Live Review

Secret Garden Party (Day Three)

Paint fights, mud fights and bands we’d never thought we’d enjoy.

A strangely downcast Sunday Blues atmosphere pervades the barren site at 11am, and following our discovery of ‘masala coffee’ at the Thali Café, we launch ourselves onto the immense pink frilly podium opposite the Colosillyum, next to the ghostly made-up graveyard. It’s an enjoyable exercise simply watching the dishevelled passers-by.

After an hour of this, we decide to explore the Small World Stage, where we find a blissful world of hippies in which footwear is banned. Playing is Nathan Ball who deftly dovetails percussive finger-plucks with understated bongo patters. It’s an uplifting, mellow lunchtime sound-track for sure, but we’re distracted throughout: the stage is infiltrated by a toddler and a dog, and it’s so frigging cute. Totally carefree, they play with each other below the bongo player as though the stage were a miniature playground.

We then catch whiteboy ska band Will & The People who start with a wholly faithful Bob Marley cover and finish with the Pixies’ ‘Where is my Mind?’. We’re not quite sure how this works, but their own material is also pleasurable: all Hammond organs, dub thrums and Pablo-esque melodica. It’s a consummate prelude to the unexpected Main Event.

That is, the annual SGP Great Stage paint fight. There must be 2,000 people here, virgins versus veterans, all crowded around the staff holding buckets of paint powder. Our hands now full, the numerous hype-men on stage count down from 10… 3… 2… 1… The sky is a shroud of blurry technicolour. It’s a surreal moment, made even more so by the fact we’re now dancing to ‘Every Day I love You Less & Less’ by Kaiser Chiefs. As the sky clears, our colourful skin, clothes and bags are unveiled. Whoops.

Wandering off, PR Nick in the media tent declares, “you look like you’ve stepped into the vortex”, whilst a man the Secret Emporium utters, “you definitely lost the paint fight, mate”. I take all this on the chin, compliant with my new rainbow look.

I do psychologically shake it off however, when we see the foot-stomping Ahab, an upbeat country and western band equipped with 12-string guitar, mandolin, headbands, flatcaps and facial hair in the Crossroads tent. It’s amiable faux bluegrass in the Mumford ilk, and a certified guilty pleasure.

On our way out, we happen across a rather flamboyant cortège: a sassy New York Brass Band in dinner attire leading the way, with men on stilts, men in wigs and men in buggies on the rear. As we advance towards the Colosillyum to observe a painful close-up paintball comp, we discover the Band4Hope tree where the public can inscribe future hopes and desires. One thoughtful guy has written – “I wish that one day… Keira Knightley gives me head”.

For some reason, the homely Living Room venue is chock-a-block today. We now see why – the second most annoying hairy ginger of the weekend is doing a secret set. Luckily, Newton Faulkner is just closing with a cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as we enter. The audience is now pouring out in flocks, and we stick around to see Jake Morley whose lap-guitar playing and funky hoedowns backed by a double bassist on new song ‘Allegorical House’ serve up a lovely mid-afternoon treat.

To round off our first ever Garden Party, we head to the Where The Wild Things Are area, which is heaving as hotly-tipped Daughter, minimal alter-ego of moody singer Elena Tonra, ascends to execute her doleful tween-folk. Very much like Marling (super articulated, touching and static), it’s the well-known ‘Youth’, in which post-rocky diminuendos meet saccharine, delicate whispers, that particularly stands out.

And it’s now left to the perennially awesome Summer Camp to culminate proceedings with their ludicrously 80s mish-mash of twinkling synths, twee vocals and reverby FX. ‘Ghost Train’ is a bit of a shambles as per, but recent single ‘Always’ is puissant, invigorating and catchy like a fuzzy Human League. When Jeremy Warmsley proclaims ‘YOLO’ in a description of their close-call with lightning at an Italian festival the day before, we think yes, YES – SGP has surreptitiously encapsulated ‘YOLO’. Paint fights, mud fights and bands we’d never thought we’d enjoy; it was YOLO fo sho.

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