Live Music + Gig Reviews

Secret Garden Party 2008, Day 2 @ Abbots Rippon, Huntingdon

26 July 2008

Day 2 of the Secret Garden Party begins in heat. The tent is like an oven by 9am, so it’s outside to try to catch up on some sleep in some shade if any is to be found.

Or, failing that, some pant painting in the Pant Camp, some mudwrestling, or a dance off in the sun.

The whole site is already strewn with human detritus, some fortunate enough to have passed out under a tree, others turning lobster pink.
Stumbling aimlessly around the site, a wonderful sound greets my ears, it’s that of a bassoon and cello joined in rich bass-clef harmony. The Moulettes are a five-piece cut to four as the double-bassist has gone awol. Their folk-swing is a wonderful pick-me-up. The vocals of the two female vocalists – one the cellist, the other switching effortlessly between bassoon, autoharp, and kazoo – go together like Morecambe & Wise or strawberries and cream. They’re not on the published programme, so we feel incredibly lucky to have chanced across them. “I am feeling an edge,” claims the cellist, before taking a swig from a two-litre bottle of something that might be orange juice.

Less inspiring are Esser over on the main stage. Their white-shirt indie is all too familiar. Lazenby is also instantly familiar, glam in a bright yellow dress she’s like a less dowdy Jane MacDonald, which is fine if that’s the sort of thing that floats your cruise ship. The Worm are Festival, with a capital F, distilled – a white guy with dreads intoning feel good messages over a posh boy’s bongos. You can’t really critique that sort of thing – it’s not about anything but feeling good.

Which is probably also the manifesto of Bonde Do Role over on the main stage. Their enthiusiasm is infectious, causing a stage invasion that security does eventually dissipate, but not until at least 30 people have joined the Brazilian four-piece on stage. Chaotic, ramshackle, and full of energy, their favela hip hop is the epitome of what the Secret Garden Party is about.

The same cannot be said for Sons And Daughters, their songs that scintillate in a small club fall flat in the sunshine on the main stage. Their performance lacks energy. Adele Bethel’s tendency to simply turn to the side and bang her tambourine does not make for an engaging show. A cover of Seal‘s Killer is lumpen and gimmicky, and the attempts to plug the new album fall on deaf ears; only during Dance Me In does their set seem to have anything approaching a pulse.

Micachu And The Shapes pack out the small Where the Wild Things Are stage. Their clever, artistic pop is a pleasing addition to a day that has had too many musical disappointments. They also provide the perfect excuse, were one needed, not go to see The Hoosiers – a surprise guest on the main stage.

It was then back to the main stage for the main event, musically, of the festival. Yes, it’s 10pm and it’s time for Grace Jones… But because she’s a diva, of course it’s not really time for Grace Jones. In the meantime it’s time for the organisers to set alight a fireworks laden galley and for some fire dancing around the lake.

As it turns out, 11 pm is time for Grace Jones. After five minutes or so of unintelligible video-enhanced Jones on the big screens onstage, she eventually rises up from behind the stage. Dressed in a black basque covered by stiff short black jacket and black hood, Jones naturally makes for an amazing silhouette as she delivers a throbbing rendition of Nightclubbing. After nipping backstage for a minute, she reappears with a new hat that looks something like an upturned ice-cream cone and no jacket. Lithe and larger than life, she has more presence than all 34 people on stage for Bonde Do Role, and her rendition of Private Lives goes down a storm.

Her performance is, from near the stage, a masterclass in how to engage an audience. Spotting a woman clad in a zebra suit, she tries to pull her on stage. When security try to pull the woman back, Jones remonstrates with them and selects several other women to come on stage, telling a reluctant and edgy security team, “They can’t hurt me, they’re my Sirenes”. The women dance as she nips for another hat change, this time a head band with devil’s horns lit at the tip.

Security eventually get their way when Jones next nips off to the milliners, ushering the dancer back into the crowd. Reappearing on stage wearing a long cape billowing in the blast of a fan and a headpiece resembling a giant liquorice allsort, Jones delivers a triumphant Ma Vie En Rose, her voice a measured, powerful, instrument. Her set includes a couple of new numbers and a lot of hits. But due to the delayed start it is cut short when, much to her and the crowd’s annoyance, the plug is pulled at midnight. Jones refuses to leave the stage, the audience chant for more.

But with their eyes on next year’s licence, the organisers remain iron willed. Although this nannying rankles at first, the need to obey this rules is understandable. Eventually Jones, mouthing a massive thank you, leaves and the audience dissipate into the night, to the dance tents, to the campfires, to the silent disco, and to a few hundred other events running into the wee hours.

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