Lost Village Festival 2016 Review.
Imagine this: you’re walking your dog on a Saturday morning in rural Lincolnshire. You double take as you spot a tree shuffling around in a clearing, and veer off into the woods. You blithely follow a string of multi-coloured orbs trailing off ahead of it, into the distance. Engrossed by the lights, and with a gentle ambush of music pulsing through your ears, you’re suddenly surrounded by a band of villagers circa the Middle Ages. Or from a parallel world.
Accidentally joined a live action role play?
No, this is what stumbling across Lost Village festival would feel like to the uninitiated. We’d been there for its first chapter – a newcomer opening the 2015 festival season, and we branded it as our favourite of the entire summer. So as the setting sun tinged trees and fields with burnt gold, we waited with bated breath to see what the second installment would bring.
With so many festivals popping up year after year in the UK and pulling out all the stops, it’s hard to know which to choose. Here are just a few unique things which we would, and could only find at Lost Village.
A story to tell — and to experience
Lost Village far outperforms the rest of the festival circuit on its all-consuming narrative. Festival-goers can arrive and fully abandon the daily grind: the village’s inhabitants, misplaced souls who reside beyond the gate reading ‘Keep Out’, enact and share their stories with those who choose to hear them, or run away from them. The Seer, a hooded woman who stands, pale, silent and waiting to consult people on their fortunes, confounded us with her cryptic warnings of other characters we might encounter. A haunting couple sweep the wooded passageways, whispering secrets to each other and those surrounding them.
The plot thickened as you made your way around the woods, from stage to stage, prop to prop. Each fixture, from a dusty vintage car abandoned beside the Bureau of Lost ‘stage’, to an ornate organ made out of frogs legs, and a straw wicker-man hiding in the bushes, played a carefully considered part in the tale. This was like a live film set – a mystery to be unpicked for anyone curious enough to piece together the clues.
Maribou State transfixing tribes at an Abandoned Chapel
Having missed Maribou State playing on several occasions due to poor timing and poorer luck, we were thankful to get to see one of our albums of the year, Portraits, played in such a fittingly ethereal setting. The Hertfordshire natives reduced the crowd to a thoughtful state of quiet, as spooky downtempo string samples and anguished vocals filled the air. The sight was paradoxical: a rave in a graveyard, but with more organic warmth to it. From the plaintive cries of ‘Wallflower’, to the crooning orchestral notes of ‘Rituals’, this was a privilege to experience. We were only disappointed we couldn’t wait around to (hopefully) hear some magic from ‘Portraits Outtakes’, but we didn’t want to be late for Koze.
Bicep & Ben Klock spinning tunes next to a bunch of hooded ghouls
Music wasn’t the only thing on the menu during the weekend, but it certainly delivered all the right kinds of magic. We slowly sunk into the festival groove with revered techno beat-smith Ben Klock, pushing and pulling the audience in simultaneously with his raw, industrial sounds. Next up, party taskforce Bicep illuminated the Lookout Stage, cutting up their household style of cluttered, retro beats and serving them to a fully wired audience. Glitchy anthem ‘Just’ bleated out through the night, catching the crowd adrift, whilst ‘Celeste’ smoothed out the creases with its mellow bongo tempo and wafting vocal samples. As all this happened, a gang of hooded onlookers stood nearby, ghoulish in their silent watchfulness.
Probably the least forgettable place, with the likes of Mano Le Tough, Floating Points, Roman Flugel, Ame, Midland, Jaymo & Andy George, Mind Against, John Talabot, and Koze playing on one stage.
Lakeside hot tubbing, yoga, target practice and a tribal banquet beneath a leafy canopy
Many of today’s festivals compete on their ‘extras’; the standards we’ve come to expect are face painting, ‘artisan’ burgers for nine quid (bitterly, you pay for the ambiance) and boutique camping.
Lost Village took the game up a notch, its Lake of Tranquility transformed into a serene hub for activities, where tribes of friends could retreat for massages, facials, yoga, champagne hot-tubs and a spot of archery. On Saturday evening, the water was alight with fireworks and acrobatics, as some of the village inhabitants somersaulted and vaulted at its iridescent centre.
Our friends also couldn’t say enough about the Tribal Banquet, a four-course fine dining feast in the woodland, which served up bizarre delights such as pork belly in oyster cream, cod marinated in squid ink and a desert emulsified in strawberry and basil.
Walking human trees perplexing people over street food
Forget shufflers wearing glitter and New Balance, here it was giant tree people receiving the attention for their moves. As we tucked into a slab of pizza from Voodoo Ray’s, we watched the range of reactions as realistically crafted tree-people plonked themselves into the pathways of unsuspecting passer’s by. This was almost as entertaining as the impromptu theatre performances delivered by the festival’s woodland animals, which were met with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity by those more, or less comfortable with method acting.
A Gravedigger with mood swings befriending passers-by
Sometimes charismatic, sometimes chillingly withdrawn, it was hard for the Gravedigger not to form an integral part of everyone’s festival experience. He generally hung out by a freshly dug grave, spooking out or eliciting his own brand of banter with festival-goers. His defining moment was perhaps when he swept down the centre of Koze’s mesmerised crowd, joined by fellow villagers in pointing and casting penetrative stares at the audience from the rafters of the cabin.
DJ Koze’s offbeat claps to a radiant audience
Stood together in a wooded copse, like some sort of weird cult, one look at the faces of everyone in the vicinity confirmed that this was one of those rare moments you want to grab, and hold onto with white-knuckled grip. As always with one of Koze’s sets, we felt the intimacy of the music like a hug, and stood swaying under a coloured oil spill of treetop lighting to some of the greats from his new mixtape, Pampa Vol I. From a remix of Roman Flügel’s ‘9 years’ to Jamie XX, Gold Panda and Mount Kimbie, this was the perfect cocktail of gentle beats and off-kilter experimental sounds to end the festival, blended in a way which punctuated the night for one last glorious time. As with last year, Acid Pauli’s ‘Nana’ stuttered beautifully around the crowd, swelling and enveloping us in a soft wall of sound. As Bibio’s dreamy soundscape ‘Petals’ kicked in, the cable was pulled. Over.
Why was this performance so special? Koze, normally remaining fairly introverted on stage, seemed happy – to the point of being bewildered – by the crowd’s response, looking up to deservedly appreciate the effect he had created.
Maybe electronic musicians can be spirit animals.
A festival growing gracefully
We were concerned that a doubling in numbers would shatter the inherent intimacy which we loved so much about Lost Village last year. Bigger festival crowds don’t always equate to diluted authenticity, though, and this we now know.
What really makes a new festival stand the test of time? A large part of the collective experience is the people you meet, the memories you share, that sentiment or association you have with a time and place you can’t quite put your finger on. Sometimes, it’s just luck. But for all Lost Village’s idiosyncrasies; careful musical curation, immersive storytelling and mesmeric atmosphere, this festival differentiates because it is greater than the sum of its carefully constructed parts.
All of these details bring people together in their happy curiosity. Make people happy, and they create their own luck, and their own great memories.