Eden Sessions 2011 - The Eden Project - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Eden Sessions 2011 - The Eden Project

by Miz DeShannon Rating: Release Date:

Curating arts and music performances amongst multi-coloured flowers, Tropical trees, mosaics, sculptures and the sporadic sound of exotic bird calling, with global pop stars and a food policy to only povide hearty healthy grub as well as a fine selection of ales and ciders at the bars, The Eden Project has done a pretty good job of creating a perfect festival oasis. They may have a head-start on the surroundings for their series of one-day festivals - 'Eden Sessions' - but even so, with main stage bills of international acts like Primal Scream, Pendulum, The Flaming Lips and Fleets Foxes, and two smaller spaces for partnerships with global awareness charities such as MaK (Manchester Aid to Kosovo) and showcases from local artists and campaigners, it all made for an ethical production of great proportions.

Not the usual location for you to find a handful of Mancunian musicians doing a charity gig, but the Meditteranean Biome was quite an apt setting in Cornwall's global garden for the MaK charity. A selection of artists who have helped MaK raise money for their first a Peace Park project, such as Josephine, Jo Rose, Liam Frost and The Travelling Band performed, with that charity's founder Pam Dawes introducing poetry and spoken word written by the people of Kosovo about the Park and what it has done for them and their commuity. An all-round wholesome afternoon really, and hardly a dreadlock in sight.

Badly Drawn Boy finished the music on this stage, ever humble and nervous, with absolutely no need to be - according to a local reporter he's one of the biggest things they've had on there as far as the locals are concerned, better known than some of the recent headliners. I'm not too sure whether the statistical evidence would confirm that, as the crowd wasn't as big as you'd expect despite a lovely set of songs from him and his acoustic guitar.

Over to the contrast of The Go! Team on the main stage, doing their two drum kit thing, which were only played together on a couple of songs in the end. After looking forward to seeing such an energetic band live, the emphasis seemed to be on just running around the stage a lot. Although what they do sounds great on paper - indie, rock, hip hop influences - all their songs seemed fairly similar, noise-shout-noise-shout, the odd melody floating through and Ninja's vocals fast merging into a whole with the rest of the, erm, noise.

After some falaffel and a pale ale, the sun was making moves to set and The Flaming Lips were about to rise and shine (bad link there...). With the stage set-up looking like a risk assessor's nightmare, Wayne Coyne rather responsibly did a special introduction about safety for children and vulnerable members of the audience watching the strobes and the other contraptions lying about, then promptly popped inside his space-ball and rolled around on top of everyone for five minutes or so. This was the beginning of a set which revolves, and has done for a while, around space travel and adventure stories, treading along similar lines of conceptual ideas of The Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' and Pink Floyd's The Wall.

A traditional psychedelic rock band with bizarre ideas for performances which really push the boundaries of production, their show involved giant exploding balloons, coloured streamers and glitter cannons, big screen animations and film footage, dressed up dancers and a huge laser show, their ethos of creating monumental performances and encouraging participation suiting the setting perfectly. Despite wondering whether the visuals took over the songs, finishing with 'Do You Realise?' was quite a moment, with psychedelic projections and green and red lasers bouncing off the giant glitter ball, around the beautifully lit biomes.

So, day two and headliners Fleet Foxes had something monumental to live up to it seems. A more laid back day all round, the Meditteranean biome was filled with poetry, talks and spoken word including Geordie comedian and poet Kate Fox and Lemn Sissay, official poet for the London 2012 Olympics and fellow Mancunian. Both embracing the space and the activities going on there, Fox had audience members making animal noises whilst Sissay held discussions with his own poetry books. Quite a vibrant and fun feeling to the slightly sombre mood of the occupiers of this stage yesterday.

We found a gospel choir out by the ethical cafe, and some local musicians on a stage tucked into the landscaped hillside amongst the wildflowers of the outdoor biome. More mellifluous moments came from The Villagers on the main stage, their folk Americana would have well suited a support slot from yesterday's visitors The Travelling Band, but instead we got The Bees who did a kind of middle-of-the-road slightly uninspiring set. This drop in audible treats had given time for a quick look in the Rainforest biome, a warm oasis of calm and tranquility, full of exotic flowers, rainforest education, and a huge waterfall which must have been 50ft tall.

It's the second time this year I've seen Fleet Foxes at sunset, and again this was a great setting for their music. In total contrast to the previous day's headliners, the focus was on ambient and laid-back performance, zero visuals, a simple black backdrop, and nothing being rocketed out into the crowd. The set seemed to take a while to get going, some songs seeming a bit too laid-back and the band seemed half asleep, but once it did, piano, double bass, flute and guitar sounds floated across the sunlit hills making a dreamy sunset serenade hand-in-hand with vocal harmonies Clannad would be envious of. With the biggest crowd of the series, Fleet Foxes enthralled the audience with their music alone, the 'ones you know' ending in sing-along, the 'ones you don't know' still pleasing and ending in rapturous applause.

A good performance in my book should be an attack on the senses; aural delights, visual pleasures, emotional journeys and taste sensations. Well maybe not essentially the latter, but definitely great things to see and hear. Eden Sessions has actually satisfied each wish: great performances, varied atmospheres, throwing in much needed environmental ideas, ethical beliefs and quality control without ramming it down your throat Bono-style, yet making everything seem laid-back and so happy, and more to boot. Everyone seemed pretty awestruck upon leaving, senses duly attacked. Already looking forward to next year.

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