Cornbury Music Festival 2006

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 08 July 2006

With the Saturday sold out in advance, a funfair onsite, and rumours of  Prince Harry hanging about, the kid-friendly weekend is set to be a blast. Morning and the arena is already plumping out with festival-goers. Having extensively toured with Funeral For A Friend, The Magic Numbers and The Automatic as well as performing in front of 50,000 people at Trafalgar Square in support of the Love Music Hate Racism campaign, Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly - otherwise known as Sam Duckworth, a 20 year old Essex boy - manages to pack out the second stage before midday. 

Next up is Oxford’s very own Goldrush. The lanky Indie-boy four-piece fronted by brothers Robin and Joe Bennett (who run Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival) focus on tracks from last year’s album ‘Ozona’ with smooth vocal harmonies slashed between trumpet solos. Back on the campsite, it’s like an over-40s party - with kids. With a plethora of clean(!) toilets and Posh Wash showers very close by as well as on-site shops, the campsite is welcoming to all.  And for those who don’t fancy tents, there’s teepees, converted double decker buses and beach huts to kip in.  A group of friends relax with a bottle of wine or two and declare rightly, “It’s like a festival for Radio 2 listeners!” 

Laying on the grass in patchy sunshine, someone eats a gourmet crepe with melted marshmallow and butterscotch sauce oozing everywhere. Children chase each other around bales of hay and a sizeable couple in their 50s hold hands and skip towards the main stage where Hayseed Dixie are striding onto the stage. In multi-coloured tie-dye and dungarees, the four-piece from Deer Lick Holler in Appalachia soar through their hillbilly versions of hits by Queen, Motorhead, AC/DC and Aerosmith. “We are here to testify, brothers and sisters,” preaches vocalist Barley Scotch with a huge grin slapped across his face. “There’s three things you can sing about that make a good
song: cheatin’, killin’ and Hell!”

A crowd gathers around a man in a string vest and union jack boxer shorts who juggles knives whilst drinking a pint of lager which is balanced on his head through a straw.  Meanwhile, another man in a straight jacket manages to contort himself out of the contraption. “Gosh, that was everso good!”
gushes a bearded on-looker. Over at the Random Stage, a drumming workshop is in full swing with 15 djembes being hit by toddlers, pensioners and anyone in between as they follow the rhythms of the leader. As the first day hits its peak, Cornbury’s collective dress-sense stoops down low with an impressive array of floral print, tie-dye, shapeless cardigans and all things mismatching.  But whilst few people are looking the epitome of cool, every single person is having a fabulously good time.

Deacon Blue put on an enjoyable but altogether forgettable set , but Piney Gir and her Country Roadshow are stealing the show over in the second stage. “Hi,” Piney flirts. “If you want to lose all your stuff - particularly equipment and costumes - I recommend you fly with Lufthansa Airlines!” Their eclectic mix delights all, getting rucksacks jiggling on backs throughout the tent. “This one is our hit single from last year!  It got to number 60.  For a week.  It was exciting…  I guess you had to be there..!”

Stuck on a plane in Madrid, The Waterboys miss their slot on the bill. However, several thousand wide-eyed ladies flock into the arena and squeeze their way as far forward as possible for Robert Plant - easily one of the hotly anticipated events of the weekend. The erstwhile Led Zeppelin vocalist delivers an atmospheric performance brimming with cultural references and ethnic styles, which - whilst not always exciting - entrances all. As the moon flickers above the stage, those who don’t fall into the category of love-struck 40-somethings, munch on steaming sugared doughnuts and wave glowsticks as he closes the set with the crushingly anthemic ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

The short trek back to campsite proves too long for some as the meandering path fills up. One camper strips off and dives into the river, by-passing the cheering crowds.  A night of torrential rain certainly doesn’t dampen the mood, nor does a lost deer careering around the campsite tearing down tents. “It's like a small Glastonbury for toffs!” summates a cheery camper.  “Just look at all the 55-plate BMWs in the car park!”

As one unknown artist hassles the press office for a TV to watch France against Portugal in the World Cup final, the relevance of the day appears to go unnoticed by most, with not even a small screen TV in sight.  However, with so much going on, it’s easy to forget the outside world.  Sauntering between the masses, a couple of the Singing Plague Victims entertain some scared looking children with their horrific make up and atrocious versions of traditional songs from Merrie England.  “Ooh, this festival makes me quiver with happiness!” one of diseased duo burbles.

A belly dancing show pulls crowds into the second stage before astounding young 10-piece The wRants cause a commotion with their eclectic Folk-Rock. Aged between 14 and 17, wRants perform their own material interspersed with covers of Sandy Denny and Gary Moore. “Incidentally, this is being recorded, so give it your all!  I know I am!” floods vocalist Jack Layer. With a dedicated fan base dancing manically to their animated set, wRants charm everyone. Neo-medieval folk-rockers Circulus follow with an undeterring thirst to bemuse. Waving swords and dressed in cloaks, the septet instantly grab the attention of all with their spooky and ominous sound.  As psychedelic riffs are juxtaposed with recorder and lute interludes, the crowd sits cross-legged.  “This is from our new album, ‘Clouds Are Like People”, they boast.  A heckler agrees “They are!"

"Yes, they’re unreliable!”, frontman Michael Tyack replies. “What a lovely cool breeze I’m getting on my sweaty skin. We do wear hot hats. I suppose that’s the price of looking…uhh..half-decent..?” he muses.  “We’re going to dedicate this next song to the Singing Plague Victims!”  The Scarecrow receives rapturous applause.  “Everso sorry about these ghastly pauses, it’s to do with the tuning!” Tyack continues caressing himself with his sword he announces “I like to tickle myself with it!”  The set closes and Circulus receive a standing ovation.  “Love, peace, pixies and dragons! Thank you all!”

Laying amongst the hay bales, Stanna and The Stairlifts have pulled in quite a crowd.  The surreal nature of the weekend has definitely reached a peak as one man in a wig tells his friend “Something with a long nose gave me a piece of hedge.  Is that good luck?”  Against a backdrop of CDs spinning on lengths of string, the blues-rock group entice a group of fans to dance in front of the stage with their cover of Small Faces’ ’All Or Nothing’. While Stanna rocks out, his Stairlifts - two mutton-dressed-as-lamb plastic-looking tarts - can barely sing one note together, let alone the vocal harmonisations they attempt.  “Lynard Skynard!” Stanna proclaims. “They’re marvellous.  But they’re all dead now, you know?”  Bizarre? Definitely.

While the music continues, plenty have decided it’s time for a wind-down and visit the Therapixie massage tent for an incredible Indian Head Massage. Others have wandered to the Random Stage to watch and take part in poi workshops led by experts in florescent orange war paint.  The funfair arena is banging with activity, churning out wobbling, ill-looking patrons after being swung around in the air forever.  With half the crowd now wearing either fairy wings or a tu-tu from homemade fairy accessory outlet, Fairylove, the scene is a colourful one as the next act steps onstage. 

Indian-French spectacle Nerina Pallot is accompanied by a string quartet for her piano-led number ‘Idaho’.  “I like shoes, so if you want to help contribute to my fund, then please buy my record!”  Radio favourite ‘Goin’ To War’ gets everyone dancing, while Pallot’s friendly banter has giggles rippling through the crowd.  “So no-one watched the football then?  What IS the point of Colleen McCloughlin anyway?  Every time Wayne scores, she goes to celebrate in Prada.  I guess she does have to sleep with him though!”

“This band is all about the losers in life,” explains The Pretenders front woman, Chrissie Hynde.  “It’s important to be a loser.  You need to lose everything at some point.” Old favourites such as ‘Back On The Chain Gang’ and ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ get the crowd moving, however there’s more than a few complaints about the lack of ‘I’ll Stand By You’. 

Headliners Texas stomp onstage to a riotous applause as the opening to ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’
seeps into the thick air.  “You don’t think I can see you, do you?” Sharleen Spiteri teases. “But I can!  I can see what your kids are doing on your shoulders!”  Bandmate banter is rife and results in a hilarious play off between keyboardist Mike and pianist Eddie who play Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, respectively.  With bubbles filling every inch of the sky and huge grins plastered over every inch of everyone’s faces, Cornbury’s third festival draws to a perfect end.

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