United Kingdom | 18 August 2009
It is hard to believe that one festival can teach you so much about the environment and still have an amazing musical line-up, but the Croissant Neuf Summer Party pulled it off magnificently, writes Helen Giles.
Overall - 7/10
Situated in the gorgeous welsh countryside; CNSP proved that an event such as this could be hosted without the use of diesel powered generators or the like, but with solar and wind energy. Yes, a few minor issues did occur over the weekend, but what do you expect from an idea that is still being researched and developed. Just knowing that the whole event – the music, the food, the entertainment – was powered by the weather alone was mind blowing.
The main stage hosted a variety of ska and reggae bands, with Cafe Seren hosting the more folk-orientated artists. It is amazing how the majority of these musicians are not signed, as the overall quality of the music played was exceptional – better than some well-known artists!
It is hard to believe that one three-day festival could teach you so much about the environment and how we are slowly destroying it. However, Croissant Neuf pulled it off magnificently, educating both young and old on hoe to be friendlier towards our planet, as well as displaying some fine examples on how to do so.
Getting there and back - 5/10
The directions and maps taken from the festival’s website took you directly to the destination and were exceptionally accurate. However, without these directions it is highly likely that you would get lost up the back lanes and dirt tracks of Usk, as there appeared to be no signposts in sight, not even close to the venue. This did prove unhelpful, as a lot of the Neuf visitors did have difficulties finding the event.
Site - 7/10
Set in the surroundings of Gwehelog Fawr, just outside of Usk, the site composed two live music tents, numerous local organic food and drink stalls, and a healing area, that all fitted snugly into this tiny forest area.
The children’s area hosted dance and circus acts, as well as various workshops from lantern making to sports, to keep the kid’s occupied whilst mum and dad could look around the fantastic array of clothing and jewellery stalls, check out the live music or go and get a massage in the relaxing healing area.
Atmosphere - 6/10
On first impressions, the festival campsite does resemble something similar to a family holiday camp, as the majority of visitors did come as a family. With excited children running around the campsite causing mayhem, it’s not surprising that the atmosphere was slightly hectic and busy.
Saying that, at the same time it also had a very laid back and relaxing feel, with Neuf visitors quite content lying in the grassy meadows with a beer listening to the reggae beats from the main tent. The combination of the two created an environment enjoyed by everyone.
The Beat - 9/10
Although the present line-up was different from the original 80’s group, The Beat showed to the audience that they’ve still got it. The powerful ska beats got everyone up and dancing to classics such as ‘Stand Down Margaret’ and “’Mirror In The Bathroom’. Ranking Roger proved fantastic as a charismatic front man, joined by his son Ranking Jnr, who appealed more to the younger generation by adding a youthful, modern twist to the reggae tones. Their musicianship and stage presence couldn’t be faulted.
The Anomalies - 9/10
This energetic five-piece from Hereford were certainly different from the other acts on the Friday evening. The combination of the drum and bass tones from the decks and the indie guitar riffs proved successful, with the lyrics and amazing MC lines helping to create an incredibly unique sound, that caused the main tent to fill out with listeners so early on in the evening. With a cleverly crafted sound, the only disappointment was that they weren’t given a headlining slot.
Bowjangles - 9/10
Fitting to the 1930’s theme of the Saturday night, the string quartet came to the stage in suits and cocktail dresses all dancing and all singing, as well as playing their instruments! Their carefully choreographed performance and song choices entertained visitors of all ages, with their rendition of Disney’s ‘Bear Necessities’ being an all round crowd pleaser. Their ability to play their instruments at such a fantastic level and dance well shows how talented this four-piece are.
Joe Driscoll - 7/10
Being the first act to perform in the main tent, it was to be expected that there would be a few minor problems with the sound on the stage, but this didn’t seem to deter the one man band, who was able to create every single instrument needed to perform there and then. By recording each phrase of music needed for a particular song using the vocal microphone on stage, Driscoll created what could only be described as Music Concrete. He showed a fantastic use of music technology and also showed he had a talent for it, by using beat-boxing and crowd noise recreate the Jackson 5 hit ‘I Want You Back’, making it sound so similar to the original. A pioneer for this niche in music, that is almost certain to pick up and move forward into the commercial niche.
Biggles Wartime Band - 7/10
Back for a second year running, the folk six-piece never failed to entertain, and what can’t be funnier than a bloke dressed as a cat marching around the festival grounds playing a sousaphone. Their jokes were so terrible they made you laugh, and their attire was absurd. But, they were there to perform and that’s certainly what they did, with their catchy folk riffs and excellent musicianship exciting the audience. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but certainly a lot of fun.
Other bands that definitely stood out during this weekend included Mankala, The Travelling Band, Yes Sir Boss and EXP (Jimi Hendrix Tribute). All of these bands gave fantastic performances and their music is definitely worth listening to.
The Neuf staff and stewards were all extremely helpful and friendly, and dealt with every query you had. They would even take your camping belongings to the campsite for you in wheelbarrows!
The festival had focussed a lot on children’s entertainment and activities, and because of this they have kind of forgotten about the older generation. With the majority of music not kicking off until the evening, the same stalls everyday onsite, and few adult activities, it can get a bit boring after a while of being there.
Congratulations Pete and Roz!
On the Sunday of the festival after the gospel service, two festival-goers were married by the attending priest, having the ceremony right in the centre of the festival ground for everyone to see and be a part of.
By Helen Giles.
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