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Review: Wilderness Festival 2014

London Grammar and Metronomy... “It just doesn’t get much better than this."


One of the things we love most about a music festival is that with so much going on, no two people will experience it the same.  And out of all the festivals we’ve been to, Wilderness offers the most opportunities to carve out a bespoke festy weekend, depending on how hardcore raver, or middle-class saver, you want to go. 

Despite an inviting main-stage line-up – Metronomy, Burt Bacharach and London Grammar were among the headliners – it was the action away from the bands that made wandering through Wilderness memorable.  A gentle amble around the perfectly-sized site (and at this Oxford-based fest it’s always an amble, possibly a pootle) seemed to always lead to fun-sized pockets of happiness.  

On Saturday we stumbled on a folksy knees-up with The Melodic at a tiny bandstand, before a marching band of chics and geeks led us to the deep South inspired Juke Joint stage, where wenches in corsets danced on the bar Coyote Ugly-style to the strains of funked-up jazz and rhythm & blues. 

One of the most uplifting places for music was the fairground Carousel – where old skool drum’n’base was accompanied by hula hooping girls, and the likes of Woohoo Revue made us dance and smile until our legs and cheeks ached.  

After some disco-inspired sets from Horsemeat Disco, Greg Wilson and Futureboogie at the festival’s late night Pandemonium area – a magical discoball-lit valley nestled beneath the leafy canopy of the forest – we ended Saturday night in a way befitting our random journey so far: in the tiniest disco in the world, a make-shift tent where revellers crammed under tarpaulin to sing Islands in the Stream and Return of the Mac as if their lives depended on it. 

Sunday brought the rain…and with it the opportunity to explore the non-music fun of the festival.  After a browse in the bookshop we drank (a perfect artisan) coffee and ate (Mary Berry-worthy) cake, accompanied by poet Ray Antribus in The Forum tent – the space where the ‘thoughts and ideas’ elements of Wilderness come alive. 

We joined one man and his mouth organ in a foot-stomping sing-a-long, while skinny dippers fell under the spell of the lake under electrical storms.  The sun came out just as The Village Green gathered us dearly beloved to witness the ‘joining together’ of various loved-up festival-goers – a joyous occasion hosted by a moustachioed ‘German’ and foul-mouthed Santa Claus. Just because. 

That night, London Grammar were the perfect final-night headliners, after which the Wilderness orchestra filled the air with the strains of the Jurassic Park and E.T. theme tunes – made all the more dramatic by the setting. 

That night, returning to Pandemonium to dance under the shining moon, we got chatting to a friendly festival-goer (and this is a friendly festival), who’d been to Wilderness every year since it began. “This place is my spiritual home,” he said, his sequinned jacket gleaming in the light. “I mean look at it…it just doesn’t get much better than this.” We can’t argue much with that. 

GT gives Wilderness 5 stars.

You can get tickets for the 2015 festival now.

Words Lyndsey Honour

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