The name Guilfest suggests something rather trendy, but in reality Guilfest isn’t half as hip as it sounds….although it is hippy – not in a crusty, doped up love fest way, rather Guilfest is a chilled out family friendly celebration of a multitude of genres, fabulously posh festival food and a civilized queing system at the loos. Festivals are often judged on the line up, the food and the loos and on all points Guilfest nailed it, for the family day out crowd.
The main stage was littered with blasts from the past, most notably Blondie, The Jam (parts of),) Bay City Rollers (family members of) and headline act The Australian Pink Floyd (tribute) whose impressive light show was slightly impaired by the early dusky slot of 9pm (ah well the kids need to get some sleep by then).
The audience at the main stage was half made up of picnic chairs and blankets, and I lost count of the apologies I had to make to make my way to the front into the “pit”. The best main stage performance for me was Cerys Matthews whose set was so delicate and beautiful that I might have to buy the album.
It was at the secondary stages where I spent most of my time -up and coming talent west country boy Seth Lakeman, who performs energetic folk music with banjos, double bass and the fiddle – and can this young man play the fiddle! At one point I whispered, speed this up and we’ll have ourselves a barn dance…as if by pure magic within one minute Seth prompted the audience “are you ready for a dance” and we had ourselves a barn dance…except no one really wanted to dance – although I did see some unashamed foot-tapping and arm clucking moves.
Brighton based British Sea Power performed a brilliant set, with comparisons to Arcade Fire coming through on epic single “Waving Flags”, a festival anthem in the making. But alas I missed the last couple of songs of the best set of the festival to see new London band “Ledbetter” who had their first festival headline slot. When you’re up against the Australian Pink Floyd and British Sea Power it’s hard to pull in a crowd so I’m glad I made the effort to see their solid set of catchy melodies and head-nodding riffs (and they even handed out free copies of their free ep “this spark” ) – it is up and coming bands like Ledbetter that festivals like Guilfest should embrace and it was great to see the band members distributing postcards at the festival to rally support – go get ’em lads!
Guilfest isn’t trying to be something it’s not – you wouldn’t find the latest NME trendies playing there and nor would you want to, because what you find is sincerity and a lot less corporate than its size would suggest. A gentle giant, Guilfest is a safe festival with a truly British atmosphere and I hope it fights off temptation to be sponsored by global companies, because the last thing it needs is free memory sticks or training shoe consultations at the entrances, because these belong at the soul-less big name festivals held in all major cities. Keep it local I say…