A medieval jousting tournament, a merry band of bearded ladies and the record-breaking biggest ever cream tea party were just a few of the weird and wonderful sights on display at the second edition of Cornwall’s newest festival, The Great Estate. The musical lineup was the main attraction though, with the main ‘Stage on the Green’ and ‘Madame Wong’s House of Wrong’ providing the best of the weekend’s entertainment, alongside smaller venues tucked away in the prodigious woodlands and grounds of Scorrier House.
An atmospheric set from ambient post-rock group If I Were King was Friday evening’s first highlight, featuring live instrumentation alongside synthesisers and looping effects. Combining Sam Sweeney’s reverb-laden guitar work and vocals with electronic elements, the locally based three-piece created an expansive and mesmeric soundtrack to begin Saturday night’s happenings at Madame Wong’s.
Symphonica Orchestra featuring Mr. Switch took to the main stage shortly afterwards, fusing the classical sound of a string ensemble with classic dance beats. This unique collaboration performed tracks as they’ve never been heard before, with powerful orchestral performances accompanying four-time world champion DJ Mr Switch spinning everything from Dr Dre to Fatboy Slim.
Tankus The Henge brought their self-styled “Gonzo Rock ‘n’ Roll” sound for a late set at Madame Wong’s to close Friday night’s shenanigans. Instantly catchy piano-driven anthems were hammered out by front-man Jaz Delorean as his instrument swayed dangerously to and fro. Punctuated by a heavy brass section and with undertones of gypsy-punk and New Orleans jazz, the London-based band’s rich musical concoction and energetic performance was one of the weekend’s highlights.
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Guitar bands ruled the roost for the Saturday afternoon line-up on the main stage. Young upstarts The Rezner gotthings moving, performing their audacious brand of indie-rock with enough cocksure swagger to make Alex Turner blush. Haunt The Woods changed the mood combining folk balladry with elements of prog-rock, while showing off their soaring vocal harmonies and penchant for epic guitar breaks. Later, an explosive set from Bath-based five-piece Novatines, featuring everything from their raucous debut single ‘Medicine’ to the obligatory cover version of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, kept partygoers fist-pumping into the evening hours.
Acoustic duo Atlantic Bridge were a highlight of Saturday afternoon’s BBC Introducing slot at Madame Wong’s, featuring the vocal harmonies and subtle guitar interplay of brothers Tom and Charlie Scoble. Hailing from Calstock, the duo showcased their talent for diverse song writing before finishing with a charming cover of ‘In Spite of All the Danger’ by The Quarrymen, or “The Beatles before they were The Beatles” as Charlie Scoble explained.
The Charlatans drew the biggest crowd of the weekend as they took to the stage for a headlining slot on Saturday night. Performing tracks from throughout their career, including their latest album ‘Different Days’, the West-Midlands indie-rock heroes kept the tunes rolling as frontman Tim Burgess beamed at the crowds through his characteristic mop of blonde hair. Returning to the stage for an encore after much furore from partygoers, the band wrapped up the show in fine style with their classic 90’s hits ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘Sproston Green’.
The south-west’s finest all-girl rockabilly quartet The Eyelids unleashed their cosmic brand of punk-enthused rock’n’roll on the Main Stage to begin the Sunday afternoon lineup. With twins Louise and Michelle Fowler forming a solid rhythm section of double bass and drums, guitarist Sharon Mitchell ran riot on the fret board while singer Kelly Green exercised her Theremin skills, creating some electronic ambience between her half-sung half-snarled vocals. Expounding everything from existential angst to cannibalism at sea, the local four-piece were the first highlight of the day.
Electronic fusion group Penya took to the stage shortly afterwards, performing their percussion-driven blend of world rhythms. Multi-instrumentalist Lilli Elina switched between bass, traditional Brazilian percussion and soaring Latin American vocals, while band-leader Magnus PI controlled the synths and samples as well as adding guitar to the mix. The dub-enthused trombone of Viva Msimang and ceremonial ‘Batá’ influenced drumming of Jim Le Ms rounded off a vibrant and engrossing soundscape which brought out the sunshine on the main stage.
“Old-time hillbilly mountain music” outfitThe Devil’s Hatband were an unexpected surprise in The Secret Gin Garden. Hailing from the “wild Southwest”, the band showcased their diverse influences, ranging from gospel and jugband blues to country and Americana. Mixing guitar and banjo with easy vocal harmonies and snatches of singing saw and harmonica, the eight-piece produced an entertaining backdrop to the afternoon’s spirit consumption.
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The evening’s proceedings at Madame Wong’s kicked off with self-styled “Redruth rap” duo Hedluv and Passman, performing their take on the Cornish experience over Casio-driven beats. No strangers to controversy, the act are often branded “sick” and “a bit provocative” mainly due to Luke Passey A.K.A. Passman stripping down to just a jockstrap and thrusting vigorously during tracks like ‘Weird Nature’ and ‘Just Let Me Know’. Other highlights included an extended Hendrix-style behind-the-head guitar solo during the fruit preserve-themed ‘Jam On It’, as well as the duo’s popular new single ‘Made In Cornwall’ extolling the virtues of the easy-going Cornish lifestyle while also dropping imagery from region’s nautical and mining past.
Another local act continued the musical mayhem at Madame Wong’s into the evening hours. Billed at the same time as Craig Charles took to the main stage, Leigh Delamere and the Gordanos performed their wild take on boogie woogie, skiffle and pre-war jazz to a small crowd of faithful aficionados. “Is anyone staying in a Caravan this weekend? No? Okay, this is the Duke Ellington classic ‘Tent’” was one quip that emerged from front-man Julian Gaskell’s mostly unintelligible ramblings between the tracks, as the band looked on apprehensively for their next cue. Tearing through covers of Motörhead classic ‘The Ace of Spades’ and obscure reggae track ‘Armagideon Time’, as well as their menacing original ‘The Old Cow Died’, Gaskell barely had time to adjust his spectacles in between attacking his piano and hollering into his microphone. The faux-operatic vocal contributions of banjo player Thomas Sharpe and a few on-stage altercations added a theatrical element which made the group’s performance one of Sunday’s highlights.
Soul Grenades set the mood on the main stage with lead singer Sabina Challenger giving an energetic performance of the group’s original songs over super-tight funk rhythms and a blistering horn section. Funk and soul DJ extraordinaire Craig Charles unleashed his “trunk of funk” on the turntables shortly afterwards, digging out old classics alongside modern party tunes. Keeping the crowds moving towards the midnight hour, Charles wrapped things up with a surreal mashup of ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Uptown Funk’ leaving the masses euphoric and confused in equal measure.