110 Above Festival – Camping Sessions Review

A 2 day socially-distanced festival

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Not to brag, but I went to a festival at the weekend. Not sitting in someones garden watching the highlights of Glastonbury on iPlayer surrounded by bunting, an actual festival with camping, crap beer on tap and live bands.

Heralded as one of the UK’s best kept secrets when it comes to live music, 110 Above usually plays host to numerous indie acts across a 3 day weekend at their farm site in Leicestershire. Over the years they’ve gained a reputation for showcasing the best in up and coming new talents with the likes of The Magic Gang, Circa Waves, Easy life and Bloxx having set foot on the festivals multiple, intimate stages in recent years. 

With restrictions easing in the UK (Note as of the time of writing this has now changed) 110 Above took it upon themselves to save 2020 by hosting Camping Sessions – a 2 day socially-distanced festival with indie bands playing their hits acoustically. 

Save the summer of 2020, 110 Above quite possibly did

In order to enforce social-distancing, you’d expect the restrictions to suck the fun out of live music. Upon arrival at the campsite/stage it was evident that the possibility for mixing with others was not happening. Each group (consisting of no more than 6) had a designated spot to camp in, which you could also see the stage from. If you didn’t fancy the view from your tent, the organisers had marked out socially distanced circles in the grass for you to take your chairs and sit. Each had a fantastic view of the tiny, teepee stage.

Personally I’m a big convert to sitting down at festivals all day. This is how I should be able to enjoy music, without the leg pain of standing up too much!

110 Above Festival Camping Sessions stage
A tent was this year’s only stage

Despite many of the artists being relatively unseasoned, each held their own on such an intimate stage. First up on Saturday, were Only Sun who openly admitted they were scared witless, not being able to hide behind their usual guitar noise, joking that the bassist had spent last night learning to play the songs on guitar.

Effortlessly charming, showcasing incredible vocals and playing their ode to the NHS they started the day off on the right note. They were swiftly followed by 20 year old Andrew Cushin who has recently had the pleasure of recording with a Gallagher brother (he also has a very Oasis vibe). 

Olivia Dean was an absolute revelation, her voice summoning similarities to the spirit of Amy Winehouse. Her acoustic version of Password Change is a mournful tune of a failing relationship set against the backdrop of the World Cup. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Throughout the day The Howl & The Hum put in an equally atmospheric set whilst Kawala made an impression as the sun started to go down as they rattled through some familiar songs such as Do It Like You Do and Ticket To Ride. Having spent the summer touring on their Carwala Boot Tour around the UK they probably had less cobwebs to blow off then other acts however it felt like the “bad boys of folk” perfectly encapsulated the atmosphere of the festival.

110 Above Festival Camping Sessions atmosphere
Queues were non-existent

Unsurprisingly this was probably the friendliest festival I’ve ever been to, the bar and toilet queues were non-existent and the small number of people there meant you could socially-distanced mingle with the artists.

The downside to this is when you can hear other bands making derogatory comments about the female artist on stage, there isn’t a place for some of the comments I overheard. 

The other absolute downside to this festival was the lack of catering choice with only a bbq on offer. I love to live off street food Mac & Cheese at festivals, working my way through the different toppings and I’m always bitterly disappointed when there isn’t a truck selling this. 

Food choice aside, the team at 110 Above should be really proud of their work on Camping Sessions. It was a beautiful slice of normality within a very weird year. 

Emily Stewart

Emily Stewart is a freelance music journalist for Indie Is Not A Genre.

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