Music festivals come in all shapes and sizes, and whether you go for the music, the atmosphere, the food or the drink, there's a festival everyone: from the welly-clad lads to the have you heard music nerds. Having frequented a few of the more mainstream events like Reading Festival, and Bestival on the Isle of Wight, I like to think I've come to be somewhat of a connoisseur of the field-footed jamboree. Although as I'm sure many people would be only to quick to point out, I'm merely music-dabbling heathen until I've joined the ranks of the Glasto-going elite.
Nevertheless, I was recently fortunate enough to attend one of the festival small-fry and experience the delights of music, mud and mayhem on a small scale firsthand. Sequestered in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside, Wood Festival, as the hippyish name suggests, is a weekend of wholesome woodland fun featuring some of the countries finest working artists, good food, and even better beer: all locally sourced and with sustainability in mind. What's more, with an attendance planted firmly in the hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands, Wood offers festival loving folk a refreshingly low-key alternative to the muddy drug-fuelled mayhem of the corporate top-dogs. Past years have boasted such noteworthy names as Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, Frank Turner, and Fionn Regan, whilst last years lineup sported the likes of lesser known, but equally talented acts, Paper Aeroplanes, La Mort Subite, The Wood Brothers, and The Dreaming Spires to name a few.
Founded by brothers Robin and Joe Bennet in 2008, Wood Festival is a three day event held in Braziers Park, Ipsden. Sporting a grand total of two stages, and keen green sensibilities – powering their sound systems on a combination of solar and bio-diesel and making exclusive use of sawdust toilets over the conventional plastic port-a-loo – you could be mistaken for thinking you'd stumbled into some form of musical hippie commune. It's not just music that Wood has to offer, however, as throughout the weekend there are more activities and workshops than you can shake a hippie stick at, from shamanic healing, and costume making, to cycle repair, and den building. Perhaps unsurprisingly the festival attracts a large family demographic as a result, and those in attendance tend to be either the very young, parents, or seasoned Woodstock Bohemians.
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou kicked off Frdiay's festivities at the Wood Stage – a construction not much larger or different in style to your common-all-garden shed – and their brand of bewitching folk harmonies and bare-boned guitar melodies soon warmed up the growing crowd. The first night's headline spot saw Mary Epworth take to the stage, who's heavily psych-tinged rock harked to the likes of a folkier Melody's Echo Chamber. Whilst the main acts normally wrap-up at around midnight, campfire sing-alongs, film screenings continue into the until the earlier hours. Unlike your average hundred-and-something-thousand romp in the park, things at Wood normally quieten down by around 2 or 3, making camping a breeze: especially if you're one of the lucky few who's got yourself a Rent-A-Yurt for the weekend.
Saturday saw a whole hole host of local talent, from the self-described 'glitch tinsel' stylings of Oliver Wilde, to the impassioned Amy McDonald-esque folk rock of Paper Aeroplanes. Saturday night at the Wood Stage was where things really came into their own however, featuring the whisky-smoked jazz-folk of The Wood Brothers, who's flavoursome Nashville blues rock thoroughly warmed the growing crowd before the high octane gyspy-folk-fusion of La Morth Subite. Mixing double bass, accordion, guitar, drums clarinet, and hurdy gurdy, the zealous five-piece played a spirited set of gyspy-folk classics that only the most stubborn onlookers could resist at least toe-tapping to.
Come Sunday and country and western acts were out in their masses; from husband and wife founded Redlands Palamino Company, to critically acclaimed dark Ameircana folk outfit The Cedars, slide guitars and lilting country vocals were the order of the day. The closing night's bill also saw a one-off collaborative effort in the Tree Tent, with many of the weekends best acts coming together to give a heartfelt rendition of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Finishing up the night with well-deserved aplomb, Wood's founding Bennet brothers took the stage as The Dreaming Spires, and with the crowd vocally in-tow Wood Fest 2013 was seen out with sixties pop-style as the band played a hook-heavy set featuring Dreaming Spires like Everything All The Time, Not Every Song From the Sixties Is a Classic, and Just Can't Keep This Feeling In.
All in all, whilst Wood Festival will likely never satisfy the appetites of the more risk-seeking festival goers – lacking the booze-drenched atmosphere, bass-heavy dance stages, or mountains of unidentifiable powders inherent to attraction of mainstream festivals – Wood does present music lovers with a quieter, but by no means boring, weekend of lesser-known talent, alternative activities, and Earth-friendly merrymaking, and offers campers a weekend of respite from the urban sprawl.