Within a mile or so of the WOMAD festival site we tuned into Womad radio on 87.7 fm and from the car stereo came the sound of Jim White and The Girl from Brownsville Texas. It was the perfect transition into the long festival weekend at Charlton Park and ‘the world’s festival’.
The festival site has had a change in layout this year and whilst this is our first year here, there is a natural flow to the site. Walking around its hard to believe that there will be 40,000 festival goers moving around the site.
This was borne out in the first evening during one of the busiest sets of the day from the Asian Dub Foundation. There was plenty of space to wander closer to the stage (at the request of one of my sons) to experience that pounding bass line pulsating right through your body.
Their set was powerful and it carried a strong sentiment that rang true with the audience, responding in kind to the calls to end the fence erecting mentality that has bubbled to the surface in recent times around immigration. There was a strong sense of unity and positive energy as they launched into their 2015 single Stand Up to which the crowd responded in triumphant dancing. Their set was well timed, setting the spark with their powerhouse concoction of electronics, jungle, hip-hop and Bhangra.
Before the set we wandered into the beautiful wooded arboretum which housed the craft stalls ranging from wax lanterns to a spoon carver, meditation areas, gong therapists and the wonderful Coyote Moon cafe outside of which we spotted this sign:
We naturally headed there for 8pm only to find the canvas geodesic biome jammed full people sat shoeless on the floor awaiting what would turn out to be a magical solo set from Kate Stables of This is the Kit. Kate, who is performing with her full band over the weekend, treated the audience to her own brand of intimate folk. She’s a woman of few words, and instead lets her songs do the talking, she managed to pack a lot into the one hour set. The audience were enraptured by her songs, from the quirky Nits to her now classic Two Wooden Spoons which appeared on Rob Da Bank’s 2006 alt-folk compilation ‘Folk Off’ alongside the likes of Tuung, Vashti Bunyan and James Yorkston.
The power of her performance lies in her unique flowing vocals which have a dexterity and expressiveness which is as rich and satisfying as her guitar playing. Her singing appears effortless and she looks completely at home under the canvas top – almost beatific as she calmly tells us that her band are having to break into their van as they lost their keys. The sort of thing that would phase out most of us seems to wash over her and looking around the room some of that calm looks like it’s being wholeheartedly absorbed – she has the audience in the palm of her hand. We are all completely and happily captivated.
The perfect start to what already looks to be another top-notch festival.
To top it,as I write this, the sun is now shining in all its glory.