Review: Alfresco Festival 2016 – What A Whit…

Art & Culture

"I can't abide all this 'rave' music. People jumping around and being happy with others. It is certainly nothing you would see at the 19th hole in my golf club in Kent, and I am sure they know little about Talisker's finest malt. I believe it's only for reprobates and big city immigrants and most definitely not for the likes of the good conservative folk of Kent.


Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells."

A short train ride from London, my brother The Sardine and I decided to see what the new look Alfresco would be. Having become the only serious and curated affair on the Fylde coast, the festival had upped tent pegs and taken a Virgin south, to a Royal town no less. Brief conversation with the taxi driver (and many comments on having some hair with me) gave an inkling that this sortie was still a little undiscovered, and being dropped off in an industrial estate had us mistrusting the Facebook imagery shared. Short walk up a side track assayed them worries, and came across a wonderful myrtle green arena. "Get them tents up", I hollered at The Sardine.

The first night's line-up had to be hastily re-arranged due to technical issues, but all led to a slightly anarchic but heavily appreciated and absorbing evening until past the clock tick. Ireland's Scoundrels, Leeds Clandestinos and Sunderland's finest Jo gave a fine show off all, and Lauer's 'Birsk' almost burst the Nein t' igloo…

The family festival tag was definitely in evidence the following day. Kids on roller boots with their DJ parents, hay bales destroyed and donkeys neighing. And some #dogsofinstagram festival appreciation. It felt right: not in your face cheese supporting, fancy food consuming, Daily Mail reading, Tory accepting capitalism, but born from a real love of the music and the people who knew that. The Sardine's words, not mine.

The Saturday had numerous highlights. Tronik Youth re-inflated the Nein igloo before VANISHINGPOINT!'s Marc Hasler celebrated his birthday with a massive crew. The We Are The Sunset team invented 'wonky Balearia' in the bizarre sloping surroundings that were THE WOODS, learned left-leaners boshing out quality and obscurity with random abandon. The night grew close, and the R$N managing directors managed to direct me to some psychedelic lentils and also to some of the finest live acid/techno/acid/house/music/forlife/notjustforjesus acts going. Vox Low finished that line up with a retake of Bernie's castle bonanza, they were proper boss la! Someone even knocked over our bloody lightbox, too much Gothic chugging it seems. Then the man Ivan Smagghe took hold of the big top, a little more restrained than I had hoped for in honesty. At least that's how I remember it, but the magic puys had guided me to a unexpected disco nap in a portaloo, waking at 4am and wondering where all the fuck had gone?

So what else you wanna know? Oh, was there a Sunday? Jeez. I believe there were some DJs on. I have heard that Don Letts was well cool, and just ace. Sean Johnston B2B Logan Fisher became SJ>LF>JC as a wise decision was made and stages combined. Jennifer Cardini was a definite standout, and the subject of plentiful heated conversation back at Chez Halfords.

I also had a pizza. The Sardine said his was better.

Whether I was alive on Monday is a point of discussion. The Sardine quit the scene sharpish, leaving me in the tent, and I followed several other reprobates to a 'Spoons in nearby Tunbridge Wells. 'Cocoon' had nothing on it, but my Disgruntled self had two meals, two beers and a very cheap red wine. 

The grand news is, that despite some problems and definitely some freeloaders, Alfresco is back in 2017. It was a great festival Up North, and was learning it's feet Darn Sarf. It expanded with integrity and humility, and I had so much fun I could not talk or laugh again for a week (was worried I was running out of gas). Next year's event has confirmed Kraftwerk's founder Wolfgang Flür as both a DJ and a Q&A chat session, and I have also heard noises of numerous other European acts to fill the line-up. With two new stages, a bigger woods area and more for them youngsters, if you like this kind of thing might be worth getting a ticket now. They are still astoundingly cheap.

Alfresco Festival 2017 is at Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 26th – 29th May 2017 and 'early bird' tickets are available HERE.

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