2016 review with Alfresco Festival organiser Mark Davis

The man behind Alfresco Festival gives his verdict on Bowie, Brexit and the continued growth of his festival as he looks back at 2016.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 28th Dec 2016.
Originally published: 23rd Dec 2016

Alfresco festival hits Colebrook Lakes in Tunbridge Wells between Friday 26th and Sunday 28th May, bringing with it an eclectic billing of electronic greats. Featuring on the Alfresco 2017 line up are Scottish genre bending two piece Optimo, as is former Kraftwerk man Wolfgang Flur and Alexis Taylor who undertakes a three hour tribute to Prince

Behind the event is Mark Davis, who celebrates a family ethos at his Kent weekender with arts and crafts activities for children and a top class musical smorgasbord for the parents. Following the inaugural edition of Alfresco in its new site this year, Davis gives his verdict on 2016:

What's been your personal musical highlights of this year?

There have been many in all honesty. As this is personal, I’ll answer accordingly. Standing at the side of the stage whilst Vox Low were playing one of the best live sets I have ever seen was incredible.

At gigs I like to watch people as much as the acts. I could see many friends, many people I respect musically and also Nicky, my partner in Alfresco and life, all having the time of their lives. To bring Vox Low to the UK for the first time was something I’m very proud of and something that will stay with me as long as I’m promoting.

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What are your top three albums of 2016?

Underworld’s Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future was quite brilliant, very much Fall like in vocals and that can only be an amazing thing. It wasn’t really much of a year for albums for me as we get sent so many tracks, rather than albums, through our show on Cowbell Radio with my partner in crime Ed Mahon.

I think a nod has to be given though to Transmission by Death In Vegas, I've always loved their dark sound of dance music. Void Beats/Invocation Trex by Cavern of Anti-Matter has also had some decent playing time on the home stereo.

What's been your biggest let down of 2016?

Actually 2016 itself.

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Who has been your hero of 2016 and why?

David Bowie, even in his own death he was a genius. I didn’t mention Blackstar before because of this answer. For him to produce that album, with the timing of release and the actual content, he was totally in control until the very end. He also united a nation in celebrating a true cultural icon, arguably the biggest this country has ever produced. If it was possible to feel good around such a sad situation it was this, we all celebrated his life rather than mourned. Genius.

On Brexit…

Just very sad on many levels. I personally didn’t want it, but the fact is that's what the country voted for and what followed was pretty crap on all levels. It shouldn’t have happened as the whole argument for [Brexit] was built on lies and bullshit, but the bullying and derogatory comments from the remain crowd were shitty.

The public were misinformed and sucked in, and the politicians that led it and then jumped ship were absolute bell ends. How can anyone respect their actions? I hope we vote again with everyone given a more honest picture, but in all honesty is there anyone that looks capable of leading this nation at the moment that's also got the respect of us all?

On the election of Donald Trump…

In a nation so large, he’s the best they have? I will say one thing though, at least he says what's on his mind rather than just bullshitting. It's just unfortunate what he says is actual bullshit. The image of him and Farage in front of those gold doors will become an iconic picture of a very shit time in politics, so crass you’d think it had been photo-shopped.

On celebrity deaths in 2016…

It's very sad but people die. Rather than the celebrities, it actually seems a shit year for many personally with friends and family dying. The fact is 2016, for many, has been crap. There are highlights, but for most I think the twelfth chime on the 31st can’t come quick enough. "I never meant to cause you any sorrow, never meant to cause you any pain."

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What piece of music news struck you most this year (good or bad)?

A slightly selfish one this: the return of LCD Soundsystem. Being at Madison Square Garden [for the group's 'final' ever show in 2011] was a seminal point in my musical life and I firmly believe some things are left finished. Although reports have come back of amazing live shows, which is no surprise. I would have just preferred a comeback with new material if anything, otherwise it just stinks of the great rock n roll swindle. However Mr Murphy remains a hero and I have to accept that they are back, I just hope the love affair is rekindled with an amazing new album.

What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

On a personal level, it has to be the continued growth of our festival. Alfresco changed this year through circumstances beyond our control and now we have a proper three day festival on our hands. Nicky Chanot has been an absolute rock for me in this transformation and without her it wouldn’t be what it's becoming. I also have to thank Ian Considine of Nein Records for coming on board and Dan Tranter our host too. Next year we have Optimo, Gerd Janson, Paranoid London and many many more playing for us over six stages and it's looking immense.

The pressure involved is something that unless you have done it you can’t comprehend. It's financially the thing of nightmares but creatively something that's incredible and addictive . It's a massive journey that makes you realise many things, we have so many people in our corner and it's incredibly humbling. To family, friends and people involved we cant thank you enough. We have never compromised on our music policy and we never will, this is our year where we really step up and there are many plans in the pipeline. 

Lastly thanks to all that have supported what we do, we genuinely love and appreciate everything you've done that's helped us get to where we are. We get incredible support not just from all over the UK, but the whole of Europe and we wish you all the best in 2017 and hope to see you dancing beneath the trees in May.

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