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Festival Review: Secret Garden Party 09

Headliner Jarvis Cocker invites the crowd onstage...

Ever wanted to take a trip to Narnia? Or live out your fantasies jumping around a small field dressed in nothing but a top hat, body paint and leaves? To rave it up with fawns, neon men and Adam and Eve?

Welcome to Secret Garden Party 2009 – a boutique festival and sensory overload with a twist. As ‘Gardeners’, you’re as much of a part of the self-expression as the organisers. But don’t worry, it’s not too ‘hippie/ trustafarian/ beard stroke-y’. It’s a party, simple as – and the main thing is to come in fancy dress.

Hundreds of crazed fans (weirdly mostly dressed as clams) invaded the natural amphitheatre of the Great Stage as Jarvis Cocker fringe-flicked and eyebrow-raised his way through Black Magic and tunes from his second album Further Complications.

Scenesters flocked to check out the coolest band to come from France, Phoenix, as they belted out a singalong set including Run, Run, Run and Too Young.

Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela caused a ‘flamenco-off’ to their heavy metal covers of Metallica's Orion and Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven. Plus, Brits The Invisible and Speech Debelle represented this year’s Mercury-nominated acts to watch out for.

Other talking points included the calypso funk band dangling from a large tree… and the intoxicated pianist (plus piano) who attempted to recreate that the following day.

The scenery was all a bit Caligula meets Alice in Wonderland. You could get lost in glades, mud-wrestle, then scrub the filth off with the other unwashed masses in an illuminated lake, funk out to Michael Jackson tunes on its floating Tower of Babel, take a trip through an enchanted fireplace into world where lampshades grow on trees - and dance as the lake’s stage is set on fire (think Burning Man stylee).

This year’s theme was Babylon to Eden - think debauchery, temptation (siren snakes and apples) and downright WTF?! lunacy (‘that’ guy with a 7ft carrot on his head). First-timers needn’t have worried - Prangsta Costumiers boudoir were on hand to pimp-your-clothes, kitting out the unprepared in appropriately outlandish and extravagant attire.

Get involved in the visual orgy at SGP 2010. We’re all Gardeners at heart.

By Lisa Goldapple