This festival had been on my must do list for a number of years, so I was genuinely thrilled to finally make it this year (albeit for one day only).
It would appear that the weather god Zeus is at one with Carfest, as I approach the car park in glorious sunshine. From here it’s a 25 minute walk to the main entrance where I notice along the way other day visitors with all manner of camping gear, ice boxes, trolleys etc determined to make a day of it. I’m greeted by a sea of people waiting patiently to enter the site as I approach the wristband exchange. With the sun blazing down, amongst what appears to be a thousand people; a few appear to be struggling (including myself) and begin to feel overwhelmed with the sun and heat. Some requiring medical attention due to fainting. Long delays entering festivals appear to be a common theme this year due, it would seem, to the increased security checks. All together it took some 2 and half hours from joining the queue for the car park and getting through security. Not great, but not as bad as some other festivals this year.
It’s a little before 2pm and I’m on-site seeking some shade to re-fresh. On my way I pass several tempting food stalls and I’m immediately taken by all the happy, smiley family faces. There appears to be an endless array of activities and events for all ages, and had I more time I would have loved to have explored more. I got the sense you could never find yourself kicking your heels here. Sometimes however it’s nice to just find a chilled spot in the shade, relax and watch the world go by.
It wasn’t too long before I heard some familiar voices over the speakers in the main arena bellowing out “bogies” which could mean only one thing, Its Dick and Dom!! Like a bottle of fizzy pop they explode on the stage and barely sit still for a minute as they create all sorts of mayhem from jumping into the pit with super soakers dousing the audience to unleashing giant inflatable balls onto the crowd in a race to see which one came back quickest. The humour had something for everyone including a few choice innuendos for the adults.
It’s hard to think of a better way to get the crowd galvanised and open the main music stage for the day. Despite being in this business 20 plus years, I have never had the opportunity to catch Deacon Blue live. They are I have to say consummate professionals as they deliver all the hits, and they have all obviously had a glug from the well of youth as they have barely aged! Highlights include “ Fergus Sings the Blues” and set closer, the magnificent “Dignity” which at one point had the person next to me in tears. Every word sung back to the band who were clearly moved by the outpouring of love for them.
As the last note lingered, Chris Evans came bounding onto stage. At this point I should point out that there are two identical stages next to one another which keep things jogging along nicely, no need here to endure 30 minute changeovers on stage, which means that it was only a few minutes between Deacon Blue and Dodgy. Even in this short space of time, Chris Evans was there on stage with all manner of entertaining routines and happily diving into the pit to meet fans and pose for photos.
I can’t think of a more appropriate song to open with than “Staying Out for the Summer” as Dodgy launch into their set. With feel good vibes on overload, it was easy to get blissed out to their infectious guitar pop. Their sound is a bit beefier live thanks to the addition of a fourth member to the line-up. Although some may not necessarily know their name, everyone knows the tunes especially the mighty “Good Enough” which was the cherry on the cake.
After the briefest of interludes by Chris Evans who keeps the energy flowing, it’s onto Jess Glynne who along with her band looked spectacular, aside from one or two of her biggest hits including Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” the whole thing feels a bit soulless and perhaps a little too slick. I’m reminded of RnB shows with overwrought singing and some padding with long introductions. I must however be in the minority as the audience are enthralled.
Another quick changeover and its Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott whom I am very much looking forward to. Opening with the whimsical, country tinged “Prettiest Eyes” it’s the perfect antidote to what preceded; and provides the perfect soundtrack to the setting sun. A few Housemartin’s tracks get an airing (sadly not “Build”) and a few from previous incarnation Beautiful South in the shape of “Rotterdam” and “Don’t Marry Me”. Much like “beans on toast”, and “curry with a beer”, this pairing work so well together even more so on their newer material.
The mum’s and dad’s must now relinquish their spot at the front for their offspring as Olly Murs takes to the stage, who is breath-taking and a real tour de force as an entertainer. I’ll admit I am not familiar with his music, but that doesn’t seem to matter as this guy is a showman in every sense of the word. Again as with Jess Glynne earlier there are moments of padding out of the show, but he is back on point with an incredible 10 minute melody of cover versions including a very credible “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.
My day at Carfest is drawing to a close, but that’s not before tonight’s headliners Kaiser Chiefs make their presence felt. They are the perfect choice uniting both young and not so young with their hook laden tunes. It is genuinely surprising to me how many good songs they have in their back catalogue, songs I have long since forgotten about. Singer Ricky Wilson leads the charge and has the crowd eating out of his hand. The band is tight which allows Ricky to go….well full Ricky on us! Highlights include a ferocious “Angry Mob” and the mass sing-a-long “Ruby”. I think the band in some quarters are unfairly criticised, and are deserving of a second look by those who perhaps dismissed them too early in their career. A joyous “I Predict a Riot” signals the night is over.
Despite some initial problems getting onto the site, I must doff my cap to the organisers and artists; who let’s not forget are not getting paid for this. The entertainment was non-stop and it’s a genius idea having two mainstages adjacent to one another enabling non-stop music and entertainment.
My only regret is not having enough time to get the most out of it all from the car displays/racing, cooking demonstrations, carnivals, and much much more. I have been to many family festivals over the years, and this is by far the very best. For those of you old enough to remember Tiswas or Going Live, It’s basically the Saturday morning TV of the festival world, and I will definitely tune in again.