Disarm you with a smile..
Late on Saturday Ella and Morgan had sneakily secured themselves an open mic slot on the hidden stage. As Sunday morning came I was up and ready way before the performer – luckily for me I scored some bacon and and egg from Herb to cook up for breakfast to stick on a sandwich, thanks Herb! We alternated kettle boiling whilst the rest of the camp got themselves mustered.
I sneakily told as many people as I could about the imminent performance – given the relative earliness of the hour – Mick had come round to say goodbye, but was eager to stay to watch, and we managed to round up a few more folk to get a bit of a crowd ready to head on down to the hidden stage where last minute rehearsals / discussions were taking place, whilst the stage crew got everything plugged in and soundchecked.
Morgan – as noted yesterday – had been writing down guitar chords during The Leylines set, then wasted no time in teaching himself Run For Cover overnight, which was the song they opened up with. As Ella spent time in the recording studio with The Leylines and did backing vocals for that particuar song – it was one she didn’t need any lyrical help with at all! It sounded lovely, to my admittedly biased ears.
Next up the phone was out for lyric checking – once the capo was on the right fret they launched into a cover of Gaz Brookfield’s Bigger Man and then finally on to Levellers’ Beautiful Day. Awesome way to start the day – we headed back to the camp for Ella to decompress a bit before she needed to launch back into the fields to take more awesome photos – but she and Morgan got some great feedback from the folk who’d mustered.
In case you missed it (Dave and Caroline were most put out that she hadn’t told them about it!), I just happen to have recorded all but the very start of it! Muhaha! I’m not sure whether Morganella will stick as a name though!
Back into the arena we arrived in time for Bo Weavil, folk blues goodness flowed over the field, we first saw them back in Thorne last year and they were awesome. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of their set really – and this time around we were still in ‘hello’ mode with the assorted people moving back into the arena for another day of musical goodness. In Thorne they blew me away with a cover of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night – I hope for those more with-it than I was were treated to this at STSA.
Next up were Echo Town – both Becky and Pete had highlighted these as ones to watch, and with a booming didgeridoo accompanied with slide guitar and drums, an amazing sound was already emanating from the stage. Almost hypnotically rhythmic the set started with both musicians seated, but got more energetic as the set ran on with a myriad of instrument changes – I’ve got their album on my list to buy next pay day, they were bloody excellent.
Around this juncture Karen arrived – Brian had been a little bit of a lost soul without his ‘partner in grime’ (I’m using his phrase here!) so it was lovely both to see Karen and Brian reunited with her by the mead bar (although the photo is from later at 3 Daft Monkeys!) And whilst there, well, why not buy some mead? Well – that might prove a challenge over the course of the day – The MeadEvil bar was set to sell out of its principal product now Dean has the measure of it (and fills his drinking vessel with it three glasses at a time now!).
We needed to get to the hidden stage though – The Silk Road were on in acoustic form. I’ve been promising Tich for ages to watch them when I got the chance – and I’m glad I did, gritty earthy folk with melody with a real social conscience. Of their own songs I really enjoyed Justify, whilst a charming cover of seldom heard Levellers track Robbie Jones was another highlight – definitely a band to watch out for, but we needed to hotfoot it back to the main stage before the end for…
… Maelor Hughes! He was on very good form – the slow finger-picking version of One Way he’d mentioned the night before worked very well indeed for me before moving into his own songs, Morning Sun, Better Day and Big Golden Pot. A new song was then followed up with Elation – no Chantelle this time but Dan from Bo Weavil accompanied on violin – another sublime combination. Fight With Me came at the same time as Ella delivered a giant tray of delicious paella which I munch whilst listening to the encore of Milltown Boy. Cracking set.
There was time for a peruse around the artistic grotto that The Famous Artist Birdy Rose had set up in two beach huts. I love her visual style, and am a subscriber to the monthly DoozerBird project where basically I get sent a box of random arty goodness from the collaborative musical and visual genius of her and Doozer McDooze. Definitely a very cool thing to be supporting, and I get boxes of cool stuff every month!
Having acquired one of their t-shirts the previous day I was exceedingly excited to see The Sweetchunks Band. Folk musician/comedians – with a singer, Stuart, who reminds me strangely of Matt Berry. They kicked in with a song proclaiming that they’re not pirates, but drunks on a boat and then into Devil at the Door. Tom added to his canon of on-stage cameos in the guise of Carruthers the Butler, a precursor to the moving I Would Punch a Bear for You.
A pastiche of Nickelback’s Rock Star was next (but of course, Folk Star) before morphing into Paradise City. Since the band seem to have lost their percussionist they have improvised with a stomp box made from a cricket bat. Hampshirian traditional folk song Bullet in the Head was next – before Brian was invited on stage for one of the most amusing episodes of the weekend as he was seduced to the tune of Kiss. “The Booty’s coming, Brian! You can’t stop the booty!”
What I genuinely found one of the highlights of the festival was finished up with I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester, the amazingly anthemic Bee’s are F**king Awesome and finished up with Drink Up and a raucous cover of Highway to the Dangerzone. I’m so glad they’re playing at Deerstock, and I’m pretty sure they’re one of the support acts for somewhere else I’m going soon too. Woo!
We retreated to the shade and the picnic blanket to take in Something Nasty in the Woodshed a bagpipe-infused folk shanty side. I managed to pick out Bonnie Ship the Diamond and a song called The Holy Ground. They sounded good but bagpipes rarely do it for me – it was entertaining watching Sam and Matt trying unsuccessfully to hula-hoop – although I’m told Herb managed a passable attempt!
But we needed to get moving again, both Sam Jones and Paige Seabridge were due on the hidden stage – first Sam, then with Paige joining when they become Gingerbread! With them on overlapping Gaz we wanted to get there for the start, I think they had the same idea, cutting their set a bit short to make sure they could see him too, ha! Sam was up first with a couple of songs, culminating in the beautiful Bee’s Wing – which made Ella very happy!
With Paige on stage with hands in pockets, they played a lovely set together of Crawling Up That Hill, Glorious You, Hourglass, Sweet Nothing and Home. I’m glad they went for a short set – I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any, but we did need to get a wriggle on to get back to the arena (via the loo) to get back in time for Gaz Brookfield.
Gaz Brookfield kicked off his set with Ozzy – the subject of which amusingly was parked up just next to the stage. Godless Man, Maps, The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke – he was on energetic form to a big crowd who’d gathered to see him. Sailor Jerry’s Kitchen led into Man of Means as we got a bit of a tour around his discography. The set ended with probably his strongest singalong numbers though, perfect for a sunny festival field.
Towns, Land Pirate’s Life, Be The Bigger Man and then the proper crowd participation anthems of Let The East Winds Blow and Thin. The jump happened at the end, Ella swore as she didn’t manage to grab it on camera (although Naomi F did a pretty good job from back stage on her phone, just to rub it in!). Gaz continues to go from strength to strength with his performances (another picture nicked from Ella!).
I feel really lucky to have got to see 3 Daft Monkeys on successive weekends – I love dancing about to them and don’t get to see them too often, they were looking very in the spirit of things – much like at Bearded mixing new songs in with familiar ones. Drinking With God still sounds great – Faces led in to what now appears to be settled as called Not In My Name before we got to get our sway on with Social Vertigo.
A couple more new songs were in there and sounding great, whilst we got to have a waltz to Days of the Dance. Initially it was thought there wouldn’t be enough of us for Brian to repeat his leg-waving antics for World on it’s Head – but we decided there were so held Dean up as a surfboard whilst Brian vaulted up and got his legs waving in the air for nearly the whole song. Alas we were denied an encore as timing was tight, a pity, but another amazing set.
Back to the picnic blanket to enjoy Ben Ottewell – melodic voice, guitar – sunshine (though we’d found a spot of shade to keep out of it), it was lovely. At one point Becki pointed out he sounded like the singer from Gomez, ha! The midges were out in force but seemingly didn’t fancy a bite of me, a fair few others weren’t so lucky! I know Pete in particular was dead excited to snag Ben to play, I’m going to have to have a delve into his recorded material to hear more I think.
Next up were Nucleus Roots – a roots-reggae dance fusion that again fitted in very well with an afternoon in the sun, made even better by Naomi F having left-over food from catering to the artists and providing us with lovely trays of pasta bolognaise. At Wistful Naomi will be on site feeding the masses – after that little taster I can’t wait! Meanwhile I must admit a full-on weekend was starting to make me crave chill out time! The crowd had thinned out a bit by those people who needed to back at work on Monday.
The evening was drawn to a close for us by the wonderful Wille and the Bandits and Counting Coins. I must admit we’d been drawn very much into sitting-down-socialising mode so perhaps didn’t give the acts the attention they deserve. Certainly Wille and the Bandits sounded amazing, but with the lure of sitting in the campsite pulling strongly we headed back part way through the Counting Coins set, three days of revelry in the sun had finally lulled us into relaxing!
With guitars out (and Matt’s amazing turtle-y shaped double gong thing) we spent the rest of the evening exchanging tunes, jokes and chatter in the campsite reflecting on what had been at truly magical weekend. Pete and Becky pulled out all the stops and by gosh what a success it had been – despite seeing loads of amazing music I can’t help but regret the things I missed, but it’s not possible to see everything, is it?
Add to that charities like Yorkshire Cancer Research, Hallam FM’s Cash for Kids and the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund all set to receive a share of the funds raised over the weekend we truly all do have Something to Smile About. As one of the last off the camper field it was left immaculately neat and tidy, which is always a pleasure to see – people leaving only footprints (and tyre tracks) and tidily bagged up rubbish for collection later.
I’ve seen people comparing STSA with Bearded more favourably, I think that’s disingenuous – Bearded is a mature festival with twenty times the people attending – the events whilst both music and performing arts festivals aren’t really in the same category. Having said that, I would say that I definitely had more fun at Something to Smile About – an absolute triumph of a very ambitious project.
Better photos can be found of Sunday in Ella’s Snotography photo album.