Live Review: Guilfest 2009

guilfest-logo09Live Review: Guilfest 2009

Rivmixx Heads Down To Guildford’s Premier July Festival

Rivmixx, although suffering with some form of flu (boo-hoo), bravely left the London fold and headed down to Saturday at Guilfest – Guildford’s finest July-scheduled festival.

Guilfest is unusual, at least for a music festival, in that it has a real split personality, perhaps due both to setting and demographic. The hay-bales that litter the tents and offer welcome seating to the older and/or fatter lend it the air of a country fair, yet the range of teenies with beanies sampling  herbal highs are more reminiscent of rock-camps Reading and Leeds. Overall though, it does do a great job of bringing in the families without scaring off the older and spottier offspring.

Despite Rivmixx’s best efforts to ignore the looming clouds on an (accidentally lengthy) train journey, upon entry to Guildford’s Stoke Park the rain broke overhead. As always, this reviewer was completely unprepared and was thus forced to acquire a rather fetching polythene-poncho combo, much to the amusement of those around him. As with any festival, polythene-ponchos were the least extreme of the costumes on display and various day-glo furs and army helmets appeared to be de rigueur.

Having walked around and soaked up a bit of the atmosphere, Rivmixx decided to duck into a tent, both to avoid the rain and also in the hope of making a serendipitous musical discovery. Said tent was the Surrey Advertiser stage and Ledbetter were warming up the crowd. Their cracking snares, funk bass, jangling guitars and a dual vocal approach were all well delivered, but things felt a bit too MOR for this reporter.

Intent on seeing more, moist ponchos were reapplied and Rivmixx ambled along to the Rocksound Cave, determined to recapture the spirit of its teenage years. Here, one of the event’s more pleasant discoveries, Subsource, was kicking out the cyber-punk jams. On an aside, one of the disadvantages of the aforementioned hay-bales is the silage effect that is generated as 300 sweaty teenagers spill their snakebites and jump up and down on them for three days. Despite the smell, the band had filled the tent and their blend of DnB beats, dub bass and speed-punk guitars had the kids going mental. Big things (for the punk world) could be on the cards for Subsource, it’s just a shame their lacklustre name isn’t reflective of their innovative music.

Over on the main stage – excellently positioned at the bottom of a hill, enabling a good view for all – ’60s/’70s singer Linda Lewis was showing off her five-octave vocal range. Lewis’ sunshine music was lost on the wet-weather crowd and some uninterested punters had taken to miniature picnic bowling (with a falafel and cocktail sausages) to stave off the boredom.

By far and away Rivmixx’s favourites were a young four piece by the name of District 6 in the Ben Sherman Live Club tent. A traditional band set-up was occasionally augmented by a trumpet and the group successfully delivered their own brand of slacker-rock Bloc Party with great aplomb. Occasional forays into duller emo territory didn’t really pay off, but they brought the audience back on-side with a great D.I.Y. version of ‘Just Dance’ by Lady Gaga. The group were a bit shy, but this only endeared them to the crowd.

Later in the night it was the turn of the big boys and with groups like The Lightning Seeds, The Charlatans and (THE) Brian Wilson playing, this once-minor festival is clearly beginning to cross into the mainstream. Whilst Guilfest would benefit by bringing in a few newer bands for the young and young-at-heart, it’s a friendly festival that’s keen to support local talent and it makes a refreshing change from the line-ups of most of the UK’s cookie-cutter events.

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

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