Godiva Festival 2022Review
Much as I (and loads of other people to) enjoy the Godiva Festival, it's not the easiest event to review in a conventional manner.
I honestly doubt anyone has the stamina to read through detailed accounts of all the artists I saw, however enthusiastic I might be (though this is compensated for by most of them being reviewed elsewhere in the magazine on other occasions) so I hope you'll be content with something more impressionistic of the whole rather than of the component parts: in some ways following on from points I made in my preview piece last week.
To be honest I'm not sure if anyone has ever or could ever sample ever single act across the many stages: it would seem a likely impossibility & so a degree of fore planning & prioritisation must be essential. Logistically this entails a fair amount of scampering backwards & forwards across the site to achieve & thence to a sort of angst around the question of catching whole sets by artists I really enjoy, but potentially at the expense of seeing someone else on at an overlapping time on a distant stage. Do I ever get it right? Sometimes maybe but I always walk away from Godiva with mixed senses of elation at music experiences & regret at artists missed or only seen for a brief part of their performance.
But how much better is it that Godiva puts on more music than you could possibly catch (and the diversity is staggering) than the reverse?
As regular readers will know, I always gravitate to the local artists at the expense of seeing the Main Stage headliners (whose presence draws in the crowds who then spill out to see the local artists on other stages & whose payments enable the Festival to actually go ahead & sustain) and I'll keep on banging on about the facts that no other event features so many local acts and that the vast majority of Godiva acts are in fact from Coventry & Warwickshire. This is very important I believe.
Not all of them play on the satellite stages either: it's great to see so many on the Main Stage through invitation or via the "Godiva Calling" competitions & this (finally) gets us to the point of discussing actual music.
It's hard to overstate the significance (and I'm sure only a community based festival could or would do this) of having Cov Kozaks open proceedings on the Main Stage. For similar reasons to our featuring one of their tracks as the opening one on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Eight', it sends a message of support & solidarity to the people of Ukraine which lies at the heart of the Godiva Festival values: and how many commercial music festivals can be said to have a heart?
Of course such a gesture, as well intended as it was, might backfire if it remained just a gesture and the band struggled in such a high profile setting. In fact they thrived & the large stage was ideal for both their large lineup (with plenty of space for their impassioned movement) & big sound: quite regardless of the tragic circumstances, Cov Kozaks were there on musical merit & would have stirred our hearts as they did whatever else was going on in the world. It had to be a highlight of the festival though & by being first artists on, set a high bar.
Once the Festival really picked up pace of course getting to catch everyone I wanted to see across so many performance spaces became a real challenge: a rewarding one but with a lot of rushing about and not always making full sets. Performances I already had my eye on before the start which met & exceeded my expectations included those by Danny Ansell Music (who played twice), Dirt Road Band (to my surprise it was Steve Walwyn's first gig at Godiva & you could sense the relish) , Stylusboy (unveiling his evolution into more electronic sounds), Levi Washington, Ace Ambrose (taking an afternoon out of a brief career hiatus to play a solo acoustic set of great passion including hitherto unperformed songs from her upcoming ‘Doomsday Was Yesterday' EP), Emma McGann (fresh back from her US tour for her first home town gig in six years: discussing it with her, we realised that I'd been at the previous one, and featuring songs from her upcoming EP), King of the Alps (with songs from their soon to come ‘Heart of the Matter' album) , Abz Winter and Will Ball (sets on Saturday & Sunday with Abz in a much more serious & soulful mode rather than her usual ebullience: great to see her increase her range in this way), Chessi O'Dowd, Voodoo Kings, Pandora, The Neville Staple Band, The Boy Who Invented Everything, a short but sublime set from Andy Beglin with Jade Hartley and The Upsiders: a band whose feelgood music was surely designed for such occasions.
I even managed to check out a few artists hitherto unknown to me: I particularly enjoyed "Godiva Calling" winner Jessie Lea whose positive stage presence and very individual original compositions were very uplifting (thanks too to Jeff Morris for urging me to watch her) and thanks too to John Rivers who brought The Ripchords to my attention whom I caught on the Resonate Stage. On the Sunday I experienced Mugshot on the Next Stage: a very young band recommended to me by Mason Le Long who has been working with them at The Tin workshops: another welcome & encouraging sign of fresh talent coming through.
Perhaps the most spectacular of these recommendations were Dreamwife whom the Boudica Festival brought to the Main Stage on the Sunday (itself an excellent example of really effective collaboration between the two festivals and one which perhaps might be developed still further). So many people I spoke to afterwards (though I suppose that reflects the circles I tend to move in) offered variations on "did you see Dreamwife? Wow". I look forward to seeing a full set from this no holds barred band & being able to dedicate a full review to them.
I must also mention that (outside of the Main Stage) the largest & most enthusiastic crowd I saw was at the Serendipity Stage for Nick Cope: since so many of them were under five, it's not just new artists we can look forward to but audiences who appreciate music.
A particular salute too to Nadia Javed whose song about Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid I caught more by accident than design but I'm glad that I did!
So there you have it: good vibes, luck with the weather, hundreds of diverse musicians and other performers (overwhelmingly local), appreciative crowds, hundreds of tireless staff & volunteers making it all work: there is so much you can enjoy in the general atmosphere or by drilling down to certain "must see" acts as I did. Yes, I missed a few I'd liked to have seen due to simultaneous performances or missed bits of sets as I rushed between the six stages I witnessed music on, but it simply is impossible to see it all & what I saw (and heard) I enjoyed immensely, as did everyone I spoke to (and it was excellent to catch up with so many like minded souls: many not seen since before Covid19 struck): and all the artists I spoke to also enjoyed playing: which cannot be said of every festival unfortunately.
In a blink of an eye Godiva Festival 2022 came & went: and the team are already thinking ahead to 2023 with glee. I'd urge all readers to support the Festival: its continued existence is not a given in these uncertain times & visitors above all else help it sustain (it was a sell out this year on the Saturday). At the same time coming along really does boost the careers of our local artists & encourages them to appreciate how loved the fruits of their creativity are.
A final little moment of serendipity: what better way could there be to end a Festival whose theme this year was "Love" than to have the final song (Bananarama had finished by this time) be Joe Dolman singing of "Something Beautiful"?