Friday at Wickham Festival gave the crowd an abundance of varied music acts, from guitar masterclasses, chilled folk music, anarchic anthems, to a headline set from 80s dance-rock legends. Though drawing crowds of all ages, Wickham had a strong family presence with the music and activities attracting those seeking a more laid back vibe for the sun drenched weekend. Aside from an eclectic selection of acts, attendees enjoyed an impressive variety of food and clothing stalls, the Port & Cheese tent set to Jazz music being a favourite of newcomers and Wickham veterans alike. For avid music fans, the festival boasted two main stages with several small scale venues plotted throughout its grounds. In spite of it’s smaller scale, Wickham Festival’s excellent variety of food options, quirky inhabitants, and bohemian aesthetic was reminiscent of the atmosphere one might find at Glastonbury (Minus the onslaught of mud) and was the perfect activity for a family seeking entertaining music in a laid back setting.
First on my list of acts was Breabach, a Socttish contemporary folk band, who soothed the Main Stage crowd in the late afternoon. Hot off their latest release ‘Frenzy of the Meeting’, the 5-piece band combined traditional Scottish folk songs with contemporary tunes largely themed on global politics and their impact on the natural world. The musical message relayed by Megan Henderson (Fiddle, Vocals), James Lindsay (Double Bass, Vocals), Calum MacCrimmon (Bagpipes, Whistle, Bouzouki, Vocals), James Duncan Mackenzie (Bagpipes, Flute, Whistle) and Ewan Robertson (Guitar, Vocals, Cajon) was that of vital importance, with the original compositions from each band member resonating strongly. Providing thoughtful relaxation to the Wickham crowd, Breabach brought the pioneering music of the Glasgow arts scene to the fields of Hampshire.
Next up, I headed over to The Village Stage to catch 3 Daft Monkeys. Though the four-piece are technically classed as a world-influenced folk band, their infectious dance rhythms which blend Celtic, Ska, Indie, and Latin genres, make their music hard to pigeon-hole. The through-line in their conduct is an untamed intensity which reflects the passion enthused into all aspects of their work, and is the reason the band have such a growing cult following. The performance offered up by Tim Ashton (Vocals, 12-string Guitar, Penny Whistle), Athene Roberts (Violin, Vocals, Accordion), Jamie Graham (6-string Bass) and Rich Mulryne (Bespoke Hand Percussion Kit, Vocals) weaved together enchanting melodies with observational lyrics which stayed true to their ancient folk ties while being injected with the quirkiness and wicked humour they have become known for. The Monkey’s catchy choruses and enigmatic stage presence took the crowd on a journey of discovery through Cornish tales of witchcraft and rebellion, with the bands impressive technical ability quickly enticing us to let go of reality and lose ourselves in tales of old.
As the evening drew ever closer to Friday’s headline act on the Main Stage, attendees were treated to a sensational performance by guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan. Arguably the best two-handed guitar tapper of all time, Jordan’s humble beginnings playing piano and guitar in his Chicago childhood eventually earned him headline performances in Jazz events during the 1980s. His rise to prominence can be put down to his proficiency in guitar and piano, allowing him to play two independent lines on one guitar. I had very little knowledge of Jordan before his performance, however I now count seeing him play as one of the most impressive displays of musical talent I have witnessed. As a photographer, I often look for energetic performances as this normally translates into the most engaging and interesting photographs. Stanley Jordan was a notable exception, conveying such drama and musicality by focusing on his passion for the guitar and piano. Playing original compositions as well as reinventing pop-rock hits such as “Eleanor Rigby” or “I Kissed a Girl”, each song was met with roars of jubilation from the growing Wickham crowd, who were clearly in awe of his sheer ability as much as I was.
As the sun set over Wickham festival, everyone settled down with a drink in their camping chairs or clamoured to the Main Stage to enjoy the nights festivities. The headline performance by 80s dance/pop-rock hit makers Level 42 was a spectacle to behold. Though the day was chock full of varied musical performances, it was clear the crowd was really here to see them. Complemented by a powerful light show, the performance was characterised by Mark King’s thumb-slap bass technique and Wally Badaou’s flourishes on the synthesiser, aspects which have always made the band stand out, in spite of multiple line-up changes. Level 42 provided a fitting end to Wickham’s second day, their encore rousing everyone to their feet before retreating and preparing for what the rest of the weekend held in store.
Words and photos by Jamie Kidd