Monday, 31 August 2009

Shambala Festival: Review

Until this weekend I'd never been to Shambala before, although I'd heard a lot of good things about this small festival. I imagined it as halfway between the crazy beautiful fancy dress madness of Secret Garden Party and the relaxed hippy vibes of Sunrise. I wasn't wrong.

We arrived in Market Harborough on Friday evening and, from the moment we boarded the red routemaster bus, everything seemed to slot into place for the rest of the weekend. Arriving late and with no programme I had no idea what I was in for musically, so let myself be guided by the tastes of others; a policy which seemed to work extremely well!

First up after a bimble round the art forest were Brighton's Transformer in the Kamikazee tent, a brilliant angular electro disco band with two kids on stage playing percussion. Apparently one of them's deaf so he must be loving the bass vibrations! Then over to the Rusty Garden for First Degree Burns infectionsly danceable dub/ska/hip-hop. It's all a little hazy after that but ended with some heavyweight roots somewhere.

Saturday I was practicing for a fireshow all day, but by some grace of fortune my one hour break coincided with Zion Train's set on the Shambala stage. Zion Train's electronic dub and live trumpet combo is one of the all time classic festival sounds and one of my favourites so, with almost the entire audience in outrageously silly costumes, dancing to this was one of my festival moments of 2009. Apparently there's a remix album due out soon which should be worth checking out.

After our fire show we dived into the Rusty Garden again for King Porter Stomp, another Brighton band who played one of the best sets in Chai Wallas at SGP this year. This set was as good as always but didn't kick off as much as SGP. We then arrived in the Kamakazee to have missed Baobinga but settled in for The Bays who started with a wicked dubstep number. They were followed by DJ Die who launched straight into some full on d'n'b. Although we were planning on moving on the 'timetraveller' set kept us all glued to the dancefloor as he moved back into the oldskool for some hands in the air jungle classics by the end. Haven't had that much fun dancing to d'n'b in ages!

Sunday was much more chilled, with most of it spent playing on the hilarious crazy golf course. It also provided an unexpected musical gem in the form of the Cirque de Freaque backing band whose atmospheric dubstep (again with live trumpets) really gave an edge to the choreography. Later on MC Xander proved to be another massive highlight on the Lakeside stage. I've only seen him in little tents before, so it was good to see that his dubwise d'n'b beatboxing works just as well, and sounds even better, on a larger scale. Absolutely spine tingling.

Yes Sir Boss are yet another Brighton ska band who played late in the Rustic Garden. Their singer has amazing vocals but the tent was far too hot and having seen them at SGP we wandered out halfway through. It was a good move since we discovered a live jukebox with a man in a guitar in it who played two of the funniest songs I've heard in a longtime: 'Where is my Tent?' (sung to the tune of the Pixies) and Johnny Ball's Chemistry Set. Brilliant!

All in all it was a lovely little festival with lots to see and do and plenty of quality music. It never felt crowded and everyone that we met was exceptionally friendly. Final shout goes out to the UR Wall people for letting me draw the rabbit!

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