Hi there! Sorry for the lack of updates lately – despite exams being over, I’m still managing to be super busy. Six days after finishing my last exam, I was straight back into the labs for a “boot camp” in preparation for my industry year in Switzerland. Between these sessions I’ve been trying to sort out my visa for Shanghai, so all in all, not the chilled out few weeks I wanted! I’ve found time to finally play Red Dead Redemption though – been wanting to get hold of it for ages. I realise how late to the game I am with that one, so of course I don’t need to tell you how super-fun it is (you can lasso people!)
That aside, I did get a chance to head over to University of Birmingham’s Valefest yesterday with the lovely ladies Anna of ALMSEE and Rosie (who has yet to get blogging..), both of whom finished the same day as me. Despite a pretty grim weather forecast, we donned the obligatory raincoats, glitter and flower garlands and headed over to the Vale.
Valefest is a yearly music festival run by students at the university, and this year was it’s tenth birthday. With loads of tents, stages and stalls featuring bands, DJs, comedy acts, and workshops, there was something for everyone. We turned up in time to catch Temple Funk Collective, an 8-piece brass section from Oxford, who managed to coax the sun out with their jazz-funk rearrangements of modern tracks. If this sounds like it might be up your street, give their “Drum and Brass” medley a listen:
When these guys had finished, the sun was shining so we sat out on the grass and watched Battle Reenactment Society do their thing. This is exactly what it sounds like (think chainmail, axes and shouting) and after seeing them open the Miscellany Gala earlier this year, I was keen to see them again. They did not disappoint.
After this we wandered over to the food court – there was a good amount of choice, although I was sad to see that purveyors of “gourmet toasties” The Jabberwocky, were absent. They were there last year, and their “4 Cheese Supreme” was one of the highlights of Valefest 2013 for me. We grabbed some sizeable burgers (Quorn! yey!) from the BBQ stall and ate them in the sunshine by the main stage. The Sons of Pitches were playing, who I’ve heard a few times and who are always good fun. An acapella group of uni students, these guys have quite a following. It’s not hard to see why – it’s hard not to smile when you hear them:
After The Sons of Pitches, we were treated to a set from Fresh Dixie Project. The self professed “crossover swing” band were perfect for the festival, and welcomed in the warm evening with their upbeat original tracks.
(Their cover of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book was a standout track for me, although it doesn’t seem to be around online. Anyone who’s heard Paulo Nutini’s version will know where I’m coming from, though.)
Next we wandered over to the Macmillan Stage and caught Signals‘ set. Math-pop/rock always makes for an impressive live show in my opinion, and Signals were no exception. As an act they were tight, and their clean harmonies were a breath of fresh air amongst the plentiful ska/funk bands we heard over the day. Their audience was unfortunately a little sparse to begin with, but after a brief shower drove lots of people into the tent, they had a lot more listeners. The new, bigger crowd was only in part thanks to the weather, though; the sun soon came back out, but no one left. Their song “Constructions” was one of my favourite tracks of the day:
They were followed by Ghouls, a lively band of “alt-gypsy-punks” from London. This was the headline act for the Macmillan Stage, and they certainly went out with a bang. Never stopping to lower the tempo, Ghouls got the crowd going with song after song of short punchy tracks – think Reel Big Fish meets The Meteors:
Finally, closing the whole festival was the Electric Swing Circus. I had heard a lot about these guys – as locals and ex-UoB students, they play a lot of shows near me, but until now I had never made it to one. They more than lived up to the hype. Fusing 20s swing with electro-house beats, the group put on a fantastic show, complete with smoke machine(!). Vocalists Laura Louise and Bridget Walsh had the air of seasoned performers, all twenties dance routines and unbridled sass. They even found time in their set for an electric double bass solo, which is pretty much all I want from a live band. Their new track, “Minnie”, tells you all you need to know:
So, all round, Valefest 2014 was exactly what the doctor ordered – live music, good food, and a few drinks in the sun with friends. Not to mention that all the proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support and Trekstock. What’s not to like!
Were you at Valefest? Have you made it to any other great festivals so far this year? Let me know in the comments!