Rather than send one of our own reviewers along to this year's Secret Garden Party, Gigwise thought it would be a good idea to see what the festival was like from an artists' perspective.
Here, Lail Arad lifts the lid on this year's event in Cambridge - and what it was like to attend as both a fan and a performer...
As ever, and more than ever, this review comes with a disclaimer: I can only share with you my own skewed and tainted perspective of the festival and relay some of my personal highlights. For professional, comprehensive overviews look elsewhere! I say ‘more than ever’ because Secret Garden Party is built in a way that’s less about shared throbbing-mass experiences, and more about the infinite little details you discover as you wander through the patchwork of activity. Every visitor comes out with their own cocktail of memories, and happily, me too.
This is my second year playing at the festival and setting up camp for the long weekend. Last year I was in many ways a virgin – it was my first time driving on the motorway (and only because my driver-friend got swine flu the day before) and it was my first time playing a big festival (I know its considered small but I’ve never been a Glastonbury girl..) I was nervous, excited, a little overwhelmed – it was wonderful, but like any first time, I didn’t quite get it. This time I got it.
The accusation that I often hear from people about Secret Garden Party is ‘it’s not about the music.’ Well, it’s simply not true. It might not be about the names. I agree that on paper the line-ups of other festivals this summer would attract me more – there were no Dylans, no Vampire Weekends – I actually knew surprisingly few names on the list. Though even that is not really fair - I saw many sets by buzz-acts of the moment - for example a fantastic show by Lissie who’s voice just blew me away. There was no shortage for those seeking out pop. And as for new talent, every promoter I’ve played for in London in the last year was there programming a tent..
But I came to realise it’s really not about line-ups. I don’t like the fact they charge “only £5” for a programme to punters who have paid for their tickets - the only thing that makes it okay, is that you really don’t need one. You walk around, amidst the coloured lights and crazy decorations, and you are pulled towards beats from every direction. Flamenco beats, dub-step beats, huge drumming circles, electro-swing… the musical fabric works on your senses in the same way as the laser shows and the lanterns – it becomes one sensual experience. A feast for the eyes and ears. That sounds so hippy from far away, but what can I say, it’s amazing!
That’s why the highlights for me were bands like Kitty, Daisy & Lewis and The Apples – live rock’n’roll or funk, amazing to dance to and very much about the live experience, the feel of the bass, the sound of the brass.. In the real world I spend most of my musical time devoted to songs, where lyrics dominate – it was so refreshing to immerse myself in one genre after another where the enjoyment was physical. The shows I played in the festival took on a different light in that context. I was delighted that people listened and laughed at the writing (with the writing?) but I also became more aware of my voice, the melodies, the percussion.. maybe it’s from being outdoors, everything becomes a bit more magical! I’d say that music is exactly what this festival is about.
Check out Lail Arad on Myspace: www.myspace.com/lailarad.
Secret Garden Party 2010 - Lail's Best Bits