In The Woods

There are so many festivals around these days; the attitude seems to be if you haven’t queued an extortionate amount of time for a warm beer or passed out in the arms of a security guard then your summer wasn’t worth living. Fear not, there is another way. I realised this on arrival at In The Woods under a canopy of leaves strung up romantically with lights. It was beautiful and there wasn’t any mud…

Homegrown over the last seven years from a party hosted by Laurel Collective and based in a secret location in Kent, this festival baby has been nurtured to become an incredibly special event. In The Woods (like most smaller festivals) boasts the up-and-coming corner of the music market, but the difference is they actually deliver. Previous line ups have included Anna Calvi, Lucy Rose, Lianne la Havas and a triumphant Alt-J returning to headline this year. The rest of the acts pulse with imminent success, it feels fresh and alive.

Our first spot is Tanya Auclair, caught playing the Laurel Lounge. There is a lot of glitter and a lot of percussion and a lot of fun. Tribal rhythms, at times beguilingly disjointed, but strung together with melodies that build and break in gorgeous waves. Her latest EP ‘Origami’ is out now.

The idea is keep it small and it works, everything was handpicked precisely for the occasion, including the exceptional cider. An example of this approach for me was the spoken word tent, ok, it’s not strictly music but fresh from Edinburgh ‘Charlie Dupré Presents The Stories of Shakey P’ was intelligent and very amusing. The blend of rap and literature worked fantastically in such an intimate setting. The fact that he is an ex drum ‘n’ bass MC just made it even better.

Peter and Kerry were another highlight on the gorgeously positioned main stage (it’s the setting that makes this festival, the levels of the Roman-esque main stage tumble you into the music). The two solo artists who joined forces a while back to create funky beats layered with quite simple, but poignant lyrics. I’m huge fan of Slow Club and these guys have a similar feel. The wound up with ‘Fucking Around’ (don’t put off by the cheekiness) it built to a climatic amalgamation of sound. Glorious. Their debut was out on 30th July.

The art installations helped to set the scene, from hanging heads straight out of Where The Wild Things Are up to a real life Mad Hatters tea party with performance artists to bring the surrealism alive. The fact that we were later partying with the Mad Hatter gives you an idea of the 1000 capacity feel.

Two particular highlights for us were Dog is Dead and Stealing Sheep who we had the opportunity to interview, keep checking HMCMB for those glorious meeting of minds. But of course the big moment for everyone were the headliners Laurel Collective and Alt-J to bring everything to an emphatic finish. Absolutely everyone has been listening to this lot over the summer, they are favourites to win the Mercury music prize in 2012, awesome, enough said.

After huge bonfire blazing to the sounds of Russian fiddler music on makeshift radios we huddled into the Whirlygig Cinema tent. Live backing of guitars and violas to some beautiful animation made the perfect finish. If you like animation, check them out they are cool kids.

In The Woods had that Midsummer Night’s Dream feel that every other festival tries to achieve. Like when one of your friends has a really really cool party, but with a few more people. This is the real Secret Garden Party. And I will certainly be going back next year.