It is indeed a wonderful thing, these little sibling festivals that pop up from time to time. No Direction Home festival was spawned from the creators of the successful Dorset-based End of the Road festival. This inaugural small festival, nestled in the sprawling grounds of the Welbeck Abbey Estate, is deep inside Nottinghamshire woods, home to the likes of Robin Hood, Friar Tuck. His band of merry men would have surely enjoyed the fun had over the weekend; music, food, drinks, films, laughter and games.
We set up our tent on the damp early Friday afternoon after watching the rain come and go during the entire bus ride up from Brighton. The weather gods would be kind to us for most of the weekend, only a slight drizzle for the first two days, never dampening the spirits of the crowds, and even giving us some much needed sunshine on the last day.
Diagrams were the first band we watched on Friday, we’d recently caught them supporting Gomez in Brighton and had been well impressed. They didn’t fail to impress again at the Lake stage and handed out balloons before the last song of their set and encouraged the crowd to go wild with them. Django Django followed with their happy indie pop that drew a large crowd to the stage.
The highlight of the first night and the entire weekend for me was seeing the amazing Dirty Three. Wild man Warren Ellis never fails to entertain a crowd, regardless of the mood he’s in. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them since I discovered Ocean Songs almost 15 years ago. Jim White sits over his tiny drum kit and seduces it with imagination; a flurry of swirling brushes and sticks. Mick Turner hunched over his guitar, closely watching the both of them for slight nuances in the songs. Ellis even ended the show with a request from myself, Sue’s Last Ride.
The Low Anthem were a quieter end to the night playing their lonely sad sounding Americana. They’ve recently lost good friend and band-mate Mat Davidson and singer Ben Knox Miller admitted that they missed him dearly; I think you could feel it too.
Our Saturday started with bacon making, cheese tasting and Indian flat bread making demos – all arranged by the local School of Artisan Food. We caught the last of David Thomas Broughton’s set at the Electric Dustbowl stage and then watched Other Lives. We’d not heard of them before, but their blend of Americana folk tunes was right up our alley.
We’d been looking forward to catching Andrew Bird again, we’d briefly seen him earlier in the afternoon at the Rough Trade tent and got a record signed but he wasn’t a man of many words, not to us anyway. His stage was adorned with the rotating horn speaker and he whistled, played and sang his way through a bunch of songs from his latest gorgeous album Break It Yourself.
A very lazy Sunday meant we didn’t catch a lot of bands except for the talented Joshua Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty. His didn’t let his lack of a backing band bother him as he joked and belted his way through songs from his Fear Fun album.
A visit to the Lost Picture Show to see the cycling classic Breaking Away completed our festival weekend. A small festival, a great eclectic line-up of bands that really looked like they enjoyed being there, great food and friendly people in a wonderful scenic setting meant for a thoroughly enjoyable No Direction Home Festival.