably more contrived, yet still having a visceral effect

Keyboardist Sarah Jones adds a perfectly pop aesthetic to proceedings with her cut-glass French new wave kind of image, while singer Tahita Bulmer bounds along with a faade of fire. Ultimately there’s something lacking, an edge of absolute devotion that CSS’s Lovefoxxx simply oozes at her best. Ice Cream is introduced to slightly lesser than its euphoric effect, but it’s by far the best representation of their early sound, beatific electro-pop reaching for the stars.

The crowd go mad for it, and I wish I was there at the front, or maybe in the middle, but now I feel a little more ill, and have to retire to the tent by way of an elongated tribal parade around the lake, which takes in the ritual burning of a twenty foot hand in the centre of the water. Goodnight indeed. I’ll sleep The Wicker Man dreams.

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