Festival feelings… Shambala Festival 2012

Lau accordion player Martin Green called Shambala “everyone’s favourite festival” and he’s probably not wrong. He also went on to say that it was “about a thousand times drier” than the other two festivals they played at this weekend – Shrewsbury Folk Festival and FolkEast in Suffolk.

The weather was just one reason why Shambala sparkled this year. This festival is lovingly crafted – from the people who greet you and guide you to your parking space to the eclectic line-up, which was better than ever before, and the wonderful array of places to explore and things to try.

Shambala is loved by families, who want a proper festival experience without any fear factors. It is also loved by fucked up teens, 20somethings and 30somethings, who want to get wrecked without fear factors. I can’t imagine there’s much crime to worry about at Shambala.

Things I loved:

  • Kamikaze Cabaret: this has to be seen to be believed. Like Olympic gymnastics but sexier.
  • The Enchanted Woodland: this is a highlight of every Shambala. Beautiful sculptures can be glimpsed through the trees and the lights create a wonderland by night.
  • Guerilla Science: I met a crested gecko called Frank, a chameleon called…aahhh, I forget! And some snakes too!
  • The Shambolympics: a bit of a shame that this was for adults only…and I didn’t see much sport but the massive tiered hay bails made a great little arena for some of Shambala’s looniest dancing.
  • Kids’ Field: Not a brand name in sight; just bubbles, bikes, games and making things.
  • The UFO: The robots with lazer tits were inspired.
  • All the workshops that I didn’t get to but would have liked to: Didgeridoo, Sea shanties, drumming, Buddhist chanting, the Permaculture Garden, yoga, carnival workshops and loads, loads more… maybe next year.

I caught some or all of the following music:

  • The Police Rave Unit: brilliant travelling police van with dancing policemen and women attracting several hundred old school ravers to classic 90s beats and more. A festival highlight. “Whoop, whoop! It’s the Sound of the Police… Oh my gosh!”
  • Billy Bragg: was in fine voice and passionate as ever
  • Laid Blak: perfect rabble-rousing reggae/hip-hop that really got the party started on Friday night. Loved the Three Little Birds cover
  • Band of Buriers: alternative folk band in the intimate and well-programmed Wandering Word tent. Lead singer James P Honey is a gruff ranter in a Nick Cave/Bob Dylan style backed by ethereal backing singer and multi-instrumentalist
  • Dizraeli & the Small Gods: there is a time and a place for this folky, hip-hop fusion and this is undoubtedly it. Shit music though
  • Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate: odd hearing Driscoll’s American accent among all the Bristol bands but this was perfect sunny afternoon music; a much sublimer mix of folk and hip-hop (with added Guinean kora playing) than the aforementioned Dizraeli
  • Zimbaremabwe: Afro-reggae from Brighton; great grooves, very simple words
  • Batch Gueye Band: one afro-reggae band too much for me after the previous two in quick succession, which is probably my loss
  • Roots Manuva: some of my friends said he looked knackered but I wasn’t really watching; he was in fine voice and an absolutely mighty groove was bashed out by his band. My festival highlight
  • Lau: amazing folk trio with crescendos worthy of Sigur Ros or Spiritualized; beautiful
  • The Twinkle Brothers: superb live reggae band with fantastic dub breaks; they’ve done loads of classic songs that you know but don’t know, if you know what I mean
  • Vieux Farka Toure: a bit mellow after Twinkle Brothers but a nice enough sound
  • Radikal Guru ft. Cian Finn: kicked off a superb night in the Kamikaze tent with superb, entrancing digidub. Cian Finn is a talented MC singjay
  • Buggsy: I had hoped for Buggsy with band but on MC duties he was in good voice. Kept the party rocking after Guru and Finn
  • MISSED: The Heatwave – gutted. Bad programming though – must be loads of Roots Manuva fans who would dig the Heatwave’s bashment anthems.
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