If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of… a giant bonfire, a leafy art gallery, a cardboard steam train, an hour-long queue for a hog roast and some of the most exciting independent music around.
Big surprises indeed from a very little festival – now in its eighth year, In The Woods has grown to be one of the summer’s best small festivals. Indeed, the industry agrees – the event won the Golden Welly award at this year’s AIM do.
Combining the magical woodland setting of Latitude, the Boho spirit of Glastonbury and the hipster crowd of Field Day, In The Woods manages to keep its head above the corporate crowd by handcrafting a surprisingly friendly festival.
Curated by experimental London pop outfit Laurel Collective (taking a year away from the stage, but still running things like clockwork behind the scenes), the two-day event prides itself on championing the best up-and-coming acts on the scene. It previously hosted the likes of Alt-J, Anna Calvi and AlunaGeorge, before they hit the big time.
2013’s event sees 900 eager fans travel to a secret woodland location in Kent to see which bands will be grabbing headlines and hogging the airwaves over the next few months.
Previous woodlander Lianne La Havas wows the crowd on Friday with a surprise set for early arrivals, but the first night is really all about exploring the fairy light glades, catching a film under the stars and ‘sampling’ the local ales in the silent disco.
His-and-her duo Barnacles kick things off on Saturday with cutesy folk-pop melodies before the heavier stuff wakes up snoozing revellers. With just two main stages and no clashing set-times, there is no excuse to miss any music (unless you end up getting lost during an impromptu foraging quest…), but not everyone is worth sticking around for.
A few monotonous early sets suffer from too much posing – with jaunty beeps and clicks getting lost amongst the trees, far away from their usual Dalston haunts. But most acts on show seem likely to make some seriously big waves.
Steel drum supremo Fimber Bravo strikes out his own beat with a dirty, impossibly exciting mix of Caribbean melodies and electronic scuzz, whilst the sultry sounds of Kwabs throw haunting baritone vocals and electro-flecked R&B basslines around the tiny tent stage.
Expect great things from these acts – but a band that many are already talking about is Quarry Stage headliners Drenge. Armed with angsty, angry guitars in the best tradition, this Sheffield duo takes on adolescent sneer with a raucous, sleazy and decidedly tongue-in-cheek verve that might just make Arctic Monkeys check over their shoulders.
Surprise closing act Ghostpoet has been a festival circuit fixture for a while now, but that doesn’t stop the Mercury Prize-nominee from delivering a memorable set of melancholy art rap and shotgun poetry.
With the music over and a giant bonfire lit, all that’s left to do is dance, drink and wait for the time you can brag about seeing the next big thing before they were famous. In The Woods might not have the sweaty crowds, stinking long-drops, sponsored lager or sheer acreage of Britain’s big-name festivals, but you can bet it will have next year’s headliners.
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Words: Vanessa Higgins
Photo from the In The Woods Facebook page
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