Art in the Park 2022Review
Thankfully, despite the circumstances, the unusual weather & the traditional/legendary/notorious event organisation, I managed to witness at least part of most of the acts I wanted to catch at Art in the Park 2022 in Leamington & are thus able to make reports of varying degrees of depth on some superb performances, often despite the constraints (of which more later) by some superb artists, including three acts who'll be getting their debut live mentions in the magazine here.
Obviously having lived through the same few days as I did, you'll not need much explanation of how difficult performing was, nor how risky to health observing for any great lengths of time it could be.
I certainly enjoyed all the artists I'm about to mention & if I couldn't see as much as I'd have liked of some of them due to the heat & having to switch from one of the venues to the other (which was far from easy nor quick) as too often the strongest & most popular acts were scheduled simultaneously for some reason.
I've previously reported on live gigs by The Peas, Joe Dolman, The Old Flames, Titine Lavoix, The Folly Brothers, Luna Kiss & Levi Washington but never on Ivy Ash, Orange River Remedy nor The Silver Wye, though I've done so on either their releases or gigs by members of each in other incarnations. Or both. (In addition, I'd aimed to see, but failed, Danny Ansell & Chasing Deer: had that occurred, I'd have pretty much ticked all my personal objective boxes).
I'll speak first about Ivy Ash as not only is this my first live review after praising all her singles to date, it was in fact Bethany's debut live performance using this name & I'd have been disappointed to have missed it. As you might expect from her music, it was a sassy, full on performance & had the circumstances been different, would have got many more people up dancing as energetically as Ivy herself: as it was, she attracted a very energetic rhythmic gymnast who performed in front of the stage & eye catchingly, one of those who did brave the blazing heat to dance was a chap high on stilts, so that really compensates for the numbers. No doubt in cooler environments Ivy's infectious songs will have the effect designed (how could they not?) and the verbal feedback from those watching was highly complementary.
She played the songs I have been reviewing for you, the odd cover & even a sneak preview of her next single ("Stop, Rewind") which sounds even more dance friendly than those to date.
I'd written of Rikki & Tyron Hansel playing before under their own names and as part of Evergreen, but not as Orange River Remedy (though sadly regular drummer Lottie Pennington couldn't make it) and I wasn't remotely surprised at the full on rock performance they gave which again went down really well: in fact they actually went on over time they were so into playing, which tells you a lot about them & why they are so popular. Like Ivy, they had drawn the short straw at being allocated the Mill Gardens Stage (again see below) and possibly broke the record for facial perspiration for the weekend.
I've heard Wes Finch play most of his Silver Wye material live in various contexts, but this was the first time I'd seen him do so specifically under that name: on this occasion with John Parker on double bass, so the electronic, often harsh if not acerbic sound of the records (which was the point of the project) did not come across, but the strength of the material (which was augmented by Mechanicals & other Wes songs and covers) was shown by how well they could be adapted into a cooler jazz vibe which suited the day anyway. Thankfully, they were presented on the much more amenable Archery Lawn stage & this allowed them to even go for an encore.
All the artists (and the sound crews) deserve medals for their efforts & no doubt their music was much appreciated, even though it was disappointing that for obvious reasons, the mass dancing most of them usually generate was not possible.
Special awards go to those condemned to the Mill Gardens Stage whose amenities fell so short of the appropriate & of the other stage. It was commendable, after the shambles of last year, that professional, experienced sound engineers (Callum Mckissock on Saturday and Chris Field on Sunday) were brought in to work their magic but ultimately the artists & fans deserved better: high energy acts like Titine Lavoix, The Folly Brothers, Orange River Remedy, Ivy Ash or Luna Kiss normally get the place rocking & that they were not given the chance to do so was unfortunate. Extra special accolades go to the Folly Brothers who when even the sound equipment could not stand the heat any longer, deserted the oven of the stage & played unplugged amongst the crowd to great delight & to Luna Kiss who donned full stage gear despite the temperature & defied everything to give it as much as they always do.
Given the relative differences & inequalities in amenities for spectators & artists between the two stages & the real difficulties moving between the two easily, I think it might be said that the experiment of two stages, however nobly intended & how ever hard Callum & Chris and the artists tried to make it work, hasn't worked. It might be much better next year to concentrate resources on the Archery Lawn, provide a professional environment for performances, avoid the hassle of splitting one's time between two competing attractions which are difficult to move between & cut the number of acts down so as to result in less of a variation in quality between the excellent ones mentioned & the filler consequent on having two stages.
I'll end though on repeating how much I enjoyed those I reported on, how much I admired their fortitude & look forward to seeing them all again in cooler circumstances.