The Fling: Chelmsford
4th July 2009
The Fling is billed as an event packed full of excitement and curiosities, and it certainly was that. On arrival at the site I’m confronted by a fake beach in one direction, colourful flags and flower pyramids in another, and of course the Zebra, which for one reason or another has been adopted as the Fling logo.
This event does have some things in common with other festivals, the queues for the toilets, and the people that still don’t know how to use a litter bin for example. But what surprised, me was how chilled out and relaxed the vibe was. Some sideshows did get a little lively as the night went on, the, ahem ‘silent disco’ being one, but all in all it seemed good natured, and an event that attracted a wide age range of people happily mingling together. Many sat with their food and drinks on picnic rugs, while others explored all the entertainment on offer.
The entertainment was split into several main areas, the cabaret tent, comedy tent, two music stages, and a wordsmith’s tent with live poetry. There were also walkabout costumed characters, craft and painting areas, the silent disco, casino, dance tent and more. I couldn’t get near the comedy tent, which I guess is testament to it’s popularity, but I did catch glimpses of the Burlesque, Can Can Dancers, and a lady in a devil costume getting very angry with a cucumber in the cabaret tent. Such is the eclectic and often random nature of festival life!
Then of course, there was the music. The Barhouse stage was the place to be to dance and rock your way through the afternoon, and they showcased a variety of local talent. The first band I caught were the very energetic Sirens at Dawn, who thundered through their set of power rock tunes like they’d been born to it. Their polished, catchy guitar riffs got the crowd dancing, and some joined in with the head banging too! Next up in the Barhouse tent were the younger, yet equally rocky Electralyte. They performed songs such as ‘Made For You’ and ‘Tall Stories’, showcasing a soaring vocal and funky guitar riffs. The highlight for me though had to be Matt Herbert and The Heavy Hitters. I’ve heard the name many times, but never caught them live, and it turned out I was in for a treat. This is rock/pop/acoustic at it’s best, original songs interspersed with the odd surprise, like their excellent cover…cue the audience chanting “we built this city on rock and roll’. The last act I caught in this tent were ‘Seven Summers’ and all I can say about them is: good performance, interesting lyrics, great response from the crowd.
After catching some of the action in the Barhouse tent, I moved onto to the mellower atmosphere of the Acoustic Soul Club. Well it was mellow when I arrived, though I did hear bursts of liveliness earlier in the afternoon when Navacross were onstage. Anyway among the acts performing in this tent were JJ Zarbo and his musical friends. Their unique blend of folk music had a slightly melancholy, very European influence. They were followed later on by Lizzie B and her acoustic guitar. Lizzie unfortunately had to suffer that gremlin that all musicians hate, a power cut, but she carried on through a soulful summery performance. This included a duet with Jane White, resplendent in her 60’s outfit. Although this seemed a bit hesitant at first, it built up into a nice duet, and perfect for the event, as the sun had been shining down all day. Lizzie continued with a mix of original songs, and I also caught her covering a Jamie Williams track. Quite unusual to hear local artists, covering local artists, and it just serves to illustrate the respect they have for each others music. From what I caught of the Acoustic Soul Tent, I would say they are all competent performers, and supportive of each other, which creates a warm atmosphere.
All in all, the music at The Fling was a lot better than I expected. I enjoyed the majority of what I managed to see, and have found a few acts to keep an eye out for in the future. I also spotted the Library Suits boys embracing their artistic sides in the Panic In Wonderland tent, and got wet under the water tree. All good fun!
My overall impression of The Fling was a good one. It seemed to be very well organised, although some sideshows seemed a bit limp, lost, or underused. That said, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and that’s the most important thing. I wonder what the organisers will have in store for Fling 2010? I’ll certainly look forward to finding out.