Rolling out the festival barrel in style.. (part two)..
A combination of factors had made for a bad night’s sleep – a small degree of being drunk (not too much though), an airbed that deflated itself at an alarming rate, persistent rain and the presumably associated crackling and buzzing from the overhead powerlines. Eventually I deigned to emerge from the tent to find the guy rope from the front had been ripped away from the tent – I’d assumed by a passing early hours reveller in the dark, it’s happened before (and I’ve got the kit to fix it, so no big deal).
First call was one of nature so wandered toward the building – in time to find Steve, Matt and Dave packing up their gear. Then some less good news, it turned out there’d been some opportunist thefts in the night – a couple of vans had had cash and phones taken – whilst folk were asleep in them. This is distressing and unfortunately not unheard of in festivals. I believe that it wasn’t anybody on the site already, but we’ll probably never know. It made me wonder about our torn guy rope and the tent being partially unzipped, but who knows.
It’s a learning for future events – to double-check the security of access to the site from outside, and perhaps have a couple of security guys patrolling in the evening and early hours. And of course, a reminder to all of us to be vigilant with valuables – keep them on your person or locked away in vans (or cars if you’re tenting it), and be a bit paranoid even once you’re in and asleep. I pondered not mentioning this at all, but it’s something to be aware of – but absolutely shouldn’t put people off attending events, poor Debs and Phil were understandably distraught as were all the festival team (not least the folks who’d had things taken too).
I’d managed to lose my e-cigarette – I enquired inside if it’d been handed in before I heard the wider news, regretting it soon after as I was sure I’d dropped it somewhere and nerves were obviously already frayed. As it turned out, I did drop it – outside Dave and Carolines van the evening before – I found it when being treated to coffee and sausage cobs. At this point Ella noticed a lot of missed calls on her phone – Matt (who’d already set off with Steve and Dave) had lost his wallet – we panicked initially with the thefts still fresh in our minds – but she hot-footed it up to the teepee they’d stayed in and found it under some pillows. How we’ll get it to him is another matter entirely!
So, on to the nicer stuff. Raynor Jackson was up first at noon – he posted on Facebook earlier that the miserable weather brought people in for the early set, I’m not sure that’s true, but even if it is I’m sure they were pleased to have done so! He started off with a cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean followed by a few of his own songs (I only know the title of a handful of your songs, sorry Chris!). His cover of Shaved off His Beard by The Beards (with some censoring of swear words by using Swedish swear words instead!). Him performing this was the catalyst for Ian growing his beard way back when at Deerstock in 2013. Ian and Lynne were sadly absent from this weekend due to work commitments.
His own song Everywhere was up next – a chilled paced song with guitar picking (and on his current EP), then he unleashed a mash-up of Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay morphing into Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon (who would’ve thought we’d hear two Boney M songs this weekend?!). Next up was another original number before his interesting mixture of cover versions introduced George Michael’s Faith into the mix. He ended with what will always been known as ‘the gay duck song’, but is actually called Down the Days / Bög Ankor – the latter part being Swedish for ‘gay ducks’ (I just checked on Google Translate too!).
Meanwhile Brad Dear had arrived with the band and Jeremy ready to set up for the next set. We always tease Brad for looking like a hobbit, but without his trademark hat which is usually ever-present on his head he looked more like a Hobbit who’d been to a hair salon in Rivendell. (Sorry, once the mental image was there I had to share it). I’d nipped back to the camp site to remind Dave and Caroline that dogs were allowed inside the venue, so they excitedly brought Murphy up for the first act – only for him to turn tail and run as the guitar kicked in. Perhaps he’s more of an acoustic dog!
I’m Still Here kicked off the set and then it was into They Say. Festival Bar Blues was next followed by So Far Away. To say when I saw Brad last weekend and he could barely talk, he’s obviously been using some wonder-treatment as he was sounding great! Billy Brown took us into Save Our Souls then Walls (cue lots of shouts of ‘sausages!’ or ‘walls!’ in dog-type voices from the old advert). Long Road Home was next and then we were treated to a new song, slower paced than normal (he said afterwards it sounded Britpoppy – not sure about that and I quite like a bit of Britpop!) – it was called Leave It All Behind – looking forward to getting to know it.
Special Brew looked initially like it might not have its customary conga line with the absence of Tim to spark it off – eventually though folk were coerced into doing some increasingly fast paced laps of the room, I was behind Kev and we were struggling to keep up with the rapidly moving front section of the line. With loud applause and calls for an encore we eventually coaxed the compere to let them kick into Circles and Roundabouts to finish off a splendid set. They were then off down to London to support Rusty Shackle so couldn’t stay for the weekend – a pity!
I had a quick trip back to the campsite under duress from Joe to spike my hair so he wasn’t ‘the only weirdo with a mohawk’ – I think he must’ve forgotten about Daniel! Anyway, I’m crap at doing my hair up at the best of times – but when it’s lank and slept on, unwashed and not blowdried, slapping some glue-like hair stuff on and hoping for the best was always going to look a bit rubbish – it surely did! Down by the campsite Bart had arrived too, offering a hint of the mystery performer in the bus later perhaps?
On wandering back I also stumbled upon a Star Copiers rehearsal – there’d been much speculation they were the mystery act. I can’t say a great deal about this rarest of sightings, once I’d been clocked their legal people immediately slapped me with a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement mentioning any of the performers by name or details of the songs they were performing. It does make the prospect of their maiden appearance at Ey Up Mi Duck next month all the more exciting though having had a sneak preview.
Next up in the arena was 3 Eyed Fox – I first saw them supporting 3 Daft Monkeys back in 2011 (along with a certain canine-name-themed band) and I think I’ve managed to miss them ever since. With no percussion, two guitars and a fiddle it was definitely melodic folk – alas I couldn’t tell you the name of their original songs, I did enjoy them though – and a thoughtful selection of cover versions from The Waterboys and Levellers to boot. Fisherman’s Blues always gets a good singalong going, this was certainly no exception.
One particularly ace moment was them getting Addie’s unfeasibly cute son Tommy on stage to play his whistle along with Julie – the song they contributed to the mighty Bostin’ Days project – it was ace. What a little star in the making. The Levellers theme continued with excellent covers of Carry Me, 100 Years of Solitude and finished up with a rousing rendition of One Way. I’d watched a chunk of the set from the back whilst getting and eating an amazing sweet potato pakora wrap – so there were a couple of original songs and a rendition of Back In The Old Country to enjoy from afar too.
Next up for us was a trip back to the Purrple People Eater – or so we thought. Folk The System were the next up close and personal gig – but they didn’t feel they could strip back beyond their full line-up so thanks to some last minute shepherding from Rob we were all ushered into the green room for their set. They played acoustically but with miked up vocals – and it was ace. The green room could never live up to the purple beast for ambience, but was an able substitute for the larger ensembles performing!
They played a quick set of Civilisation, Environmentally Friendly, Street Corner People – their Bostin’ Days contribution of What You Know and then Lost Land (with a bit of a lyric slip to boot – always a bonus to get those out of the way before the main gig!), finishing up with Vanity. It was fun to see them deciding what to play of the fly and having a laugh together – not that they don’t normally look like they’re enjoying themselves when they were playing! The more stripped back sound suited them, definitely a fun diversion.
This did mean we were a bit late getting to the main stage for The Sweetchunks Band – which is frankly a shame, albeit for good reason. They are a riotously fun band with raucously catchy songs, and frequent on stage bickering (something I discovered later isn’t part of the act!). We were there in time for I Would Punch a Bear for You which seemed to involve some perilous balancing on a stool from Stuart, with some help from Brian. This was followed up with a re-imagining of Nickelback’s Rockstar (changed to Folk Star) that then blended into Paradise City.
My favourite bit of the set was them playing First World Blues – they invited the crowd to shout out first world problems that they’d weave into the song on the fly. My shout of running out of cous-cous was alas trumped by suggestions of ‘no wifi’, ‘the pony club is too far from the school’ and ‘no talcum powder’ (the latter at least ingeniusly rhymed with chowder). They’d switched to a dirty sounding cigar box guitar for this one which sounded awesome. Just as Bees They’re Fucking Awesome was underway we were once again on the move as we had to be back at the Purrple People Eater for our next up close and personal set.
Funke and the Two Tone Baby was already there when we arrived outside – he was, like Scott the day before – surprisingly nervous of being stripped of his usual accoutrements and playing in such an intimate setting. It always throws me a bit when frankly bloody talented performers give you a glimpse into that very human insecurity that I’m sure must be really common. Of course, he had a friendly crowd and was soon put at ease as we all gathered into the comfy confines of the Purrple People Eater and got underway.
He had explained that his songs are written with loops and beats in mind – so he was going to bring out some more seldom heard tracks for this – fine by me, I thought! He started off with The Great Storm and then introduced Ode to the Pirate Ghost Witch along with its back story. It was a nice conversational ‘evening with’ type feel along with songs! He promised us a new song, which Tina videoed, it resonated strongly with me – telling a tale of someone stuck in an office all week to enable more fulfilling weekends! It also has a ludicrously catchy singalong bit!
I’ll Love You was up next, then Boatman and the Thief – I’ve always loved that song, I’m not sure how I feel about it now he revealed he’d written it with a deadline looming whilst still trying to deal with some sad news. He opened up the set to suggestions – I’m Not Well was picked and after a moment of hesitation he decided he could ‘strip it down’ to work as an acoustic only song – and it did indeed. Finally he’d deconstructed his typical show finisher, and Not Enough Bonobo still evokes the same kind of crowd participation in this form too. A cracking set – I think he should consider doing more stripped back shows.
This diversion meant Folk The System were already well underway in the main room – we walked in in time for Street Corner People and What You Know, but much of it we managed to miss (sorry Maty et al!), however it does make me glad we caught the up close and personal show from them earlier in the day. They’re definitely sounding tighter and tighter the more time they’re spending out gigging – I think the next time I’ll get to see them will be with Under A Banner and The Leylines later this month, there’ll be no excuses for missing chunks of them then!
However we were due back to the Purrple People Eater for the mystery act. Now we’d decoded the clues on the signs outside and worked out it was the inimitable Star Botherers who’d be entertaining us. Bart of course had been at the festival all day, Dave came down especially to perform with commitments back at The Black Market Venue that evening. Once they got themselves plugged in (Dave needed a bass amp, luckily Dean had brought a generator with him) and even additional lightshow equipment was installed. I was pretty excited about this one – as of course they weren’t performing at the main event.
After the briefest consultation they launched into Just Around The Corner, followed up by Ringing In Sick. I know I’ve heard an iteration of this song before – but not often, and it was billed as new so maybe it was an experimental form, but First Night Festival Fever is something I’m sure most of us can relate to at one time or another. It also explicitly mentions the venue we were sat in, so really needed to be played! One Inch Death Punch was up next (“I quite like that one, do you, Dave”, “Yeah!”).
We were promised a totally new song too, it was called Three Sets of Strings and is a typically trival-on-the-face-of-it-with-deeper-meaning Star Botherers special. Essentially about buying things cheaply on the internet to the detriment of local businesses with higher overheads or tax considerations – wry and cutting, and I’m sure something we all partake in from time to time. Star Wars Bride was a request from the crowd as was the following Bad Guys. A quick time check for Dave showed we had time for another – which was the excellent Mid Life Crisis. An awesome set.
It’s worth – while I think about it – to spell out the point of these smaller gigs. Places to watch were auctioned before the festival to raise money for the charity the whole event was supporting. There’s loads more detail about that in this article – but artists donating a bit of extra time and the generosity of folk who paid for tickets has added hundreds of pounds to that total, and given both performers and audiences what was hopefully a different and awesome experience to boot.
As we’d over-run again (I’m not complaining!) it did see us late in to see Lil Jim and Mike Lee by the time we’d extricated ourselves from the bus and over to the arena. I’m pretty sure they played at Rockstock in October, and met a similar fate from us. My humblest apologies! We did get in in time to see guitar and accordian based re-imaginings of You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry (introduced as ‘d’you know that Pulp Fiction Song?’), and In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins (made famous of course by a man in a gorilla suit playing drums).
Funke and the Two Tone Baby‘s main set was up next – always an excitement. He’s added a small keyboard to his arsenal or technical wizardry since I last saw him perform (back in December I think – bus gig aside). He opened with some synth looping along with beatbox to kick off the set with Never Used to Dance, compelling the crowd into a dancing frenzy with cries of ‘raise your hands in the air and put your feet through the floor’. Bella’s Kiss was up next – and also another brief stage appearance from Tommy.
The new song we’d heard in the bus had the full technical treatment – I still don’t know what it’s called but I like it and it’s far too catchy for it’s own good.. Ba bah bah bah baaaah ba ba-da!.. The Great Storm was next and had us all moving around followed by I’m Not Well. The hypnotic rhythms of Medicine for the Soul were next followed by another new song – again I’m not sure of the name but I’m looking forward to getting to know it better! With time ticking Ella and I needed to head to the green room for our next ‘up close’ gig – we were both sulking a bit at having to leave Funke early. We’ll see him a lot this year though so all is not lost!
So we wandered back through the front bar to the green room (okay, I might have revisited the cheese bar en route) for Blood or Whiskey to entertain us. I’m not massively familiar with their work, but was intriguted at the opportunity to check them out in more a more intimate setting so I munched cheese and thoroughly enjoyed their traditional Celtic folk sound – there are six of ’em, instrumentally comprising guitars, bass, bodhran, a snare drum a squeeze-box and a peny whistle. They went for the ‘let’s just play songs’ approach which worked for me!
Back Home In Derry kicked off the set – I’m afraid the remaining songs remain nameless in my head at least, possibly because by this point I’d paid quite a few visits to the cider bar, but also they are a new band to me. One I like the sound of though! Towards the end they played They Say No which sounded a bit like a relative of Ferocious Dog’s Lee’s Tune but with vocals – the chorus prompting a singalong in the room. It was an energetic fun set leaving us excited for the big stage showing later in the evening.
Before that was the small matter of The Lagan on the main stage – they may have been underway when we got back in there, with Haul Away Joe the first song I’ve noted. I didn’t even get the title of the second before Tell Me Ma was blasting out. The next song was being recorded to raise money for a writer with Alzheimer’s – I’ve only made a note of You’ll Have to Excuse Me I’m not at My Best – not sure if that’s the title or a lyric. Ace sentiment though. The Lagan also donated all of their merch sales to the theft victims at the festival – wonderful people as well as top performers.
Raggle Taggle Gypsy got the room bouncing and moshing, followed by the slow build of Staring the Deveil in the Eye with its amazing drum and whistle intro straight into instrumental mayhem. Maybe It’s Because I’m an Irish Londoner was up next followed by an awesome vocal only piece from most of the band. Plenty of irish jigs later (or are they reels? I can never tell!) led us into Same Shite Different Night, a raucous cover of Shipping Out To Boston and then a highly demanded encore of Fields of Athenry. A predictably top drawer set.
A collection bucket was going around the venue to help reimburse the victims of the thefts the previous night – which was vigourously supported in the room. Meanwhile I found myself drinking with The Sweetchunks Band which was a good experience – I traded honey rum for their Jim Beam Maple, whilst Addie was on a mission to destroy Ash with a terrifying German spirit I had the misfortune of trying. It became rapidly apparent that the Sweetchunks guys don’t have a stage persona – that is what they are like. And they are awesome.
Blood or Whiskey took the stage for the headline act – having researched they’ve been around for ages but not on my own radar. More’s the pity. Highly charged celtic punk – highly compatible with the sort of things I like. However, I will confess that matters might have got a bit blurry during their set. Regardless I had a good dance around before listening to much of their set from outside whilst cooling off near that dangerous purple bus. It did claim a victim that evening, mercifully it wasn’t me – I shall name no names.
As band write-ups go that’s pretty rubbish, I blame the cider – and the spirits, and well, my own rubbishness. I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the set though – and shall make it my mission to listen to more of their stuff as it sounded bloody awesome. Alas I was well past making much of a job of noting down songs (and I didn’t know them by ear anyway). Plus it was fun to spend a bit more time on the Purrple People eater – I enjoyed the novelty of multiple visits to it and remembering all of them for a change!
One thing I was determined to do though was to remain cogniscent enough to see Doozer McDooze close the festival – I’ve seen him get the graveyard shift a few times and haven’t quite made it. I did this time! He’d set up on a stage in the DoozerBird Lounge, where Birdy Rose had been exhibiting her awesome artwork throughout the festival – we lasted long enough to hear We are the Drunk and Disorderly, Dreams, You’re Perfect and I Think Politicians Should Be Put On Minimum Wage (including a Macarena dance routine from The Sweetchunks Band).
Bed however was calling – uncomfortable thought it was with its tendency to deflate over the night – as we wandered off we heard the last refrains of It’s Nice Down Here being mashed up into Gaz Brookfield’s Solo Acoustic Guy. As we settled into as many layers as humanly possible to keep warm we were serenaded to sleep by some raucous performances from Dave and Caroline’s gazebo, including Riverflow and Freeborn John – we later discovered featuring Dave, Brian, Doozer and The Sweetchunks Band. I can think of worst ways to be lulled to sleep. Sleep was inevitable. We were knackered!
Sunday morning was thrust upon us to the sounds of a serious domestic going on surrounding the theft and hoarding of pillows. It appeared that a serious barney was developing, until we realised it was our near neighbours The Sweetchunks Band – seemingly serious disagreements are quite a frequent theme of theirs it would seem! They seemed to have forgotten it shortly after when we all convened in the gazebo for breakfast.
Bacon cobs and coffee were provided by Dave and Caroline, Debs and Phil were wandering around looking so chuffed having done a count up of the collections that had gone around for the theft victims. It underlines the wonderful folk who come to events like these (and run them) – they help each other out. Once the campsite had cleared enough to get the car down to the tent I did just that, we gave Bart a jump start as his battery had drained – then packed up and headed home. An awesome weekend, I feel shattered but very happy indeed – despite the one set back, an absolute triumph. A huge well done to all involved, I can’t wait to hear the total raised!