In all honesty – the words holiday and relaxing don’t go hand in hand for me personally. I’m not very good at sitting still, so for me a holiday usually consists of dashing around all the sites big and small, and needing a day or two’s rest once its over. But this year was different and possibly one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. It involved camping, mud that made walking became a complex task and pungent portaloos. All of which were completely eclipsed by good company, an amazing atmosphere and some of the best live music I’ve ever seen. And black pudding scotch eggs from the Village Deli, which were an utter revelation!
The Shangri La that was my summer holiday – Secret Garden Party – a music festival in my home county that is one of the most unique out there, although unfortunately this year was the last ever. There were hidden fields of sunflowers, people dressed as T-Rexs for no discernible reason, a bar with medieval tomb décor and no corporate sponsoring. It’s a festival that really is more about the atmosphere than the acts necessarily with there being few big name headliners.
What few well-known bands there were though, live my favourites completely raised the bar of my expectations. Jagwar Ma and Metronomy had sets that meant no-one was ever standing still for a moment. Every song by Crystal Fighters you thought must be their last because they couldn’t possibly top it, or could they? And then they released the confetti and giant beach balls during Plage… A personal highlight however was The Correspondants set during a complete downpour, everyone enjoying the manic energy of lead singer Ian Bruce too much to let the weather dampen their spirits.
My strongest recommendation? Anteros are a relatively unknown band with some pretty catchy singles, although unfortunately their set on the main stage (their first) was at 12:30 when most people are still in shower queues and hunting down food to sort out last night’s hangover, meaning very few people had turned out. Nevertheless I have a feeling in future, I’ll be struggling to get that close to the stage when charismatic singer Laura Hayden and the rest of Anteros are performing.
But most bands do start out on the smaller stages, which is why having fewer well-known acts is one of the best ways of discovering new music. My favourite stage “Where the Wild Things Are” – the wild things in this case being creatures the Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, had some lesser known musical gems. Cosmo Sheldrake who is one the most individual artists I’ve ever heard, taking his inspiration from sources as eclectic cow carcasses and William Blake poetry and Mont Jake whose Daydreaming I had on an endless loop in my head the first time I heard it.
But as with all music – better heard than described (but also better seen and heard live!):
So who needs fancy hotels and well-known destinations when you’ve got good music, overpriced food and a tent decorated with a highly avant-garde mix of fairy lights and Koppaberg cans; the best of holidays can sometimes take the most unexpected form. It’s only a shame this was its last year because any time at Reading will be a disappointment after SGP.