OneFest 2012

The first festival of the year...
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It can’t be festival time already... can it? Yet here we are, stood in a field at OneFest with wellies on our feet and musicians onstage.

Located in Wiltshire, OneFest prides itself on being the first festival of the season and they’re not wrong there – most events are still just a twinkle in their organiser’s eye. Small but almost absurdly well formed, the event matches two stages of music with plenty of locally sourced food, drink and the odd welly throwing competition.

It’s April, the skies overhead are foreboding but given the bi-polar nature of British weather this is far from the worst conditions we’ve ever faced. BBC Introducing take hold of their own tent, showcasing some of the best acts from the local area and beyond.

Impressive sound quality and a packed crowd means that this tent remains the place to be for the bulk of the day. Plenty to choose from, but Young Blood are perhaps the pick of the bunch – spiky, Britpop-infused songwriting, but with a palpable sense of ambition which should take them far beyond these fields.

On the Main Stage guitarist Nick Harper entertains the throng. A local lad – he lives ten miles up the road – the redoubtable folk hero even throws in a snippet of Blur’s ‘Out Of Time’ during a heavily improvised set.

A tiny figure wrapped in long, intensely curled hair Rae Morris cuts a timid frame. Sat behind her keyboard, though, the Blackpool newcomer seems to have the voice of ‘Rumours’ era Stevie Nicks, all carefully controlled bombast and distilled emotion. Travelling to OneFest from India, Raghut Dixit and his band don’t seem to have planned ahead for the change in weather – stood onstage in sub-tropical garb, though, the musicians don’t really seem to mind. Wonderful musicians, their set is nonetheless a victim of the cold – it just doesn’t seem right to soak up the sounds of India when the clouds pass by weighed down with English rain.

American can change a band – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. One touted as the latest heirs to the Mumford throne, Dry The River have returned from the States with facial hair, killers tattoos and a heavier, muscular sound.

Perhaps the best received set of the entire day, Dry The River shake off jetlag to storm through an early evening slot which focuses heavily on their album. Continuing to progress, this is a far more rock derived sound than their studio output might suggest. The first festival of the year, maybe, but the 2012 season may just have met it’s defining band.

Damon Albarn’s spectre seems to loom over OneFest almost from the moment the gates swing open. Sitting backstage, the Blur songwriter holds court with a gramophone, his collection of French language 78s floating out onto the arena.

‘Dr Dee’ is very much a work in progress, with each performance seeming to allow Damon Albarn time to refine his thoughts. The cold doesn’t really help matters, with the set failing to leap out of the traps and as a result various audience members drift away. It’s a testament to those who decided to stay, however, that ‘Dr Dee’ left such an impression.

A genuinely inventive work covering English identity, Imperialism and the occult, ‘Dr Dee’ requires patience and plenty of dedication. With the dark drawing in and the cold nipping around the heels of the main stage crowd, both attributes were in firm display. Seizing hold of his Gramophone for the finale, Damon Albarn leaves an old 78 spinning as the musicians disappear backstage.

It’s an obtuse, bewildering but ultimately entertaining move which contains a wry sense of humour. Given the way OneFest progressed, we really shouldn’t have expected anything else...

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