When faced with the prospect of celebrating a British summer by coughing up £243 for a weekend in Glastonbury losing your friends, your mind, your car and your tent, the allure of Shindig Weekender with its capacity for 5000 dirt mongers and £90 tickets is pretty powerful. Especially with Sugarhill Gang, The Heavy and Dutty Moonshine Big Band heading up the bill. It’s the gourmet sausage roll compared to the big hog roast of the festival world and all the better for it.

Gilcombe Farm in Bruton plays host to Shindig and the backdrop of rolling hills and Somerset’s green finery surrounds the festival like a pollen force field. It’s a beautiful site – sitting on the hill with a pint near the (mini) stone circle affords you a 360-degree panorama of the countryside and the ultimate spot to watch the setting sun dip down over the horizon. And there’s something to be said for being able to cross the diminutive festival site in ten minutes: no need for a jetpack to transport you from one stage to another just in time to catch the final ‘you’ve been a wonderful audience!’ – the campsites and the main tents were all within a fifteen minute stagger from each other and no dog-eared map or night vision goggles needed to seek them out.

The Dig Inn, Stardust Discotheque and the beautifully decorated Naughtilicious were all within spitting distance of each other, but no sound clashes here. The Heavy, Dutty Moonshine and the Correspondents all strutted their stuff at The Dig Inn, sucking in a crowd heavy with glitter and gleeful intentions. Friday night saw The Heavy saturate the heavens with their epic horn riffs and cinematic melting pot of music perfectly crafted for the soundtrack of your life – the part when the explosion is reflected in your sunglasses as you walk away from a burning building but still have time to light a cigarette…and then pick a leaf of tobacco from your tongue. No respite here either from Dutty’s cauldron of swing and filthy electro, a full eight-piece brass section vying for the airwaves with dexterous vocals and grunty bass to weep tears of gratitude for. Maria Laveau was a sassy performer, sweetening the big beats with vocals wrapped around her tongue like bubble gum. I danced my socks off. The Correspondents had the crowd wrapped round their little finger with their music for chameleons – morphing effortlessly from stomping drum n bass to the business end of grubby electro swing. Do we need to discuss the scatting? Or the dancing? If you haven’t seen The Correspondents live, follow your ears to a Festival Near You.

If your eardrums weren’t vibrating like a bumblebee, you were in the wrong place.

The main late night shenanigans centres around the Ghetto Funk nightclub – no prizes for guessing the musical flavour here…big dirty funk with whomping bass lines that you could sink your fangs into. If your eardrums weren’t vibrating like a bumblebee, you were in the wrong place. Krafty Kuts, A.Skillz and Stanton Warriors all spread the whomp and requisite chunky sonic filth needed to pack out the tent with a sea of seasoned party goers. I don’t think I’ve ever been amongst such a friendly crowd of hardened sonic warriors – just as much bonding over shared nips of tequila as head down hedonism.

My Bad Sister fuelled the fire over at Naughtilicious, a vision of peroxide and identical twin attitude. Bling has never sounded so good, a staccato flurry of f**k-you delivery and south London posturing that was totally beguiling. Martha Tilston was the perfect foil to the frenetic pace of the night before, playing a spellbinding acoustic set to soothe and absorb; the sonic equivalent of stroking a cat after a hard day on the coalface of drum n bass.

And the rest? A wonderful kids field – not just the afterthought that it sometimes ends up being. This is a festival that you could bring children to, if only to play in the helicopter fusilage half buried into the hill (although you might have to fight off some stiff competition from those old enough to know better). Good food with enough choice to keep all but the most voracious appetites happy.

By the end of the festival I had heard tales of lost love, new beginnings and, most crucially, how to mix the perfect Negroni

Decent, cleanish long drops with manageable queues. Friendly security and affordable bars – £4 for a pint is a relief after the bar prices of some other festivals. The only downside was the chaos of the first few hours of trying to drive into the festival. As it was such a gorgeous sunny day, half the festival turned up to get in at first admission on the Friday at 3 pm. The road was blocked, the van queues were huge and the stewards were stressed. But the sun shone and camaraderie was high – cold beers were found and spirits soothed. If the infrastructure of Shindig can grow with its burgeoning popularity, the production team are on to a winner.

By the end of the festival I had heard tales of lost love, new beginnings and, most crucially, how to mix the perfect Negroni. There was much tacit agreement that this was the best way to party – at a small festival with a soul and a sense of humour. And a heart: there are not many festivals who post a lost and found list on social media after the event. And this, in part, is the key to the success of Shindig – appealing to a seasoned crowd who understand the power of leaving your worries behind, spreading the love and relishing the company of like-minded ravers. Give me that and the backdrop of dirty bass in those green fields – I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Words by Anna Bywater
Photos by Sarah Koury and Graham Wynne

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