Now in its ninth year Eden Festival returned as colourful and welcoming as ever, even if the sun had taken his hat off and refused to come out to play!
Rain and grey skies aside, a record number of 9000 ‘Edenites’ came together for a weekend of fun and frivolity.
There’s a sense of tranquility driving through mist laden hills and arriving at Scotland’s very own ‘Garden of Eden’. A place which has been cultivated by the local community and put together by hardworking volunteers. The site exudes creativity with art installations, handmade signage and something wonderful hidden in all the nooks and crannies.
This year also seen the new Riverside Camping area come into effect, which was situated just beyond the new Great Mountain stage, to allow for the extension of the festival while still in-keeping with the small family friendly vibe Eden is known for.
Heading back towards the site was the new Hanging Gardens of Babylon which is the start of a new three-year project which currently houses The Great Mountain stage, Mottle and Fiddle Inn, food stalls and traders.
Funded by the folks at Event Scotland, The Great Mountain Stage hosted a selection of Scottish roots music including contemporary folk and classical music. Here there was everything from ‘Platform for Performance’ featuring young and emerging talent, a proper knees-up Ceilidh with Whiriligig and an enchanting set from Macmaster/Hay, the harpist and percussionist duo.
Young British folk band Talisk played a fiery, energetic set that kicked Friday night into gear while critically acclaimed Agnes Obel, the Danish singer/songwriter/musician brought ethereal vocals and breathtaking compositions.
The Devorgilla Main Stage opened earlier this year to entertain the first arrivals on Thursday night with gypsy punk outfit Gogol Bordello, a band who like to wear purple and know how to leave a crowd with smiles on their faces.
The spell-binding Cat Power aka Chan Marshall took to the stage on Friday night, her reputation for being a little overwrought can overshadow her performances but here she was utterly beguiling with a voice that is polished but steeped in heartache.
A change of pace came with Alabama 3, who were founded in Brixton, London in the mid-90s and offer up an eclectic blend of country, blues, and acid house interspersed with spoken word. This is in no way derivative or genre-based music, but a provocative and at times politically charged performance that gave the crowd a chance to revel in some real dirty rock ‘n’ roll.
Next up on the opposite end of the spectrum was Jazzanova feat Paul Randolph who can best be described as a slick and soulful operation. Hailing from Berlin, this collective of musicians have been producing, composing and DJing for more than fifteen years.
American singer/songwriter Paul Randolph effortlessly transitions from jazz to funk and soul with his trademark velvety voice, bringing a certain amount of sass to the stage. This is a band made to be experienced in a live setting.
Another highlight was over in the Ghilli Dhu Dance Emporium where the crowd were worked in to a frenzy by So Solid Crew with Mega even having to stop for a second to exclaim “you guys are crazier than us, this night is special”.
In between shows, a visit to The Furry Chillum to top up on some tropical cocktails did end up in an accidental Conga line with Sheffield carnival rockers Mango Rescue Team who had the place bouncing.
The mud and rain may have made for a messy weekend, but with so much to explore both in tents and outside it didn’t deter festival goers from partaking in workshops which included stone masonry, silver ring making, wood carving or from going for a much-needed massage.
Kids had rule of the roost as they learned circus skills, got crafty and showed off their dancing at the big party dance off at the Thunderdome Stage.
Saturday afternoon brought more family entertainment in the form of the legendary Mr Motivator, that cheeky dude in lycra spreading love and joy to the masses, doing wonders for the mid-festival hangover. The Dumfries and Galloway Choir also brought little tears of joy with their positively inspiring performance.
The main stage also saw Edinburgh band Miracle Glass Company bring in a sizeable crowd as they impressed with their late 60s rock ‘n’ roll/psychedelic sound, blinding harmonies and songwriting capabilities as the trio all take a turn as lead singer. This is certainly a band to watch!
Another talent discovered at Eden was the soulful Terry Logan, a singer/songwriter based in Hebden Bridge who brought beautifully crafted songs with a wonderfully mesmerizing voice to the quirky and colourful Melodrome stage.
Now who doesn’t like reggae and cycling? Well over at the Boardwalk festival revelers could pedal till their heart’s content at the bike generated roots, reggae, dub, jungle and funk stage which over the weekend featured the likes of Mungo’s Hi Fi, Escape Roots FT Tom Spiral, Mighty Oak and Will Tee (Dubcentral Sheffield).
Mungo’s also went on to play the Furry Chillum bringing late 80’s dancehall, reggae and dub to the mix to a packed out crowd well into the wee hours.
The Yellow Movement were well represented with the rambunctiously energetic Have Mercy Las Vegas, the exuberant Jamie and Shoony, the up-tempo Mickey 9s and the ultimate festival feel good band Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5.
These bands I have come to know under the banner of the Yellow Movement who alongside their catchy tunes, their message of peace, love and, ahem, mustard really embody the spirit of Eden Festival!
The feel good vibes continued with Kissmet, who gave Eden a delightful dose of Bhangra infusion which brought everybody together.
The queen of British soul Alice Russellwas a bit of a slow-burner, but she kicked her set into gear with some of her more upbeat numbers. She commanded the stage with a voice that imbues raw emotion and true sincerity.
A Jungle DJ set finished Saturday night at the main stage, drawing a massive crowd who were there to party on down to some classic electronic and house.
Respite from the rain could be found with a nice cuppa in the Vishnu Lounge which provided some well-needed chill out time with a constant flow of performances from a selection of ambient acts.
Meanwhile neighboring The Lost Disco stage brought the finest funky DJs and a light up dancefloor – pure, unadulterated fun!
Over in Rabbie’s Tavern, which this year had been extended to include theatre space, there was the distinctive sound of the bagpipes which lead to the discovery of Eriska, a young 6-piece folk band from Glasgow. What a treat Eriska are, with their mix of traditional tunes and original compositions that flow between jazz and folk styles. An extremely talented lot who brought a ceilidh atmosphere to a dreich Sunday evening.
Finally the rain dispersed and it was time to see closing headliners Boney M which seemingly the whole festival turned up for – this was not to be missed! Renditions of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ celebrating their Jamaican roots and an up-tempo version of ‘Let it Be’. Then it was hit after hit, ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Ma Baker’, ‘Rivers of Babylon’ and ‘Rasputin’. The line-up may have changed over the years but the disco spirit endures with the whole audience singing and dancing along ending the weekend on a high.
The Eden Festival community brings the place alive. The music and the experiences offered culminate together to create a space where diversity is celebrated with a sense of openness that is hard to find at more commercialised festivals.
What makes Eden strong is its ties to the immediate community and its welcoming, family friendly atmosphere. As it goes into its tenth year lets hope this remains – wherever you’re from Eden Festival will make you feel right at home.