Landed Festival has been one of our favourite festivals since we first set foot on the hallowed turf of Doldowlod House back in 2016 – even though it snowed that year. Did it live up to expectations this year? Spoiler alert. It did.
To ensure a decent camping spot, we came up with a cunning plan. The night before, we parked up in the car park of the New Inn, just a few miles down the road in Newbridge on Wye. They said if we had a meal and bought a few drinks, we would be welcome to stay in their car park for free. What they didn’t say was that they would lock us in and force us to down shots till long after our bedtime, resulting in us having to skip breakfast to achieve that planned early arrival at the festival site.
Whilst we were not quite the first to arrive, we were too early for the wristband exchange, so we were told to go and park up, set up camp and come back later. A friendly hippy/steward pointed towards the river and said they wanted to fill up that end of the site first, so park wherever we liked down there. This was what I wanted to hear; I liked the idea of stepping out of the van in the morning to see the River Wye flowing past.
After picking our spot and getting the awning half up, another hippy/steward arrived, out of breath from running across the site, telling us we could not camp by the trees & that we should camp somewhere else. It was too early to get annoyed, but frustration did make an appearance. After some deliberation, we opted to park near the entrance to the field, which meant we would not have far to be towed out on Monday if it got muddy.
After getting more frustrated trying to get our new ‘one size fits all, universal’, inflatable awning to fit our van, which was not designed to take an awning (not many former ambulances are), we eventually managed to sit down, chill, and take in the surroundings. We watched, with the very mildest of frustration, the area we had been moved on from half an hour earlier fill up with campervans. As we had known all along it would.
Missing breakfast was taking its toll, so we headed up to the ticket office, grabbed our wristbands and headed off in search of festival food. Not many stalls were ready to open, but we did manage to find a tasty jacket potato.
We go for a wander. There are slight differences in the site layout every year. Never anything drastic, but they accumulate. I’m struggling to remember what the lay out was back in 2016, but I’m sure it was quite different. This year’s change from last year is the open-air stages that have graced post-covid events, going back inside a marquee.
The two ‘dance tents’, have been shuffled about and despite the sun not yet being over the yardarm, both are banging out ‘doof doof’ for those keen to squeeze in as much gurning and shape throwing into the weekend as they can.
After much chilling, wandering and saying hello to old friends, the live music eventually kicks in. But who is on when? With no programme and no signs anywhere, not even anything on Facebook, the running order was a bit like the demolition notice on Arthur Dent’s house in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. “It was on display in the cellar of the Town Hall, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.’”
In the case of Landed, the running order for the live band stages was displayed as a handwritten note on Instagram, next to a meme saying ‘beware of the drummer’.
The two stage set-up is retained: two stages in one tent, the Kaos Stage and the Dragon Stage, so when one band goes off, there is another band ready to go on the other stage without any delay.
The first band we catch are the Mushroom Project. I’m hooked quite quickly by their psychedelic, instrumental, space jamming. They play long instrumental jams – which is unfashionable in many circles, but this sort of thing has always floated my boat. I love ‘em.
I check ye olde interweb to see if I can find out more about the band. Actually, that is another change to landed since 2016, you can actually get a phone signal now. Anyway, are they on Bandcamp? Do they have any albums out? How long have they been around? I find nothing. The closest I can find is the Magic Mushroom Band, but I know it is not them because Garry Moonboot is in Australia. Astralasia are on later through, so there might be a bit of Mushroom DNA present.
I had intended to speak to them about it, but Dropping Like Flies have dropped on the tent and it would be rude not to catch up with them. I’m not sure if they came prepared, or if they’re good at spontaneous improvisation, but they have made up their own signs telling people they are on. ‘Dropping Like Flies, 7pm, Dragon Stage, #flyspunk’
We chat outside with lead guitarist Brian. This is his first band. He tells us how he sat in his bedroom for forty seven years making up his own heavy metal riffs, then got invited to join this punk band. The rest of the band have been treading the boards forever. I’ve seen various members of the band playing in Funeral in Berlin, Rape of Lucretia, 100,000 Bodybags, This System Kills, Drunken Marksman and probably more. Their first ever gig as DLF was three years ago at this very festival. They love it, and make it clear they will play for free – which might explain why they keep getting invited back.
For reasons unknown to me, and I can’t be bothered to ask, the band have donned tin foil hats and capes for this evening’s show. For the next hour we are subjected to intense guitar riffage, rants against the machine and dubious banter with the crowd. And I love every minute of it. It is probably the best set I have seen them do. They have a sound that can only be perfected playing in the bedroom for forty seven years.
A quick wander to the bar reveals that out old favourite ‘The Beast’, rocking in at 8.4%, is still among the selection of ciders they have available for us to washdown the veggie burger from Chameleon Café.
Flutatious are next up. As the name suggests, they have a flute player front and centre, and they look like they should be playing folk music, but lean heavily towards psychedelic rock – like a psychedelic ceilidh. I have come across their music before, but I’ve never seen them live, so I made a point of catching their set. A quick internet search tells me they are on the Magick Eye label, one time home of the Magic Mushroom Band and tonight’s headliners, Astralasia. I wish I had looked this up before. I see a pattern emerging here.
Monsterometer need no research. Hailing from just down the road, no mid Wales party is complete without Doobs and the gang bringing their zombie rock trash to the table. As usual, the mid Wales massive are out in force to do the monster mash.
The aforementioned Astralasia are the last live band of the night. Formed in 1990 they were originally an ambient offshoot from the Magic Mushroom Band. The Magic Mushroom Band split in 1995 but Astralasia have carried on regardless. Early releases could be described as ‘ambient house’, but it didn’t take long for the band to lift themselves up from their lotus position in the chill out room to throwing shapes in the main rave area. Live performances have always involved real people playing real instruments alongside any techno wizardry, and tonight is no exception.
With several people who had previously played with the Mushroom Project on stage (I knew there was a link!), they walk the line between psytrance and psychedelic rock, never one or the other, but always both. Which is handy, because I like that sort of thing. And so do many of those that attend this little gathering.
Astralasia may be the last live band of the night, but that’s not the end of the music. The Dragon Stage is taken over by DJ F.O.D.
I go for a wander around site and contemplate that something is different at night.
Firstly, the volunteer stewards, willing to spend a few hours on the gate for a free ticket, have been replaced by more professional looking security that would not look out of place outside a nightclub. This can be a recipe for a disaster. I have been to quite a few festivals that have had the vibe killed (and ultimately, that is what is at the heart of a festival, the vibe) by heavy handed security that are not used to the way festivals work, treating them like a city centre night club or a football stadium. That’s not happening here though. The security are taking a hands off approach, not that there was anything going on to be hands on about, laid back and letting people just enjoy themselves.
The other thing was the crowd. During the day, there had been a lot of middle-aged people that looked like they have a few festivals under their belts. Whilst many of these were still around, showing the youth of today a thing or two about stamina, there are now loads of the next generation of festival goers around, throwing shapes and gurning around the dance tents that have now come into their own.
It seems like yesterday ‘rave’ was a new craze. Thirty five years on from the ‘second summer of love’ that craze is showing no sign of abating, and many of those doing ‘big box, little box, cardboard fish’ tonight weren’t even born when the news was full of stories of ‘acid outrage’. The music is more sophisticated than just a Roland 303 these days, but that primal four to the floor beat has stood the test of time and is still at the heart of the groove that is shaking the trees tonight. I’m not sure if it just a mid-Wales thing, but the cheesy quavers here tonight are up for it and ‘avin it, but at the same time well behaved. I don’t see a single ‘munter’ all weekend – which helps the security to remain in relaxed mode.
I head for the van and drift off to the rhythmic thud psytrance with a smile on my face.
We wake up Saturday morning pleased to hear it is not raining, so open up the flap on the awning, then it rains, so we close it, then it stops so we open it. Then we just crank up the Bluetooth speaker and slap on a couple of episodes of Desert Island Discs, while we have breakfast. Thirty five years on from wild goose chases trying to find raves in the middle of nowhere, this is more my pace of life.
I go for a walk to do what a man’s got to do, and note that the nightclub doormen have once again been replaced by volunteers and festival veterans. There is one guy, dreadlocks, built like a brick outhouse, always wears sunglasses. Every year he takes up residence on the gate leading into the site, with his campervan next to the gate, belting out a selection of classic rock tunes from the van stereo. Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy and The Stooges, to name but three. He leans on the gate all day, not saying much, just a visual deterrent to anyone without a wristband trying to get on site.
As the morning progresses it looks like we are in for a dry day, so there’s no time to hang around the van. We head off down to the ‘arena’ and soon bump into our old comrade, Des Mannay, who is doing a bit of spoken word later. He turned up last night, direct from a wedding, complete with wedding suit, only to find the PA had gone wonky and he could not perform. He tells us where he is performing and when, so we have no excuse, we will have to go and see him later.
During a wander around the stalls we end up buying a tanner for a pony (an old sixpence from 1958 for £25). No we have not suddenly decided to be numismatists, there was a guy doing amazingly intricate things with old coins, turning them into jewellery. He uses old coins because A) new ones are made out of shit metal, apparently, and B) cos it would be illegal to deface current coins of the realm.
After an hour sitting watching the Wye continuing its lazy, scenic journey towards the sea, we grab some food and go to watch Des waxing lyrical.
I have known Des for more than three decades. He has been a continuous presence on ‘the left’, and probably sold more newspapers than WH Smith. He doesn’t just read though, he also writes, and has several books of poetry to his name. Today he recites some of them from memory, and reads a few newer odes.
There is an old phrase, “Most people ignore poetry because poetry ignores most people.” Des’ poetry does not fit into this category though, it is warm, human, down to earth, and on occasion humorous. He doesn’t wax lyrical about lonely clouds wandering, he talks about catching the last bus home to Newport or the day to day tribulations of life for someone of a mixed race background. It’s a nice blend of humorous and thought provoking. We are smiling when he finishes.
I decide to wrench my trusty camera out of my hand, leave it in the van and actually walk around enjoying myself. We catch NFA getting the Dragon Stage moving with their tried and tested brand of skunk rock picking up overserved travellers and make them shake their bones. As the name suggests, these guys live for festivals and the travelling life. This is where they are at home, and you can tell.
We go for a little walk, not far, just till we find a table and chairs to rest our weary legs. Megan says, “what shall we do next?” I respond, “Lets sit by here, watch the world go by, and I guarantee something will happen that will make our night. That’s just what happens at festivals”.
I’m not sure Megan was convinced. I’m not sure I was convinced, but it sounded like a plan.
It wasn’t long before the man, the myth, the legend, Alka arrived. Soon we were falling off our chairs listening to tales of entering talent competitions on a ferry to Norway to win money for food, jam sessions with local musicians in a garage and driving through France waking up looking over a different lake every morning. As predicted, he made our night. By the time we finished chatting, the site had pretty much turned into one big rave and we headed back to the van for the night.
On Sunday morning it rained. Then rained a bit more. When it stopped raining, it rained again. We didn’t get wet though, the combination of the van, the solar panels, our new awning and a copious supply of alcohol meant we were self-sufficient and dry. This does have a downside. Sometime you can get too comfortable, and miss the festival. I remember one wet Glastonbury, when the Artist Formerly Known as Ginger John was so comfortable in his van that he watched the entire festival on the telly in his caravan, only wandering out onto site when it stopped raining on the Sunday night.
None of that malarkey for us. No such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. We had Dry Robes that went down to just above our feet, and wellies that went up to our knees. We were on a mission.
On the Instagram line up it simply said ‘Kev’s Band’, which meant nothing to me. Luckily, I saw a post on Facebook from my mate Kev, who it turns out, has a new band! Kev Myric, and his brother Dean, have been making music, together and separately, for as long as I can remember. They are passionate about music and are a tight unit. Their new band features Ethan Jones who, well, let’s just say comes from a family with a pedigree for music and performance. And some of his family’s talent has rubbed off on him. He is a gifted guitarist and combined with the talent of the Myric brothers, in Ethan Jones and the Maverick Bones, we have the makings of something special. They knock out a heavy blues vibe that is way more polished than a band only performing their third gig has any right to be. It is abundantly clear that these guys will be climbing their way up the bill of festivals up and down the country in no time at all. You heard it here first guys.
We wander over to the Incubator tent on the edge of the site and find another long-time acquaintance, Les Earth Doctor spinning a sublime selection of funky house tunes that are perfect for the time and moment. Chilled enough for a Sunday afternoon, funky enough for a pre-rave warm up.
After a bit of grub, it is time for Zana Billionara. Just like the Osmonds, they are a family outfit that originated in South Wales. Unlike the Osmonds, they haven’t moved to America, haven’t become Mormons and don’t sing love songs. They play psychedelic rock numbers with lots of instrumental bits (Crocker wanted me to point out they do actually sing now and again) and have been slowly but surely building a solid fan base in the short few years they have been gigging together.
With band members also taking turns twiddling knobs on the PA all weekend, they have been woven into the fabric of this festival. I suppose that is one of the things that makes Landed feel like home. It is a ‘family’ affair.
Watching Zana Billionara is watching the future. Dad, Crocker, on the bass has a contented smile on his face. A look of pride in his sons, a feeling of being blessed to have the privilege to play with them. And whilst there are a few years left in the old dog yet, he knows his sons will carry on the family business when he is too knackered.
The penultimate act of the weekend is a DJ, which seems like a strange idea to me, but it actually worked really well. He was spinning some interesting dubs and remixes and had me clicking on my Shazam app more than once. He set the vibe very nicely for the final live band of the weekend, the legendary Transglobal Underground.
Mixing Asian, African, and Western styles, through a mix of live musicians and techno elements, they have been ground breaking and breaking ground since 1990. Their peerless originality has won them admirers all over the world. And tonight, they blow away long standing fans and those that have never heard of them before. The only people not dancing are those stood open mouthed thinking, “wow, this is amazing”.
This festival may be a little too far off the beaten track to be able to pull huge crowds, but for those willing to make the effort, they are guaranteed a blissful weekend in amazing surroundings with friendly like-minded souls. There will be glimpses of the future, reminders of the past and confirmation that the contemporary music scene ain’t too shabby. And with the likes of Transglobal Underground finishing the weekend off, you will be going to bed each night with a smile on yer face.
For more Landed posts, including previous reviews, interviews with the crew, a history of the event and Peppermint Iguana Radio Show specials click here #landed
BIG MASSIVE HUGS TO – Grubby, the main man, for creating this event, keeping it alive (whilst struggling to keep himself alive!) and for sorting out the press pass. Much love to ya dude.