Clouds gather above an idyllic landscape, flags raised and roaring, with winds wrapping itself around an ocean of tarpaulin. Tents scattered in separate batches of several baker’s dozens, with toilets blurring the lines of gender. This could only be the birth of a newborn, taking its shape as ‘Under The Hill’ festival. Music was mixed and eclectic, with an atmosphere that was warm and welcoming. Once the ground sheet was down (onto the painfully hard surface that I had sleep on) the day began. This text is set to underline the best of the bunch.
Little Thief were first to the crease with the crowds having not (yet) taken advantage of the festivals extremely modestly priced beverages. With a White Stripes set up, the pair delivered a set of rock and steamrolled wit in an Eagles of Death Metal style melay. Its front man resembles some kind of intergalactic hipster, with an elegant Sue Rider shirt jumbled on top of some death star trousers. The pick of the bunch was their so-called ‘serious’ track, Laid, which was a cacophony of innuendo that sounded pretty similar to ‘United States of Whatever’. These folks were full of energy, were well rehearsed and a good toe dipper to quench a musical appetite.
Population Seven followed, with a population of just that. With a male and female vocalist, and a rapper with a Green Street puffa jacket. This set was at times: Maverick Sabre, with belts of shrewd pop soul and lead lines that were shiny but gently distressed. Counterparts from brass would both accentuate and promote vocal melodies with a rhythm section that tied the laces. Slower tracks still maintained the groove that had carried the sets early liveners, with sections being tiered and honed dynamically, ending the crowds early reluctance for energy. I felt the acts formation was strange, with the highly prominent female single being left well out to sea at the stages far right, rather than in the centre with the other vocalist and rapper.
Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K. were a hip-hop duo that has likability, with a playful flair and a touch of London boy swagger. There were times when the lines blur in terms of cover choices, with Fresh Prince of Bel Air being rendered safe after hearing Eminem’s Lose Yourself being rehashed into an ear threatening electro swing style. Other than that, all seemed safe on the ground with the face painted residents, having grown in numbers. This particular thread did run into King Punch’s performance, with their fast paced Reel Big Fish style Ska-Punk often getting a bit too overzealous. I enjoyed moments but couldn’t really dive in, which lead me to be pointed at by the frontman for being sat down – In jest, of course. Passion drove the performance and the crowd alike, but mass stage jumping sometimes gets me all queasy.
MATUKI’s set shuffled in with a raft of percussion with an infusion of urbanised jazz, with horn lines grooving alongside impatient rhythms and guitar lines. Brass and guitar lines would shout back and forth between each other, ushering in vocals littered with harmonies, and lead lines would be chopped, changed, and recycled across instruments seamlessly. The carnival atmosphere gave Shoot The Moon a platform on which to strut upon, with them filling the boots of a cool looking indie band. The blue skies joined them, far too late it must be said, but their set sped through gates with a crash of character. ‘Let’s pretend we’re outside’, ‘Take That circus circuit ‘98’, and ‘This song is about camel toe, I’ve seen a shit tonne of it today’ were the best quotes of the evening for sure.
Chorus harmonies were precise, catchy and singable, at times funky. What a lovely day to lose everything was the track of the hour in terms of song writing, but with Underground’s guitar work at times becoming cluttered. All in all this set was strong and prepped the headliners nicely.
Now, who is the cat with bass and drum, going ’round like bom bom bom!? Of course, it’s Sam And The Womp. When introduced by the days narrator, Pieman (who can’t half beat box by the way), the word hit, was pluralised for some reason. However, they did what they had written on the tin, big time pop, with brass and bass battering the festival’s attendees. The song they did about a gypsy was pretty weird, as were the dance moves, as was the brief BTEC course they made us undergo when introducing us the Womp dance, but it was lively to say the least. Then the stage became flooded with the crowd’s younger demographic, rushing to stage not even halfway through the set leaving security staff in two minds for an extended length. This lead the act to U-turn on their decision to ask them to leave the same before they even got the sentence out. However it all seemed rather fitting in the end.
This summed up a day and evening very nicely, the debut of a festival that will hopefully grow into something special. The mood was one of open arms, with glitter thrown at you (and directly into my mouth, twice) upon arrival. A field of friendly folk and festivity. The staff worked round the clock, and bags of effort and organisation saw the day run without a hitch. The stage emptied, the forest grew upon and the night began for the treehouse DJ’s. This is where we clocked out…
…and went to bed.
–Words : Lewis Abbott, Photos : Lily Maggs