Festival Review: LeeFest 2016

leefest banner 2016LeeFest 2016

Words & Photos: Elena Katrina

leefestWell well well Lee what have you gone and done eh? Only actually accidentally achieved every other music lover’s dream  – throw a non party as a garden “festival” and then end up having it on a farm. With three realms -The Never Woods, Mermaids Lagoon and Skull Ridge, people in dress up for their favourite realm, or sometimes all three, it was seriously impressive. Then they threw in some of the UKs best up and coming bands with some serious movers in music thrown into the dolly-mix. Holy Molly! Oh and to top it all off LeeFest pulled off our first dry and sunny festival of the season! Which, they can’t really take credit for but they can for the tallest bales of hay I’ve ever seen!

While on arrival I was wondering where everyone was it soon became apparent that we were in for one hell of a treat as we clambered all together inside Tootle’s Circus, this was The Neverland after all, every stage and realm a theme. This was a medium sized festival tent, to watch the amazing Everything Everything and I’m not often left dumbfounded but to see Ghostpoet wondering around the site alone did make me gawp – I mean all my experiences from seeing him and hearing him etc etc have lead to me thinking that this is a guy who, well, wants to be invisible so to see him in broad daylight roaming at a festival I was not expecting. That right then pretty much set the tone, no one bothered anyone, all acts roamed freely around the site for the weekend and that just proved the wonderful laid back friendly feel of LeeFest.

The bands were – well, where do we start with the bands. I managed to see some I’d been waiting ages to see, despite most of team popped having already been sent out on many occasions to see them. I finally got to see Spring King and Vant, who both had somewhat peculiar late night festival tent slots after the headline act, meaning they weren’t quite as busy as they could have been, but they were, of course, still damn ace. Spring King more than live up to their name and in fact, despite dodgy knee tendons, I found myself jumping up and down and singing like a lunatic. I’m always a music fan first. They have a way with words, a way with sounds and a way of making you forget that you’ve seen anyone else play.

vant leefest elena katrinaVant didn’t make me jump, they made me feel breathy and dirty, that could have also been the running around a filed and all the general outdoorsey-ness which I actually really dislike, but anyway they almost blew my tiny ears apart. Thank god I had earplugs in else I might never hear again. They were raw and unabashed with it. I loved that one guy dragged his mates along to see them and impatiently called to them to play saying he’d waited all weekend to see them. Now that right there folks is a fan you look after. He’s the one you want – and he was having the time of his life!

Get Inuit are a band we’ve been flirting with the idea of doing something with for a little while, keeping our eyes on them but mainly in our peripherals. Luckily we gave up that bad habit at LeeFest, and not only did we watch them give it welly to their crowd in Tootles Circus tent, but I got to have a lil chat too so we could give you some extra tasty festival treats – keep your eye out for that one going up on the site! These guys have some sense of humour, it comes out on stage as much as it does if you chat to them. This combined with killer tracks and a great set is going to see them go far, talented and personable – killer combo.


nimmo leefest elena katrinaI’ve been the biggest fan of Nimmo since, well since they were Nimmo and The Gauntlets (yay) and this was my first live experience (I KNOW!!) and I don’t think I could have smiled any harder or sang along any louder – and this was while I was in the pit shooting them! They are one of the most emotive bands I’ve seen; I couldn’t take my eyes off them, their faces so emotive, helping to further bring their songs alive.

There was also the opportunity to discover new to us bands at LeeFest – always a thrill. My favourites of which have to be The Pearl Harts – I have since put them up as a tip for The Tipping Point (which has been picked!) and also on amazing radio. Yes that’s how much they impressed. I checked them out online ahead of time and found two tracks which I loved and then made sure I was where I needed to be to see if they delivered the goods in person and oh boy do they. Hard edged pure rock n roll it was only right that they were hauled up in the darker realm of Skull Ridge. I’ve seen a few half arsed lazy band comparisons but gutsy fuzzy and furious guitar, powerful vocals and a mean drum beat is all you need to know right now. I needed these in my life – cheers Lee!

Also seen over in Skull Ridge were the fabulously chaotic Otherkin. A band I had watched but two weeks before and this time they seemed even more impressive. They’re well suited to a dark and dank setting, their black leather vs bare skin look a contrast to the bright pink and glitter going on over in Mermaid’s Lagoon. These guys make some serious rattle, they go out to their crowd, they don’t see their stage as a confine and so it became more than evident that their rule breaking had them set perfectly in the pirate ridden Skull Ridge. Hook HOOK HOOK! –  I mean guitar ones – they have them a plenty, they have catchy as hell choruses and are becoming one of my favourite bands to watch live.

she drew the gun lee fest elena katrinaLeeFest also drafted a host of Liverpool acts down to Kent, seemingly for my own pure delight, including Circa Waves –who had their first headline festival show and didn’t disappoint, Clean Cut Kid who we adore, as you all well know, gained new fans and delighted current fans alike ….and She Drew The Gun. All of whom we’ve seen many many times of course but one in particular who we’ve never had time to actually catch up with and grab a few words, so that’s exactly what we did. After a charming set, perfectly fit for a Saturday afternoon, chilled but yet political at heart making it all very thought provoking. The crowd watched on intently, nodding along and cheering, in fact they wanted more which was so wonderful to see and much deserved. Louisa Roach and band kindly stopped by after their set to give us a low down on what’s been going on and what might come next which you can also read up on very soon on Popped Music.

Staying on the Liverpool theme in a very round about kind of way…. Lianne La Havas,  I saw her the weekend before when she played the free Liverpool International Music Festival, a double treat for us as this lady is as cool as a cucumber. She calmly whips up her crowd, and maaan does she have one at LeeFest. In fact I would almost go as far as to say that a few of the people at the barrier were even more enthused and passionate than those watching Circa Waves the night before. It feels as though we are in the presence of someone of pop royalty, her composure, her performance all points to it. She has such talent and it ooooozes from her easily and sweetly. A must see if you can.

Other acts on the main stage on Saturday included Shura and We Are Scientists. A complete contrast in sound and vibe but both undeniably festival perfect. It has been a few years since I last saw We Are Scientists and I have seen them play tiny venues from the get go, as you can imagine, and now main stages and huge festival tents in their time and never have they lost their sparkle. They remain witty, full of banter and blast out new material and old with as much gumption as they always have, nothing feels like it’s a 10 year old track to us or to them. The crowd were bouncing, singing and it was a brilliant party.

shura leefest elena katrinaShura on the other hand, is still relatively new, with her debut album only being two weeks old at the time she stood on stage. The lack of age to her album didn’t seem to have any impact on the crowd, in fact there were some feverish fans flaunting their superior knowledge, down front and centre singing word for word song after song. I, admittedly, have only just started to  get into Shura’s music, discovering the wonderful 80s vibe and soft tone to her vocal, she has been delighting me track after track and to watch her live it’s no wonder she has found her self on this main stage with a hoard of fans singing back every line. I’m now a firm fan, proof that even in the new music game it’s never too late to find something new to you to love.

It was a festival full of music to make me happy but not just the music, wherever you went the LeeFest team had built things, installed things, had teams of people act out lost boys, mermaids and pirates, everything they could think of to tingle the every sense. It made me smile and laugh to see kids chasing pirates through the crowds between bands, to watch the lost boys playfight to climb the structures either side of the Banarang stage and watch Circa Waves from the best view in “town”, to watch as the mermaids slithered across the grass to tickle and roll with kids while their parents looked on with smiles as big as their kids.

My favourite, non musical, moment though, had to be the glitter wresting – the one thing, aside from the lineup, that had drawn me away from going to another (bigger) festival and made me want to go here. I am passionate about glitter! I witnessed two grown men undress and don tutus, allow themselves to be smothered in coconut oil and then chucked in a paddling pool filled with glitter. On any average day this would be fun, but this was no average day so it was spectacular. Every person who wondered on by had to stop, to smile, to cheer, to laugh and that right there is an ingredient to creating the best festival vibe: friendly, happy, unpretentious and entertaining. Bloody well done Lee – same time next year yeah?


Tickets for LeeFest 2017 have been announced and are starting at an earlybird price of £70 here.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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