secret garden party poster 2013In the land of The Secret Garden Party, you should go by one motto and one motto only; expect the unexpected. After four whirlwind days full of glitter, unmissable surprises and a sturdy line up including Faithless, MO, Clean Bandit and Goldie, The Secret Garden Party has left Harley Cassidy with a new found love for a certain part of Cambridgeshire and its counterparts.

As the burning embers of a magnificent boat art installation settle on the lake, remnants of glitter lie dispersed on leaves and the surroundings, only one question can be passed from one Secret Garden Party goer to another: “see you all next year, yeah?”. To come to such promising conclusions however, one must first see how this fest goes down…

Friday

With a collective of bands plucking their way through a labyrinth of extravagantly adorned stages, nothing really magical kicked in until 2pm when a cadre of four men brought here purely for great hair and even greater tunes take to The Great Stage.

No, that’s not Marc Bolan you’re seeing but James Bagshaw; heralder of Temples. Described as “neo-psychedelic” (which whilst we have no idea what that means still sounds great nevertheless) Temples have drawn great, lucid comparisons to The Byrds, T.Rex and more currently, psych heavyweights Tame Impala. Their mind bending, expansive back catalogue, as small as it may be, is like a kaleidoscope for the ears. Colours To Life and the majestic, ethereal quality of Prisms fit right nice with The Secret Garden Party’s bewitching theme. Closing with the sitar twang beauty of Shelter Song, the big haired ones leave the vibe ante upped for the forthcoming weekend.

Over on the Where The Wild Things Are stage, Sydney’s Deep Sea Arcade are bringing thralls of baggy, Tim Burgess swagger to the crowd. Electric presence and top notch tunes; it’s a wonder why this band have never made it any bigger than the fine pages of beady eyed music publications. Childhood are also a band who have been blessed with the NME hype, making them eligible to at least 100 more Twitter followers than any other band and by circling their YouTube videos like a hawk you can tell why. These guys were made for sun drenched hearing. Solemn Skies and Blue Velvet are awfully catchy but whilst lead singer Ben boasts an impressive afro and the rhythm section have cheekbones that could cut through glass, Childhood struggle to make much of an impact, leaving you asking the age-old question; style over substance?

Pretty eye candy and easy tunes came in the form of blonde-tressed songstress Nina Nesbitt, who with all her new found acclaim drew in an impressive crowd. The songs sounded samey but the intent was there nevertheless.

Bastille did as expected; pulled in a humoungous crowd, played the songs and left stage right. Whilst it should never be contended how much of an impact Bastille have made during this past year, it’s still hard to fall in love with a band who lack so much character and only seem to soundtrack numerous episodes of Made In Chelsea.

Sure, Indie hippy vibes tie in infinitely with The Secret Garden Party and make for an easy, if not sometimes, trite listen. You think this is the case for The Strypes? (If you do, then you are wrong). Not enough people wear suits to a festival and when these four, post-pubescent, cocksure teens turn up to the stage with a harmonica in one hand and the other straightening the tie on their dapper, two-piece you get the feeling something slightly different has descended onto The Secret Garden Party’s fields. The girls bloody love these guys. Not just the girls but the girls who aren’t really girls anymore. It should be wrong to fancy the pants off every single member of The Strypes but when Ross Farrelly is howling like a man twice his age to old blues rock classics and Josh McClorey is mastering the guitar like most men twice his age WISH they were doing, it’s somehow acceptable. The Strypes aren’t to everyones tastes and have had naysayers from the beginning but not one person doubted how great the lads performance was Friday night. Ending the night with art poppers Django Django, their set seemed somewhat of a downgrade compared to the boys from Cavan, but fun all the same.

Saturday

A 1am secret set at The Colo-silly-un from Chase & Status is one reason, if not the only reason why everyone should love SGP. With people desperate to get into the cramped room, only a select few managed to catch the drum n bass hedonists giving it some welly in the pissing rain whilst their acolytes danced on hay bales. Whomping through classics including Blind Faith and No Problem, it seems mental that everyone was giving the same amount of boundless energy over at The Great Stage just an hour before.

The ’90s was the heyday for acid house and superstar DJ’s and with the closing set from house veterans Faithless, this was other level shiz. Trance, techno and electro all crossed over into strobe laden genres that melted the brain and left no feet unmoving for a whole hour and a half. Before this epoch of amiable behaviour however, festival goers minds were blown when one boat installation did a Guy Fawkes and went up in flames to a breath-taking firework show soundtracked by ’80s MJ and Rage Against The Machine.

Despite the histrionics 2ManyDJs were the pleasers of the night. Their set involved an amalgamation of some bona fide classics which was later carried out in secret (of course) at The Black Cat tent where they were accompanied by one Jarvis Cocker. Yeah, you read that right. JARVIS COCKER. As in bum flashing, physique of the beanstalk, Indie lord Jarvis Cocker.

You may have noticed I have reviewed this day backwards for reasons I am not aware of myself, so it seems I have come to a peak where I cannot possibly top what else has already been given. With this thought in mind I feel like I should give you an insight into the beauties of Secret Garden Party that don’t just show in the line-up: they have drinks in coconuts. Within every 100 metre walk you will without doubt find a face painting stall. They do a mind blowing curry made from Spinach and Chickpea which is just a fiver. All of these great things compensated and helped me through David Icke’s self-righteous “speech” in which he babbled on about creation and our narrow minded view of the world as a whole along with our pig-headed ignorance. God, it’s a good job David isn’t from the same species as us otherwise his own self-importance would’ve made him look more than acutely idiotic.

Sunday

Regina Spektor should’ve been the star of Sunday night, however this accolade could be placed to none other than a joint honours for Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Disclosure, Skream and Eats Everything.

In a place aptly named The Drop, a thirst for songs that have not only scattered the charts but made left field music fans yearn for house music again, fans of Disclosure could not have been in a more suited haven. The duo are going to be and undoubtedly already are, massive. Just the girlish synth cries that litter Latch were drawing shouts and screams from the crowd. You can knock the mainstream but it develops an artist’s entity and the crowd adulation that it brings.

With solo stints from each act and a joint effort that didn’t finish until midnight resulting in a drawn out version of New Order’s Blue Monday, I take my metaphorical hat off to The Secret Garden Party. I feel although I was in this wonderland for five days, I haven’t searched and experienced every crevice of the place and more importantly unlocked the secret that places it on a pedestal above all other festivals. Ok, so Youth Lagoon dropped out and bands were re-scheduling left, right and centre but there was a shed with the numerals “13” in glitter on it replaying Stevie Wonder’s Superstition over and over again. There was a yoga tent next to a bar selling marmalade shots. All surface value gems that masked the deeper meanings underneath. So to truly master this festival as a whole there’s only one solution really isn’t there? The Secret Garden Party 2014, see you there.

Check The Secret Garden Party website here where you can access Early Bird tickets for 2014 along with any other information.

All words by Harley Cassidy. More of Harley’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Follow her on Twitter as @harleycassidy.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think your review is lopsided. You cannot possibly be claiming nothing went wrong at SGP this year that you experienced or heard of! Come on!

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