ONE of the most impressive aspects of this summer’s festival season has been the transformation of small amateur events into major players. We all love a big gathering with huge headliners, but one has to admire the sheer chutzpah of weekend promoters who go head to head with the big boys and pull something special out of the hat.

Two events this week are a case in point: Astonbury (see feature here) and the remarkable DFest.

Set up by musician-turned barber Craig Evans, DFest is a gem of an all-dayer which takes place in his old village of Drayton (hence the event’s name).

What was formerly a Truck festival follow-up for local bands (his included) in a pub garden, has expanded, attracting bigger names. This year it takes place on a larger site near the village hall, with three stages including an acoustic lounge/comedy tent. Yet, despite its ambitions, it remains free of charge.

“DFest is a free music festival showcasing some of the best new music from all around the country,” says Craig. “The festival was started so people could enjoy great music for free and to save people from the horrible post-Truck blues. It has been running for five years and previous acts include Spring Offensive, Db Band, The Epstein, Orange Vision and my own band, Dead Jerichos.

“The festival is now unrecognisable from before, though. We’ve expanded onto a field and showcase a selection of the best up-and-coming bands in the country.”

Playing the main stage are Reading indie hopefuls The Amazons, scatty indie-rock three-piece Fruit Tones, all-girl psych-punks Abjects, Reading shoegazers Palm Honey, Oxford’s startling Esther Joy Lane, folksters Water Pageant and Witney’s Three Empty Domes.

Mellower sounds can be found in the acoustic lounge from the likes of Alphabet Backwards and Abingdon three piece Mew, Wooster & Boon. There is also comedy from Londoner Jacob Hawley, and DJs on the Hall Stage from 8.30pm ‘til late. And, like we said, it’s all for free.