Following last Saturday’s splendid, delicate yet powerful performance by the very promising White Lilac at the Locomotive, I’m now pretty much up for taking any and every opportunity to see this young local band taking the tentative steps on their journey to hopefully breaking out of the Swindon musical “ghetto” and gaining the wider exposure that their intriguing music undoubtedly deserves. So when their facebook feed posted that they’d be playing a local Farm Festival, this seemed a nice possibility for a family day out. This was underlined further by the presence of Tim’s band The Shudders on the bill; The Shudders had been inactive for a while of late but apparently delivered a storming set to close The Swindon Shuffle a couple of weeks back, so let’s see what form they’re in as well!
There was a party clash for Kasey, however, so it was just Logan and myself braving the unknown today. Rach drove us out to deepest darkest Purton, dropping us off at the compact Festival site about 11.30. A few hundred yards long and about 50 yards across; this really was compact and bijou! There were very few revellers early doors so we amused ourselves by going for a wander off-site, with Logan chasing chickens, making friends with a couple of Shetland ponies in the adjoining field and visiting the Farm Shop for pastries to augment our hastily grabbed picnic fixings!
It was still sparsely occupied when White Lilac rocked up to set up for their 1 p.m. set in the oversized gazebo that constituted the main stage. I’d joked with Rach on the way over that it might just be me, Logan and a hundred or so punters in a field; in fact considerably less than that greeted the Lilac’s opener, the baroque, gothic “Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower”, which marched onwards on its deathly tango way. By now Tim had joined myself, Logan and White Lilac vocalist Faye’s parents Mike and Stella in our watching brief, and Tim and I debated the poor sound following their Lush-like second number “Change Of Face”. I’d mused whether the lack of a bass anchor to the song had detracted from, or actually augmented the breezy, flyaway nature of that number, before realising I was talking to a bass player and therefore wasn’t likely to get an objective view! However we both agreed that the sound was tinny and trebly, with cellist Emma’s instrument particularly submerged in the mix, which was a bit of a shame but not entirely surprising given we were in the middle of a field.
White Lilac gamely soldiered on, however, and “Night Visions”, with its’ grand widescreen change of pace from slow and sombre to, erm, poundingly fast and sombre (!), was a highlight, and “Furs” was the best sounding number of the set, Emma’s bass giving it a fuller sound for its glam stomp and post-punk, almost Bunnymen-esque shimmering soundscape interludes. “He’s Not Himself” was, rather tellingly, the only number Faye introduced with a lengthy explanation, and ethereal closer “Swallow” recalled some of Belly’s earlier, less poppy moments, Faye’s pure vocal delivery underlining this, before the song built to a wall of sound crescendo.
Another fine set in difficult circumstances, we all agreed afterwards. I enjoyed a nice chat with guitarist Curtis while Tim left to help The Shudders set up, then we had to endure a slight delay for their set while the adjoining portaloos were pumped out! Aah, the joys of small Festival life…! The Shudders finally got under way 20 minutes late with the plaintive, Posies-like powerpop of “Sorry”, Tim and Liam’s vocal harmonies backing up Danny’s quieter, more delicate lead vocal line. A singalong “Words Of A Fool” was next up, this oldie sounding simpler yet still fresh, 6 (!) years on from that first album release!
More conventional in both sound and line-up to the openers, The Shudders consequently struggled less with the sound, although some numbers still sounded a little thin. Plus, it seemed every time they tackled a slower, more alt-Country sounding number from their canon, the toilet pump would fire up again! Bah! Nevertheless, the Laurel Canyon 60’s ballad “Sunrise” was preceded by some promises about a new album (Liam joking, “I think we said that here last year!”), an upbeat newie “Rooster”, with an elongated 70’s rock workout outro, was played out of sequence (Danny remarked “I’m just confusing everybody by not playing what’s on [the set-list]”, to which Liam retorted, “it’s a shopping list really!”), then before the effervescent Replacements-like garage riffery of “Thought I Saw You”, Liam knocked his mic stand over, nearly hitting Logan, who was sat at the front of the stage!
The fun, terrace chant Irish jig of oldie “Lost And Broke” concluded a set which proved The Shudders are in fine fettle and good fooling, hopefully in good time for that promised new album release. Logan grabbed the set-list and got it signed as well. Good work boys!
Chatted with the lads afterwards while Logan, who’d thoroughly enjoyed both bands, availed himself of the nearby kids’ activity tent arts and crafts, and the next band, 3-piece A Way With Words, kicked off their AOR/ Fleetwood Mac sounding set. However, we’d seen what we’d come for, and Rach arrived at the appointed 4 p.m. to pick us up. A nice afternoon out in good weather, good company with both Logan and the bands, and 2 splendid performances from The Shudders and White Lilac, despite the iffy sound. A nice Festival taster for Logan – hopefully the first of many!