The day for us started in Doncaster post-Levelling. We’d arranged to meet Becky, Pete and Rachel in a Toby Carvery for a spot of all you can eat breakfast. Unfortunately we hadn’t clarified brilliantly which one, so the Hotel Campanile crew all piled into the wrong one – a quick google later we’d located the right one and headed there for a plate full of greasy goodness to stave off potential hangovers. It was a nice way to start the day off reminiscing over a great evening, not least updating the non-Campanile folk of cheese-party disclosures.
Best still, as a potential neat sideline for the MeadEvil bar, Pete had been sourcing some drinking horns – after expressing my excitement about owning such a vessel they very kindly gifted one to me. So that shall be making plenty of appearances at festivals next year – mmm, meeeead! I just need some kind of holster for it, or maybe my Dogfest lanyard thing will do the job! Perhaps I should’ve thought a bit more about the photo I posted on Facebook that John must’ve spent all of five minutes gleefully ‘adjusting’ with, well, I was going to say Photoshop but I think it might’ve been MS Paint – haha! I’ve not used that picture in here!
Then for Ella and I it was time for goodbyes and hitting the road to Weston-Super-Mare via Donny station where Andrea joined our merry road trip to go to The Leylines christmas party. We had a pretty clear run all the way down, arriving at the windswept town with plenty of time to get checked in. Andrea’s hotel had free parking so we used that – she checked in to Room 101 initially, but swapped it for one with a sea view, in the meantime we were just round the corner in a different hotel which was pretty comfortable too!
Once Simon had battled his way round from Stevenage and checked in we headed off to the nearby Wetherspoons for a bite to eat amidst what could only be a mass gathering of office parties mustering presumably loading up on inexpensive booze before going to wherever was hosting their proper party – it was pretty packed in there and full of loud vacuous chatter, but we were able to get fed easily enough and a few drinks before heading on to The Imperial, where the real party was happening.
I must admit, I’d completely forgotten that The Leylines much like Ferocious Dog had organised a non-perishable food drop for food banks at their gig, luckily Simon hadn’t and had bought enough tins of stuff to stretch my arms a couple of inches as I lugged ’em to the appointed table. The venue wasn’t what I expected, a nice bar/brasserie with a small stage right as you walk in, and a fairly compact amount of space at the front for watching. It had some nice ciders, too – I’d recommend Pig Reveller!
First up on the musical front was Johnny Anderson, with an awesome beard, tattoos and a guitar he professed to feeling nervous at the size of the crowd that had started to muster in the room before launching into his set. There was quite a bit of background chatter from the crowd, not all of whom at this point I suspect were in for the live music but nonetheless getting good vantage point at the front meant we could enjoy his original material – a gritty voice, a mixture of strumming and finger-picking – just nice well crafted folksy songs.
Ella suggested he was like a hybrid of Gaz Brookfield and Ed Sheeran which I think was a fair summary – I’d throw a bit of Simon Friend into the mix as well to add a bit more gravel to the vocal mix. One song was devoted to folk that support original grass-roots musicians which resonated with our group of course, it’s just a shame more of the room weren’t a little more considerate. A nice set though, I’m not sure how far he gigs outside of Weston but if I get the chance I’d like to see him perform again.
Next up was Broken Wheels, a three-piece with two acoustic guitars and a small drum kit, with both guitarists – Chelsey and Ben – providing vocals. Lots of harmonised singing as well as swapping vocals, with a blend of strumming and picking backed by understated percussion produced a lovely melodic folky americana type sound – a bit like a mash-up of the Civil Wars and someone like DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show – very engaging and fun. There was a slight misunderstanding on my Brian Stone t-shirt, people thinking it advocated the use of soft drugs, but still.
They finished up with a cover of These Boots Are Made for Walking by which point the gathered crowd seemed to have become a little less self-absorbed and were appreciating the music instead of trying to talk over it – which was much better! By this time we’d decided we were full of cider so had escalated to drinking Jägerbombs and Sambuca. In between the acts we’d had a chance to catch up with the main act who were excited to effectively be showcasing their new album tracks over the course of the evening.
It’s worth taking a moment to remind folk how the new album will become possible – they have set up a really professional looking crowdfunding page where you can pledge an amount of cash in exchange for album or gig-based rewards in the future. I really do think this is the way of the future for independent music, much as that other band did for their album (and indeed the live CD/DVD of the Rock City gig) – a way of operating outside of the constraints of music labels. So if you haven’t already, please consider supporting The Leylines in this venture.
Once on the stage they launched straight into familiar anthem Let It Go, with the full band sound very effective in either drowning out or possibly stopping some of the louder members of the crowd from dominating the airwaves in the venue. This was followed up by The Reasons and then on to the quieter Save Your Soul – which was competed with a bit by chatter, but not too much. The five of them fitted pretty well on a fairly compact stage and looked to be thoroughly enjoying their home town gig.
The pace was quickened again with Runaway and My Own Worst Enemy before they dropped an intricate instrumental new track called Stone Circle (which is listed as an intro intriguingly on the set list) before the more familiar You’ve Changed. All That We’ve Got is a poignant nostalgic telling of the estate where Steve grew up, and by the time the two parts of For Queen and Country were underway his energetic performance style had seen a strand of his hair fall forward into a bit of a kiss curl that made me chuckle.
Next up was their only cover version – those of you familiar with Bostin Days will be more than aware of their magical re-imagining of The Levellers’ Fifteen Years – a long drawn out slow-paced version until it finally kicks in, whilst it’s difficult to suggest that anyone could take on a Levs song and make it better, I do thoroughly approve of the different take that The Leylines put to it rather than doing a straight-down-the-line cover version which would just invite comparison on like-for-like terms. It’s a magical interpretation and I never tire of hearing it.
We were continued on familiar territory with ludicrously catchy Sorry My Friends leading into the singalong anthem of the summer Sat In A Field providing tantalising mental imagery of the festival season that is starting to just about feel a long way away, although with so much planned in for next year already it won’t be too long to wait before it all starts again in earnest. Things I Know, Gotta Get Outta Here and Run For Cover finished off an energetic and tight set – the band are in great form which bodes well as they limber up for studio time in February, at none other than The Metway in Brighton with Sean Lakeman to produce them. Exciting.
After that was over it was further drinking and socialising – it was great to spend a bit of time with the band, their friends and family into the wee small hours. I think Simon bailed on us at around 1:30am, then what felt like a matter of moments later having talked utter nonsense and had a scary amount of shots it was suddenly gone half four in the morning, leaving us to stagger back to our hotels lamenting the relatively early check-out times (we thought ours was 11am but a call from reception before then revealed it was really 10:30 – oops!).
We bailed on hotel breakfasts, instead meeting Andrea in Wetherspoons for a less time restricted option (having waved Simon off from the hotel, as he had got up in time to eat there!) before eventually setting off back Northward via a strangely scenic route to a petrol station. A top night, The Leylines are definitely one of the bands to watch in 2016, thank you to all of ’em for being so welcoming and good company – we certainly didn’t experience the laughs in the late-night lock in fading away in Weston!