11th - 13th Aug 2023
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 1EN, United Kingdom
Tickets for adults (with camping) from £199.00
Let’s get the boring Tick Box stuff out of the way up front… Lakefest is everything one would expect from a 21st Century event; a clean, safe, welcoming, well organised affair set in the absolutely stunning surroundings of the Eastnor estate. Lakefest offers excellent value for money, coming in at less than two hundred quid for a five-night event (much less with Early-Birds). The facilities and camping grounds are, of course, spot-on. Not only that, but the festival punches way above its weight for the plethora of quality entertainment offerings available. The festival delivered a top-notch musical line-up across more than half a dozen stages (Johnny Marr, Clean Bandit, McFly, Zutons, etc, as well as a thumping EDM scene), oodles of non-music activities (from Wrestling to Stunt Cyclists to Teen Game Zone to Comedy and Burlesque). Chock full of excellent bars and Cocktail joints, countless food options, and plenty of big boy and girl activities and scenes. Importantly, it also remains true to its ethos of being a genuinely family affair. The kid’s area is extensive, as are all the activities and workshops. It also offers a large fun-fair for all ages. It’s no marketing slogan to state that Lakefest delivers for everyone, irrespective of age and taste. You can go Posh if you fancy – with great value VIP and Glamping options. It’s a well-established, and highly regarded festival… of course everything is as it should be, its Lakefest we are talking about here!
But what makes Lakefest unique and such a long-standing Festivals For All favourite? Just one word - ‘PEOPLE’. Lakefest is more of a feeling than a festival. Regulars appear to store little Lakefest Love Bombs in their hearts, ready to release every August once they hit those fields. The bands simply don’t matter, excellent as they are; they churn every year. What gives Lakefest permanence is the sheer quality of its people. Everyone from the organisers, to the wonderful volunteers and support staff, to that magical audience, play their part. It’s a celebration of the human spirit. There is a vibe, a buzz to Lakefest that you simply cannot put a price on. It’s not just party people singing and dancing – it’s much much bigger than that, there is real sense of community here. Lakefesters walk amongst kindreds. Many festivals try to replicate it, most fail. That special atmosphere is what makes a festival; differentiates it from simply ‘bands in a field’. Lakefest produces that special atmosphere in spades. And it’s wonderful.
Bizarrely, some readers actually like a Review that, well, reviews things. If that’s your bag, please do read on. A fairly comprehensive Review does indeed follow. If not, then do cut to the end of this extended article. Its rather good :)
Here’s a helter-skelter snap shot of what went down for your intrepid FFA Reviewers. If your Lakefest moments don’t match ours, then so it goes. It’s all just opinion after all. If your faves don’t get a mention, then we’d likely be asleep, or in a bar talking Manc gibberish. Either way, we’d be smiling.
Oh Johnny Marr! What a headliner to kick-start the whole shebang. That’s when we first noticed. The rapport. That Lakefest Love thing. The unprompted communal singing and dancing. Artist and audience as one. The barriers between performer and crowd completely dissolved. One happy mass of bouncing good-times. Marr was of course excellent, and understandably, The Smiths era material tended to get the best reaction, with ‘How Soon Is Now’ exceptional. Gaz Coombes even joined the man for a wonderful take on ‘There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out’. We were blessed. A messy night in the Brethryn Cocktail Bar with splendid sounds from The Brethryn did for us. Once again, Lakefest illustrating that it’s sometimes the action, and human interaction, away from the main stages where this festival excels. A great club vibe going down.
Oh Lordy - Mrs FFA is becoming a grappling fan… We just couldn’t keep away from The Wrestling! You really have got to check this out. Trust me. So so funny and hugely entertaining. The atmosphere in Funky Town was to die for. All ages were cheering and booing the pantomime Heroes and Villains. It was bedlam. Now don’t get me wrong, this crew are highly professional performers, but it’s designed to be raucous and completely over the top. They succeeded. It was! Follow that with a stunning DMR Dirt Jumping competition. Now Lakefest don’t piss about – they only had a full-size official jump course for these stunt cyclists to do their stuff. Impressive, exhilarating, and scary in equal measure. Wonderful entertainment – who needs music!
Now Lakefest is famous for its eclectic lineups and scheduling. There was no better example that the Folk-Rock, Indie, Electro-Pop mash up on the Abbey Stage on Friday night. First up, Ferocious Dog. A delayed setup resulted in a very truncated set, but the boys simply crammed in an hour’s energy into half that! A blistering performance. Personnel changes and a harder sound these days, but FFA loved it.
Arguably one of the best audience reactions of the weekend was for the brilliant Zutons. Bloody ‘ell this crowd. The whole arena belted out the hits. The clichéd ‘up for it crowd’ tag simply doesn’t do these wonderful Lakefesters justice. Electrifying atmosphere. The buzz simply rolled over into Clean Bandit, who blew this Reviewer away. Polished, slick, and dynamic, they delivered a proper ‘stage show’, with choreographed dancers ‘n all. Grace Chatto and crew rocked up a storm, and it was inevitably ‘Symphony’ that had the whole arena in fine voice in a sea of waving arms and gyrating bodies. FFA were lucky enough to be in the Photo Pit for all of these bands. The physical roar, the emotion and waves of pure loving energy radiating from this crowd as they had an absolute ball made the spine tingle.
FFA had to take time out to throw a few shapes to a fine set of pulsating beats from the decks of James Haskell. Even more non-music merriment followed with Burlesque in the Cheshire Cat Club. FFA took in The Flaming Feathers show two nights running; it was soooo good. The ladies were stunning. From Can-Can to swirling Nipple Tassels, from Rock’n’Roll to the most amazing display of Hula-Hoop dexterity from a super talented young woman (six, yep, six hoops on the go). We had a riot of a time. Throw in a fine outing from Alex Ohm over in a packed Amped, with ‘Joy’ stealing the set, to a frankly debauched ruck over in The Brethryn with the excellent Classic Rock of Chimp On A Bike. First class takes on ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘War Pigs’ sent FFA stumbling into the night.
Let’s be blunt – Saturday was mostly spent in the bars. No apologies, Lakefest is all about interaction with our fellow sapiens that crawl this planet’s surface. Remember, the stage entertainment is transitory, The Lakefest People are The Thing. The Main Event. The Real Entertainment. Revell in your fellow Lakefesters. FFA did! We did take in some Axe Throwing (no, seriously), Blacksmithing (!), and festival stalwarts Erica... Man down! Sans drummer. The two survivors delivered a wild, high-energy set. You could feel the vibe from outside the tent. A credit to their musical and improvisation skills. Loved it.
Embrace. It came as no surprise that we heard the crowd before we heard the band as we approached the Abbey Stage. They knew every word. So loud, and so locked-on were they, that McNamara and his oppo’s could have swanned off stage and the audience could have finished the set for them! What a vibe. Oh Amped! You spoil us. This forum for undiscovered talent threw up some wonderful artists… and normally to packed houses. It’s no surprise that the wonderful Lakefest family leave any musical prejudices at the gate and support initiatives like Amped. If it’s good – they will sing and dance! Laurie Wright was absolutely on the button with song lyrics interwoven with Blur-like whimsy and imagery, and FFA thought them excellent. Do go check some of these Amped acts out. Give the band booking agent a medal for The Brethryn venue. Outstanding quality throughout. Not least The Indigoes with yet more fine sounds. Another stumble home.
This Reviewer is a sucker for a Singer-Songwriter with heart. Step forward Frazer Lepford. Amongst some fine covers, the man dropped a song dedicated to his dad, ‘JCB Song’. Wonderfully emotional. I must have gotten some grit in my eye. Do give the fella a listen, he’s very good. Talking of good, Lakefest filled the Abbey Stage with the I-Sing Choirs. A very modern take on collective singing and first class. They take modern classics and instil a contemporary choral vibe. FFA loved them.
The Native knocked out one of the sets of the day, New to us, and FFA’s Find Of The Festival. Difficult to define (ALWAYS a good thing), and with a distinctive sound. The guys can play, look the part, and we loved the laid-back synth. From new to old – The Beat! A festival organisers delight. Always good, always value, always bouncing, always a tent filler. Just add the great Lakefest crowd for that final ingredient. Nuff said.
Manc-tastic… it’s only the Inspiral Carpets! Mr Boon cut to the chase with hit after hit. No messing about. Great set with some neat back projections of this Reviewers old stomping grounds. Throw in a vid sample of Dr John Cooper Clarke for good measure, and it was all, er, sorted. Blimey… hands up, this Reviewer was dubious of what McFly had to offer. Turns out they were absolutely first class. Dynamic, hundred mile an hour stuff, musically sound, vocally strong, and above all, hugely entertaining. Down the front it was wild, with that Lakefest energy on overload. A cracking band to close the main stages.
Things change and evolve. The (in)famous Lakefest Silent Disco was different. Punters can now rent headsets for the duration of the festival, with various silent disco pop-ups across the site over the weekend. All good, apart from making the much-loved Sunday evening last hurrah, that final coming together, a bit diluted and less of A Thing really. The emotional build up to DJ Shippers dying ember Lakefest signature tune of ‘Hey Jude’ also lost some impact, as the other channels played on into the night. Nonetheless, it was still all rather special. We walked around Funky Town without cans, just taking it all in. This sea of humanity, loving life, together. Some marching to different tunes, but each part of a bigger, better, collective whole. Lakefest Love Bombs exploding everywhere, all the time. Strangers stopped to chat. Making a connection. Thousands of people becoming one big smile. Singing and dancing is a universal human trait. Share it. Let it roll. Yeah Lakefest – the Silent Disco has changed – but you still nail it.
Back in the real world, we likely all return to fighting our personal petty little wars, serving up our prejudices, and delivering our judgements. Instead, think of that Lakefest feeling. Trigger the Love Bomb. Let it radiate out. You don’t need to sing and dance with red lights on your head all the time – but it may help :) Big endings come from small beginnings. Of course, Lakefest isn’t going to change the wider world, but Lakefest just might change you – and there’s really no better place to start.
Article and Snaps by Barrie Dimond