Walking down to the park on Sunday morning, there’s a lovely sound ringing off in the distance, a more traditional folk sound coming from the main stage. As I arrive in the lower park one song in I’m engrossed in the sound coming from Fishclaw. They describe their sound as progressive-folk, which I was a bit dubious of prior to arriving (how do you take folk and then add progressive influences to it?!) but it turns out I shouldn’t have been as it works perfectly. Their music was, for the most part folk music although, impressively, there were some parts which reminded me of a lot of post-rock bands I enjoy. They sound tight too, everything coming together perfectly, with a massive use of dynamics. What a way to kick off the day!
A quick walk over to the Hollytrees got me there in time to see Tapehead perform, their frontman’s vocals perhaps stealing the show, reminiscent of Daughter, perhaps a little bit of Low thrown in their for good measure. Stunning stuff. I decided to finally check out the Tankton Township, something I’d intended on doing on the Saturday but was kind of overwhelmed with the musical element of the festival. It would be fair to say that, Sunday morning after their after party, Tankton was running at a chilled out capacity, bongo drums and didgeridoos providing most of the music. The paint cannon and art area was an excellent touch, providing activity for child and adult alike, getting competing teams to paint a topic provided, getting the audience to vote and then firing paint at them through a cannon. Perhaps my only regret from the weekend was not having more spare time to explore all of Tankton’s installations.
Back in lower Castle Park, Jonathan Marriott, who has spent the whole festival so far collecting money for Autism Anglia with a basketball competition, is taking to the stage, complete with his Painted Birds. I’ve had the fortune of seeing them perform a few times previously but this had to be the best they’ve played so far. The dynamics and the quality of the songs really shine on the big stage and the additional headroom allows Jonathan to achieve a career busting jump height, something he seems particularly proud of afterwards! The
music is absolutely stunning and it’s a shame he wasn’t higher on the bill but, none the less, it’s great to see the whole band enjoying themselves in the ‘light cloud’.
It would be rude not to check out the Shallow Leisure takeover at the Hollytrees stage, providing us with a mixture of interesting metal – as I arrive at the stage Three Thrones are getting going, providing an equal ratio of riffs and excellent post-rock breakdowns. One of my regrets from the weekend was not seeing enough music over at Hollytrees – it’s clear from bands like Three Thrones that there were some strong bookings for the stage and it’s great that the likes of Shallow Leisure can take over the stage and bring something a bit different to proceedings.
On the way back to the main stage I became curious of the crowd gathered around the bandstand, a location that had, sadly, been fairly quiet on the Saturday. As I got closer I realised that the area had been taken over for street dancing, a selection of talented dancers of all ages competing against each other for a dense crowd. While some of them pulled off some impressive popping and locking, others wowed with spins and flips. The two professionals playing off against each other was particularly impressive, although perhaps more impressive were the moves from the younger competitors. One boy, who can’t even be in his teens yet, spinning on his head, defying gravity. It’s something a little bit different and thrilling to watch in places, completed by gasps from the audience as flips were landed.
Back at the main stage, Killatrix were certainly giving the subwoofers a run for their money, their heavily programmed drum and bass-y pop music blasting out to an interesting mix of people dancing and people just having a sit. I’ll admit that their music isn’t really my kind of thing but they’ve clearly worked hard to polish their music and, in doing so, created something that appeals to the Radio 1 drum and bass type audience, while the live instrumentation does add another dimension to the sound.
Off The Wall were greeted with a monumental buzz as they took to the stage; the youngest band on the main stage over the weekend, things have been going well for the band recently, with a lot of hype and larger and larger audiences. It’s totally justified too, the four piece write music
that’s interesting, well polished and enjoyable to listen to, something most bands later in their life still aspire too. Their performance at Colchester Free Festival was no exception, performing to an adoring crowd they performed a tight set, each track met with a rapturous applause. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if Off The Wall are producing music this good right now, I can only wonder how good they’ll be a couple of years down the line. If you’re not already on board nows the time to check them out.
Finally, a moment a lot of people had been waiting for all weekend, Slugworth took to the stage, providing the clever people who’d stuck around with a ridiculous musical view into their minds. With vocal harmonies which occasionally descended into high pitch sequels akin to a helium filled adventure and erratic guitar parts that would surely create confusion in anyone who dared study them, Slugworth are a bold choice as a headliner but, based on the audience reaction, it’s clear that it’s paid off. As the band work through tracks from their newest EP as well as some older tracks (for which checking them out is certainly down on my to do list), the crowd dance around, the band run around in circles, fall down, grin massively; everyone is having the greatest time. After thirty minutes of chaos it’s all over, leaving the audience with smiles as organiser Andy Windmill comes on stage to thank the crowd for coming down for the second day of the free fest, signaling an end to an excellent weekend.
After a year off, Colchester Free Festival is back in the calendar. I know that there were some fears about how running a two day festival would go down but, in terms of the crowds and the music on offer, it’s on to a winner. I know that arranging it has been a lot of work for the organisers Marc De’Ath and Andrew Windmill, as well as an awful lot of people who’ve worked behind the scenes but it appears to have paid off. The musical talent on display was nothing short of spectacular, really showing off just how much great music Colchester has to offer. There was plenty going on other than the music element too; the spoken word area had a cracking lineup, Tankton was a riot and there was plenty for children to do. I for one am excited for Free Festival 2016.