It's all very cosy and indier-than-thou. People walking around with copies of the Guardian colour supplement and pocketsfull of green CDs, drinking real ale and banana smoothies. Ice cream from the vicar and bags of penny sweets. Frisbees and arthritic-looking collie dogs that must belong to the farm we're on as animals are banned.
Certain things are banned, yes. Glass bottles (and, champagne excepted, I don't see any). Fire and flares (the nearest thing I see is a cap gun). And between the law-abiding musicos with their parents/children, and chemical toilets kept clear and clean, it makes for a festival that's neither smokey nor stinky. Nobody seemed too put out by this, either, except maybe one lightless smoker I saw, stumbling from group to group of health-conscious 25-35 year-olds, desperately looking for a match. If only he'd felt confident enough to ask the 14 year-olds.
And yet ... even though half the bands are an exercise in showing how clever they are (rapping about statistics and Macbeth, songs about mathematics, biology, the nature of sound) it isn't altogether a festival of square angelic goodness. I watch little girls doing interpretive dance to oversexed explicit queercore, teenage boys pogoing while a lead singer shoves his guitar aside and masturbates on stage. Pie-eyed pass-outs and staggering roaring boys and girls. Nothing nasty, though, or rather it is, but it's nasty in all the right ways, like a game where no-one's started playing dirty yet.
I listen to stuff I've never heard of, get some free CDs. Phone my mum drunkenly while someone warbles away on the acoustic tent (conveniently right next to the real ale white van). Donate money to the Sudan appeal, get claustrophobia, agoraphobia and synaesthesia. Suffer the usual dilemma of seeing the local people whose names I know or the people from Wales (Los Angeles, Tokyo) I've never heard of. I'm hungover from last night's birthday party, but on the whole, I do OK.
Sunday I remember to take the right coat and things are instantly better. We hover round the back of the Barn while small kids roar and smaller kids dance to the roaring. Last year this stage was in a tiny room on the side; now it has the whole space, the old space relegated to a sort of antechamber of ROCK. The sound is good, although stagediving is never going to be very popular in a place where what you'll land on is concrete and ground-in cow. The other stages are the back of a flat-bed truck, a weddingy marquee with hardcore underfoot and a rather inadequate scout tent, where I arrive just in time to hear someone called Arse to Mouth sing a song called Mister Sister. It's a squeeze, but I feel appreciated.
We play with friendly hoverflies and pushy wasps. Are fed crumpets by a nice lady in silky pajamas. A man painted up as a badger insists on trying on my coat, then gives me free beer. I read comics while listening to a string of next big things with family names like Sons and Daughters and Simple Kid. There's a spatter of rain, but it's half-hearted, and nobody takes it seriously.
Around six-thirty, the music hits a trough and I go walkabouts, looking for something other than corn and trees. Almost all the traders have gone, but I get talking to a local craftslady who specialises in making salt pigs to match posh lady's agas. She's had a fantastic weekend, and next year plans to bring nothing but mistakes and seconds. "I didn't think the people here would be into pots," she said, "But it's been amazing. Everyone loves the ones with cracked glaze and wobbly edges. The imperfects."
I get back in time to see naked screaming japanese boys with guitars on the main stage.
Download corner: Wish those pesky rappers would say something challenging and intellectual instead of all that cr*p about bitches and hoes? You need M C Lars. He's studying English at Stanford, you know ... Where are all the lovely wistful happy pretty girlies? Well, here's one! She's called Piney Gir, and she's also in the glam dressed-up cabaret-y Schla La Las ... Soft-hearted geek electronica pride float your boat? Here's Trademark, lab-coated lecturers in love and mathematics ... Masturbate on that sexy drummer you love with My Red Cell ... Synaesthesic lass would like to point out that music by undertheigloo smells like lilac and primroses, jam (berry, cherry, plum and damson) and bracken, except for the last track they played, which tasted dangerously poisonous. Results are not guaranteed, but it's nice soft-touch stuff ... Kill the sugar with monstrous confusing noise from Nervous Test Pilot ... More musical collage from A Scholar and Physician, who seem rather different every time I see them ... and Simple Kid, who go well with reading comics in the evening.
You'll just have to take my word that Misty's Big Adventure, The Evenings, Villa Real and Arse to Mouth were also very fine. Although, if you've listened to the above, you may have come to the conclusion that what I have is not exactly taste, but more like appetite.
Rural aside: the headline from Sunday's Oxford Mail was Truck and Game Fair - Photo Special.