Surely the year of the smaller festy

This is surely the year of the smaller festy.

People are realising that paying way over the odds to stand half a mile away from a stage for a weekend really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

The family-friendly, two-day Ben and Jerry’s festival on London’s Clapham Common ticked pretty much every box of what you want from any of the bigger boys in the live music playground – heavyweight headliners, big name bands before them, and punters seeing bands they might not have heard of, who were grabbing the chance to play in front of a sold out crowd of thousands for the first time with both hands.

And it was really, really sunny.
And they gave out free ice cream.

Saturday saw The Charlatans in supreme form closing a show that had started out earlier in the day with the Manchester icons mixing with the crowd, watching Florence and the Machine nail her set with amazing confidence and a voice that reached the very back of the arena. Following sets from Charlotte Hatherley and Delays, Guillemots strode onstage and front man Fyfe Dangerfield reminded everybody watching that his band really are one of the best live acts to clap your eyes on, the crowd singing his lyrics right back at him from the outset. As a special bonus to the watching masses, Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s fame ambled on like a friendly uncle to introduce the headliners, who came out to a rapturous reception and pulled off a set that would have been at home at any of the bigger name festivals – mixing oldies and newies seamlessly -- and passing on the experience of just how good seeing songs like ‘The One I Know’ and ‘How High’ are live to a new generation of fans.

Sunday’s show opened with faux-punks The Vivians getting a taste of playing to a big crowd with a short set, then country-influenced The New York Fund followed by Scottish pop-rockers Parka, before Fight Like Apes turned up and jolted the residents of Clapham out of whatever mid-afternoon snooze they might have been having in the sun, with a storming set that included fighting, playing the keyboards with feet and rude words. They were excellent. Slow Club – a band that are so perfect for sunny, sunny festivals - continued the entertainment, with trademark playing of kitchen chairs and jam jars (go watch them if you’re not sure what I’m on about). Next up was Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. And Sam Duckworth and his band bounced around the stage full of energy, and ice-cream most probably, before The Lemonheads and Evan Dando, looking extraordinarily healthy, rocked the entire Common.
Final act of the weekend Ash announced that this was their fifth gig on three continents this week, but didn’t look at all tired. Their set fizzed with energy and the Irish rockers looked genuinely blown away by the reception they got. Finishing off with ‘Girl From Mars’, they were brought back on for an unplanned encore. Dusting off their first single they belted out ‘Jack Names The Planets’ before leaving a very happy crowd still calling for more.

The Ben and Jerry’s festival waaaay outdid any of the other London based festivals this summer, and with such a good line-up, friendly atmosphere and baking weather (all for a tenner a day) they pretty much outdid a lot of the other weekender ones round the country too. Nice one Jerry.


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