In just over two days I will be taking the LeeFest bus from Croydon to the picturesque festival that is LeeFest. The festival situated in Kent happened to win a handful of awards including ‘Best Independent Festival’ in 2012 has a pretty enriching story. Having grown from one teenage boys wild imagination he brought together 150 friends, and friends of friends at his school after bribing the caretaker to use the stage. Most importantly raising quite a lot of money for a great charity called Teenage Cancer Trust. The festival has since grown in size, welcoming over 2,000 festival heads and creating a wonderful haven for people of all ages and backgrounds.
After my first experience last year I would have been a fool to not want to go back and this year. I shall be camping, discovering more new talent and generally acting like a big kid. On the LeeFest main stage you can expect to witness Delphic, Noisettes, The Skints, King Charles, Friends, Clean Bandit, Man Like Me, The Other Tribe and many more. Whilst on the Colin Denny Lava Lounge stage you can enjoy the sounds of London Grammar, Public Service Broadcasting, Lulu James, Fiction, Wall, Stealing Sheep, and more. Expect the sickest DJ’s and more in the Temple of Boom tent hosted by Audio Doughnuts & LeeFest. Featuring the likes of Stanton Warriors, Melé, Dark Sky, No Artificial Colours, Rattus Rattus, Pusherman. At the Wonderland Beach you can get funky with Itchy and Scratchy DJs, Mary Miss Fairy, Wonderland DJs, Steel Orchestra, No Limit Street Band. Then unwind and enjoy some antics at The Clocktower, an area full of beanbags and cushions, playing host to comedians, Swing dancers, Musical Bingo, poetry and plenty more.
Tickets are still available from as little as £35 and range from day tickets to weekend tickets ::: http://leefest.org.uk/buytickets1/
Although my LeeFest experience didn’t go exactly as I had planned, it can’t be denied that I had a short and sweetly coated time. The experience rather less deranged than I’m used to was instead pleasingly unhurried and tranquil (I’m sure friends would be confused by the absence of my crazy) but it’s not to say that crazy was absent from LeeFest!
As soon as I arrived at Leefest with the fierce sun beating down upon the site. I was captured by its Hippy element, as I witnessed families side by side 20 something’s and mischievous teenage types. Unlike other camping festivals I’ve experienced LeeFest’s 2,000ish capacity was a bittersweet welcome as on the positive you could find a suitable camping space within a micro second of walking into camp, as well as being a gratified 5 minute skip from the Main Stage. On the downside, you were approximately five seconds away from what I deem Water- bomb WW1 (at which one point I was annihilated by a red bull filled balloon. So exactly what gave me that sense of calmness & clarity? Well it could be the Caribbean blood in my veins but as soon as I digested the scene of people clasping Steel Pans and Sticks I was drawn to the Wonderland area which was marooned in the centre of the festival like a Caribbean island; complete with a sand filled paddling pool area that would later be used for water and paint fights that would make K$SHA green with envy.
The great thing about this festival is that it is perfectly mapped out in terms of size, with tent arena’s and stages close enough that a mere warble could bounce to your attention, leaving you time to reach the act before they had preceded the chorus. Mystifyingly stages were decently spaced but still close enough that sound levels weren’t off putting and this is how I came to be whisked away from the already relaxing vibes coming from the Croydon Street Orchestra to the tantalizing trumpets and saxophones flowing from behind me on the Main Stage. Here is where I introduce you to By The Rivers, a 6 piece New Age Reggae band that reaped havoc on my ear buds and struck my conscience, as I labelled the lads a ‘youthful’ UB40. This group could just be what the UK Charts need when it comes to bringing about soulful Reggae riddims, I’d make them my pick of the festival and I look forward to them growing from BBC’s Introducing all the way to mainstream radio.
Soon we welcomed a 3 piece Band All We Are who hailed from Liverpool but were unwittingly abducted from the 80’s with their soft vocals and eclectic sound that ranged for me from Spandau Ballet, then twirled into a funky fresh Daft Punk, into a vivacious Haim sound, that could otherwise be described as Alternative Indie & Pop.
I floated from the Main Stage to the Colin Denny Lava Lounge tent where I was captured by Tall Tales and their Neo Folk sound, as couples petted one another and friend’s lay helplessly connected and in sync with their tunes. The sprawled out crowds particularly loved their version of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ which included a mash up of tambourines, massive drums and a very Irish sounding interlude section. I swear I nearly got up and did a spot of Irish dancing but thankfully I stopped myself, not that the lads would have minded, in fact they were happy to let everyone sink into the soil. The Story Books on the other hand seemed perplexed by the audiences neglectful upstanding but they forgave us nevertheless as they soon focused their comedic wit on the sound technicians after unfortunately encountering minor technical issues. They went on to electrify rooted crowds with their Rock & Indie musical tales before they uprooted themselves to Scotland’s T in The Park.
As previously mentioned LeeFest’s crowds were a little less demanding than I’m used to, so I struck gold when I roamed into the Temple of Boom like a young and female Indiana Jones. I was clutched by House and Old Skool Garage beats as crowds interpreted DJ’s however the fudge they liked. We had the distinct shuffler but in the midst we had the robot, jivers, hula- hoopers and belly dancer’s. LeeFest was a pick ‘n’ mix of people that ultimately were there for the same thing, to slow their pace and to go un- judged and there was plenty of activities to take advantage of with Musical Bingo (forget listening out for numbers, in this game you listen out for the track that is performed by the artist on your game card, which is alright if you know the song but horrendous if you’re not. We re-lived the 2013 Olympic atmosphere with Ping Pong marathons, Swing Ball matches and Frisbee fanatics!
The plus of a festival for me is to gain knowledge of under the radar acts and I acquired that but I was admittedly excited to see The Noisettes bring together what became the rowdiest, happiest and largest crowd of the day, as they smashed out faves like ‘Never Forget You,’ ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm,’ and ‘Hey Hey.’ Lead singer Shingai Shoniwa wowed crowds with her eccentric style and soothing voice, managing to increase the crowds energy from tepid to blistering as the sun went down in Warlington and as I bid LeeFest Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye for another year.