And a Bostin’ time was had by all!

IMG_1373How on earth do you go about summing up a day like Bostin’ Days Live? Both Jamie and Bart at different points in the day asked me how on earth I was going to keep track, I revealed a bit of note-taking on my phone to act as an aide memoire but well, that’s something I generally do (except when in Ferocious Dog moshpits funnily enough – can you imagine?!) and I frequently still frequently forget crucial details.  But making a few notes and making sure I grab a photo of key things I’ve seen generally suffices to at least try to get the point across.

The early finish in Bristol combined with exorbitant drink prices in the O2 Academy saw me on the road in good time – only an accident on the M42 caused some delays around Solihull, as I work there I’m well-versed in dodging that road, so got myself to my hotel where the owner was glad to let me check in early so I was at The Crew well before everything started.  Clad in the best wristband I’ve been given all year (it’s going to be a real bind to take this one off) and a nice plastic pint pot.  I thought about being sensible and ordered a cider.  Oops.

Shortly after Snotty and Simon arrived, it had been a bit odd being at a couple of Ferocious Dog gigs without her (the first question either of us get when out without the other is ‘where’s Snotface/Fisher?’  Anyway, it was good to be at an event together – as folk started arriving we made our way upstairs where things were kicking off – Steve Bentley opened the event by introducing the first performer and compere for the upstairs stage, Stevie ‘One Bloke One Mandolin’ Simpson, and also inviting a sheepish looking Addie on to the stage to mark the start of the event.

Now, I am confident I’ll remember everyone I saw – whether I remember songs I heard is another matter entirely!

IMG_1374This is where dilemmas kicked in – like most festivals or events with more than one stage there’s going to be mad dashes or tough choices to be made.  But anyway, Stevie opened with – funnily enough – his mandolin and his own gritty voice, the songs that stood out for me were a re-imagining of nursery rhymes he wrote for his children back in the day, and of course his Bostin’ Days track Red Sun Burns.  Similar to Funke he’d asked which the least popular Levellers album was to choose his song from – and he really does bring something new to it.

IMG_1379Downstairs Brian Stone opened up the stage in the pub, where he was compere for the day, to a healthy crowd a few fumbled lyrics to his own Life Begins at 50 didn’t detract from a fun performance – highlighted for me by what he described as his audition for Bostin’ Days II, by reeling out the Levellers’ Pretty Target, dedicating it to myself and Snotty – soppy but very touching!  Next up was a potential clash – but I managed to pop between stages to see both Pete Jackson & Lynn Holt downstairs and Maelor Hughes upstairs.

IMG_1385Pete on vocals and guitar and Lyn on flute opened with Vagabonds, and plenty of Levellers favourites like Another Man’s Cause, The Boatman and their Bostin’ track  The Road.  I really enjoyed their set and was sad to have to dip in and out a little bit – one of my favourite things watching performers is that eyes-locked moment you get when they are keeping time, there’s something strangely charmingly intimate about it, like you’re being let into a performing secret.  Snotty got some great photos of these moments (and indeed, of many great moments throughout the day!).

IMG_1387Upstairs Maelor either didn’t play Elation or I missed it (edit, I missed it, but Paul videoed it!) – either scenario is regrettable – but I did catch a reasonable chunk of his set including Morning Sun, Transvestite Blues, the ‘Oi Oi’ song, Won’t Fight Your War and closed with Milltown Boy as an opportunity to wind up Yorkshire folk in the crowd, ha!  Next up we saw Gaz Brookfield upstairs go through Land Pirate’s Life, Diabetes Blues, Towns and Ode to Ozzy (charting what is increasingly a ‘Trigger’s broom‘ of a van these days.  Two of my favourite performers both on cracking form, and I’m sad to have cut them both short (although I’ll be seeing a lot of Gaz in coming weeks!)

IMG_1391But downstairs we didn’t want to miss The Star Botherers, and once the kinks in the sound desk had been sorted it was a cracking set – Freethinker, One Inch Death Punch, Midlife Crisis, Star Wars Bride (with a lyrical adjustment – nice one, Bart!) and Bad Guys. Great fun as ever to a heaving crowd – check out Caroline’s video of Star Wars Bride.  Dashing upstairs I caught The Sweetchunks Band covering The Beards but food was calling, and with Snotty seconded to the merch desk I headed over the road to Subway to find sustenence with Kev.

The food run cost me checking out Bleeding Hearts and Son Primo which was regrettable (I think I’m right in saying that Parson’s Lot couldn’t make it in the end – or maybe I missed them too), but returned in time to catch the end of Davey Malone & The Longtails set upstairs – Dirty Davey going down well with the busy hall as I watched from the merch stand, getting Snotty to get released from her merchandising duties to make sure she didn’t miss the next act on downstairs as he’s one of our favourites.

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Brad Dear in solo incarnation was that act, and on great form as he has been of late – the downstairs sound rig was sometimes unreliable but the relatively simple set up of a mic and guitar meant it was great for this set – Festival Bar Blues, Far Away, Save Our Souls, Together All The Way, Schemers Scroungers and Rats and then my favourite Special Brew to finish, favourite song that is – not tipple, unlike someone on the way to where my hotel was who’d left some empty cans of the beverage outside!  Anyway, I digress… we digressed at some point too to stage this amusing photo of Kev:

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IMG_1399Upstairs I caught a glimpse of Greenman Rising‘s set, hearing their awesome version of Lowlands of Holland, before getting ready for Leatherat who put on an energetic and fun set – including High Friends (cue more mirth between Kev and I for height references), There’s Life in the Old Dog Yet (which I’ve heard Brian Stone cover a few times to great effect – and really got the crowd jumping) and their Bostin’ Days track of The Game which I actually thought was a big step-up from the recorded version.  I thoroughly enjoyed the set.

IMG_1400I was really keen to make sure I saw Shanks’ Pony though, there aren’t many songs Bostin’ that I’d go as far to say I prefer to the original (and there’s absolutely no shame in that!), but their version of No Change is one of them.  We were treated to that, along with Rollercoaster, Final Breath (dedicated to Sarah, I’m not sure why!), Raggle Taggle Gypsy and the ’50 million people jumping up and down’ song that I never did find out the name of but is awesome – a lovely set from Paul, Helen and Bob.

Funke and the Two Tone Baby has gone from someone I kept missing to one of my very favourite performers this year – we had a natter with him outside, but now was time for his set.  Lynn was in the position I used to be, asking what he was like – I just said ‘you have to see him’ – after the set she was wide-eyed and agog at what she’d just witnessed, particularly how he flawlessly recovered from kicking the lead from one of his loop pedals in the middle of his first song.

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There were plenty of favourites on offer like Bella’s Kiss, I’m Not Well, The Last Thing We’ll See is The Sea, and of course The Weed That Killed Elvis and Not Enough Bonobo (Tom this time watching from the crowd rather than taking crowd participation one step further with his ape mask as had been customary in festivals in the summer!).  As always, a highlight among highlights both for those of us already sold on this one-man-band and those encountering him for the first time.

IMG_1412A cool-down stop outside saw me miss 3 Eyed Fox as nattering and fresh air ran away with us a little bit, which I’m really annoyed about – I’ve not seen them since they supported Ferocious Dog and 3 Daft Monkeys back in 2011!  It was, however, of utmost important that we got upstairs in time for the next act on the main stage, as Snotty would’ve probably killed me if we didn’t – indeed, we did miss the very start of The Leylines, but mercifully not too much of it.  I know I’ve written about ’em before at length – but they really are bloody ace.

Familiar favourites like Sorry My Friends, Save Your Soul, Sat in a Field and Bostin’ track Fifteen Years (which was frankly epic, much like it is on the album) nestled with songs I’ve yet to get to know so well (but I’m told a new album is in progress – which frankly I can’t bloody wait for!), and then Snotty was invited to do backing vocals for Run for Cover (I think that’s what it was called) despite having nearly lost her voice – she’d done the same at the Leylines gig the night before in the same venue and it made her very happy indeed!

IMG_1410IMG_1412Downstairs we were able to check out Folk The System, creating a cacophony of high energy folk punk in the confines of the downstairs bar to a big crowd, whilst upstairs we were keen to see The Folkestra – because their name sounds like orchestra I was expecting something gentle and sombre but was pleased to witness energetic punky folk, and a banjo player who looked a bit like Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap (albeit from my vantage point at the back of the hall!).  Their rendition of The Riverflow was awesome.

IMG_1417Back downstairs it seemed to take ages for The Fanzines to get started amidst knob-twiddling and monitor-pointing, but once underway they kicked through an awesome set of punk and ska to an appreciative crowd despite the not-amazing sound now in the downstairs bar.  Even some local towny lads who’d wandered in were enjoying it – highlights included The Sound of the Suburbs, Gangsters and Babylon’s Burning.

IMG_1440But a particular highlight Down in the Tube Station at Midnight by The Jam since once again Snotty was on stage doing backing vocals (as well as acting as security by deftly elbowing an over-excited local stage invader from the stage).  There was perhaps a little too much moshing for a confined space compounded by a few non-wristband-clad interlopers – but it didn’t detract from an awesome set from The Fanzines, singer Danny ending up in the crowd at the end singing Bostin’ track 100 Years of Solitude from the floor.

We thought we’d missed Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs closing the main stage upstairs, but wandering up there to find Andrea to walk back to the hotel saw us get there in time to see them finishing up with One Way – their Bostin’ Days track – which was a fitting end to an awesome day celebrating not just the Levellers, not even just fundraising, but an extended group of like-minded folk who’ve come together to either create or – like me – take part in something really special.

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Much like the album project, to have marshalled so many things into one day like this is frankly amazing.  Whilst I know there was a supporting team (not least Jane and Steve), it’s only right to make Addie feel uncomfortable to close these reflections by offering him some well-deserved praise – one of the most genuine and self-depreciating fellows I’ve ever met, he’s achieved a superb thing, not only raising sizeable sums for a great charity, but giving us some amazing entertainment, a cherished collection of songs and fond memories aplenty in the process – well done mate, an absolute triumph.

Whether once the totalling up has been done that marks the end of Bostin’ Days or whether we see a reprise in the future remains to be seen.  I certainly hope so – it’s been a really special project in every aspect.

My photos are just here if you want to see the ones I didn’t use in the post, but more importantly you should check out the amazing photographs that Snotty grabbed throughout the day in between taking turns on the stage too.  What a superstar!  They’ve already been shared by The Leylines and Funke, some of her photos of Funke in particular are absolutely stunning.

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