On Friday afternoon, the bands are silenced by a specially commissioned jet flying over the site. Saturday night's main stage entertainment – DJ sets from 2ManyDJs and Faithless – are spectacularly upstaged by the exploding of a pirate ship in the middle of the lake, which was already besieged by a giant octopus. It's fair to say music is a secondary concern at Secret Garden Party, the surreal hedonist's retreat. It's tough to watch the Family Rain impersonate the White Stripes when you know that, elsewhere, you can watch pig racing, or visit The Pool of Naked Liberation, or catch David Icke fudging astute arguments on western imperialism with claims that we're all holograms. Who would choose to catch Lissie's Rumours-esque rock rather than get ninja training, cheer on the festival's annual Dave-Off or have their buttocks read by an "asstrologer"?

Of course, there are musical gems. Amid the sprawling tree roots of the Where the Wild Things Are stage, dances through a beguiling array of glacial pop, part Mazzy Star, part Garbage; and Wolf Alice – part Mazzy Star, part Breeders – dazzle despite being beset by bees. The Strypes fit with the Secret Garden Party's through-the-looking-glass oeuvre by taking the main stage back to 1961 for an hour. And Django Django – Alt-J for ravers – deliver a stunning Friday headline set of haunted, mathtronic party tunes.

Unannounced DJ turns from Chase & Status and Jarvis Cocker jostle for event status, but Sunday's headliner Regina Spektor steals the show. Pausing songs to save insects that get caught on her piano keys, Spektor skips artfully from Cossack balladry to breezy showtune to reggae-lite to foul-mouthed pirate shanty, oddball jumps that are so wonderfully charming they make the Secret Garden Party seem a must-revisit. And next time wearing a fairy-light man-bra.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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