I went to WOOD festival not really knowing what to expect. I didn’t really know many of the bands on the line-up, and was sceptical about the 800 capacity, family friendly feel. Going into to something like WOOD festival with no real expectations is the best way really, what I found was an incredibly magical, inspirational and beautiful place, filled with great music, plenty to do and an atmosphere you could never create with bigger, more commercial festivals.
WOOD is situated in Braziers park, which is home to a old castle, now a commune. The surroundings are stunning, acres woodland and farmland and surprisingly its only a 40 minute bus ride to Oxford. You can walk across the festival in less than 5 minutes and the tiny capacity means it never feels crowded. There are three food stalls and a number of clothing and healing type stalls. There is also a workshop village and three stages, two run by solar power and one run by bicycles. The main stage is not much bigger than a small bedroom and in true WOOD style, is also made of wood.
One key part of the festival is the worksop village. Each day a considerable amount of free workshops are run, both for children and adults. These range from Yoga, Nature for the Senses, Making Worm farms, Composting, Indian Chanting and Animal Spirit Medicine. I tried a bit of Celtic harp playing, made a lantern from a jam jar and took a tour around Braziers house.
Musically, my highlights came on Saturday night. Beginning with Khaira Arby, a singer from the deserts of Timbuktu in Mali. With a African backbone to her music, it is also layered with rock and roll and a fantastic Hendrix influenced guitar player. She herself is a breathtaking performer, stunning voice and more passion than ever comes from many of todays singers. The audience were wild, many hugging each other in joy and Khaira in tears from the reaction from this tiny festival.
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou played next in the tree tent. They are a husband and wife duo who make beautiful harmonies but its their chemistry on stage which really draws the audience in. They are playing The Lexington with Daughter soon and then doing a free canal boat tour, check them out.
The highlight of my day was Willy Mason. I’d heard the odd song by him before but never properly listen to him. Earlier in the day I was actually debating with my friends whether he was aged 60 with a beard or a young chap, turns out he is young, and the old guy is actually Willie Nelson. He mixed his set with solo numbers and full band songs, two of his band were actually some of the festival organisers and the other was his brother. His voice is crystal clear, but its his songwriting which got me. Mixing country, rock and folk his sound is quite his own, but maybe an Americana Johnny Flynn is a fair comparison. He converted me into a fan anyway, I purchased both of his albums as soon as I got home.
After the music finishes, the children go to bed and everyone else gathers around the campfire which is based just above the stage. There are campfire songs and life stories from people at every angle. There is also a small bar located at the back of the campervan field, 60’s music is played repeatedly and a stove keeps people warm. The whole time there is such a lovely community feeling to the festival.
I missed the Sunday night entertainment as I had to head back to London, but I felt complete after seeing Willy Mason so wasn’t too bothered. Overall, WOOD is a beautiful festival, in another league from other ’boutiques’, it encompasses what a festival should be, and I think festivals like this will become a growing sensation. I for one, shall certainly be back for another year.
Restless Fugitive- Willy Mason
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou @ WOOD Festival 2009