A concentrated Glastonbury

It’s a fine day when the only thing bothering you is who’s the best dancer. The body-popping Batman on my left has got some serious moves. He’d win hands down if it wasn’t for the booty shaking zebra wobbling away in front of me. Then there’s the question of the pogo-mad Harry Potter on my right... His skills haven’t gone unnoticed.

Welcome to Shambala. Or, right at this moment, the trippiest edition of Strictly Come Dancing ever made. I’m sitting in a firm wingback armchair slap-bang in a crowd of thousands. World fusion ensemble Delhi-2-Dublin are making their debut on the main stage. Mixing tablas with turntables, their ethnic groove has washed down the last of the day’s rain and the impressively fancy dressed crowd are all unknowingly vying for my ‘best dancer’ prize. And it’s all happening under the cover of a gorgeous golden sun swung low in the Northamptonshire sky. Yes, this is most definitely a fine, fine day.

Lacking the necessary box of medals needed to complete my competition, I decide they’re all the best dancers. It’s the least I can do. Each and every member of the crowd deserves a medal or two; effort has been made in every single way. The line-up to Shambala isn’t revealed until you arrive, suggesting the 7000-strong following’s ultimate faith in the festival’s ability to deliver a fine spread. And let’s just say their fancy dress flex makes the Bestival crowd’s hearty effort look positively half-arsed.

Just in case you’ve missed this bona fide ‘best kept secret’, allow me to fill you in. With a range of activities, talks, crafts, and performances, the positively eco-friendly Shambala has been bubbling for years. Imagine a concentrated Glastonbury without so much of the insanity, a more family-inspired Glade or groovier, slightly demented WOMAD. From learning how to make a bee skep to cock drawing school, via a well curated selection of great acts, it strikes a perfect chord for festival lovers young and old without compromising in any department.

Musically speaking, Joe Driscoll would definitely be on my medal list. Benefiting from one of Saturday’s sporadic rain attacks, the Chai Wallah tent was heaving and weaving to Joe’s rich blend of street soul, beat-boxing and good old fashioned hip-hop homages. Squeezing his loop machine into steamy submission, Joe bid adieu to the poor weather and promoted the crowd from relaxing afternoon to fire-starting party mode.

The Correspondents are also on my medal list. Shambala regulars, this year saw them make their main stage debut and it was clear they relished every minute. Opening with a subdued new electro number, Mr Bruce soon shrugged off his spooky hood and let loose with the most devilish dance moves possible. Climaxing with 'King Of The Swingers', the duo had officially given Shambala a regal 1920s rinsing... And the sun was only just beginning to set.

You can include Lamb on my medal list, too... Sultry and sonically mesmerising, their lack of crowd interaction added to their spine-sizzling drama. With mesmerising visuals and a tremendous wall-of-sound finale of classic faves 'Cotton Wool' and 'Trans Fatty Acid', they left the crowd primed for a fine night of raving (via Appleblim, Aeries and Congo Natty) and the obligatory massive fire... A fantastic moment that climaxed with thousands of apparently ethically minded hippy festival lovers chanting ‘burn it! Burn it! Burn it!’.

Other notable medal awards go to the slack rope walker tip-toeing his way across the top of a large big top tent, the strolling orchestra of spoon players called Spoonami and a conga line no smaller than 60... Strutting in reverse. Not just a fine day, then, but a trio of perfect days... If Shambala isn’t on your radar yet, make sure it is next year. Don’t forget your medals.

Words and photo by Dave Jenkins

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