Last weekend I spent a wet day surrounded by children and drunk people with beards at Surrey’s Guilfest festival. As a local lass I’ve been many times over the years, and it’s always been sunny, dusty, gentle and friendly. This year just felt different…
As a family-orientated festival, the Guilfest organisers usually stick to comfy old legends like Brian Ferry, Blondie and Alice Cooper. This year they were obviously trying to appeal to a (much) younger crowd, with headliners including Olly Murs and Tulisa. As I said, it’s a family festival…so the dubious star of a crappy sex tape who didn’t actually even bother to turn up was an inspired choice. Poor Tulisa was apparently too ill to perform – all that bikini arranging in Ibiza must be just exhausting. Get well soon girrrrrl, XOXO.
Typically of a small local festival, it was the unsigned talent that took the gold (Elliott James deserves an honourable mention here for a brilliant acoustic set) but all anyone could talk about was the MUD. The mud was utterly RIDICULOUS and gave off a vile stench of incontinent farm animals, which is enough to put anyone right off their ubiquitous roast-dinner-in-a-Yorkshire monstrosity.
Conditions were much better once I’d managed to get backstage – no thanks to the organisers who ignored any attempt to contact them about press access. More fool them: I generally live by that gentle old adage ‘If you don’t have something nice to say then say nothing at all’ , but they definitely killed my buzz so I’ll just say it how it is.
The sound was terrible, throughout the festival. One of my favourite bands, Skindred, seemed to struggle with getting things right. One fan was shouting ‘I’m gonna lose my shit, I’m LITERALLY GONNA LOSE MY SHIT’. I only hope he managed to find it again. When they finally got going I was pretty underwhelmed. Not by the band, who were awesome as always, but by the atrocious sound. A lot of excellent acts were let down by the sound engineering across the board – including one of my favourite local bands: The SON.
The SON instantly got my vote because they strode out of the mud dressed like trendy undertakers. Three piece suits, hats and black wellies all round. The band played their usual awesome set, but were definitely let down by the sound engineer – apparently they asked to use their own in-ear monitors and were refused, which would have completely thrown a less professional band. As it was, they managed to attract and hold one of the biggest crowds of the day, and their debut album started selling like hot cakes. The album is out online this week, available to download here – look out for the HOWL review coming soon. One of the highlights for me was seeing The SON’s namesake backstage displaying some wicked drum skills…at the age of two.
Sartorially (yes I must do this: I’m the Fashion Editor), I went for every festival girl cliché in the book – patterned wellies, denim shorts, Cath Kidston backback… I also did my best fan girl impression with accompanying The SON badge AND sticker which they generously lavished on me backstage.
All in all, it was pretty much a wash out, and I don’t just mean the weather. Such a shame, but I think the organisers do need to pull their socks up and realise that they’ve out-grown ‘small local festival’ and really need to be making more of an effort in order to live up to festival-goers’ high expectations. I’m pretty sure the only people having actual fun were those on drugs, and kids with mud up to their eyebrows and awake past their bed times. Next year Guilfest, IMPRESS ME (and give me a god damn VIP access band).
Photography by Steve LC