Unless you were one of the rare, lucky few with a ticket to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, there was only one other place to be last weekend. In a giant field, in the depths of Cornwall, at the one and only Leopallooza festival. It all started 7 years ago when a bloke called Lee had a farm in Africa, oops, I mean Bude. His childhood days of riding his Chopper bike through puddles and running through the trees had come to a halt, and The Wyldes farm was slowing down. The music scene was heading to Cornwall, and with a vast field just sitting there growing dandelions, Lee and his mates decided to get together and host a party like no other. They built a makeshift stage out of reclaimed wood and invited local bands to perform. Around 250 guests turned up that year, bringing their own homemade cider and munching overcooked charcoal burgers. All as happy as Larry. Whoever he may be. It was a huge success and even though it was the first party, it certainly wasn't to be the last. They derived the name Leopallooza as a play on words from the Chicago-based festival, Lollapalooza as an ode to founder, Lee. Now heading towards its 8th year, Leopallooza is up there on the festival radar, attracting crowds of around 4,000 who come from far and wide. But their motto remains: 'The Greatest House Party... In A Field' and it's spot on.
I went to Leopallooza 2012 last weekend with a bunch of friends and had a ball. Even though Leopallooza is David to Glasto's Goliath, it's big enough to exude an exciting, busy and buzzing vibe with loads to see and do. Yet not too big or overcrowded that you spend hours queuing for the loo or the bar or walking around aimlessly trying to find your mates. Being totally uncommercial and unbranded, Leopallooza has a lovely organic, down-to-earth feel and is completely unpretentious. If you're Too Cool for School, a Diva or a Try Hard, this one ain't for you! But if you're happy perching on a hay bale, sipping cider in the sunshine and listening to some relatively unknown tunes, step this way...
There's a proper party atmosphere at Leopallooza, and a real sense of community - everyone just getting along. And if you enjoy people-watching, then you'll be in heaven as there are people from all walks of life just doing their thing and some wearing the craziest of outfits, but no one bats an eyelid. Anything goes. I spotted Spiderman crowd-surfing; emos braving the daylight; men in maxi dresses busting some moves; hairy-biker types wearing tutus; kids doing stunts on skateboards; a couple of old-timers raving in their pants, and a man spray-painting a face onto half a car. It's all very random and yet very normal (with a hint of feral).
Being a music festival, there are four stages ranging from dance to folk. Once we'd danced our flip-flops off in the dance tent, it was off to the bar to stock up on cider, before finding a grassy pew to watch some of the mainstage bands. As mentioned, Leopallooza promotes up & coming bands from across the UK, be it Indie, folk, hip-hop and pop. Bands performing this year included Brother & Bones; Lucy Rose; The Computers and dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip. I won't pretend I've heard of many, if any of these bands, but the ones I saw were great. Man Like Me was especially excellent and had the crowd eating out of their hands.
One of the Leoapallooza traditions is the Burning Car. At the first party, some bloke drove a car into the field, then turned it into a bonfire. Every year the car gets tarted up (well as much as you can tart up a burnt-out car), is filled with logs and at dusk it is set alight making a perfect bonfire vessel.
If you fancy a spot of shopping, then there's a little merchandise tent selling t-shirts in all shapes and sizes. There's even a tent where you can recharge your mobile phone or camera charger. And if you're wondering what to do with the kids, then take them along. I spotted some really cool kids there - some rocking on dads' shoulders, some sporting painted animal faces, others skateboarding and riding BMX bikes, and a few just blowing bubbles and eating ice cream at the Roller Disco. In the words of Sly & The Family stone, it's a family affair.
If you want to escape the music, there are a multitude of (very reasonably-priced) bars scattered around, including a lovely one hidden in the woods which looks so magical at night when you see the lights glowing in the trees, I have no doubt that goblins and faeries can be found drinking there. Cider is definitely the beverage of choice at Leopallooza, with a wide variety ranging from refreshing and fruity to homemade rocket fuel. Fear not non-cider drinkers, other drinks are available. As for food, again you're spoilt for choice at Palloozaville, as there are loads of little independent huts and tents selling all sorts of tasty treats from pulled pork, nachos and burgers to crepes, hot dogs and jambalaya. Although for the out-of-towners amongst us, unless I missed it, I would have liked to have seen a Cornish cream tea and Cornish pasty tent on offer.
One of the best things about Leopallooza is the fact that it won't break the bank. Guess how much it costs for a 3 day weekend ticket including camping? Go on, take a guess. Give up? Okay, I'll tell you. Fifty quid. Yes, you heard right, that's a bargain £50 for a weekend of fun times. And if you like a bit of luxury, you can always go mad and buy a VIP (Very Important Pallooza) ticket for £100 which gives you access to posh loos, showers, backstage performances, a private bar and complimentary food and drink tokens. But even though it's VIP, it's not stuffy. Leopallooza doesn't do stuffy. And considering Team Pallooza organise this festival for free and purely for the love of it, you've got to admit, it's all fantastically affordable.
Finally, if you're not from those parts but do decide to venture to Leopallooza, it's worth remembering how close you are to the sea. Bude is literally a 10 minute drive away so it could be an idea to incorporate a seaside excursion whilst you're there. Coming from London, we took the First Great Western train from Paddington to Bodmin Parkway which was a lovely leisurely journey, watching the cityscape gently merge into rolling fields and sea views. From Bodmin you can grab a cab or hire a car and be at Leopallooza in around 40 minutes. And if camping isn't your (sleeping) bag, then I can highly recommend staying at Lower Tresmorn Farm - a wonderful B&B at nearby Crackington Haven.
Leopallooza has come a long way since its low-key humble beginnings in 2006 and is set to be even bigger and better next year. But fear not, it'll never be too big for its own wellies! And with no Olympic excuses in 2013, that means there's only one place to be next July.
Get ready for the 8th Leopallooza in July 2013!