For Nearstock we had the sublime good fortune to have the opportunity to crash with Paul and Sarah who live in the village it was hosted. We got there early and were treated to barbecued burgers and chips sat by a fire pit Paul had been itching to set fire to ever since we arrived. With Andy arriving shortly after it was a fun afternoon of food and beers before wandering to the pub.
The beer garden of The Royal Oak played host to the taster of what is to come at Deerstock in a couple of months, the party was already in swing when we arrived – Nirvana played from the sound system, upon gaining entry and getting wristbanded up by Pat we were accosted by Joe with the charity bucket, along with a warning that he’d be haranguing us all day and all night.
He wasn’t wrong!
First act up was Jake Smallbones – a solo acoustic guitar performer, he’d got the tough slot of ‘people arriving or working their way around the crowd’ – that said, he was an engaging and tuneful performer. At a glance he looked a bit like Nick Parker – Ella thought a cross between him and Gaz Brookfield, but I couldn’t see that! He started up with On The Road and then Falling for Another.
I missed the next two titles but melodic guitar picking and pleasing vocals assailed us as we either baked when the sun was out or got pretty cool as it popped behind the occasional cloud. Four Winds (I think) is a forthcoming single, and sounded great, followed by a thoughtful cover of All Along the Watchtower. His full band are playing at Deerstock though, looking forward to checking that out.
Paige Seabridge was up next – we’d been sitting with the Seabridge clan during Jake’s set and bless her Paige was feeling a bit under the weather. She took to the stage and kicked off with Trouble Town, her voice was sounding good from where I was sat! Heartbeats was up next before braving a voice-taxing You’ve Got The Love with no ill-effects I could discern!
God and Satan was next and then a nice singalong for Fifteen Years before she invited Sam up on stage to take on guitar duties for a Gabrielle Aplin duo of Sweet Nothing and Home. With time for an encore Sam was banished from the stage (by Jed, no less!) so Paige took up the guitar again to finish up with her interpretation of Outkast’s Hey Ya.
Cracking set, plus Paige has a fringe again so our wigs can come out of retirement!
The always-performing Brian Stone was up next – true to form, he was off to Nuneaton to support The Leylines after his set here. He and Karen claimed to be planning on coming back to rejoin the party, but given the eleven o’clock finish that seemed as unlikely as it transpired to be! Armed with his guitar and stomp box he took to the stage and got underway.
Ward the Pirate kicked things off – I’ve just found out the song name from him, a traditional shantyish sound, he takes the Firepit Collective version for inspiration. His own anthemic Life Begins at 50 was up next before the dad-inspired Quiet Anarchist assailed us. Brian’s singing has definitely become throatier since he first started performing regularly, I quizzed Karen about it while we watched and it is a conscious thing – it’s easier to sing like that apparently!
I approve anyway, a Simon Friendesque gravel to his voice works well. For the Ferocious Dog fans Freeborn John was reeled out. I lay on the floor and I think Naomi stood on me. One day I’ll think about these things before I do them! His own opening EP track Barrow Downs is next – when I first heard this I scoured Google for the original, it’s a bloody lovely song, a homage to where he grew up.
Why is all the Rum Gone?! is ludicriously catchy and fun. Brian hadn’t brough any rum with him, but Andy had a lovely bottle of Red Leg rum he popped on stage to taunt the soon-to-be-driving Brian, we all had a good few swigs of it too. For an encore he offered up a Levellers or a Gaz song – in the end opting for both, choosing The Boatman, which of course Gaz covered for Bostin’ Days!
Baron Lewis were up next – and kind of caught up in a wave of socialising for us with the members of The Fanzines who’d arrived and the wonderful Dear family. Two guitars and singing rock classics though – it was a bloody good soundtrack to be socialising to.
My recollection of their set list is sketchy but remember singing along to Won’t Get Fooled Again, When I was a Boy and Maggie May in between trips to the bar and meandering around folk. The set came to a close with much singing along and dancing to Whiskey in the Jar and Hotel California. We were getting a bit excited for Brad’s set though.
We’d been expecting just Brad Dear, but he brought Chris and Andy with him for a full band line-up – welcome surprise! He launched into I’m Still Here and then They Say. The crowd had swelled over the course of the afternoon and those of us that had been there a while were pretty well alcoholically lubricated by now so it was definitely starting become a fully fledged party in the field.
Ian’s demonically painted face was cavorting around fuelled by Old Rosie, as the band kicked into Festival Bar Blues and then Far Away. A lovely moment was up next, Brad dedicated probably his anthem Special Brew to Roy Stone, the foundation in his name was one of the charities being supported by the event, we even had a little conga around the beer garden as tradition dictates.
Walls, Circles and Roundabouts and an encore of Save our Souls rounded off a tremendously good set. I’m pretty excited at the prospect of studio time for the band in the near future – there needs to be more recorded material of Brad and the band.
Next up were The Fanzines – who completed the transition from the more chilled out folk we’d started the day to into more full on punk and SKA covers. After an initial technical wibble they proceeded to really get the party rocking kicking off with Ramones number Rockaway Beach and into Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t).
The Ruts’ Babylon’s Burning kept the rabble rousing to the max, and carried us into Sound of the Suburbs by The Members. Then it was time to throw some two-tone/ska into the mix with awesome renditions of Gangsters, Too Much Pressure and Nite Klub – always good to have a bounce to, and it carried on with The Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom hilariously dedicated to Paul and Sharon’s anniversary.
That’s mainly hilarious because Ian had asked them to dedicated to Paul and Sarah, celebrating their third wedding anniversary that day. And Sarah’s mum is called Sharon. Oops! The two-tone journey was finished off with Too Much Too Young by The Specials and after some raucous coercion from the crowd we managed to get an encore of Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia. A crackingly energetic set. Loved it.
Earlier in the day Pat’s much more refined sales technique saw us all buy raffle tickets to help with the fundraising (unlike Joe who tailed us to the bar to claim our change for his charity bucket practically every time!). The draw was now – for someone who never normally wins on raffles I found myself with an impressive haul of two Deerstock tickets and an electric cool box.
I already have Deerstock tickets – but Paul and Sarah don’t, so I found a good home for them, meanwhile Andy had been coveting the cool box so he ended up with that since I couldn’t think of much use for it! He gave me some cash for it which I converted later into Jägerbombs for everyone – everyone’s a winner!
By this point I’m afraid that I was a bit merry – Cats Charis were up next, and put on a set of bassy funky music. I did detect a cracking cover of The Lovecats by The Cure which was awesome. All their set sounded good, although I wasn’t able /capable of gathering songs from their set list. Luckily they are playing at Deerstock too so I get a second bite at the paying-attention cherry.
Finally the headliners – Adam had been raving about Unknown Era earlier in the day so whilst in a reasonably advanced state of drunkenness I was looking forward to hearing them. Their soundcheck sounded like a bassier rendition of Scatman John’s I’m a Scatman. Their sound was hard to categorise – I wrote ‘organic drum and bass type shizzle’ in my notes.
Ella perhaps more eruditely likened them to New Groove Formation. Their first song was My Town, the set list kind of blurs in the memory until a reggae medly including Stir It Up. There was a song inspired by David Cameron that followed – and overall I’m left with an impression of a crazy disco ska reggae mash up which was very pleasing to the ear indeed. Again, I’m looking forward to a second chance to acquaint myself at Deerstock.
All that remained was some Jägerbombs by the bonfire before a short walk back to Paul and Sarah’s. It involved going through a park, with a zipwire. You can see where this is going – after Andy and I had a go on it it seemed like a good idea to try it standing up – I got on it, Andy shoved me and didn’t stop leaving us both in an undignified heap in the dark.
“It was the few seconds of silence after you landed that was scary”, opined Paul. Oh well, nobody was seriously hurt! Once back we had cheese and drinks and I fell asleep on a beanbag. Awesome day/night, well done to Jed, Naomi and team – and £2,000 raised for amazing charities to boot.