Playfest 2012 // New Eccles Hall nr Quidenham, Norwich
Playfest 2012 proved to be a great festival experience, if not a damp one. The rain was relentless but there were plenty of tunes tempting you into the bustling warmth of the tents. The layout was much the same as last year with the main stage set as the focus in the larger field framed by the graff wall from last year and a blank canvas we would see progress throughout. The field itself felt less sparse with more decoration, multiple amusement rides, flags, bunting and of course the Porta Party and its neon veterans travelling round the site gaining more revellers wherever they went.
The main stage wasn’t opened until the Saturday so we sought refuge in The Full Colour Arcade. This was a small, enclosed tent, which owing to size, decoration and projected visualisations felt like an intimate dance experience. It featured local Norwich acts Bogart, Basics, The Lick and resident Color DJ Perfection. Perfection played a rip roaring DnB/old school jungle set, which went down a storm for the last set, leaving the crowd flooding into the camp site at 1am wanting more.
The other tents housed different genres, should festival-goers fancy a change of scene. The dance area was also home to the Rebel Lion Roots arena playing raw roots reggae bringing together the finest DJs, live vocalists and musicians. The vibe was electric and unmistakable. The majestic bass vibrations soothed you into a comfortable lull accompanied by live musicians such as Maya on flute and Lloyd ‘Duppy Clark’ on sax. This tent was quite the family affair, with children racing around the tent, playing on the instruments and getting a better view from parents’ shoulders. Jah Munchies amplified the vibe with their tasty wholesome veggie food, the perfect recovery item from a heavy night.
The third tent in the dance area was run by the Pow Party Boys. Large in size, it welcomed many out of the rain to enjoy a staple diet of mash-up tunes and - in their own words - ‘a house party in a club’ -in a field! It’s a shame their student focused ethos didn’t quite make it to the festival bar!
The early cut off of the music at 1am is a shock to the system for any avid festival-goer and the party continued into the campsites. No doubt there were a few poorly heads and bleary eyes the next day but a throng of fitness lovers arose for a bout of Zumba (admittedly I was not one of them). The class was held in the Pow tent, the energetic rhythms thundered out of the sound system, which made for quite a unique Zumba experience… or wakeup call for those of us who were in no state to participate.
Playfest is very much a daytime affair and this year was full of the bank holiday weekend buzz. When the sun was shining (which it occasionally did) the main site resembled a village fair with groups propped up at the bar and families on blankets in front of the main stage. The first acts appearing on the main stage both Saturday and Sunday were competition winners. Kings and Crowds won a twitter competition beating hundreds of bands to grace the main stage. Similarly Port Isla won the first Rocket from the East competition. These UEA boys, who take influence from the likes of Fleet foxes and Neil Young proved a hit among the growing crowd.
As the night crept in and the face painted youngsters began to dwindle in numbers, the party vibe became more apparent and the crowd more raucous. The main stage headliners for Saturday were The Big Pink, Sheffield boys an gal Reverend and the Makers, followed by the Pigeon Detectives and Ash. Besides a few lengthy stage changes between some of the acts, the crowd only grew in size and energy. The Pigeon Detectives added the spice of spontaneity and invited all the dressed up children on stage with them - an offer which was eagerly accepted - and the stage was bombarded by a host of crazily dressed, manically dancing kids, which resulted in big smiles all round.
Meanwhile the likes of Sonic Boom Six and Roots Manuva gave energetic performances, shaking the Big Top tent and seeing the crowds spilling out the sides jostling for position. Similarly, in the dance area, DJ EZ pulled in a faithful crowd who remained put for the duration of the nights sets by Mele, Zinc and Shy FX who delivered nothing but the quality we’ve come to expect from this Drum and Bass pioneer.
Sunday hosted an equally impressive programme of headline acts such as Natty, Scroobius Pip, Delilah and Feeder. The sky may have been grey but Natty’s performance metaphorically brought out the sunshine; the crowd accompanied him singing along to favourites such as ‘Bad Man’ and ‘Bedroom Eyes’. There was big hype for Delilah and she definitely delivered results note-perfect every time. Towards the end of her set the diehard Feeder fans stated their claim to the front of the stage; they too did not disappoint and were a great sign out for the end of the festival and the beginning of the bank holiday weekend. Likewise the dance arena went out in style with sets from Jaymo & Andy George, Sub Focus and Toddla T.
Playfest really pulled it out of the bag this year and clearly took account of all the teething problems of the first festival. My hang-ups last year were pretty standard festival annoyances - grim toilets and overpriced inedible food. The advances in the regards of the toilets were shockingly good. I’d even go as far to say they were perhaps the nicest festival toilets I have encountered ever! Men and women had separate toilets keeping queues to a minimum, with running water sinks and fully stocked toilet roll; it was pretty much an upgrade from your student house toilet!
This year’s food variety was much better and catered for everyone from your full on carnivore to the veggies. A popular addition to the food annex was Norfolk Natterjacks Food Company. This young troupe specialise in damn good falafels which kept me fuelled up over the weekend.
All factors combined, Playfest has continued to build on the good foundations of last year’s debut. Everything seemed to come together smoothly - experience that can only be gathered in time. The small festival vibe teamed with big name acts is a winning formula, one which I’m sure will be heeded to and improved for next year’s instalment, one of which I will be eagerly awaiting.
See all this year's pictures from Playfest 2012 here...