I spent most of June 23rd (10am to 2am June 24th) at the third Dartington HOME acoustic festival. I had not previously heard about it, but was this time enticed by old favourites such as Show Of Hands, interesting new acts such as Solarference and a wonderfully eclectic mix of other oddities from around the world.
Festival Highlight: Show Of Hands
A consistent favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, the always-original duo (with Miranda Sykes on Double Bass) worked their usual magic on the main outdoor stage. I’ve seen them perform in various locations (by far the best so far being Exeter Cathedral) but their set at HOME ranks pretty high. I got some strange looks from a kid in front of me for knowing all the lyrics to Stop Copying Me (in that video, I am the guy who says ‘wooo’ when they announce the song), but the audience participation picked up a bit towards the end of the set.
A few hours before their performance, Show Of Hands had run a songwriting workshop in which they aimed to learn an entirely new song in preparation for it’s debut later on that day. To be fair, it wasn’t completely new (they had lyrics and a riff), but perhaps that would be too much to ask in 30 mins, even from them. In their usual humorous, easygoing style, they crowdsourced the structure and instrumentation of ‘King of the World’, before playing it later on as
“that piece we play when we pretend to go off, then come back on again… yeah, it’s weird” — Steve Knightley.
One Duo To Watch: Ben and Alfie
I would describe these two as a proto-Show-of-Hands with classical influences and serious talent. They played an amazing and all-too-short set to
“actually… rather a large audience!” (— Ben Weedon) in the Barn Cinema. I would liked to have had a chat with them afterwards but was upstaged by Steve Knightley (TBH, if I had to choose between talking to myself and Steve, I know which one I would choose) and then couldn’t find them later on — but this is little loss seeing as I’ll have another chance as soon as I can get to one of their gigs.
Although I’d say their vocals and lyrics could do with a polish and a tweak, respectively, it did not stop my mouth hanging open at their consistently immaculate instrumental work and wonderful arrangement. Another plus was the diverse subject area their original lyrics covered — a far cry from the usual ‘teenage angst’ crap we get from a great many young singer songwriters.
Most Unexpected: Krar Collective
I can only describe this trio as Ethiopian rave-disco. Powerful electric Krar playing (an instrument I had not come across before, which (not wanting to boast too much) is quite an achievement) mixed with the singing, crazy dancing and unpredictable costume changes of their vocalist made for a hugely enjoyable, if exhausting, performance.
Best Progressive Act: Solarference
I had come across Solarference previously and loved what they do, but this was my first chance to get to see them live. They did not disappoint, and rounded off the festival nicely. It’s pretty difficult to really explain what they do, so just check their videos. The introduction of a Mountain Dulcimer (an instrument I’ve played and built for several years now) was a welcome addition, although it wasn’t entirely in tune. Then again, it was 1am.
Conclusion: Go There
HOME is a fantastic little festival in a wonderful setting, featuring a great lineup. What more is required?
Footnote: Call the Accordion Police!
How dare this guy carry his accordion around by the wrist strap, un-clipped? He’s from the Romany Diamonds and was incredible (CRAZY accordion skillz) — and then he abuses it? Perhaps this is why I’m not a wizard on the squeezebox — apparently I need to abuse them into submission…
More photos tagged with HOME (not many — I was too busy to take photos!)