My festival experience thus far has been mainly limited to Glastonbury, one-dayers and multi-venue events, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d make of a festival where camping is separate to the main arena, which itself can be walked around in under half an hour. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and the variety of things on site; it may be small, but they’ve certainly packed a lot in. Photos by Chris Mathews By the time I’d collected my ticket, pitched my tent and picked up supplies (I have to say that the town centre being 10 minutes away really was a Godsend, especially given that I’d put off packing until Friday morning and headed down without any food, alcohol or money) I got into the main arena just in time to hear The Rhizones start their set on the Good Time Stage. The ever-changing weather was looking fairly inclement at this point, so I listened to their set from the comfortable beanbags of the Gran Marnier Terrace, while drinking a cocktail served in what looked for all the world like one of those Persil balls you put in the washing machine. The Rhizones played a typically laid-back mix of traditional dub and reggae, which sounded great but would probably have gone down better in the blazing sunshine – something that was sadly lacking from Guilfest at present. After a bit of a bimble around the site, I headed to the main stage for Macavities Cat, who were fantastic. They’re slightly tricky to describe, coming across as something of a mix between the Wurzles, The Fairport Convention and probably some American country band that I don’t know the name of. They play what they describe as “Shit Kicking Skiffle & Cuntry”, and are a huge amount of fun to watch – their cover of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ being a particular high point. Another bimble – this time taking me past the potato wedges stall – and I returned to the main stage for The South. A long time Beautiful South fan, I was intrigued to see how they’d stack up against my nostalgic memories of them. They did well. Not quite having the voices they used to, Alison Wheeler being slightly too quiet throughout, but they pulled out the classics and soon had everyone clapping and singing along under the sunshine, which had decided to grace us with its presence at last. They mainly played songs from Solid Bronze, although did rip through ‘Rotterdam’, ‘Perfect 10’ and ‘Don’t Marry Her’. Conspicuously absent, though, were some of my old favourites, including ‘Old Red Eyes Is Back’, ‘Liars Bar’ and ‘Little Blue’ – understandable though in order to keep the set upbeat and summery. The whole experience was a bit surreal though – never quite popular enough as some of the other ‘old-time’ headliners this weekend, and not being quite far enough into the future to gain “must-see” or “legend” status, I felt almost as though they’ve become their own cover band. Which, I guess, with only half of their original line-up, they kind of have. Next up were 65 Days of Static. I wish I could say more about them, but I don’t really have the words. They were epic. They only played about 4 songs. Which were epic. The audience was tiny, which was a shame, and watching a band like this in a bright, sunny, airy, middle-class (let’s face it) field was very strange indeed. But they were epic. And fantastic. And I would dearly love to see them again. We watched the area in front of the stage fill up with teenage girls covered in UV paint in advance of Hadouken’s set. They screamed as the drum kit came on, and screamed as the banner was hung (only to be un-hung after a particularly strong gust of wind tangled it up in the lighting rig). When Hadouken took to the stage to (you guessed it) more screams, my first thought was “Oh my God, they’re 12”. It’s probably not worth detailing any more of my thoughts as they started their set; they could be considered to be unnecessarily cruel (although surely only by someone who has never heard Hadouken play before). Needless to say, we ditched the main stage pretty soon after and headed to the Rock Sound Cave to catch the last few songs of And So I Watched You From Afar, who were brilliant, and left me wishing we’d seen more of their set. Allow me to say a few words about the Rock Sound Cave before moving on. Well, I’m going to, whether you like it or not, although you can skip this paragraph if you really want to. In reading the bumf about the festival beforehand, I was of the opinion that Rock Sound Cave was a slightly pretentious name for what was essentially a glorified tent. Arriving to see MDF board over where the entrance should have been only served to enforce that opinion. Then I stepped inside, and the reason for the name (as well as the MDF) became apparent. Great care had been taken to block as much light as possible from entering the tent. From the roof was draped yard after yard of black cloth, upon which were dozens upon dozens of fairy lights, winking on and off at a speed which made you think you were imagining it until you looked closely. It was quite a feat, and provided a fantastic atmosphere. Anyhow, moving on from the Rock Sound Cave, as we did for now, and back to the Good Time Stage for Dreadzone. How to describe Dreadzone? If reggae-rave isn’t a genre then it certainly should be, as it’s the only real term I can properly coin here. Commanding the largest crowd I’d seen at the festival so far, they took great delight in pointing out members of their ‘bouncing crew’ in the audience, but before long it didn’t matter one way or the other as the crowd was going wild. And that was before they played ‘Iron Shirt’ (Youtube it; you’ll recognise it. Although probably only because Prodigy sampled it for ‘Out Of Space’). Definitely the highlight of the festival so far, I was quite disappointed when they finished and we made our way over to the main stage for Orbital. I’d like to take a moment to point out that the entire capacity of Guilfest was smaller than the number of people who watched Orbital at Glastonbury this year. That may give you some idea of what was to come. For their set was, quite simply, spectacular. I won’t pretend to know what they played, apart from sampling ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ and finishing with a storming remix of ‘Doctor Who’ (although sadly without Matt Smith) but it was a fantastic set, made all the better by the fact that although the crowd were going wild, everyone had room to dance and move about – even at the very, very front – which is something that’s often impossible in Glastonbury-sized-crowds. The only disappointment was the total absence of lazers; rarely do you hear the word ‘Orbital’ uttered without also hearing ‘lazers’ in the same sentence, but there were no beams of green light reaching out over Guildford tonight. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience and by the time they’d finished I was truly shattered. It was time to call it a night.