Festival watch: Caught By the River Thames – review

Fulham Palace, London
A small-scale gem, this multi-arts park festival boasts great twin headline slots from Super Furry Animals and Low

The vibe

Not just boutique but super-bijou, this minuscule, highly chilled two-day urban festival in the grounds of Fulham Palace set out to combine nature, literature, poetry, psychogeography, silent film screenings, a genuinely eclectic musical lineup and global eats in a park setting near the river: a hip village fete, really. The sun deigned to show its face, and the craft beer, mead and heinously over-priced Pimm’s flowed freely.

The crowd

Music lovers of a certain vintage, young couples toting babies, a smattering of curious locals (residents could get a 2-for-1 deal), a scattering of jazzbos there for Ethiopian legend Mulatu Astatke, Super Furry Animals fans. It was the sort of festival where the talent had to patronise the same food vans as the crowd, so you could say “merci” in person to Imarhan, the Tuareg rockers, as they got their rotis.

Best act

A tie between the two headliners, Low and Super Furry Animals. Low remain a wonder – a spell-binding, slow-burn three-piece who combined existential doom (The Innocents) and tenderness (What Part of Me) as dusk fell. SFA’s newest song, Bing Bong, was adopted as the official song of the Welsh football team and roused the blanket-sitters to their feet, while Gruff Rhys held up signs at intervals – “Louder”, said one, “Go apeshit”, said another. Instead of an encore, they reprised The Man Don’t Give a Fuck in yeti costumes.

Low headlining day one of Caught by the River Thames.
‘They remain a wonder’: Low headlining day one of Caught by the River Thames. Photograph: James Berry/LFI/Photoshot

And the worst…

Not so much the worst as the most disappointing, Kate Tempest was in conversation with our own Miranda Sawyer, and space in the small room far outstripped demand.

Best discovery

The Be collective playing their album One on the Saturday involved classical and drone-rock musicians playing along to the sampled buzzing of a Nottinghamshire beehive. Unexpectedly moving.

Best dressed

Friends of the Earth volunteers sweltered in bee costumes, highlighting the plight of the pollinators.

Overheard

“There’s a PokéStop on the fir-cone sculpture near the first aid tent!”

Best Tweet

Pete Fowler, Super Furry Animals artist‑in-residence:

Going to make my ‘traditional’ test mask before the @tweetbytheriver Thames fest tomorrow. If you’re coming, make masks with me. For £0.00

— Pete Fowler (@themonsterist) August 5, 2016

Contributor

Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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