Eager for my first summer festival experience I decided to start small. To be honest I don’t think I could’ve picked a better place to start. This welcoming little gathering has an astonishing record for discovering new talent and it’s hardly surprising that it has won awards for best independent festival. With a line-up that for me was beaten only by Glastonbury, I set out under the glorious summer sun to see some old favourites and discover some new incredible music.
Making my way to the stages from the campsite was like stepping into wonderland; surrounded by fancy lights and bunting, ostriches and microlight flights, a kaleidoscope of colours and wildflowers. It was a wonderfully surreal way to start the day. One of the best sets of the day was also one of the earliest, with resident soul man Samm Henshaw providing a crowd pleasing performance. Having already performed at the exclusive ‘Intimate Friday’ he had already perfected his phenomenal set. Upbeat indie pop outfit Apostle Thomas got the crowd dancing on the New Stage and brought something new to the festival in the form of a drummer that simultaneously played trumpet as well! Acoustic duo Seafret wowed audiences in the Wooden Barn Stage with their fabulously well crafted songs and their easy-going rapport. The Barn was headlined by Belwood Music favourite Foy Vance who provided a blues masterclass, heart wrenching ballads and even some old fashioned rock’n’roll all within his short set. Indie band Amber Run played to a packed out crowd on the New Stage before The Staves brought the day to a close on the Main Stage with their dreamy angelic harmonies.
Sunday managed to somehow be even better. Billie Marten played a surprising stripped-back cover of Royal Blood’s ‘Out of the Black’ on the Main Stage and the Wooden Barn showcased furious foot stomping folk singer Dan Owen who was bristling with energy and had a spine tingling voice. The Main Stage was the place to be that evening with the heavy R&B of Rag’N’Bone Man, the shuddering riffs and incredible falsettos of Nothing But Thieves and the astonishing upcoming singer-songwriter Rhodes all back to back. Down to Earth rockers Sunset Sons certainly know how to make a hit and may be one of the festival’s next big graduates. Their keyboard heavy, anthemic choruses are simply the perfect summer music. Electronic multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt was undoubtedly the most talked about performance. I’m not normally swayed by electronic music but for him I make an exception. This Jack of all trades certainly mastered the stage and ended his set with a breakneck guitar solo. BotF alumni James Bay made his triumphant return to the festival as headliner and gave one of the best live performances of his life to end the weekend in style.
I am truly amazed by the standard of music over the weekend. There wasn’t a single bad act or lacklustre performance amongst the whole line-up. The festival had a warm and friendly atmosphere and many of the artists could be seen walking around enjoying the music and interacting with their fans. It was an experience unlike any other, it was people being brought together by music in a truly beautiful patch of countryside. It is without a doubt the best kept secret in British music. Sign me up for next year!