This year’s Woodstock is set to be the biggest yet. Jo Shelley previews one music festival you won’t need your wellies for
Music, free love, mud: three terms that defined Woodstock’s celebrated namesake but seem, at first, to make for rather unfortunate comparisons for the York version. Mud? It’s difficult to dirty the concrete that paves the delightfully named Vanbrugh Paradise. Free love? Tricky to feel its vibe when metal barriers have been used to cage in the specified ‘festival area’ and Door Safe check your bag for booze on the way in (and, should you drink too much, put the metaphorical boot to your behind on the way out). Woodstock, I’m afraid freshers, this ‘Woodstock’ is not.
Or not entirely. What remains, luckily, is the music; and coupled with the fact that this is live music you can listen to on the cheap, with all your friends and in your own backyard, it is the 12 hours of pure, unadulterated, home-grown music which makes this campus event one that you should definitely RSVP to. This year in particular, prepared to be surprised, if not awed, by the talent on offer. Battle of the Bands finalists, jugglers, choirgirls, flamethrowers, Fenna – they’re all here.
From the top down, then. Headlining are BoB’s trio of medal-winners: Make It Better Later, …Accept Instruction (formerly known as Clip the Apex) and Apply the Brakes.
Make It Better Later’s rise to the coveted 11.15pm slot is the ska punk kid’s inspirational story of rags to riches, if ever there was one. After just a year and half together, the band’s first notable achievement was getting knocked out in the BoB heats in 2006. They’ve gone on, however, to play Leeds Cockpit, record a soon-to-be-released album and share a stage with Wheatus (and the less well-known Zebrahead). Now they’re on the top of the bill at Woodstock. “It’s quite surreal,” said the band’s lead singer, Aaron Carey, “I can’t quite believe it myself.”
The rest of the group of late-night performers are a mishmash of newbies and old hands. Both …Accept Instruction and Apply the Brakes came from nowhere to reach the final of (and, in the former’s case, win) BoB 2007 back in March and now, with “about two other gigs” to their names, are also headlining. But no Woodstock would be complete (in this day and age at least), without Fenna Rhodes, golden boy of the York hip-hop scene. He is rumoured to be appearing for the last time with his band, The True Ingredients.
The real selling point of this year’s festival is the number of acts allowed to perform on the day. About 30 bands, musical ensembles, dance troops and the like have been allotted a slot in the schedule. The reason? The organisers have not only constructed a stage outside on Vanbrugh Paradise, which will play host to the more mainstream bands, they have also built one inside Vanbrugh Dining Hall, on which the likes of Vudu Guru, Arctic Fury, and Continuum will appear.
It’s an impressive plan that increases the variety of performances on offer, resulting in a line-up that encompasses music genres from indie to rock, interspersed with a bit of gospel, a turn of eardrum-crushing samba beats and, who could forget, some moves from the limber ladies and gents that make up Pole Exercise.
The SU’s cunning food and drink provisions mean that it’s perfectly possible, as I learned first-hand last year, to spend an entire day within the Woodstock enclosure. There’s a barbeque from 2-8pm and two bars, open from midday until 11pm.
Sam Daunt, this year’s Woodstock Coordinator, says, “This is an event that you just can’t miss. It’s a 12-hour event with lots of alcohol, food, and music and, at £3 , it’s insanely good value for money. And it’s all for charity, which gives people an excuse to drink even more than usual! As it’s not ticketed entry, people can just come down whenever they want and see what’s happening.”
If you don’t fancy paying the £3 entry donation, however, or don’t want to face the queues that build up to get into the event during the evening, then a crowd usually congregates on the steps by Central Hall, swigging their supermarket-bought beers and enjoying music away from the clamour around the stage.