Review: ExeFest 2017

Last year, Tristan Gatward’s campaign for the position of VP Activities created a substantial buzz when he promised to organise Exeter’s first campus music festival. After much preparation, the University of Exeter’s inaugural music evening, suitably named ExeFest, certainly did not disappoint.

ExeFest had a lot to compete with, taking place a week after Hijacked and the Poltimore Festival and a day after the Enchanted Garden Ball. Waking up to grey clouds and rain, I was initially apprehensive as to whether ExeFest would live up to the events of the previous week. Yet I need not have worried. Arriving at the Forum, I found campus to be transformed. Not only had the sun come out, the Forum piazza was alive and bustling, with food and drinks trucks offering a variety of cuisine. Local favourites Hubbox and The Stable demonstrated that this was a distinctively ‘Exeter’ festival, and attendees were also able to enjoy a range of beers from Devon’s Otter Brewery in the Ram Garden.

The festival was structured around two stages of music, the Main Stage of the Great Hall and the Garden Stage in the Ram Garden. It was clear that a lot of effort had been put into the timetable of the day, as festival goers could move easily between the two stages to see acts playing on both.

Originally due to play the last set of the evening, Flyte’s move to an afternoon slot was a great success, as their infectious brand of alternative-pop perfectly suited the summery outdoors of the Garden Stage. Focusing mainly on performing new songs, such as ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Harley Street’, Flyte gave fans an excellent preview of what to expect on their upcoming debut album.

Following on the Garden Stage, Alice Jemima was a particularly standout act of the day. Having already brought her lyrical acoustics to the Lemmy earlier this year as part of the Provide a Pad fundraiser, Alice provided another captivating and intimate performance. Her cover of Alt-J’s ‘Breezeblocks’ was especially atmospheric, as Alice’s airy vocals mingled with an electro beat to add her own delicate spin to the track. Original songs ‘Dodged A Bullet’ and ‘Liquorice’ were also delivered with considerable charm.

In the Great Hall, guilty pleasures Wheatus and the Hoosiers performed their famous hits, which were received with much excitement from the crowd. Tracks such as ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and ‘Goodbye Mr A’ provided the ultimate throwback, perfect for fans of Cheesy Tuesdays. On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, London-based band SWEAT, fresh from appearing at SXSW in the U.S., gave a raucously energetic synth-pop performance. However the highlight of the Main Stage was German act Cascada, who performed all their early-noughties hits with aplomb. Cascada had excellent stage presence, and had everyone singing along to dance hits ‘Everytime We Touch’ and ‘Evacuate the Dancefloor’. Example and DJ Wire gave the final performance in the Great Hall, which was a roaring success, combining original tunes with lively remixes of chart hits.

Mixed in with the big names were a variety of student-led acts, notably Battle of the Bands winners Psychopomp, Soul Choir, and Semi-Toned. It was great to see smaller bands being showcased throughout the day, demonstrating the range of talent that we have here in Exeter. Recent alumni OMYO closed the Garden Stage with a rousing finish. Their new track ‘Mysterious Girl’, soon to be featured in an advertising campaign for Accessorize, had a particularly enthusiastic reception.

The day came to a close with a club-style afterparty in the Great Hall. Luckily, the rain continued to hold off, and many of us were able to enjoy the Silent Disco in the Ram Garden. Attendees were able to switch between two channels, ‘pop and guilty pleasures’ and ‘indie rock hits’, meaning that the disco could be enjoyed by those with a range of music tastes. I found this to be the main success of the day. It illustrated that clear attention had been given to ensuring that there was something for everyone. ExeFest brought together fans with diverse musical interests, by mixing small indie bands with well-known chart-toppers. This definitely made for an eclectic and enjoyable day, and I sincerely hope that ExeFest 2017 will be the first of many.

– Isabelle Kemp

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