The Good Life Festival had Getintothis’ Sinéad Nunes exploring how the festival has evolved into one of the season’s must-see events of the year.
According to the quad collective of organisers behind the festival, The Good Life Experience endeavours to respond to our millennial need to return to “the good old days” of simple, honest pleasures and The Great Outdoors.
Cue a programme of music, food and activities aimed at adults and children alike, designed to be enjoyed by everyone equally; no backstage areas, no VIP tents, just a small farm site opening its doors to 2000 ticket holders for a weekend of laid back leisure.
So what sets it apart from other festivals? Lets walk through a typical Good Life Experience day….
Wake up on the campsite, poetically located in between an apple orchard, a pear orchard and a pumpkin patch. A hand written sign invites you to pick whatever you like, and enjoy the fresh produce on offer.
Mosey on down to the main festival site, and into one of the Maker’s Tents to sign up to one of the plethora of workshops put on: from screen printing, to wood carving, to stone masonry, to raku, there’s something to entertain every creative tendency.
After you’ve expended your creative energy, join the queue of adults and kids, and have a go at axe throwing or archery. Not your bag? It is now.
Build up your appetite with a campfire cooking masterclass, then head to one of the artisan food trucks to enjoy a lovingly prepared, totally fresh dish.
While you digest, head into the Love Nature cinema, and watch a nature documentary about the Welsh Coast, or great white sharks, followed by a discussion with the film’s director. Next, onto the craft beer, served by one of the site’s expert brewers, before heading to the main stage for a date with the Bulgarian Throat Singing Choir, or a hoedown with Stompin’ Dave.
Inspired by the sounds, head to the School of Noise tent, and play with a range of electronic instruments, from a theramin to the water vase (whose tones you’ll hear in most horror movies), right through to the very addictive Little Bit techno system – a collection of lego-like building blocks which can be assembled to create a range of synth sound systems.
While much of the festival’s day-time programme is inspired by British country life, traditional crafts and locally sourced food, the evening’s music line up is anything but. Hailing from Congo, Niger and Bahrain, the highlights of the weekend included Baloji, Ezza and Flamingods.
Belgian-based, Conoglese rapper Baloji (an Africa Oyé alumni) headlined the main stage on Saturday night, backed by his fantastic ensemble band. Taking time out between tracks to highlight issues of political significance, this was for much of the audience their first experience of the artist, and what a show it was.
Fusing funk and ragga with the urban sounds of Congo, the group filled the night with long, upbeat jazz-filled jam sessions of instrumental, teasing the room with hints of what they could do.
Elsewhere, North African guitar rockers Ezza served up inescapably inviting hooks and licks from deep within the Saharan desert. Blues guitar riffs, teamed with melodic vocals and a funky bassline saw these traditionally-clad musicians treat festival goers to a truly unique musical experience.
Our top pick for the weekend though, would be the psychedelic worldbeat five-piece Flamingods, whose genre-defying tribal, experimental sound brought a ground-shaking energy to the Caught By The River stage on Saturday night. Rapid drum beats, pulsating synth tones, hypnotic instrumental sounds from as far as Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and Tanzania, and beautiful lighting design saw the tiny tent beyond capacity, bursting with dancing and hoots of appreciation. Better known for their more chilled out wavy vibes, they brought a thumping party vitality to Saturday’s stage, making the night the best of the weekend.
It may still be off your radar, and certainly a bit of an outside pick when it comes to planning your summer, but Good Life Experience has definitely come into its own this year, with the musical line up now a huge draw in its own right. Oh, and Cerys Matthews is proper sound too.
Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman was at the festival as well and he offers his music highlights:
Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band
The man NME once declared to be our greatest living songwriter is onstage. He releases his long awaited new album next month and judging by this gig this might finally be the moment the world wakes up to his extraordinary talents. Looking lean and sharp and in the best voice he’s been in for years, Head looks match fit even when contrasted with a young looking band, some of whom must be half his age. But then there’s something ageless about Head and his music and as Shack classics like Comedy, Meant To Be and Byrds Turn To Stone chime out on a wave of jangling guitar and hard luck there’s always that light at the end of the tunnel that suggests this could be his time.
The underrated Brit folk icon looked right at home in North Wales despite his US trucker look and was welcomed by a small but appreciative crowd as a returning hero. Newly adopted by Stateside artists like Meg Baird, William Tyler and Ryley Walker, the 76-year-old showcased his usual complex mix of picking and strumming based on a vocabulary that commingles blues, jazz, country, raga, and rock. It felt as old as the castle ruins that look down on the site but as fresh as as the morning dew which enveloped it each dawn.
Heavenly feels like the right label for the Yorkshire trio who surely share their influences with the likes of Manic Street Preachers and Saint Etienne. The kind of band you used to read about in fanzines they lovingly combine C86 naivety with a sort of indie funk that seems inspired by Orange Juice, ESG and Talking Heads.