16 April, 2011
It is fitting that on the weekend of the FA Cup Semi-Finals the Pewsey locals hanging on the boughs of branches on the other side of the fence to hear some of the acts at the inaugural Honeyfest remind us of those doing the same at the famous Hereford vs. Newcastle game some 39 years ago.
Honeyfest was originally scheduled to take place December last year but inclement weather put paid to that and instead it serves as an early prelude to the festival season. Last year the Wiltshire villagers, utilising the name received funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS programme to purchase the lease for their local pub, The Barge Inn, securing its then uncertain future at the heart of the community. The Barge Inn re-opened to the public that very same day and many pints of neon green Alien Abduction were sunk among its freshly painted walls. The BBC has been filming more of the village and others involved so you may be seeing more of the pub later this year.
We unfortunately miss the opening of the festival as our meticulous travel plans are spoilt by some people holding up our train for two minutes by prising the doors open four times and thus making us miss our slot at London Bridge, meaning we miss our train into the countryside by a minute. So thanks for that! We can only speculate how local acts, winners of a battle of the bands competition, Slagerij and Matthew Kilford go down. Judging purely by the amount of merchandise they shift after we arrived, we’d think they were well received. Make your mind up yourself by having a click on their webhomes http://www.myspace.com/matthewkilford and http://www.myspace.com/slagerij420
Marthas & Arthurs are just the kind of band you want to have on stage when you first arrive at a festival; pleasant, melodic and soothing. You’d have to have a heart of black coal to be offended or irked by their music and their boy-girl harmonies made for a fitting soundtrack for our first exploratory wandering around the compact site. We found the organisers had nicely married up the kind of normal festival fair that will be familiar to anyone who has been at an outdoor festival in the past ten years, such as The Pie Minister (or Eric Pickles as he’s known to his friends) alongside the more esoteric crystal skull and mysticisms usually found on the outskirts of Glastonbury.
Hotly-tipped new comers and tipped-to-be-big folk rockers Dry The River sustain the rustic mood. They may soon find themselves wading through the path carved out by Mumford and Sons and will be a feature at many a festival this summer. They delight the crowd with tracks from their self-released EPs and singles such as ‘Lion’s Den’ and ‘New Ceremony’. The crowd are very receptive to their homespun charm and mentions of which songs are favourites of the band’s mothers endeared them to many. After a couple of cheeky ciders in The Barge Inn we are back for The Magic Numbers who know how to keep a festival crowd happy. The double siblings pull out ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love Me Like You’ from their first album and delight those in the know with a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ for a sing-along by those of a certain age (and some who aren’t.)
For her first UK gig of the year, Laura Marling looks every inch the NME and BRIT Award winning act that she now is, cloaked in a black shoal (and at one point cloaked in far too much pyrotechnic smoke than is strictly required for her brand of folk!) She and her band glide through last year’s ‘Devil’s Spoke’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ effortlessly and dip into ‘Ghosts’ and ‘My Manic and I’. It’s hard to think that it was 2007 when she was first playing those songs to crowds and the progression from those to new songs ‘Salinas’ and the quite lovely ‘My Friends’ is something to behold.
Damien Rice rounds the evening off, with a solo performance leading the crowd through as his back-up for ‘Volcano’ and letting them off the work for ‘Blower’s Daughter’ just as the sun slowly begins to sink beneath the trees and the temperature starts to drop. The Magic Numbers and a slightly worse for wear Dry The River return for a mass encore croon along to Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ and Laughing Len’s ‘Hallelujah’. With that, the day is over and the locals disperse and we hurry back to London contemplating a very early start to the festival season. But when the surroundings, bands, weather and beer are this good who would dare complain?