Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest – not at Larmer tree
So you know how I said there was so much going on at Larmer tree that I had to split it into two? Well I lied. I had to split it into three.
The day starts with some time spent processing shots followed by another mooch around to see what abstracts I can drag up.
One of the great things about Larmer Tree is that there is always something unusual sitting in the bushes or hanging from the trees.
Looking at the line up and it's a bit of a weird one. Naturally there's a load of stuff on for kids, which I'm always reluctant to shoot and the music is a bit patchy for me. Frankly, good as he may be putting Bill Bailey on as second headliner seems odd.
Walking around we come across a circle of people watching 'The Naked Chef' who is a street performer doing a cookery demonstration in just his pants. It's a great diversion and we sit and watch the fun and I shoot a few pics including the bit where he gets his hand stuck under the PA system.
Back to the main stage area and again it's something for the kids. Beatboxer Shlomo is doing his workshop for kids and of course I shoot, but it's also brilliant fun, partly because Shlomo is an awesome beatboxer and partly because he's such a great showman. He's also really good with the kids.
There are a number of lovely kids that get up on stage for a competition and the time slips quickly by.
Earlier in the weekend my second camera had started overexposing. Initially I thought it was down to fat fingers on my part but as the day goes on I realise that whatever setting I'm dialling in it continues to massively over expose. I put it back in the bag to investigate later.
Raghu Dixit has done Larmer before and since then has been a busy chap. He appears on the main stage with an interesting looking band and I'm looking forward to getting some awesome pics which I signally fail to do. I get some slightly above average pics and ruefully trudge back to the press area reflecting on the fact that I guess we can't be on our game all the time.
Back at the press tent the lovely Cassie is raving about Shlomo and blushing slightly at the thought. I know he's in the Songlines signing tent so I drag her over against her will (yeah right) and pester him for a fan pic which he graciously agrees to. Generally I won't bug acts for this sort of thing but seeing as Cassie has been looking after us whining togs all weekend I think it's allowed.
The carnival is a traditional event at Larmer for a Sunday afternoon and a number of the photographers are going off to shoot it. Frankly I'm not really interested in shooting the same pics as everyone else so Al and I go off to the double decker bus and have a cream tea. To give you an idea of what she has to put up with, we sit on the top deck and I poke the lens out and start pinging off shots whilst she sits ruefully noshing a scone or two.
We always like to check out bands that we don't know and so we go off to the smaller stages and see what's going on. Yet again I fire off some average pics that will never see the light of day but at least we enjoy the music.
Find of the weekend was probably Molotov Cocktail. I'd kind of thought that it would be a bit of a token band given that it is fronted by the lovely Natalia Tena (she of Game of thrones fame). How wrong can you be.
Lively, colourful and with plenty of movement the band are a photographers' dream. Their music isn't too shabby either with a superb mixture of latin/calypso beats and Tena's gorgeous sultry vocals. Often I'll shoot the three songs we're allowed in the pit then wander off but in this case I go and find Al sitting on the packed lawn and enjoy a late afternoon beer and the great music.
Molotov certainly rescued my day because I got some really nice shots and heard some wonderful music.
There's talk of a photo release for Bill Bailey (because he's got a tour coming up blah blah bullshit bullshit) so I decide to reserve judgement until I've seen it and go off and see one of last years' finds.
Coco and the Butterfields are on the garden stage which I'm going to be honest about here - was one of the stupidest decisions I've seen all summer.
Last year they aced the main stage yet this year they are shoehorned onto the much smaller garden stage. Now this can't be because Bailey has a big set up because he doesn't. He has two keyboards and a mic.
So why would you pack a large band who give a performance full of energy and movement onto a tiny stage where they can't do what they do well? To top it all the late afternoon sun is shining full pelt into their faces and they are sweating mightily as a result. I get some photo's that will rapidly meet the delete button and just stand and enjoy what turns out to be IMHO a below par performance, mainly due to the cramped conditions.
As it turns out Bailey's release is a rights grabber so I decline to shoot from the pit and and in my own one man unseen protest I refuse to take any pictures of Bill from the crowd. I'm pretty sure that most artists don't realise what their managers are doing with these contracts. Often they give the artist the right to use all your photos for free whenever they like. Sometimes they give ownership to the artist. Sometimes they stop the photographer using them. For me there's no point in shooting what I can't use later.
Annoyingly he's really funny and does his terrific musical set which we both enjoy. Bah.
Fittingly the act that I had been looking forward to the most since the Levellers was the headliner - Jimmy Cliff. The guy provided the soundtrack to a large portion of my youth so naturally there's an amount of trepidation. Will he be any good? Will age have taken it's toll?
I needn't have worried. He comes out and sits on a chair with a couple of bongos and I'm thinking that we're getting nothing. Then, like a firework he's off.
Cliff starts to play games with the photographers in the pit. He notices that when he runs to one side of the stage we follow, so he waits until we get set then runs to the other side and we follow, then he runs back.
To be fair he helps us out because when he throws a shape he holds it for just a second or so longer than you'd expect so we can all get our shots. The guy's a pro.
The set isn't without it's challenges though. Jimmy is wearing a silver jacket that reflects rather strange lighting and of course he's black, which produces a huge contrast and throws the light meter off. I compensate as much as I can and spend the three songs running from one side of the pit to the other.
There are closed passages that we use to get from the press area to the main stage and walking back hearing the iconic Cliff songs was a real 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment.
A group of the togs meet up at the tea wagon for a cuppa and a good old moan about the state of the music photography market. It reinforces my view that most people shooting music today do so for the love of the art or the music and not for the money. Not many people are making money from the weekend.
A note here about the lovely press people. Flint PR were running the accreditation process and looking after us all for the event and they did a great job. It makes a massive difference when you think the PRs are trying to help. They remained good humoured, even in the face of some remarkably rude press people from an unnamed organisation and still managed to get us interviews lined up wherever they could. I see that Mills P from last year and what constitutes the rest of the office have turned up for the final night and I go and say a quick hello then goodbye as the night draws towards it's conclusion.
For the finale we trudge off to the comedy tent because I particularly want to see Kerry Godliman and Russell Kane.
Photographing comedy is a lot different to shooting music and I feel unable to go to the front of the stage for shots and myself and other togs generally keep ourselves to the side. It seems that the performer has a bond with the audience and intruding upon that by forcing yourself in the middle would break it.
The tent is less packed than it has been and the crowd seem more subdued both of which are probably a result of a long weekend and some tired punters.
When I get there we're halfway through a very good set by Yve Blake who concludes with a song made up of audience tweets. Godliman is good and proves that women CAN do comedy despite what seems to be a pretty male dominated industry. She's bright, funny and more aggressive than I imagined. Don't expect Hannah out of Derek.
Kane however manages to annoy me. He spends the first half of his set telling us how awful British people are. Now , I'm happy to laugh at myself and my country as much as the next man but Kane's comedy has an undercurrent of hatred that goes on just a bit too long IMHO. It gets old frankly. He's still doing the stuff about his dad too, which is also a bit old now. The later part of his set revives and actually gets pretty good which is a relief.
So overall what about The Larmer Tree 2015?
Once again it was a very friendly festival and I enjoyed it very much but for a 25th anniversary? Not sure. It didn't seem to be so much of a celebration as a money saving exercise. I'm pretty sure that there were less acts, less street theatre and the headliners weren't.
There also seemed to be a bit of an odd atmosphere at times, especially in the comedy sessions.
That having been said they reaffirmed their commitment to local live music because there were some great acts on show. The vibe is always friendly as it is somewhere parents can be happy to take their smaller kids to and a good place for teenagers to have their first lone festival experience.
The food is awesome, the beer is awesome, the location is awesome and the camping is awesome.
So personally I'd be getting myself on the early bird list for next year!