Festival Frolics: Lost In Fictitious Hysteria, Secret Garden Party.

Secret Garden Party. A haven for the deranged, the drinkers and daydreamers. A cross-pollination of fact and fiction that swayed intrinsically, inherently towards the land of fictitious pleasures, a land devoid of time, rationale and logic. Stumbling through rigorous security checks, along with excess cans of Strongbow and hipflasks brimming with backstreet liquor a grip on reality is also deposited in black bin liners at the pearly gates. Well, entrance marquees...

To give a vague, faded and jaded recollection of events almost seems superfluous to any eyes but those of the beholder, so unique an experience is that contained within the Garden's easily scaled perimeter walls. Yet witnessed over three days in these paradisaical realms are burning blimps, ferrets scuttling about in prams, DOGS, Colosseums made from hay bails where gladiators strip naked and writhe about in sepia muck, more outlandish costumes than an extensive Freshers Week set at Bestival and the odd genre-annihilating spot of musical delectation. Nigh on every aestival festival could be exponentially ameliorated were they to pluck a page or two from Mr. Eavis' Worthy Farm annals, although Secret Garden Party, a weekend in which time refracts through prisms of pondweed and murky swamp waters already has everything in its right place. And so as Fionn Regan takes to the Great Stage amidst sky-shaded polystyrene elephants, his Celtic acoustic wizardry wafting overhead, hearts, minds and muddied behinds are all but won. More rambling than an anesthetised Dylan, infinitely more raucous than delicate debut LP The End Of History would suggest, Regan looks a little like an estranged minion from psych pioneers MGMT, his paisley headband billowing in the lakeside breeze. As the sun sets and cider's sunk, Delays take to the Where The Wild Things Are stage, stage being the subjective word as scalps sway before a hollowed boat bow, a confusedly fitting ode to Maurice Sendak's seminal short story of '63. Greg Gilbert still bobs about like Churchill on the backseat of a battered old truck rumbling around in the sands of the Dakar Rally to the soaring synthetics of Lost In A Melody, whilst brother Aaron barks anxiously on the euphorically claustrophobic Panic Attacks.

Both musically and mentally hallucinatory thus far, a mid-afternoon appearance from Sting's little precious I Blame Coco, whilst reeling in a crowd expansive enough to sink the blimp, Coco Sumner meanders all too close to the beaten path of Fearne Cotton approval, her flimsy electro pop combined with overtly predictable lyrical couplets is monotonously grim, Self Machine sounding actively dire as her chiseled cheeks protrude from the shadows of the Great Stage. Far more startling is a sleepy afternoon set by Scot songstress Pearl and the Puppets. Evidently her song names are as inspiring as Liam Gallagher's clothing range and she's as wet as the spectating sodden lake swimmers and filthy mud slingers but the likes of Make Me Smile and Mango Tree are beguiling in their simplicity and in the crystalline clarity of Pearl's angelic vocal chords. And Because I Do is the best song never to have been made ubiquitous through the medium of advertising soundtracking the latest i(Phone/Tunes/Pod) dance. Equally, no, far more magnificent are Summer Camp, who deliver an almost raunchy half hour of John Hughes-infused nostalgia, as Ghost Train rattles down glistening tracks laid down by Fender Mustang vibrations and chunky bassline. And Elizabeth Sankey appears to have become as sensory attracting a frontwoman as any one member of Bananarama at any one time. Apart from when Shiobhan buggered off and christened Shakespears Sister, perhaps... Equally as exuberant are the perpetually joyous Crystal Fighters, whose Basque robes and Les Paul distortions exude magnificence from the heart and soul of a dry ice barrage, knob twiddler Gilbert Vierich swallowed whole. Tearing through an xtatic show that takes in the heartfelt melancholy of the vocal chord-wrecking At Home, the Txalaparta rhythmic bashes of Champion Sound and an intoxicating tribal cocktail courtesy of recent single In The Summer. As fireworks explode overhead and balloons burn in the Cambridgeshire skies, it's only a matter of time before stellar debut long player Star Of Love emanates more interplanetary joy than the Orion Nebula. It's then the turn of Damon Albarn's little money spinner, Gorillaz Sound System, as faceless DJs spin the cartoon capers' greatest hits, spliced together insipidly with Jackson 5 and more vulgar house hits than the Zakynthos strip. Barely visible visuals and minimal musicianship emerging from behind a gargantuan veil, praise be to Ibrahim Ferrer Albarn himself was voyaging overland from Beirut to Syria to become the first substantial British band to play Damascus. As no history was made during the Sound System's dismal headline spot in the Garden...

Far more legendary are Studio One veterans The Skatalites who sneak onsite with more brass than there is glass confiscated over the weekend, as they shuffle and sway adoringly to Addis Ababa and bash out trombone solos to the timelessly inspirative Exodus. Darwin Deez however fails to enthrall with his "side of calisthenics", particularly as his robotic writhing to NIN turns out to be preferential to his scruffy, rough'n'ready approach to the Casablacas drawl, although the lo-fi neon guitars to Up In The Clouds and Constellations (uncannily similar, sonically) are far from aurally aggravating on a Sunday evening in which your brain feels akin to a shattered hourglass.

Fiction: Secret Garden Party books the bestest bands.

Fact: Secret Garden Party is, as an institution, absolutely bloody marvelous.