Over the years Bedgebury Pinetum has welcomed the likes of The Cure, Elbow and Jools Holland to its glorious Goudhurst location as part of the annual series of Forest Live gigs held every summer by Forestry Commission England.
This year the bill is just as impressive with artists including Paul Weller, Hacienda Classical and Foals all playing over the weekend of June 14-16.
Forest Live has been running for the past 18 years in seven woodland arenas dotted around the country. So as well as Bedgebury Pinetum you can also catch acts at alfresco venues like Thetford Forest in Suffolk, Westonbirt National Arboretum in Gloucestershire and Delamere Forest in Cheshire.
But it’s the Bedgebury gigs which kick off this year’s 19th summer season with indie favourites Foals headlining on Friday night with special guests Yak.
Yak is an alt-rock trio from Wolverhampton, New Zealand and London who have just supported Jack White’s band The Raconteurs and recently played at Brighton’s Great Escape and also the All Points East festival at London’s Victoria Park, with plenty more festivals lined up this summer.
The gig at Bedgebury will be another big deal for Yak as they’ll be playing in front of 5,000 people but lead singer Oli Burslem isn’t phased about this daunting prospect in the slightest. Speaking exclusively to SO Magazine he said: “I’m not thinking about it too much. I try to have as little info ahead of a gig as possible. I always enjoy playing but I try to keep an element of surprise, otherwise it would be boring.”
The group have just released their second album Pursuit of Momentary Happiness, to much critical acclaim, and Oli admits that playing live is now easier with more songs under their belts. “It’s nice to be able to go out and perform our new record. It’s good to have a tangible response from the crowd – it is so different to being streamed on the internet, which is just likes or hits. You can’t tell much from numbers but now as the record’s out we get people like our postman saying he’s listening to our songs!
“We’re enjoying having new material to play. It means we can take our live shows in loads of different directions now. We’ve had the same sound guy, Phil, since we started, he’s been part sound engineer, part rock shepherd looking out for us. He’ll testify that we’re now playing much better.”
Oli, who says his influences include The Stooges, the Velvet Underground and Jason Pierce from Spiritualized, says that the irony of having ‘Yak’ and ‘Foals’ on the same bill has not been lost on him. “Yeah we had a laugh about that in the pub one night,” he chuckles before heading off to soundcheck.
For further info/tickets visit www.forestryengland.uk/music or tel 03000 680400.
DJ legend Graeme Park (pictured below) on why putting a classical spin on some Haçienda anthems is music to his audience’s ears:
THIS IS THE FOURTH YEAR of Haçienda Classical and it’s been an amazing journey and lasted far longer than anyone ever expected. When we found out that Forest Live was an option we were so excited. I mean how could you say no playing in such a beautiful setting in the countryside? We enjoy playing in different places but playing outside events is always best. And over the past four years we’ve been so fortunate with the weather too. I think there was one gig where it rained but everyone was still really into it.
THE SET COMPRISES 20 SONGS some people will know and love and a few they might have forgotten about. But when they hear them they’ll be like ‘oh yes! I remember this!’ It’s all about getting the balance right between the ones everyone loves and the ones that have been forgotten about slightly but are still great. As we’re now in our fourth year we can’t just do the same thing all the time so we change things around. For this year there will be a few big club tunes from this century which will really work well with the orchestra, and a few we’ve done before but they will be sounding even better this time as we have had the time to enhance them.
WITHOUT GIVING TOO MUCH AWAY we have Peter Hook performing with us and we will be playing Blue Monday! That will be absolutely epic to hear with full orchestra and Hook’s seminal bassline played live. We always play Black Box’s Ride on Time which is usually the last song before the encore – but not this year. We’ve found something that will blow people’s minds – there’s also going to be an amazing intro number too . . .
IT’S FAIRLY SIMPLE TO TRANSLATE A HOUSE HIT TO CLASSIC as a lot of original tracks were made on raw equipment but hearing them differently you suddenly realise how amazing the original records were. But orchestras can’t do electronic drums or pounding electronic basslines, which are the heart of those records so that’s the bit I do; all the live stuff like scratching as you can’t fake that. Once I’ve created the score and vocals you can only change minor things. And that’s the total opposite to when I am DJing by myself as I’m in total control. In this situation I’m following the conductor but there’s still a bit of spontaneity, which is how I like it!
Who’s on and when
Friday: Foals with special guests Yak and opening support from Kiev
Saturday: DJ Graeme Park’s Haçienda Classical with executive producer Peter Hook and special guests Manchester Camerata Orchestra. Support is from K-Klass
Sunday: Paul Weller with support from Stone Foundation
Three facts about Forest Live
Over 1.75million people have attended a forest gig in the last 18 years
Money raised from ticket sales helps to look after the nation’s forests sustainably, for people to enjoy and wildlife to thrive
Bedgebury can host over 5,000 fans for gigs. The capacities vary around the country for the Forest Live venues