For a June weekend every year the dark and dangerous spirit of jazz puts up its feet and totally chillaxes at Love Supreme, hardly even bothering to take a toke on a jazz cigarette, let alone letting all hell break loose.
I experienced one moment of extreme danger during the weekend mind you – when I dropped my Waitrose loyalty card in the midst of the dancing crowd during Funkadelic’s fantastic set. Scrabbling around on the ground amongst all those stomping feet searching for this very un-radical card is, I feel, a near perfect metaphor for the general vibe of this festival.
Love Supreme is not wild, sometimes it feels a bit over-safe perhaps (I doubt many Waitrose cards get dropped at Reading Festival), but hey, it completely excels at delivering an uber-relaxed garden party vibe. It’s a wonderful place to take it easy, to let your troubles drift away on a mellifluous cloud of bebop and jazz funk and experience a better, more perfect world: green, sun-blessed and gorgeous.
It’s billed as a jazz festival of course and indeed there is a fair bit of jazz in evidence, some excellent, especially on the seven smaller stages, but the main stage fare would struggle to satisfy a jazz aficionado I suspect. At Love Supreme, as the compare in the Bands and Voices tent told us, “Jazz encompasses everything and everything encompasses jazz”. Well, if you say so.
The festival certainly knows its market though and as far as the main stage goes it’s often a nostalgia fest. This year it was the turn of Elvis Costello and Earth Wind and Fire to headline on the Saturday and Sunday evenings. I’m in the tiny minority judging by the very enthusiastic reception both bands received, but I couldn’t help finding these main acts just a little bit tired, a sorry pastiche of their once exceptional vitality and relevance.
Having said that the previously mentioned Funkadelic, hardly new kids on the block (led by the venerable George Clinton and merged with its sister act Parliament), which preceded EW&F on the main stage, were nothing short of cosmically hard-core brilliant, proof if proof is needed that age really does not have to whither. They were exciting and super sexy and, well, funky with a capital F. The weekend would have been more than worth it just to witness them tearing the whole place down.
It wasn’t just about Funkadelic though. The compact Bands and Voices stage was a revelation, with one extraordinary act following another. I loved it. Okay, it was less about music (although there was a quorum) and more about a much wider interpretation of jazz, with some incredible urban dancers, a fabulous tribute to Josephine Baker, a delightfully sassy ‘Golden Age of Jazz and Vaudeville’ act, some decent enough poetry, remarkable living room circus performers The Locksmiths, and a whole more. I spent many a happy hour in this tent over the weekend, chancing upon it while seeking shade from the wonderful but merciless sunshine.
Surprisingly perhaps the sell out crowd was really pretty mixed, with a good proportion of all ages and types represented. In fact at the front during Earth Wind and Fire I was astonished to find myself surrounded by around 40 blond Midwich Cuckoo-esque mid-teen girls, all dancing and screaming in wild excitement at the band as if they were watching One Direction (please substitute your own more up to date example here) rather than a bunch of largely 70 year olds in waist-bulging white spandex.
For me Love Supreme is a banker, an excellent mid range gently feel good festival you’ll be hard pressed not to enjoy. Its Down-land setting is gorgeous, the site is well organised, the festival is excellently run as a whole, the acts are varied (there’s pretty much something for everyone), there are plenty of excellent activities for kids, the atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly, there’s a decent healing area, the loos and camping are as good as any (if sometimes inevitably a little overcrowded), and the range of food stalls is excellent for a festival of this size.
Come along next year, you’ll have a lot of fun. Don’t though come expecting too much wildness and debauchery…or if you do don’t forget to let me know. As one very drunk woman told me, her voice slurring impressively: “This place isn’t for all nighters. We got chucked out of the main arena at 2am. We were really pissed off as the dance tent was really good and we weren’t ready for bed – the least they could do is put on a silent disco after hours or something.”
I can’t personally vouch for this 2am eviction as, obviously, I was safely tucked up in my tent in my M&S winceyette pyjamas by this ungodly hour, drinking Waitrose own brand hot chocolate. But organisers take note, a late night silent disco is not such a bad idea…
Published on 15 July 2018 by Neil del Strother