I'm Guiltless: Cornbury Music Festival 2015
A version of ‘Sex Bomb’ that started slow and seductively before picking up pace and exploding in a climax of sheer oomph
It’s odd that at many music festivals, you can look back at your time and think “actually, I didn’t see a lot of the music, but I was out, about, active, doing something the whole time I was there”. This is the way I think about Cornbury 2015. So what was I up to if I wasn’t watching acts?
To start with, there was our campsite neighbours, older and wiser thus equipped with chairs and a table, tea making facilities and Berocca - Festival mums and dads who we probably didn’t leave alone as much as they would have liked. We missed some top performers while basking in the sun outside the tents with our adoptive parents, making full use of their ice box (beverages being one of the only things we did remember to pack – my editorial colleague who put together a ‘What to take to Cornbury’ list in our last issue would be ashamed…or possibly proud).
Then there’s the shopping. I can’t be blamed for missing a band here and there due to this, as Cornbury’s organisers packed Great Tew Estate with purchasing delights. I think the new trainers I had on became vintage in the time it took to look around all the vintage stalls, and we can’t ignore the fact it takes a while to choose what logo you want your new hat to be designed with. Also, if a stall insists on taking two of the most exciting words in the English dictionary and merging them to form FireToys, I’m going to want to experience every flaming nook and cranny of that playpen.
Cornbury Festival is clearly well aware that people should eat before consuming more than their fair share of alcohol: not content with merely lining our stomachs, they have made it so you are forced to eat so much that you can barely walk to the nearest bar. There is an abundance of foodie places, an explosion of different cultures, and of course, pie and mash.
It seems that the promoters are sympathetic to the fact that living off food from stalls all weekend can be pricey, so they cover breakfast to an extent - first thing Saturday morning there were eager-faced girls strolling through the campsite handing out Dorset cereals to suffering festival-goers who could have spent the night in Dorset for all they knew. It was very kind, but Dorset Cereals I suspect is part of the reason Cornbury got given the nickname ‘Poshstock’! Still, as founder Hugh Phillimore said: “Poshstock is better than Shitstock”.
I did find time to take in some of the acts. On Friday night Chas and Dave supplied an enthusiastic, humorous and fun nod back to the 80s for those in attendance old enough to remember them; those that thought ‘Rabbit’ was just from The Catherine Tate Show didn’t seem to care that they weren’t there the first time round and joined in the chanting of ‘Chas and Dave’ as loudly as their elders. It’s music that makes you smile – if you’re hearing it for the first time or the 500th.
On Saturday, Blue took to the main stage in what was frankly quite a forgettable performance. It was a get on, do the hits, get off affair where I detected little passion and none of the rapport with each other or the audience that The Libertines, for example, seemed to have during their recent Glastonbury gig. Blue songs are never going to be loved the same way the songs of Oasis or Arctic Monkeys are; but surely they can still be owned on stage by the boys that released them? On this occasion they were delivered in a way that to me suggested the group weren’t fussed whether they sang them or not during a set that appeared to lack ambition and adventure.
Fortunately, Sir Tom Jones showed up later, catapulting my admiration for the music at Cornbury right up the ladder. His stint featured ‘Delilah’, ‘Green Green Grass of Home’, ‘Kiss’, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ and a version of ‘Sex Bomb’ that started slow and seductively before picking up pace and exploding in a climax of sheer oomph.
The crowd couldn’t begrudge the Welshman trying out some of his new stuff – including ‘Tower of Song’ off the new album Spirit in the Room
The man exudes musical authority and control, exercising an impressive range – his sound gratifyingly gravelly in the lower regions of his voice. The band had energy, Sir Tom a twinkle in his eye; they just struck me as proud of one another and proud to be there.
Of course, the fun continues at this festival after all the headliners have done their bits. A little tune-blasting shed made me believe I was dancing at something much larger in size, and there’s downtime around the warmth of a fire overlooked by ghostlike flags that pulsate in the night-time wind.
If I could go back to the Cornbury weekend maybe I’d try to see more of the music, but do I feel guilty or regretful for missing certain artists because of fine company, sausages, the Pimm’s bus and retro retail? Not especially.
- Sam Bennett
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