United Kingdom | 17 June 2010
Even with an increased capacity and new site, Simon Butler finds Out To Graze Festival as enjoyable and endearing as ever.
Overall – 9.5/10
In 2009, Out to Graze was the best festival it has been – great site, great weather, great music and great fun. So we approached with some trepidation when we heard that the site had moved, and the capacity had increased. The weather forecast also wasn’t filling anyone with much hope, looking more like a prediction of Old Testament misery, rather than festival fun.
But it was great – better than last year in almost every single possible way. At a time when some more established festivals are shutting their doors, or losing their way in a morass of corporate lager sponsorship, and high profile acts that should be prosecuted for war crimes, Out to Graze is leading a one festival fightback to put good honest foolish fun back on the agenda. It is, without any doubt at all, the best kept secret around right now.
Getting there and back - 9/10
By car it’s a breeze, close to Banbury, 15 miles from Oxford and just off the M40. Unexpectedly for a small festival, the site is also well sign posted, and well marshalled car parks have you stopped with a beer open in no time.
The organisers were planning to run a bus service from Banbury station to the site, but this was cancelled late in the day. Even this didn’t prove a problem though, with a £10 taxi ride taking care of things nicely.
The Site - 10/10
Last year’s site was pretty but basic, but wow, this year’s was gorgeous! For the rest of the year, the site doubles as a Fir Tree Country Park, which is both a really well equipped campsite, and bird of prey sanctuary.
Car parking and campervans are located at the top of a pretty steep hill, from which a track leads down into a Lord of the Rings style valley below. As you turn the corner, you’re confronted by a pretty stunning view of the main arena, next to which is a ruddy great big lake.
From there, a path leads up to the main camping area, past the festy favourite Mystic Swing, and a giant inflatable football pitch, which we’ll be visiting later. Overall the site was stunning.
Atmosphere - 9/10
One of the really nice things about this festival is how friendly and chilled out it is. It feels like you’re at a party with 700 of your mates, all pretty intent on having a brilliant time, and making sure you have one too.
True, there are times when the arena feels a little bit empty, and to be fair the site does feel like it could swallow as many people again without feeling busy, but that itself was likeable. It was always easy to find somewhere to sit down and chill out for five minutes, and never that long before you ended up deep in conversation with some randoms that you felt you’d known for years, but wouldn’t recognise the following day if they were stood in front of you hitting you with a stick.
Music - 8/10
Out to Graze is mostly all about electronica and dance music, with most genres pretty well catered for.
In the main arena were five stages, sited reasonably close together, and all belting out music at volumes to make an environmental health officer wince. Despite this, there was pretty minimal bleed between the stages, and once you were there, it was easy to bounce along without your feet getting completely confused by the dubstep next door.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get hold of a programme the whole time we were there, so it’s hard to say which DJs were great and what bands were epic but stage timings all seemed a bit eccentric anyway, so stage descriptions will have to do:
Main Stage: Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop and, erm, Football
The stage always seemed dead busy. Home of bands, ska and soundsystems, the main stage also showed the USA-England game. Oh how we laughed.
Simple & Slide: House, Techno, Electro, fiddly stuff
Run by the festival organisers, and featuring DJs from the Oxford area, including Em Williams, Rick Smith, James Willams and Tom Baker, there seemed to be all kinds of stuff playing here over the weekend, ranging from house, to Drum’n’Bass to slightly odd Soul.
Microclimate: Other house, Techno, Electro fiddly stuff
Organised by the London outfit of the same name, and featuring a right old mix of bleepy goodness. DJs included Maya Jane Coles, JB, Alex Arnout, Alison Marks, Asid Rizvi, Steve Proctor and Howie B.
Winners of the 2009, Round Britain filth competition this stage banged a winning combination of Drum’n’Bass, Jungle, Dubstep and all sorts of bass driven goodness at volumes that would wake up your deaf nan. Acts included Pirate Soundsystem, Absnif, Filed under K, Flymo, Romper, Gervais and Crappa-T.
The food selection wasn’t the best. The Bedouin Café was a sad absentee this year and we were left instead with a pretty standard mix of slightly dodgy burgers and chips, but it wasn’t that bad.
The beer was good, bar staff were quick and by and large pretty friendly. By Saturday they’d run out of ginger beer, that’s among the worst things that happened the whole really...hardly a crisis is it?
Also, some sort of board or indication of who was playing where would be really handy, the Jungle DJs for example, who were on at around 2am at the Snatch Productions stage were devastating but god knows who they were…
Saturday afternoon, was the time for the much touted “Dubbuteo” tournament, human sized bar football excitement, next to a stage belting out dub (unsurprisingly).
This was more fun than you could shake a stick at, as teams of five hungover and fragile individuals battled for a crown that to be honest probably wasn’t that exciting, and had probably been left down the back of the organisers’ sofa anyway.
For round after round, teams of ringers (those that could play football) trounced spirited groups that looked as though they’d breakfasted on lager, and had lager for afters.
But as with all sports, it’s the taking part that counts, especially when it’s your goalie picking the ball out of your net for the fifth time….
By Simon Butler.
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