Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part one..
How to go about summing up the best part of a week in a field in Shropshire at Farmer Phil’s? Herb did a great job in poetic form already – I doubt I’ll be as succinct! It was a windy field I arrived at on Tuesday evening, soon enough I’d got myself sorted nearly in the same spot as the year before, a fun night was spent eating fish curry (thanks Spike!), being cheated out of winning a rock, paper, scissors game, campfire singing and watching the stars.
Wednesday arrived and so did more people – Dave and Caroline got stuck in the mud, needing to be towed out by festival ‘Mr Fix It’ Craig, having spent our time in the campsite Tim, Jo and I opted to head up to the arena to case things out – and see Debbo and Phily in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar. Back in the campsite there was more fireside singing, more star gazing and lots of dogs to make friends with. Lurgan was a gorgeous young lurcher camped nearby – sadly Murphy didn’t get on with him!
Thursday started with bacon, a shopping trip with Tim and Jo to pick up supplies (for me that was a gas bottle and more bacon, ha!) whilst Caroline whipped up an awesome chilli. Ella arrived having been delivered by the lovely Parry clan – eventually finding me having been for a wander around the campsite. We took Kezzi up to the arena where she put on a dazzling performance in the kids open mic, before Emma and the Professor put on an early performance whilst we socialised.
That was a pretty brief summary of an awesome couple-and-a-bit of days – opening the campsite early for a festival is a great move. No pressure to get set up fast, loads of time to just relax and appreciate some great company – by the time Friday, the day the festival actually starts properly, arrives you’re definitely in a great frame of mind – relaxed, comfortable and ready to tackle the live music goodness!
The first act up was Ferocious Dog – playing an acoustic set to a big opening festival crowd – they started by Ken inviting crowd-members up on stage to join him for his 22 press-up challenge, I definitely saw Twerky Dave up there amongst others. The set started with them all sitting down, Scott on a cajon and a lovely couple of slowed-down songs in the form of Lyla and Quiet Paddy – the latter in particular a real revelation in slowed down style.
This wasn’t just any old set though – they had plans, some of which I knew about – some of which I didn’t (more on that in a bit). Dave ‘Dirty Davey’ Savage was summoned to the stage to lead them in to Criminal Justice – it sounded bloody great, then it was Unconditional and Too Late with the full instrumental intro which sounded awesome. Freeborn John saw Aine surfing on Spike’s shoulders.
Then the surprise – ‘can Alan Fisher come up on stage please?’ said Ken, grinning. Scott had had a quiet word with him having discovered I’ve been tentatively learning cajon, so my first ever gig – rather than being with the Star Copiers, was on the main stage of Farmer Phil’s with Ferocious Dog playing Ruby Bridges. It was difficult to get a feel for how it sounded through the monitor, but well, it was a huge honour and I’m chuffed to bits to have done it. Whacking the cymbal with my finger at the end might’ve been a mistake though! (thanks for grabbing the photo, Christina!)
I shuffled back to the crowd as we were treated to seldom-heard Mairi’s Wedding Part III and Blind Leading The Blind, before Bart joined them for Freethinker. Much to Dan’s chagrin Paddy on the Railway made an appearance – Scott, Waggy, Kev and Ellis providing backing vocals before the finale was Slow Motion Suicide with Enya providing stunning keyboard complementing Dan’s fiddle perfectly, with Mark and Kev joining on guitar.
It was a lovely relaxed almost lounge-style set – whilst the songs sped up as they went along (running out of time, y’see), it was a nice window into the possibility of some more deliberately slow-paced acoustic sets. Whilst I like a good mosh as much as anyone, the songs really do stand up well to having a bit of the pace stripped out of them and give you the chance to appreciate the lyrics and intricacy of the music. I hope it’s a future thing!
Then it was over to the second stage for Brian Stone, probably the most frequent performer over the course of the festival, he kicked off with The Boatman then Life Begins @ 50. We had the opportunity for ‘the dance’ for Ward The Pirate then it was back on to his own material for Why Do You Care?. Unfortunately the subject of My Mate Mark was yet to arrive, although Maty did some pretty impressive top dad dancing during it in his stead! Meanwhile outside a man was skiing down the hill behind the stage!
He invited up Morgan (probably the second most frequent performer over the course of the festival!) to join him for a cover of The Leylines’ Let It Go which sounded great, and then it was on to the hauntingly lovely Barrow Downs. There was a bit of a clash though and I’d wanted to check out Flight Brigade on the main stage – taking in their epic progressive rock folk fusion – Tearaway, Our Friends Our Enemies and When The Water Whispers were particular highlights.
Funke and the Two Tone Baby was up next – he kicked in with Never Used To Dance, and then into Bella’s Kiss (with an uncharacteristic loop pedal slip up at the start accompanied with an ‘oh fack!’ which made me chuckle). During I’m Not Well (strangely prophetic) I had word from the campsite that the wind had destroyed my gazebo – so I nipped down to sort it accompanied by the ‘la la I spend the week in an office’ song and If You’re Nice To Me.
Back on the camp it was indeed a mangled gazebo – two legs snapped, beyond repair – Wez was kind enough to assist with the improvised recovery (involving an axe, of course!), I salvaged the canopy and walls but the frame was beyond recovery. On reflection, changing the direction of the wind-bar was probably a mistake, ha! Luckily the scratch it put down Mick’s van buffed out without a lasting scar. There’s a lesson there – remember guy ropes!
I made it back for Paige Seabridge on the second stage – she was singing Beautiful Day and then in to Jake Bugg’s Trouble Town and Biffy Clyro’s God & Satan. She was on great form, and carried on her eclectic mix of covers with You’ve Got The Love, Stay With Me, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, Zombie , Fifteen Years, Hey Ya and Heartbeats. But the highlight for me was a rare outing for one of her own songs – Alive – it’s a beautifully written song.
She finished up with Home then Gaz Brookfield’s Black Dog Day and continuing the dog day theme of Dog Days are Over. Awesome set. On the way back down to the campsite I saw Big T and Rachel about to embark on their Hoggin’ and Doggin’ mission (one that wouldn’t quite go to plan, but an awesome adventure nonetheless I’m sure!). Meanwhile back at the campsite it was barbecue time!
Having eaten my fill I took a bit of a funny turn – it wasn’t drink or food induced but decided to try to sleep it off for a couple of hours before heading on up to catch some music. That didn’t quite work, Ella did come back to rouse me but the next I knew was waking up in the morning – which meant annoyingly I missed Honeywitch, Black Thorn (thank you for the in absentia song dedication, chaps!) and The Selecter. Not to mention the open-mic Doozer McDooze hosted featuring Isaac, Brian, Morgan and Zoe (amongst others).
On the bright side, I felt fine in the morning after about 14 hours sleep, and Ella had returned with copies of Black Thorn’s new album which I’m looking forward to having a listen to, all in all – a splendid day respite the mangled gazebo and strange-but-brief illness!