Now in its eighth year, the taciturn and notable In The Woods is back, housed once again in a secret location known only to festival goers, completely hidden away from the outside world.
We enter the festival via an intriguing path that leads us into the woods, lit subtly by evocative strings of lights. Every now and then art installations reveal themselves from the trees, including ready-made flower gardens, multi-coloured glades filled with string art, and a giant chalk and board. The reverberating natural amphitheatre that is the quarry stage emerges to the left, with the smaller Laurel Lounge a little way off. Further on, through more interactive artworks and flowers is a clearing, complete with cinema tent, silent disco, and an array of food, including sumptuous hog roast, freshly blended alci-smoothies and locally produced cider.
Getting stuck right into the music, nu-soul artist Kwabs offered some intriguing melodies and vocal styles under a canopy of leaves, while Drenge provide solid garage-punk, inciting a teenage boy riot in the mosh pit. Sivu made his second In The Woods appearance, this time on the main-stage, offering a consummate, confident and intriguing performance, and special surprise guest Ghostpoet gave a dynamic headline show. The act that really stole the entire festival however were Young Fathers – an amazing Scottish trio who provided In The Woods with a composed yet frantic, stoic, compelling and above all utterly engrossing performance, full of charisma that was almost too good for words. Their music was very interesting too – a fusion of hip-hop and grime with hints of 2-tone, soul and punk – thundering, heavy and unstoppable, with fat basslines and fast rhymes.
In The Woods 2013 has continued with their true small festival ethos, with a complete lack of commerciality or bureaucracy typical in larger music festival. There are no shops or merch stands – the only thing you have to pay for is food and drink. Camping and parking is free, and if you want to bring your own booze, that’s OK. This approach by the organisers is reflected by the punters and the artists alike, to the point where there is a decidedly mellow, happy vibe to the place. There are plenty of teenagers and students, yes, but there are also families with babies, retired couples, and even a few dogs dotted about.
One element that has altered from previous years however is the head count, going up from 750 to 1000 tickets in 2013. While this is still a fairly small number, in actual fact the number of punters has effectively gone up by a third, and that is not including artists, press, plus ones et al. This additional 300 has notably changed the vibe of the festival. It is busier, with longer queues, more disorganisation, and less of a feeling of calm and solitude than previous years. There is also far too much chatting and selfie taking going on directly around the performance areas which is selfish and disrespectful to both the artist and the people who want to listen to them. It is not necessarily the festival organiser’s fault that this occurred regularly throughout the day, however, when the headcount has been lower, a vibe of mutual respect between artist and audience was definitely more apparent than now.
That said however, once again, In The Woods have provided a beautiful, considered, and mellow festival, and they have offered their audience with a host of well curated, quality artists that are clearly destined for great things. Indeed, every act we witnessed offered consummate, talented performances throughout. An even wider range of styles than last year have been offered to us, but the key thread tying each performance together is that every act here is creating clever, interesting, dynamic and accomplished music.