Beautiful Days 2007
Inside on the outside
Beautiful Days is the Levellers’ attempt to deliver a slice of old-style festival
happening. The event reflects the wonderfully positive feeling of wandering Glastonbury's Green Fields. There's no
corporate sponsorship or heavy-handed security just a place where the good times do indeed roll.
The usual flags are complemented by video projections and a semi-circle of tree-like structures. They surround the natural bowl which encases the main stage. These constructions come into their own at night when they dramatically spit fire at sporadic intervals.
The prices are reasonable - you can actually afford to eat and drink at this event. Wherever you are across the site you feel welcome and supported with no sense of a shake-down.
Musical highlights are abounded: many festival-goers gathered to catch Radical Dance Faction in a rare public appearance with original front man Chris Bowser. They'd chosen to play the event because it also marked the 20th anniversary of the Hungerford shooting and they go down a storm.
The band are on outstanding form and, while their breed of Dub Rhetoric isn't for everyone, fans of the original UK protest super group are in a state of frenzied delight.
Back To The Planet make an appearance to deliver an outstanding set with lead singer Fil Planet on utterly outstanding form. The mud is pretty deep as the band take to the stage which drives some to seek shelter at Bill Bailey's simultaneous comedy set. However those who remain dance like demons to their old but incredibly fresh-sounding refrains.
Dread Zone deliver one of their most powerful sets of the summer. Honed by a series of live festival performances, the band bound on stage and set the entire crowd into a mad and desperate dance chasing the vision of 'Little Britain'.
After Dread Zone’s British rebel music the main stage programme has time to explore the outer reaches of folk-induced intensity and Bellowhead inspire a gathering of local A-level students to celebrate their results with a huge 60-person jig in the mud for their entire set. Older revellers decide to stand back and enjoy the band’s explosive energy.
The great thing about Beautiful Days is the sheer diversity of its music selection. There isn't a duff band anywhere on the bill – which, at times, leaves the audience spoiled for choice.
Although things are a little muddy this year it doesn't ruin the party. Event organisers do whatever they can to combat the mire. They lay straw across the site and bring in tractors to help people leave on Monday morning.
The Whirl-y-gig session on the Dance stage is immense. The diverse global fusion dance ends with the traditional parachute experience. The set is illuminated by an outstanding session from Banco de Gaia. He steals the soul of his crowd with an excellent set of delicate experiments in global dance electronica.
Friday headliner KT Tunstall faces a split audience but she pushes herself across well by showcasing her musical virtuosity. She wins her detractors over with her personable nature and great songs.
Insane gypsy punks Gogol Bordello prove popular with their usual crowd-pleasing nonsense while old-timers, New Model Army, produce a creditable performance. However it’s Devotchka and Zombie Met Girl who steal the show on Saturday.
The latter deliver a spicy punk-tinged set that grabs the audience by the nuts and holds their attention with their Ramones meets Cramps meets Red Hot Chili Peppers sound.
Devotchka are an incredibly interesting band. They fuse a selection of Central and Eastern European musical forms with American punk-folk in something they call "Eastern bloc indie-rock". Live they're a sonic sensation, though the diversity of influences may hinder their musical career. They are incredibly hard to pigeon-hole and you know how the mainstream music press likes to pigeon-hole bands, right?
Flipron kick off Sunday’s main stage with a combination of lyrical eloquence and multi-instrumental madness. They’re like watching Syd Barrett playing out with the bastard children of Gogol Bordello and the Incredible String band. When the set comes to an end we go and buy their album, which ably captures their wildly bohemian experience.
Sunday's biggest surprise is Boney M. The decision to put this slice of cheesy 70's disco onto the stage could go gone terribly wrong - it doesn't. The Beautiful Days crowd may have turned up expecting a train wreck, but they quickly mutate into madly dancing (and badly singing) divas, getting stuck firmly into what turns out to be a disco groove sensation. But it's frightening just how many of us know the words...
We also notice a dozen police officers at the top of the hill standing enraptured throughout the performance. Obviously they try their very best not to let their Judge Dredd cool fall by dancing but their tapping feet gives their musical sensibilities away.
The nastiest clash of the weekend comes at 8pm Sunday when we are faced with the dilemma of watching either Afro Celt Soundsystem or The Damned. We try to see both, but are transfixed by the sheer outstanding beauty of the Afro Celt’s delicious live set.
We learn that fans of The Damned are also enjoying a peach of a punk set. Small children pogo on the shoulders of parents while the entire audience engage in a spirited sing-a-long to seminal punk track 'Smash It Up'. "I fucking loved it," our roving informer critiqued.
If you're hosting a garden party and asking everyone to come along and play, then it’s traditional to join in and The Levellers do just that. They are the last band on the main stage (though some note the early finish of other stages ensures they have the biggest possible crowd) and they pump out a high energy performance that underlines why they remain one of the UK's most outstanding live bands.
The highlight is ‘Boatman’ which is delivered perfectly. The sentimental song captures the simplicity of freedom and its elusive nature in the society of the spectacle.
And that’s it for Beautiful Days. A no bullshit, friendly and happy event with great music, good food and a consistent focus on ensuring everybody at the event - bands, crew, traders and the audience - have the best possible time.
An excellent small festival that delivered at every level.