I had the great pleasure of attending London’s underground War in the Park festival last weekend – and the even greater pleasure of missing the torrential downpour that left most people huddled under a tarpaulin serenaded by raindrops and the inimitable Country Al‘s Lonesome Guitar. I caught his set at the warmup gig in Brixton Market a week before, so don’t feel as upset about missing it as I otherwise would.
I’ve been to a lot of music festivals since taking part in Pitchshifter’s stage invasion that opened Phoenix ’95, and they’ve all got something different going for them but they all share some common commercial ground – even the boutiques like Winterwell, rising up to fill the gaps as the older boutiques like Bestival grow.
War in the Park is a little different, entirely dropping the commercial angle and concentrating on an eclectic mix of acoustic music, poetry and spoken word curated by Anton and Yvonne of Bleak. You are unlikely to watch Guns’n'Roses close off the day with a headlining set, but then again that’s rare even when you pay £150 for a festival they’re billed as headlining… instead you get to relax with a hundred or so chilled out people (and some bemused locals) in a park of Anton’s choice (it’s only announced a few days before) listening to some slightly more ethical musicians than Axel, more likely to hold forth on justice or sustainability than how annoying it is to be paid a lot of money to do something and then have to do it.
Particular highlights were the first ever recorded crowd surf at a poetry gig, bravely performed by Mr Joe Law to the lyrics of SP Howarth, and an acoustic performance of Absinthe by Bleak – which they rarely play live but really should. I’m reliably informed that it will be on the new album, but this is the same album that has been coming for several years so don’t hold your breath.
I do feel semi-obliged to mention and review all of the other acts, but then again I’d just say nice things, if alcohol allowed me to remember all of their names. I urge you all to track them down here and listen to their stuff, in a legally responsible fashion. Herbal viagra optional.
Roll on next year’s War… in the meantime, photos of this year’s destruction are here.