Remaining a family favourite
Beth Jeans Houghton - The Applecart Festival 2012

It’s disconcerting to think that a field that, not twelve hours ago, was full of inebriated teenagers raving to Modeselektor is now occupied with middle-class mums and prams. But if having kids playing hide and seek around your legs while you watch Beth Jeans Houghton doesn’t soothe the hangover, then the comedy, magic, cabaret and acoustic music should. The festival, now in its second year, is the sister festival to Field Day, both of which occupy Victoria Park over the Jubilee Weekend.

This Sunday stroll of a festival hasn’t started to the most ideal of settings; it is pissing it down with rain and the human wheelbarrow race in the children’s playground has turned into trench warfare. The main stage, which has wisely been moved into a tent, is also having technical issues and is already running half an hour late for Francois and the Atlas Mountains. They begin with a slower version of ‘Les Plus Bleux’ which builds up to a blissful climax of summery vibes and melodies at which point the band ask the crowd to dance through the rain as they perform their own satirical dance routine. All is not well but despite the technical issues they win over the early arrivals. The charm offensive is also in full effect for Lianne La Havas, who joins the stage in a black and white puffball dress, matching guitar and trademark bob. Her soft and soulful harmonies turn the tent to complete silence with the only accompaniment being the patter of rain on the roof, which simply adds to the beauty of her opening songs. She is joined by her band for songs, ‘Forget’ and ‘Gone’ both about her past relationships, with the culprits booed supportively by the crowd. Her smiles and charisma are infectious and perfectly crossover with the Applecart crowd.

One performance not necessarily picked out as family-orientated is King Creole and the Coconuts who follow Billy Bragg, never one to miss a festival. Arriving on stage in a sharp, magenta suit and broad-brimmed hat and accompanied by the Coconuts, who are scantily clad in leopard print, August Darnell looks very much the man who is still living the dream. His brand of Latin funk, with sambas, congas and slap-bass adds a bit of colour to the deteriorating weather. “This one’s for the bastards,” he proclaims before breaking into the 1982 classic, ‘Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy’ which sees child and parent a-like joined arm in arm dancing joyfully to the tale of paternal denial.

The skies are darkening and there’s the bleak prospect of Stornoway playing but while Kevin Rowland is still spinning soul and disco classics and Adam Ant is to follow, there’s every reason to stay. And we’re not disappointed. Ant’s new band, ‘The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse’ complete with two drummers whose tribal patterns in ‘Dog Eat Dog’ is a call-to-arms for our new-wave hero. Older and now bespectacled he plays the part somewhere between Napoleon Bonaparte and Jack Sparrow. The classics are all here and with ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Antmusic’ played back-to-back the crowd are in a nostalgic frenzy. ‘Prince Charming’ is left to fizzle out by Ant’s supporting vocalist who bizarrely flitters on and off stage, but, despite a fifteen year hiatus, Ant knows how to keep a crowd, bursting into T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’.

With the target audience in mind, the weather was always going to play a part but with no camping to worry about, The Applecart Festival remains a family favourite.

Words by Andrew Darby
Photo by Richard Gray


Click here for a photo gallery of The Applecart Festival.
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