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URB Non-Stop

URB Does Somersault

Last weekend saw the second annual Somersault festival, a family friendly festival which places adventure, music and outdoor living at its heart. We ventured out to the beautiful and secluded Castle Hill Estate, North Devon, to bring you all the highlights from the weekend.

Although the weather was somewhat lacking, not even the torrential rain could dampen the spirits at Somersault as old and young alike frolicked happily in the mud to well-curated line up of acoustic, folk and indie pop. We braved the rain and fought through the hangovers to jam in as much as we physically could, and bring you a recap of everything we got up to, from morning tai chi to bubble tea and forest raves to songs by The Staves.

The Food…

Offering far more than the typical plethora of burger vans traditionally found at large-scale festivals the food on offer spanned every imaginable cuisine, from wood fire pizzas and pulled pork to Mexican and paella to sushi (yes sushi!) and cheeseboards. For the more health conscious there was the option to make your own smoothie, and, if like me your time in London made you develop a raging Bubbletea addiction, you could even indulge in one from the Bubbletea stand positioned right next to the main stage.

Prices were fairly typical for festivals but given the improved quality of the food on offer it didn’t feel like too much of a rip off, although we would recommend bringing a few snacks to keep you going throughout the day. A typical meal ranged from about £6-9.

Drinks were a bit on the expensive side at £5 a pint, which was up considerably from last year, but that did include the option of either pints of Symonds Cider or Becks or bottles of Old Mout Cider (the kiwi and lime flavour is literally nectar from the gods, and will typically set you back close to £5 a bottle in London anyway).

The Music...

Somersault offers a strong mix of up-and-coming bands and singer-songwriters alongside more experienced acts across three stages. There was too much going on across the weekend to catch everything we wanted to see, although with less stages than most festivals the risk of clashes were significantly lower, and with the Communion Stage and Main Stage being positioned right next to each other, it was easier to skim between sets without missing any of the action.

First act of the weekend took to the Communion Stage on Friday afternoon. Enigmatic singer-songwriter The Beach, who reportedly got his break after kicking his football into the back garden of a music producer, gave a short but sweet set which floated between soft, delicate movements to a full and grittier sound, often in the same song. Stand outs came from debut single Thieves as well as latest single From Above.

Next onto the Communion Stage was Samuel Ford, a relatively unknown singer-songwriter who played to a small crowd of hardcore music enthusiasts willing to brave the rain (ourselves included). As his set progressed he managed to tempt more people out of the dryness of the nearby Communion Record store which is a real testament to the talent of this guy.

Opening up on the Main Stage, Nathan Ball and band gave a strong set which fell onto an appreciative crowd. The Ben Howard comparisons are easy to understand, with similar vocals and band set up, but there is more to this act than being simply a Ben Howard tribute act. His music really speaks for itself, moving from soft melodies to raucous crescendos as well as more upbeat singalong tracks. Definitely one to watch.

Their Sunday night performance on the Communion Stage last year was easily the highlight of the weekend awarding Scottish folk band Bear’s Den a well-earned place on the Main Stage. Again their set was a stand-out as they filled the stage with plenty of stomping and banjo playing. We definitely recommend catching these guys next time they swing by a town near you because they are easily one of the best live bands going at the moment.

After a day of men it was time for the ladies to shine with stellar and very confidently performed sets from The Staves, Laura Marling and Lucy Rose to close the Friday night.

Saturday brought the sunshine and with it a chance to see young South London based duo A.O.S.O.O.N. The young band were hotly tipped and managed to draw a sizeable crowd, and gave a lovely yet slightly nervous performance.

Next up was Bath local and URB fave Laura Doggett who shone throughout her set and quite simply seemed to be having the time of her life up there. Her set fleeted between the serious moments of and pulsating electronic beats from singles such as Into The Glass. Laura’s personality really shone on stage as well, with a blend of excitable energy and charm, as she ended her set she promised we’d spot her around the festival dancing around with a glass of red wine. True to her word we later spotted her dancing along to Rae Morris’ set, plastic cup of red wine in hand. A girl after our own heart for sure!

Laura Doggett’s set had us in the mood for dancing so we stuck by the main stage to catch Ibibio Sound Machine, an African infused electronic band led by the charismatic Eno Williams. The music was great, although felt a little loud for the time of day and probably would have been better as an end of the night party act.

Next up was an unexpected performance by The Big Moon who had been delayed arriving on site so had swapped set times with HAUS (who we were gutted to have missed). The all-female four-piece indie-rock band from London gave a punchy set which was a lot more punk rock than we had heard so far this weekend but gave a welcome change of pace. The band clearly looked like they were enjoying themselves as they chimed in to speak over each other in between sets and jumped around in between guitar riffs. Please can we be you?

Next we quickly swooped back to the main stage to catch another URB fave Rae Morris. She was clearly an audience favourite as well, with her voice commanding the attention of everyone in the vicinity of the Main Stage. She played through her hits as well as some slower tracks, which really showcased her amazing voice.

Closing off the Saturday night at the Main Stage, headliners Bombay Bicycle Club were a welcome change of tempo providing plenty of opportunity for dancing, which combined with the continued sunshine and confetti cannons, helped to secure that festival feeling. They were joined at various stages in their set by former-member-turned-solo-act-turned-Communion-headliner Lucy Rose, and the lovely Rae Morris.

Without a doubt one of the stand out performances of the weekend came at the end of Saturday night from the consistently amazing Amber Run. In between their high powered guitar anthems there were some highly poignant moments coming from album track 5am (we teared up a lot) and I Found, a track that they reckon without which they wouldn’t be where they were today.

Sunday came and we quickly realised it was our final chance to soak up as much of the festival as possible before it was over for another year so we decided to embrace the elements and stay in the arena from opening to close in an attempt to not miss a thing.

This method quickly paid off as we discovered some brilliant acts we wouldn’t have normally picked off the line-up to see including the lovely and insanely talented singer-songwriter Lori Campbell (who plays the mouth trumpet so well it literally blew our minds!), Australian Bon-Iver influenced Tora, London three-piece Banfi (we are now obsessed with their track Where We Part) and the high-energy, Northern delight that are Clean Cut Kids who represent everything that is right with the indie-pop scene (no exaggeration they were great please go follow them on social things and buy their music, k thanks bye).

First on our list of planned acts was Stu Larsen, former banker turned singer-songwriter from Australia who used to be touring buddies with Passenger (!!) and has since released an album and toured it. We caught up with him when he played the Louisiana in Bristol which was a more intimate setting than the Main Stage of a 20,000 capacity festival. Still he gave a great and heartfelt performance showcasing his harmonica skills and expertly written story-driven songs.

Ask anybody you saw who their highlight of the festival was and 9/10 of them will say Jimmy Cliff (and the other 10% probably just weren’t at the Main Stage). The reggae veteran brought a spot of sunshine (although sadly not literally) to Somersault as one of the biggest crowds of the weekend cheerfully danced to well-known hits such as I Can See Clearly Now in the rain (yes we recognise the irony).

The only real let down of the weekend came from Angus and Julia Stone who gave an underwhelming performance of tracks mainly from their newest album. The talented brother-sister duo sounded great, but there was something missing in the energy levels, especially following Jimmy Cliff's stellar set.

One act who did not let us down was the wonderful Jake Isaac, a soulful singer-songwriter from South London who gave an incredibly strong set on the Communion stage, quickly winning over the crowd. We caught up with him after his set for a chat (so watch this space!).

With the festival sadly drawing to an end all that was left was the headline set, which luckily we got two of (!!) from singer-songwriter Passenger and upbeat indie-pop group Crystal Fighters. Passenger confidently commanded the audience throughout his set, pausing to tell stories and crack jokes with the crowd and encouraging everyone to dance and singalong (even if they had to make up the words). Incredibly conscious that for many his track Let Her Go is the sole song he is known for (and that one from Frozen, which sadly he didn't play #gutted) he did a great job at keeping the crowd entertained throughout his set and was easily one of the most engaging performers we have seen at a festival.

Finally, Crystal Fighters closed the festival getting everyone dancing again, even providing oversized beach balls (which felt like a teeny bit of a smack in the face to all of us still stuck in the rain). They dropped the tempo for a moment to give a tribute to their drummer who had died earlier in the year and introduce their new drummer which was a very touching moment to have shared in. Overall, they were the ideal choice to bring Somersault 2015 to a close, offering the perfect blend of humility, madness and fun that all the acts across the weekend displayed.

After Hours...

Although a family-friendly festival, Somersault also afforded a range of late night entertainment options for those wanting to carry on boogieing after the headline acts had finished. Communion Stage hosted Patrick Nazemi a DJ specialising in providing a crowd-pleasing set filled with singalong anthems from Eminem to Marvin Gaye and everything in between, mixed with dance classics and big drops. Through the trees there were late night forest parties, and back towards the campsite The Clubhouse offered late night discos.

For those worn out after a long day and night of dancing there were even campfires to sit around and keep warm and an excellent stall offering chai tea and cushions for lounging. Perfect for winding down before the walk back to the campsite. The campsite itself was always fairly quiet when we got back with a few groups sitting around for a quiet cup of tea and a ‘scran’ (we picked up some lingo from our northern friends) but generally we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Everything else…

Of course, it’s not just about the music at Somersault, with punters having the option to book into additional excursions including surf lessons, rock climbing, canoeing and falconry. For the less adventurous the well-being area boasts an array of massage huts and a timetable of yoga, pilates and meditation workshops.

The Clubhouse offered shelter from the rain and boosted an array of musical acts, comedy, board games and even bingo (!!). We caught a comedy set from Underbelly comedy which included Joel Dommett (who we’d seen on the telly) and the incredibly offbeat but funny Tony Law, tried some early morning Tai Chi (zen accomplished for the next month at least we reckon), instigated a stone skimming tournament by the river and caught the end of a documentary about the making of wooden surfboards by the lovely folks at Surfers Against Sewage.

The verdict…

WE LOVE YOU SOMERSAULT. We’d love a bit more shelter for when the rain came, but we had invested in a good waterproof so were happy to brave the showers in exchange for some cracking music. It sometimes took a while for the days to get started so a few from our group headed out to the beach until late afternoon so maybe a few more bits and bobs on in the morning/early afternoon would be nice, but overall we enjoyed the pace of this festival as it didn’t feel like you were trying to rush around too frantically.

We think our buddy Passenger summed it up best.

Dot to Dot Festival: Who not to miss!

Are you wondering where you can see the best emerging bands and artists? Well look no further! Dot to Dot Festival is around the corner and we?ve got the low-down on who you need to see.