Knee Deep – once upon a time all festivals were like this

If you ever find yourself sick of the endless commercialism of modern festivals then this little gem could be the antidote you have been looking for

Call me a cynic but it seems to me that if a festival starts selling branded bags so that punters can carry away all the tat they've bought then they've lost all rights to use the term 'music festival'.

Thankfully there are few still out there that put on a gathering designed to showcase new artistic talent rather than provide an outdoor retail opportunity and Knee Deep is onesuch.

Held in a secret Cornish location this tiny (licensed for 1000 souls) festival is the epitome of what makes for a great festival, with bands that you may or may not have heard of, people who want to listen to them and a relaxed, easy going atmosphere.

It's cheap but decidedly cheerful and mainly organised and run by a team of volunteers who do it for the love and a free ticket.

If you've ever read any of the pap that I write for these pages before then there's a good possibility you've come across me opining about the quality of musical choice that is on the KD bill. without doubt these guys have an unerring knack of choosing A1 quality of artists just before they break big which means that if you have attended Knee Deep you can sound like the big kid on the back of the bus when your mates suddenly discover Kate Tempest or Wolf Alice. "Oh yah I saw them at Knee Deep".

So anyway we were smart this year and got away good and early for the three hour drive across the South of England to find the tiny hidden away farm that houses Knee Deep. Immediately we are struck by the attitude of mind as we have a bit of 'bants' with the car park people involving colostomy bags. You had to be there.

Set up where you like (although not downwind of the very large number of toilets) and then off to catch the first band of the day, except we'd already  missed the first one as we got talking to some lads from Leeds as far as I could tell.

First for us of the weekend were a particularly fine Alaska Alaska, a group that describe themselves as shouty indie punk but actually present a much more thoughtful musical face. We liked them.

Following hard on their heels were one of my favourite finds of the weekend - Husky Loops. I have no idea what that name means but in the great scheme of things it matters little, what does matter is the quality of their sounds.

Drawing on all sorts of influences their music is partially European (the guys are Italian after all) but is certainly channelling some of the darker, older Kasabian tracks to give a kind of rich rock sound.

I first saw The Magic Gang a couple of years ago at Common People when a fellow tog was raving about them. I thought they were good at the time but the intervening years have been kind to them and their sound is, whilst still a young millennial version of the lambrettas, much more honed and tight. 

The guys exuded confidence on the main stage and I get the impression that they are just one great hook away from stardom.

About this time we decided to go and get a tea and slice of cake to round off our day (I'm not big on dance tents) and the family feel was enhanced by buying the victuals from Fred's (one of the chief culprits of Knee Deep) mother who later provided us with the largest scotch egg I have ever seen. I got through it though.

We also found that at any point of the day or night (or early morning) you can end up chatting about music to a random from some other part of the country. At Knee Deep people always ask the same questions, who have you enjoyed, what other bands do you like, where do you listen to live music. It's not just marketing fluff - knee deep really is all about the music.

Knee Deep is a Friday/Saturday festival and it does in fairness attract a large number of young people who are away from  mum for the first time. Similarly there is little distinction between day and night so if you are a light sleeper then it's possible you may  have problems being kept awake by people who are just 'high on life'. Our neighbours managed to sing their last song around 5.15 am. Which was nice.

Shout out by the way to the organisers who designed an exclusive Knee Deep cup for getting your beer in. It was a quid (it would've been a fiver at Bestival) and it was re-usable which absolutely cut down the amount of plastic glasses that were floating around the next morning.

Next day and we're up bright and early at 1pm to see Average Joe. Joe hails from the birthplace of Robbie Williams but we didn't hold that against him and listened on intently with, in my case, a puzzled look on my face. Was he serious, was it a gag?

There were some really quite dark lyrics in there but also a great sense of timing as the rude songs came to an end just as some small people appeared. Well done on that Joe Average.

In  a line up switch on the main stage sistertalk kicked off with a set full of off key, haunting melodies. With their 20s gangster costume kitsch and doom laden sound they look like one for the future.

One of the bands I'd been looking forward to were Krush Puppies. They may have only been around a short while but they seem to be gaining some notice around town (and I don't mean Liskeard). They were worth waiting for as their heavily guitar packed sound lit up the early afternoon field.

Think Souxsie Soux and you'll be on the right track. The band themselves at times looked lacking a little in confidence which they absolutely shouldn't be because they really were epic.

Black Midi are one of those groups that seem to appear, a bit like a creepy uncle from behind at a family wedding, all of a sudden that are just there.

What do we know about them? F All. But they are one of those bands that make you sit up and take notice. They are doing different stuff which whilst it may not have totally settled down into its finished form yet is looking very much like it will turn into something very interesting indeed.

Very strong Bass lines, epic drumming, I can't give any higher praise for these guys than say Cardiacs.

At some points we did a load of wandering. Knee Deep is small but perfectly formed in that there is something going on all the time but you aren't overwhelmed by the modern phenomena FOMO. We happened upon a synth workshop, poetry readings, ceramics and championship knitting. You won't get bored here.

You also won't get bored if you are watching Sports Team. Two years ago I loved seeing these guys and was convinced that they'd go onto bigger and better things. Appearances for the beeb and at Reading and leeds would suggest I was right (aren't I always?).

Sadly they weren't provided with a radio mike so lead singer Alex Rice (aka Dave Spivey) was partially confined to within a few yards of the front of stage but that didn't stop him disappearing at one point into an appreciative crowd.

Testament to the band and to the Knee Deep effect was that many of the crowd remembered them from last time around and were, as I was looking forward to seeing them again.

High energy rocky, punky indie sounds with a frontman that conjures up a babyfaced Mick Jagger, you can expect them to go onto bigger and better things and they again provided one of my highlights of the weekend.

Barney The Artist is an East London based hip-hop rap artiste and sat nicely in the Loyle Carner slot. A man with a wicked sense of humour who got the crowd dancing and received a well deserved encore. It looks like Knee Deep have uncovered another gem.

In 2016 Matt Maltese took his shirt off and it seems like the trauma of that has taken its toll as he not only made reference to it in his set but he made sure he kept a shirt and jacket on at all times (and probably a string vest). I think I have some photos from 2016 if Matt would like to email me for my paypal details...

Matt's persona is of some sort of seventies lounge singer but his songs are anything but. Listen to the lyrics of 'like a fish' for example and you'll see why.

Finally for us Free love bounded onto the main stage to bring the live music to a close.  We'd been tipped off by Aaron who'd done one of the art installations (did I mention the epic Artworks?) around the site although it appears the band used to be called Happy Meals. One suspects trademark infringement.

Anyway bounded is indeed the word as singer Suzi Rodden was a ball of energy leaping from one side of the stage to the other and diving into the crowd and tying them up with her mike lead. Unfortunately the lighting wasn't the best for photography so the pics by this time of night were a bit sketchy but hopefully you get the idea.

The music went on for some hours after but as previously discussed I'm not a fan of dem DJ's so went off to find a cup of tea and have a chat with Fred's mum.

Overall then?

Knee deep never fails in providing challenging bands.  Some are at the 'start of the journey' shall we say but some are pretty well there and KD pick them up. Favourites for the weekend were probably Black Midi, Sports team and Krush Puppies but there were some excellent acts on show.

This is a great festival. It's the thing that the owners of the big festivals have forgotten. It's not about the merch, or how many likes you can get on Facebook or how many trolleys you can rent to middle class families.

It's about the music and having a great time.

When I get asked which are my favourite festivals there are always two that turn up - Beautiful Days and Knee Deep.

Both share the same attitude funnily enough in that they have laid back security, staff that you can have a bant with and bands that you've never heard of.

I may never get invited back to Beautiful Days though because I told them that Knee Deep was my favourite.

Honesty isn't the best policy it turns out.


Husky Loops on stage at Knee Deep 2018
 Knee Deep 2018
The Magic Gang on stage at Knee Deep 2018
 Knee Deep 2018
Krush Puppies on stage at Knee Deep 2018
Krush Puppies on stage at Knee Deep 2018
Black Midi on stage at Knee Deep 2018
 Knee Deep 2018
 Knee Deep 2018
Sistertalk at Knee Deep 2018
Sports Team at Knee Deep 2018
Knee Deep 2018
Barney the Artist at Knee Deep 2018
Knee Deep 2018
Free Love at Knee Deep 2018
Free Love at Knee Deep 2018

The Gallery

It was a challenging weekend for the photographer.

If I'm being kind to myself some of the lighting was really difficult but sometimes you just have an off weekend.

Anyway click on the photo to see a bigger version. If my widget is working correctly you may even be able to scroll through.


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