Big Session 2008

Big Session 2008

Photographer: Sara Bowrey14 June 2008

Hoards of families and couples fill the site dedicated to Big Sessions, roaming leisurely amongst the diversely erected architecture and the numerous food outlets that offer a selection of mouth watering dishes from every single continent on the planet.

As 4pm approaches, a number of scraggily haired men, wielding guitar cases begin to venture towards the Orange Tree. This being the smallest of the three stages, it hosts a number of “open sessions”, allowing pretty much anybody to stroll up and jam with like minded people. Guitars, violins, maracas, triangles, voice, and basically anything that could amplify a sound, congregate to produce a miscellaneous noise, which is appreciated by the watching crowd.

Considering the large number of band t-shirts on display, it’s clear that festival creators, Oysterband, are the main attraction on Friday evening. The mood within the Indoor Stage of De Montfort Hall is positively charged and being the main act on this opening day, it is clear Oysterband are highly anticipated; many tense little feet are just itching to be released to the epic sounds of one of Britain’s best folk rock outfits. Yet due to the calmness and tranquillity present throughout the entirety of this festival friends enjoy a pint of ‘The Leveller,’ conversing over the day’s events whilst waiting for the band to take the stage. As they do, all moods, thoughts and feelings are united and everyone thoroughly enjoys their set.

The predicted rain showers for the entirety of the weekend never really materialise. Everyone seems to be enjoying the frequent spells of sunshine, lazing around the entrances to the Marquee Stage and The Orange Tree. Saturday presents a full day of exciting bands, many contemporary; many formed a number of years ago. McDermott’s Two Hours take to the Marquee stage at 4pm, drawing in the mingling crowds from outside, which were previously sampling the arrangement of stalls located around the site area. The McDermott’s belt out a combination of fast and slow tempo songs that stir the crowd slightly, but it takes the grand finale of 'Dirty Davey', previously covered by The Levellers, to whip everyone in to a charged, river-dancing ball of excitement.

Many revellers remain in the Marquee stage following the McDermott’s. The set bill had been changed. For unknown reasons, Vincent Vincent and the Villains are unable to make it but in no way does this deter the bubbly crowd. Their replacement comes in the form of Two Daft Monkeys, opposed to the regular Three Daft Monkeys. Presenting simply a combination of ‘his and hers voice,’ backed with the breathtakingly, beautiful sounds of fiddle and twelve string guitar, this pair blow every single mind that remains under this single roof.

As the sun sinks lower below the horizon and the temperature drops, many make their way inside to experience Mercury Prize Nominee, Seth Lakeman. Lakeman plays a truly magnificent set including hit favourites, ‘Kitty Jay’ and ‘Lady of the sea.’ Following Seth, legendary singer-songwriter Steve Earle takes to the stage to be greeted by a triumphant roar from the crowd. Playing highly anticipated new material from ‘Washington Square Serenade’, as well as old favourites, every single note is greatly appreciated by all.

Sunday seems to present a number of individuals, lazing around, soaking up the atmosphere whilst nursing the accumulated affects of two straight days of organically prepared ale consumption. Yet in no way does the vibrant, glowing smile wash from a single person’s face. All that fills people’s minds is the anticipation of the day ahead which again promises great bands and musicians, as well as the harsh reality of exiting the cosy bubble of Big Sessions and returning to work the following day. Dan Donnely, John Smith and Bellowhead all provide unique performances to the Sunday audience and by 8pm, everything is finally drawing to a close.

It is clear to see why Big Sessions was publicly given the ‘Greenest Festival’ at the UK Festival Award last year. Nothing at this event is done in half measures. Food traders operate under strict conditions, only being allowed to use compostable cups and plates, and there's a huge emphasis on recycling. On a larger scale the festival attempts to help each individual minimise the carbon footprint they plant on the world; by simply pledging to replace your light bulb you are given a free energy saving light bulb!

After experiencing larger, more commercialised festivals, it’s as clear as day to see why Big Session is such a huge success. It makes a refreshing change to see what’s on offer at this festival. The vibe, present around the whole site is truly unique, a sense of well being, enjoyment and giving, is constant wherever your feet take you. All in all, Big Session combines three days of good music, good people, and good food and never to be forgotten, of course, good times!

by Dale Crawford-Drake

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