Aug 26-27, Various Venues, Totnes
The advantage of Sea Change is its location of Totnes; a fiercely independent town and home to the wildly impressive Drift Records, the owner of which set up the festival.
I found the camping area in the beautiful Dartington Estate easily; a short walk through the woods and we emerged into the sunshine of Station Road half way through the Friday when the atmosphere was already giddy.
The largest of the active venues over the weekend was the Civic Hall; a piece of Brutalist architecture nestled in the corner of the market square. The Parrots brought optimistic Spanish garage rock, Ultimate Painting & Toy both delivered hugely entertaining psych rock inflected Indie, Luke Abbot tinkered weirdly and I was gutted to miss The Membranes.
Just over the road was St Mary’s Church- easily the most striking venue; the original church was completed in 1450 on its site, its predecessor dedicated in 1259 and lovingly restored in the mid nineteenth century. The intricacies of the stone screen and the lofty ceilings formed a superb backdrop to the artists that had the opportunity to play such a unique space; highlights of which were Joan Shelley and her guitarist Nathan Salsburg, the heroic Death Shanties sax and drums jazz weirdness, the cerebral electronics of Howes, Lux Harmonium, and many others that I missed.But for all of Friday’s intriguing acts, this festival came into its own on Saturday, the first of my personal highlights being Matthew & Me’s elegant yet powerful indie pop which belie the groups youth and surely prefix their entrance into the national musical consciousness.The festivals more alternative corner was South Devon Arts Centre and the Quietus stage; tucked away in an industrial estate and fronted by a huge peaked marquee; up some stairs is a balcony that wraps around the top floor giving you a perfect view of the stage.
My other highlights for the weekend are undeniably what I witnessed there in lieu of the official weekenders British Sea Power. Teeth of the Sea was a mix of phenomenally confident industrial psychedelia and organic electronic soundscapes which genuinely astonished.Richard Dawson invited us generously into his intimate personal head space with the kind of command of traditional and alternative folk that cannot come along many times in a generation.
Finally, the stunning Bo Ningen – the sort of live act that leaves you feeling bewildered and dosed for hours afterwards. Overall this festival was delightful, and its curation felt personal, intriguing and the format could certainly work in years to come.