Festivals

Cornbury Festival

John Mulvey

Cornbury, or Poshstock as it’s sometimes known, is like a mini Knebworth, held in the bucolic grounds of a very big house in the Cotswold country 20 miles from Oxford. There’s champagne by the bottle in the VIP bar and past Cornbury Fests have proved celeb heaven with Prince Harry, Kate Moss (she’s a local) and Jeremy Clarkson all stumping up in 2006.
No famous faces ligging here so far today but we’ll keep ‘em peeled.
Here’s how it’s panning out so far:

SATURDAY

Band Of The Day: THE WATERBOYS

Mike Scott’s band of raggle taggle gypsies really had to come good this year after a missed flight and stinking weather resulted in a no-show at Cornbury 2006.
They didn’t disappoint. Mike Scott shook his tousled badger mane, apologised for being 12 months late, and then gave the sunkissed crowd exactly what they’d all been waiting for - "The Whole Of The Moon". A big pumpkin-pie shaped slice of ‘80s nostalgia still delivered with evangelical zeal.
After the jubilant Waterboys, headliner David Gray sank without trace.
Best moment: The crowd calling them back for an encore.
Best song: "Fisherman’s Blues".

Coolest Thing At Cornbury On Saturday: WILL SERGEANT’S GUITAR

Rocking the ostentatious twin-neck made legendary by Jimmy Page but too seldom seen since the heydays of Led Zeppelin, the ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN guitarist pulled a beauty out midset during the band’s headliner on the second stage.
Like The Waterboys, Echo are firmly lodged in the business of reliving the ‘80s, their crowd these days confined to those who’ve grown out of long raincoats into dentists’ whites and accountants’ suits. And like them, Mac’s pretty jowly now, and the aspidistra coiffeur – once his pride and joy – has wilted into a troubling mouldy nest rivalled only in its absurdity by the weather beaten thatch that The Cure’s Robert Smith heroically refuses to surrender.
Still, close your eyes and these faithful versions of those enigmatic gothpop hits still sound thrilling enough.
Best moment: The "bop-shoo-waddy-waddy" bit in "Villier’s Terrace".
Best Song: "Killing Moon".

Best Dressed Person On Site: BETTYE LAVETTE

A grand and pensionable diva to rival Glasto’s Shirl, our Bettye rocks up to the second stage and rivals Dame Bassey’s recent fuck-you-to-the-elements sartorial stand by modelling an immaculate white trouser suit.
She then proceeds to sweat it up through an expert show of vintage hardcore soul, peppered with barely disguised disgust at all the many years she’s been overlooked while the Tina Turners and Diana Ross’ snaffled up the moolah.
Top lady.
Best moment: The chilling finale to "My Joy".
Best song: "Serves Him Right"

Highlight Of The Whole Day: "(I’M GONNA BE) 500 MILES", THE PROCLAIMERS

These reunited Scottish Bros Reid may not be as cool their namesakes just reformed in the Jesus & Mary Chain but, at their breast-beating, bellowing best, they rouse the Cornbury spirits more than any other band today.
Opening with their freak debut hit, "Letter from America", they do all the favourites from way-back when – "Sunshine On Leith", the Shrektastic "I’m On My Way" – and even throw in a beetroot faced, lung-busting country holler version of Wreckless Eric’s "Whole Wide World". But what this crowd is hopping around the main stage for is the coup de grace, "500 Miles", duly delivered as the set finale.
Thanks to Peter Kay, Matt Lucas and their wheelchair bound performance for Comic Relief, this has become 2007’s Festival national anthem. What’s the betting Craig and Charlie bashing this out 90 miles down the road at Wembley would have put a bigger smile on Live Earth’s face than any of the self-righteous superstars wheeled out for their handy slice of global exposure?
Best Moment: No-one singing out "Bobby Davro! Bobby Davro!" Except, perhaps, me.
Best Song: C’mon, do you really need to ask?

SUNDAY

Before we get into it, a quick true story. Sunday morning. I’m woken by my mobile. It’s someone from the Information Tent at Cornbury. They’ve had a gold Puma bag handed in so they’ve opened it, found my wife’s mobile and dialled the last number called.

Yeah, they said, just swing by later and pick it up.

We didn’t even know we’d lost the fucking bag!

That’s how much of a good time we’d had on Saturday. And that, in a nutshell, is Cornbury. Makes you feel good to be alive.

On with the show: This is the fourth Cornbury. It’s getting bigger every year, but it’s still the most charming festival you’ll ever attend. There’s a cool fairground for the kids, Sunday rolls in the Oxford folk Festival, the main stage is set in an idyllic valley and among the celebs ligging today are Alex James and Postman Pat.

Alex, who lives in nearby Kingham, is very much the country squire, dressed head to toe in tweed. Pat is dressed as… er... a postman.

Anyway, onward…

THE FIVE SONGS THAT MADE SUNDAY AT CORNBURY ROCK (or, at least, groove gently…)

"Hanging On The Telephone", BLONDIE

Truth be told, headliners Blondie aren’t all that our memories have cracked them up to be.

Oh, it’s a genuine thrill to see Debbie Harry (or Deborah as she is now) perform here and we are solidly up for some mass adulation but "Atomic", "Union City Blue", "Call Me" etc are pretty much bludgeoned within an inch of their lovely lives by a clod-hopping band that, after all these years, should surely do and know better.

Debs tries her hardest – "We ARE having a good time, RIGHT?!" she barks like a snitty schoolmarm – but the magic is being muscled out by histrionics.

Still, we sing along as best we can and go home hoarse and happy.

Best moment: The crowd. We sing every song and dance along much better than Debs does.

"Video Killed the Radio Star", THE FEELING

A little churlish to pick a cover as the highlight from their exuberant set, but this old Buggles warhorse is really the peak point of the day.

They’re easy to like, The Feeling, and you’d have to be a long way up yer indie arse not to let their enthusiastic lushness wash over you. They’ve very showy but sincere with it, and singer Dan Gillespie Sells is so obviously pleased to be here that he works his socks off to be friendly. In "Never Be Lonely" and "Love It When You Call" they have a couple of their own tiny pop classics and the next LP could really see them huge.

(Second) Best Moment: The stonking encore versh of Queen’s "Fat Bottomed Girls".

"Roscoe", MIDLAKE

Somewhat of a mystery how these little-known, extremely laid-back Texans wound up among all the familiar faces on the main stage but hats off to the organisers because the band’s shy intensity is magnetic and we’re soon sucked in.

No wonder Paul Weller has been singing their praises of late. Watching them may be an experience akin to witnessing a bunch of garage mechanics reassemble a car – all tool-swapping and mumbling through beards - but the songs are unilaterally fascinating.

Stand-outs are the alt-countryish version of "The Pills Can’t Help You Now" which singer Tim Smith tells us he wrote with The Chemical Brothers for their latest album, a sombre half-formed newie called "Children Of The Ground" and the grand finale, "Roscoe", which actually elicits some screams of recognition and sounds kinda maudlin and rousing the way REM used to do.

Best Moment: When the guitarist wryly tells us, "We’re soft rock. Not hard rock."

"Frank And Ava", SUZANNE VEGA

If memory serves, Suzanne once played Glastonbury in fear for her life after receiving an anonymous death threat. Who the hell would want to off Ms Vega? David Gray maybe. But Suzanne? Never!

She breezes through her tea time set and we are… chilled… right…out… man. Lovely. "Marlene On The Wall" and the acapella hip-hoppy "Tom’s Diner" are the famous ones but "Frank And Ava", about Frank Sinatra’s tortured marriage to Ava Gardner, is Suzanne at her most boisterous.

Best Moment: It’s all cool, really.

"Sunshine Day", OSIBISA

The day gets merrily underway to the zesty bish-bosh of Osibisa, a band of Afrrock pioneers who’ve been peddling their brass and bongo bonhomie since the early ‘70s.

They’re best known nowadays for their album cover art full of flying elephants, but today they’re singing about sunshine on a sunny day, so what’s not to like? Kids and grans, stoners and stewards, bikers and dentists, everyone’s grooving.

And that, in a cocked hat and a coconut shell, is Cornbury.

This review was written by Steve Sutherland


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