Live Music + Gig Reviews

Secret Garden Party 2009: Day 2 @ Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon

25 July 2009

Secret Garden Party 2009: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

At Secret Garden Party, the best moments are often the ones you stumble across by accident.

Wandering about in the Saturday afternoon sunshine, we were lucky to come across members of The Manjinga 7 dangling from a large tree in harnesses, while impressively managing to play their calypso cumbia funk to a dancing/smiling crowd below. Described as ‘the child of Gogol Bordello and Manu Chao,’ this Brighton-based band combine gypsy jazz, reggae and hip hop influences to create grin-inducing tunes perfect for dancing away a Summer’s afternoon and straight through into the evening.Saturday afternoon at the main stage was sadly dampened by ‘kooky’ French singer/songwriter Soko. Soko is currently based in LA, which probably explains why she sang in a whiny American accent, giggled like a particularly irritating child, and baffled the audience by screaming statements like “America! Wooo!”, before launching into a song about how much she loves Peanut Butter. The crowd sat listening with their mouths open, wondering whether this acclaimed 24-year-old musician was in fact a three-year-old child on a sugar high. Currently huge in Australia, whether she crosses over to the UK remains to be seen.

The Hot Club of Bellville, another fantastic band from Brighton, played 1920s and ’30s-style swing on the Small World stage in the early hours of the evening – reminiscent of the type of music played in the intimate, smoky clubs of yesteryear, but with a modern twist. Ballads quickly transformed into frantically fast paced tunes inspired by the “wild passion and humour of the Eastern European Gypsies”. The highlight had to be the wonderfully named singer/fiddle player Nuala Nova demonstrating her unusual talent for playing the saw.

Seb Rochford-produced six-piece Death Ray Trebuchay gave their all to the excited crowd gathered to see them at the Valley Of The Antics stage. These East London alpha-males are naturally inclined to perform with their shirts off, modelling trendy neon sunglasses despite it being 10 o’clock at night. However blatant exhibitionism can be overlooked as the band are a real tour de force, with mad sweaty energy as infectious as swine flu, and the crowd flung themselves around uncontrollably to their distinctive mix of rock, punk and gypsy ska.

Anyone who went to Secret Garden Party last year knew exactly what the festival organisers had planned for the Tower Of Babel after darkness had fallen on Saturday night. In true Pagan ritual style it needed to be burnt, just like the now legendary Pirate Ship of 2008. Hundreds of lanterns floated up into the black sky, before an explosion of fireworks drew everyone at the festival towards the lake for this epic display of fiery delights. Secret Garden Party is certainly a festival like no other.

Coming on directly after this were suitably fiery Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, whose duelling guitars, spicy flamenco rhythms and, yes, heavy metal covers were an arresting, if a little odd choice of headliner at the Great Stage. While old favourites like Tamacun were well received, it was the semi-ironic covers of Metallica‘s Orion and Led Zeppelin‘s Stairway To Heaven that really drew gasps of astonishment from the crowd – two people picking out guitar solos may not sound like a traditional headline act, but then again, Secret Garden Party isn’t a traditional festival.

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