This year, because it didn’t clash with the British Grand Prix, we thought we’d try the Cornbury Festival .
I was keen to try it because it is only 7 miles away, but when the line up was announced I wasn’t really inspired by it and didn’t want to go for both days in case of bad weather. So we chose the Sunday-only ticket because I noticed Joe Jackson was billed that day, who I was a big fan of in the early 80s. Sadly, I noticed last week that he’d pulled out of Cornbury. But Moth and I went anyway.
We arrived mid-afternoon, in time to hear a bit of Imelda May on the main stage (she went down very well) and watch Jali Fily Cissokho and his Coute Diomboulou band on the second stage.
I have no idea where this band is from, Senegal or Mali I guessed, but their rhythmic laid-back west African vibes sounded great and the audience received them very warmly. And Cissokho looked marvellous with his stringed gourd tied to his waist.
Cornbury is thankfully so small and friendly, it was easy to get right to the front to see the Lightning Seeds on the main stage. Lead by Liverpudlian songwriter Ian Broudie, they released a string of really catchy power pop songs in the 90s, including ‘Pure’, ‘Lucky You’, ‘Sense’, ‘Life of Riley’ and ‘Three Lions’.
Yesterday, despite Broudie’s really riffy, upbeat tunes, to me they came over as ordinary; nearly really good, but not quite. I’m certain others will disagree; the audience around me loved them, but I felt they lacked that final kick-ass sparkle which I was hoping for.
At the end of the set, they left the stage without having played ‘Three Lions’ and immediately the roadies started to break down the kit. The chirpy compere was roundly booed. Broudie was allowed to return to the stage with an acoustic guitar and sang Three Lions. The boos ceased and the crowd joined him for a sing-song.
As is traditional for me and Moth at festivals, we sought out the Indian vegetarian food stall and tucked into a bargain plateful of curry. The food stalls were plentiful and the queues short. Other stalls sold the usual array of hippy clothing, faery wings, inflatable flowers, shawls, bongs, hats, djembes, wellies, wind-chimes, jewellery and bubble machines. A fun fair did brisk business at the top of the field and happily there were masses of toilets. The whole thing was very well organised, with a chilled atmosphere and with enough space to move about in.
You could bring your baby or your granddad here and everyone would have a fab time.
Next on the main stage were The Pretenders. I first saw them in about 1980 in Birmingham. Led unusually for a rock band by a woman, American-born Chrissie Hynde writes and performs the songs and guides the creative direction of what is essentially her band.
Thirty years since forming the band, she still puts on a great show, strapping a guitar on, shaking a tambourine, belting out all the hit songs you’d expect: ‘Stop your sobbing’, ‘Kid’, ‘Message of Love’, ‘Brass in Pocket’, ‘Talk of the Town’ and ‘Back on the Chain Gang’. They performed well (the drummer was fantastic) and the crowd loved them, but I found them rather dull. One or two of the songs were really very poor; ‘I’ll Stand by You’, which was a hit, was a notable pile of what Moth calls ‘kaka-baba-shite’. But we were clearly in the minority: I was horrified to see the couple standing next to us embrace as the song began and sway lovingly in time to the dirge. They weren’t the only ones either. I couldn’t look. We left as they played the last song.
Making our way up the field away from the dying set of The Pretenders, we called in to see what was going on at the second stage. I wanted to see the Peatbog Faeries, whose name appealed to me. You have to admire a band with a name like that. And we did.
Wikipedia describes them as “a Celtic fusion band” with “many styles and influences, including rock, jazz, electronica, and folk. The band’s unique sound is created through a mix of programmed effects and traditional celtic arrangements, played on bagpipes, fiddles, and whistles.” I’d agree with all that. But I’d add something about their hypnotic groove – it was impossible to stand still. My head nodded, my feet shuffled, my hips wiggled and at times I even found myself wanting to handclap. They were great: exciting, original, melodic, rhythmic and as thrilling as the Pretenders were dull.
Top of the bill were the Sugababes, but we didn’t stay to see them. Girl bands are not our thang and we weren’t even slightly curious. So although none of the bands on the main stage really got me going, the festival had a great vibe. Yes, I’ll go again and hope that one of the bands has me struggling to find the right words of commendation.
Photos: Moth Clark and me