On the 20th of July 2013 I attended LionFest. This festival is now in it's 5th cycle & is growing each year. This year it was boasting 3 stages, 3 bars, plenty of outdoor area for the sun loving festival goers as well as ample undercover area for the people who would rather sit in the shade. The food on offer was simply amazing and not just your normal overly priced burgers & hotdogs you find at most of the festivals, they had meatballs and pasta on the menu as well as Thai green curry, so there was plenty on offer for everyone. The festival itself felt very secure, with enough security personnel present to make everyone feel at ease.
Now for the music; you really couldn't have wished for a better production team. The stage management was impeccable, Steve, the 'main stage' manager, had every band organised and starting on time. Even when they had a couple of artists not show up, he dealt with it promptly and overcame each obstacle in his stride. Tom Clements was running the acoustic stage, he engineered the sound to every inch of his talent and it really was a pleasure to hear some great sounds coming from that stage.
As for the bands, well, there was something for everyone, The main stage kicked it all off with The Rolling Drunks. They are a 4 piece band all the way from Germany, playing a good array of what I would call 'folk' and 'rock' they performed superbly. They are all in, or close to, retirement age except the Cajon player who was only in her 20's, but they seemed to have a wealth of experience on stage and looked and sounded very comfortable up there. They also saved the day when The Vallettas failed to show up.
Now as much as I would love to review every band that played at Lionfest, it would take me forever to write & I'm pretty sure you would stop reading very early on. So instead, what I will do is give you my personal highlights of the days line up.
Heifer: now this band has been around for some time now, and they just seem to get better with age. Lead singer Jeremy Dawson has everything a frontman should have, he has the voice, the guitar playing ability and last but not least, the charm. Half way through the show the bass player and drummer decided to strip down to their underwear as it was just too hot, luckily they kept their boots on to save their dignity. The crowd loved this and the band just seemed to feed of that love and gave the performance of a lifetime.
The Shaken Angels: Are a 3 piece rock band who we have previously feature and who won the people favourite featured artist of 2012. These guys really know how to behave on stage. Josh the lead singer and bassist is like a daddy long legs on speed, he stands at about 6'7" (with heels), he bounces, jumps and leaps around the stage like a man possessed, but he does it with all the style that is required to look simply amazing. On top of all that he can really sing and play that bass. You then have Lewis on the lead guitar, he is slightly less energetic but still a pleasure to watch and listen to, maintaining excellent composure and never missing a single note. At the back is James on the drums, keeping a very straight face while playing (although the tongue does poke out when he really gets into it) this guy can really play the drums, he knows just how much to put into it and gets it right every time.
Barejams: took to stage in their usual manner, Ollie in his ultra skinny jeans, Sam with his shorts riding way below his underwear and Dave sporting his woolly hat (even in that heat), they stroll on with every bit of confidence you would expect from them and they play their hearts out. Ollie as lead singer and guitar has an incredible voice and belts out each tune to his full capability, Sam plays that Cajon drum likes he hates it, he beats the living hell out of that thing but with exceptional rhythm and talent, whilst Dave stands there as cool as a cucumber and supplies the bass each songs needs to give that full sound to the upbeat style they perform.
WILLIE AND THE BANDITS: Now I write this in capitals as I feel when ever you say this bands name is should be said as a statement. They are almost beyond words to describe. Willie strolls on stage with dreadlocks flowing out of the top of his trade mark hat, he takes his seat at the front of the stage and the crowd instantly falls silent apart from the occasional whistle of anticipation from some people near the front. The bass player almost skips across to his bass guitar, while the drummer slips behind his drum kit. From the very first note played up until the very last, Willie and the bandits have the audience captivated, they have a very unique sound, one that can not be put into words, you just have to experience them live to fully understand. The bass player plays without ever dropping his smile, you can see he is in love with what he does. Willie plays an array of guitars all with expertise and precision. And the drummer keeps everything together with that constant toe tapping rhythm.
Babyhead (the headlining act): Now here is something different for your ears. The band consisted of 8 members, which included 2 front men, a brass section, 2 guitarists a bass player and finally a drummer. Now when I say 2 front men, I mean one front man and one front boy. I have never seen a lad of that age take such stage presence, I would guess he was around the age of 12 to 14 (I'm sorry if I am far out on the guess) but it's hard to tell when he was wearing a Mexican wrestler mask throughout his performance. He really played the crowd with his dancing & occasional rapping, but most of all his extremely polite talking between songs in asking the audience to give 'his' band a round of applause for being so good. Now I have seen Babyhead before they recruited the newest young member, and the main front man is exceptional in his own rights. He oozes energy on stage, really bringing everyone to life as the crowd would normally be starting to fade at that time of night, he injects them with a new lease of life. His style of rapping and singing is superb, you can really hear such clarity in every word he says. Now the other outstanding member of the band is the trombone player, he must be over 6'5" and stand head and shoulders above the rest of the band, he played with great energy and showmanship, dancing with his trombone whilst smiling at every other member of the band in turn to keep the upbeat spirit alive.
Review & Photos by: Pete Hare of in2thelight photography