Larmer Tree review – part 2

in which Stuart interviews a couple of bands and throws beer over his camera

Saturday dawns and we're spoilt for choice with a plethora (yes I said plethora) of brilliant live music acts on the slate.

I spend the morning processing Fridays' shots then go off for a wander round looking for abstract pics. These are photos that feature a striking central image but that have a good amount of space for wording and tend to get used on flyers, posters and in the general PR.

I had a decent amount of success last time with several of my pics used throughout the year by Larmer Tree and was pleased to be at a festival recently only to find one of last years bits of work sitting on my car windscreen. Fame at last!

I've got appointments to interview Chainska Brassika and Tobias Ben Jacob & Lukas Drinkwater in the afternoon so we make our way over to the site and have a look round. 

I meet up with Tobias and Lukas and their multi talented producer/photographer/mate, carry out the interview then go and find Al in the Arc where the irrepressible Curtis Eller's American Circus are on.

It's a great fun set, fronted by Eller who appears not to be able to stand still for any length of time and goes off running round the tent and into the crowd. I'm amused by how uncomfortable this seems to make some people who look like they've just come into the Arc for a bit of a sleep.

Curtis plays an eclectic mix of American folk, comedy tunes and acapella/doowop and mixes this in with high kicks and jumps. Lively is not the word.

Off then to meet up with Chainska Brassika via the beer tent where I am forced at gunpoint to buy some of the excellent Ringwood that they have on sale. Brassika are one of the growing band of new Ska/bluebeat bands and I really like their stuff. As it turns out, like a lot of bands in this genre they are good fun to be around and we get a couple of nice pics as they adopt a spade and get all creative with it.

As the interview draws to a close I manage to spill the dregs of my pint on one of my cameras that luckily is the one that has a waterproof lens attached. What a waste of beer.

Back to the main lawn to try and find Al who had been enjoying the music on the main and garden stages. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer are on (as Show of Hands) and they explain that this is something like the 23rd year out of 25 that they've appeared at the festival. An impressive record indeed.

Something strikes me though, there seems to be more gaps between artists this year. As I remember last year it was one after the other alternating between the two and I'm struck by the sense that there appear to be less bands on show.

I'm also struck by the lack of street theatre. Last year you couldn't move for impromptu performances and yet this year I don't think I photographed any. Speaking with people later there seems to be a general lack of 'wow' factor at the artists on show and a bemusement at the decision to book Sir Tom not only two years in a row, but also two nights consecutively.

Now admittedly Larmer Tree has never sought out the very big headline names, after all there would be little point with a constricted capacity, but with the greatest respect I don't think that Jimmy Cliff, Femi Kuti and Rodrigo y Gabriela are necessarily headline acts. I'm also not convinced that the depth was there either. Maybe it's just me.

I go back to the press tent and another tog  asks me who I'm looking forward to. 'Orchestre National De Barbes look good' I reply before the lovely Lucy of Flint PR tells me they're not coming. Visa problems apparently. Oh well, we can't have those foreigners coming over here entertaining us now can we?

Fear not as I discover the really rather good reggae and ska stylings of 'By the Rivers' on the main stage. I like what they do, if it's a little poppy for my liking, and shoot then watch their set before catching a great set from Lukas and Tobais in the Social. They are joined by the superb Kelly Oliver (another whose set I was determined to see and didn't manage it) and Alison da Souza. The foursome were exceptional and the time flew by.

Before long it was time to go down for headliner Femi Kuti and the Positive Force.  A bright and colourful act was ruined somewhat for photographers by some 'interesting' lighting but we get some reasonable pics of this lively band.

Kuti's music is classic 'world music' and is enjoyable if not earth shattering. It's good for the end of a hot day on the lawn when you've got a pint of the local brew and your feet hurt a bit.

Final music act of the night is Chainska Brassika who I'd been looking forward to for a while. As a lover of traditional bluebeat/ska/reggae I'm really pleased to see so many young bands springing up in the new British genre that updates the sound without losing the essential spirit. The big top lighting is powered by methane from the toilets  and as such is three stops under 'dim' but I ping off some pics and then very much enjoy the ambience of the big top.

I was determined to take in more of the comedy and so we went for a late night rendevous over at the Arc. The tent is packed so we stand at the back in the chilling night to enjoy the excellent comedy.

The crowd were perhaps a bit more receptive (but only a bit more) and Seann Walsh, Stephen Bailey and Mark Simmons were worth staying up for. The rather surreal 'cheese' heckling was good and Walsh included a grain of truth when he asked whether we all thought we should have been at latitude.

My rather picky criticism aside we went back to the tent happy that we'd had a full day of excellent and varied entertainment. I always think that the sign of a good festival is that you have a small amount of regret at the acts that you missed and we could have had an entirely different day without seeing any of the above bands. My apologies to the wonderful people that we excluded.

Show of Hands at Larmer tree 2015
Tobias ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater at Larmer tree 2015
By the Waters at Larmer tree 2015
Femi Kuti at Larmer tree 2015
Femi Kuti at Larmer tree 2015

The Gallery

The least worst pics from a great Saturday at Larmer Tree.

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