Now in its ninth year, the taciturn experience that is In The Woods is back, housed once again in a secret location known only to festival goers, completely hidden away from the outside world.
We enter the festival via an intriguing path that leads us deep into the woods, lit subtly by evocative strings of lights. Every now and then art installations reveal themselves from the trees, including ready-made flower gardens, multicoloured glades filled with mirrors and sculptures, curious hidden doors and ribbon and felt tied to every tree. The reverberating natural amphitheatre that is the quarry stage emerges to the left, with the smaller Laurel Lounge, and new third stage The Den a little way off. Further on, through more interactive artworks, immersive theatre and flowers is a clearing, complete with cinema tent, silent disco, and an array of food, such as a sumptuous hog roast, a tasty tea and cake tent perfect for our Bake Off nation, freshly blended alci-smoothies and locally produced cider.
Getting stuck right into the music, an even wider range of styles than previous years are on offer, but the key thread tying each performance together, as always, is that every act here is creating clever, interesting, dynamic and accomplished music. Maintaining its reputation as a total hotbed of new, emerging talent, there is a fantastic array of musicians here, including the gorgeous Nao, whose super-cool, smooth soul inspired sounds are a real highlight. Unbelievably this was only Nao’s second live gig, but she offered excellent stage presence, confidence and attitude, alongside complex vocal harmonies and inspired timbres (including charismatic analogue synth sounds). Francobollo delight with hazy, funny slacker rock, with catchy hooks, adventurous guitars and a stupidly joyful yet dynamic performance, where the band were literally having as much fun as the audience. A personal favourite on the line-up however were Years and Years; beautifully young and cute boys who, despite their cool sounds, were visibly warmed and overwhelmed by the welcoming crowd and the joy that is In The Woods. Other notable acts of the weekend include the out and out rock and roll styling’s of Temple Songs, the high velocity punk of Shopping, the charming bizarreness of dynamic one-man-band Ichi, and the perfection that is Laura Marling on Friday night.
In The Woods 2014 has continued with their true small festival ethos, with a complete lack of commerciality or bureaucracy typical in larger music festival. There are no shops or merch stands, no sponsorship plastered about – the only thing you have to pay for is food and drink, or even tastier music from the new store, fresh to this year’s event. Camping and parking is free, and if you want to bring your own booze, that’s ok. This cooperative and relaxed approach by the organisers is reflected by audience and artists alike, to the point where there is a decidedly mellow, happy vibe to the place. There are plenty of teenagers and students, yes, but there are also retired couples, a few dogs dotted about, and even more families than previous years.
This was MTTM’s third year at In The Woods, and the event has metamorphosed palpably over the last three years. Growing from a very small boutique festival of approximately 600 people to over 1200 today, the festival seemed like it was undergoing growing pains last year, with a larger crowd and slightly altered vibe that wasn’t altogether sweet. This year, however, feels like the festival has come into its own a little. The crowd size may now be twice that of what it was three years ago, but the festival has now grown, with more facilities, more food, a new stage and more to do. The newly added craft tent, filled with quirky activities such as headdress making and lino printing, is a welcome addition, especially for those with children. The Friday night and Saturday morning has also expanded, to include quality headline acts, as well as activity such as a barn dance, silent karaoke and yoga on the Saturday morning. All these additions make the whole vibe less stretched, comfortable and pleasant.
Once again, In The Woods have provided a beautiful, considered, and positive festival, and the organisers have offered their audience with a host of well curated, quality artists that are clearly destined for great things. Indeed, every act witnessed offered consummate, talented performances throughout. It has, as always, been a privilege to be involved in this truly unique and bewitching event.