Tuesday, 28 August 2012

854 TREEFEST 2012, Westonbirt Arboretum, Sunday 26 August 2012

“Treefest”! The “Festival of The Trees”, a big outdoor extravaganza at Westonbirt Arboretum, resembling a Country Fayre albeit with a decidedly (deciduously?) tree-related theme, gets an entry in the gigbook! To be honest, Rach had suggested taking the kids along for the day anyway, but my personal interest(and this event being subsequently added into my gig annals) was piqued due to the presence of the fittingly named “Royal Oak” tent, which featured an itinerary of local acoustic musicians, chief amongst them being Gaz Brookfield, a man fast becoming one of my favourite new musical discoveries of 2012, not least because he’s local and I’m getting to see him play quite regularly right now!

So, we drove down on a promising sunny Bank Holiday Sunday, picking our way through picturesque villages and parking up at the event site just after lunchtime. I was immediately surprised at the scale of the event – loads of cars in the car parking fields, and quite a walk to the main events site itself. Wandered into the “Royal Oak”, a medium sized event tent with rows of hay bales for punters to sit on, just as “lunchtime headliners” The Bateleurs were rounding off a fiddle-powered folky set. In truth, we only popped our heads in as they were playing a cute version of The Wonderstuff’s “Golden Green”, but the band, featuring an ex-boyfriend of an ex-girlfriend (pretty local, then…), closed things out with some more easy listening folky stuff.

We then spent the afternoon checking out the rest of the attractions, ranging from Archery and Falconry displays, stalls selling woodcraft of all descript, traditional fairground attractions (helter skelters and merry go round at 2 quid a pop – yikes!) to a Camera Obscura tent and Heavy Horse rides. The kids liked it!

This then brought us up to 5 pm, so we picnicked under a large overhanging pine, had a final wander around a slightly muddy and rapidly emptying site, then popped back into the “Royal Oak” tent, where Ells Ponting was midway through a very quiet little acoustic set. Thrown in with her own pleasant, introspective material was a pleasant, introspective cover of a Postal Service number, and a more surprising “festival cheesy 80’s number” to close things out, namely A-Ha’s “Take on Me”, which ensured a fine reception from the audience.

I plonked myself down on a hay bale with Logan while Rach took Kasey for a walk, then Gaz Brookfield was introduced onstage as being “a musician from Swindon”, fittingly kicking off his set with “SN1”, a celebration of his, and our, home town. Appropriate enough start, as on display today was the celebratory Gaz, the happy festival Gaz for family consumption, shorn mainly of the glorious anger and bile of his more confrontational material, yet no less enjoyable, passionate and riveting for it. A lovely “Frank And Sam” followed, then after “Limelight” he took time to praise his “mini-moshpit”, the gang of children dashing around and jigging down the front, of which by now both my kids were part!

Despite keeping things relatively polite, we still got a forceful, committed “Be The Bigger Man” (which Gaz introduced as being, “by no means autobiographical” then complimented himself afterwards for getting through it without swearing!) and a pointed “Diet Of Banality” (Gaz informing us parents of our “duty” to stop our kids watching the likes of X Factor!), revealing to all his punk sensibilities. A rousing “West Country Song” finished this Gaz vignette superbly, the crowd again clapping along, swept up in Gaz’ obvious enthusiasm and talent. Great stuff.

Time for a quick chat with the man afterwards, introducing him to my wife and daughter (the son having gone a bit shy at this point), before we headed off after a nice family day out, topped by another splendid Gaz Brookfield performance. We’re already looking forward to his Miles Hunt support slot in September!

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