Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
6th-9th August 2015
Set in Cornbury Park in the depths of Oxfordshire, stunning scenery provides the perfect back-drop for one of the most high-end and sophisticated festivals of the summer. ‘The Fifth Season’, as proudly announced throughout the festival, was more indulgent than ever before with three-course banquets from celebrity chefs such as Mark Hix and Angel Hartnett, morning yoga sessions, wild runs with Sweaty Betty, talks and debates, stand-up comedy, theatre performances and horse riding all being offered over the four days.
Many of these extras come as add-ons to the price of your ticket, which does rather take away the thrill and spontaneity that festivals should be all about; spontaneity, however, wasn’t dead, with many a punter seeking relief from the hot weather with a skinny dip in Cornbury Park’s stunning lake, a unique festival feature conveniently placed at the bottom of the hill from one of the main campsites…who needs a shower, hey!
Indeed, the focus on gastronomic delights and even a pop-up spa does rather show that Wilderness is not necessarily all about the music, something that was somewhat reflected in the eclectic mix of headliners and other performances.
Friday night was headlined by the much hyped Bjork, but I rather feel that she proved a disappointment. People were drawn by a near obligation to see her as her appearance was to be one of few European gigs. Although first appearances were reassuring – she came on stage wearing an insect mask designed by J.T Merry, a frequent costume collaborator with Bjork, and a figure hugging red dress which made her instantly recognisable as the eccentric artist that she is – the crowd grew restless as the crowd-pleasing and well known tracks were denied in favour of her most recent album. The crowds did appear to drift away after the first half an hour or so, which was a shame as they missed the impressive pink firework finale and the fantastic London Heritage Orchestra who performed with her.
George Clinton and Ben Howard also headlined over the weekend. Clinton offered a unique performance with his Funkadelic Orchestra on Saturday and Ben Howard rounded up the weekend on the Sunday night. Ben’s brooding set was intense and had the crowd mesmerised and fully immersed as he performed virtually the entirety of I Forget Where We Were to absolute perfection, the video backdrop providing the perfect extra dimension as it repeated Ben’s movements on a slight delay. Most fascinating was his updated version of The Fear, re-arranged to be more in keeping with his new sound – hypnotising stuff. iI this leaks it way onto YouTube, be sure to check it out.
Asgeir, RHODES and Perfume Genius also made pretty special appearances on the Main Stage over the weekend, demonstrating that they are ones to watch out for in future years. Perfume Genius is my new favourite find from Wilderness; his romantic sounds were haunting and proved a great warm-up for Ben.
Overall, Wilderness was a perfectly British summer weekend full of the weird and the wonderful in equal measure.