Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part two..
Saturday morning came and despite the strange cold-like thing I’d had the night before I felt fine aside from a bit snotty, which is a bonus! Speaking of Snotty, she had an appointment with an open-mic night where Morganella were scheduled to perform – so our first order of business was to head over a couple of fields where clan Parry were camped for an opportunity to rehearse a bit, grabbing a coffee en route.
By the time we’d finished and headed up to the arena it was lunchtime, nachos were my weapon of choice, we munched food whilst Emma and the Professor were getting started, it provided a most excellent soundtrack for a nice lunch – I only caught Kisses Sweeter Than Wine amongst the set before we decided to check out the shops. I had designs on a poncho – as The Mighty Boosh rightly states, it’s impossible to feel sad in a poncho!
Whilst shopping though I was drawn down the bank to the second stage where Guitar Cubed were playing Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite songs, and done justice here. They moved on to Hey Jude before I headed back off up the hill to find Ella mooching around the shops some more. It was a shame not to have had the chance to catch more of their set though, the little bit I caught sounded great (I managed to miss getting a photo too).
Our first full set of the day came courtesy of an impromptu substitution for Skeg – we were sad Skeg couldn’t make the festival due to family reasons, but Brian Stone, Doozer McDooze and Morgan stepped in and did him proud! They started with a rambunctious (or should that be rumbunctious? Ha) rendition of What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor followed by Doozer taking the lead on We Are The Drunk and Disorderly.
Comfort levels were tested with a cover of Devil’s Prefects I’m Gonna Knock One Out For Jesus – not that such matter bothers me, but the line of children doing ‘the dance’ in front was uncomfortably amusing! Morgan joined them on stage for a cover of Gaz Brookfield’s Bigger Man then it was back to Doozer for It’s Nice Down Here. Brian was next for Why Is All The Rum Gone?
Morgan was summoned back to assist with I Don’t Wanna Go Home and the set was finished up with a necessary cover of Skeg’s song Pay The Nice Stuff Forward. A raucous crowd demanded an encore which was duly provided in the form of Levellers anthem Riverflow. A lovely impromptu set – chaotic, boisterious and fun – so whilst it was of course a real shame that Skeg couldn’t make it, he was done proud by his last minute step-ins!
A hotfoot to the main stage was next to see Sam Jones and, well, half of his band – we know only too well Sam is perfectly capable of entertaining us with just a guitar and his voice, but the added drums were a bonus too! The first song I noted was Lay Me Down and then Coming Home – he was clearly in banterous mood with the crowd which is always fun too. Steve McQueen was followed up with Farmer’s Anthem which I think was written for the event!
The stratocaster was brought in for Nothing Left For You and Hush Up before a return of the acoustic guitar for Hotel Yorba, Optimistic Song and Buttons and Pennies. A cracking set – indeed, I foolhardedly headed up to Eastwood last night to see Sam’s open mic night (write-up to follow – and the reason why I’m behind on completing my posts on the magnificent Farmer Phil’s festival. So stay tuned!).
Next up on the main stage was Brad Dear – complete with Andy and Chris, and new recruit Lizzy (of Morris and Watson fame) – whilst they were soundchecking Tim became a human whiteboard for us, cunningly armed with a sharpie. Brad kicked off with Circles and Roundabouts, and then into Walls – Lizzy adding violin really added some depth and lift to a song we already know and love. Clearly a splendid addition.
Leave It All Behind was followed up with Festival Bar Blues, Far Away, Long Road Home, Save Our Souls and They Say. They were on tip top form – but I was lured away by one of the several unfortunate clashes of the day – popping over to the second stage to take in a few songs by the excellent Jake Martin, I first saw him supporting Gaz Brookfield in Nottingham, and he’s back from a few months in Australia and on rude form.
As I arrived he was into King Without A Castle (with the crowd chanting back ‘you’re an arsehole!’ lustily at the appropriate time, ha! Next up was Modern Life – a track on his latest release picking up on the drudgery and somewhat inevitability of modern life. Better Days followed up then album title track We Take Them At Dawn finishing up the set before I wandered back to catch the end of Brad’s set.
I was just in time to catch his track from Bostin’ Days (which you should get tickets for, by the way) Together All The Way and then a rousing finish of I’m Still Here – meaning I managed to miss Special Brew and what I am led to believe was a superb conga line effort from many of the usual suspects. Ah, first world problems or what? That’s one of the reasons that I err away from bigger festivals as there’d be so many more clashes!
Morris & Watson were up next on the second stage – which I was pretty excited about, Morris is of course the aforementioned Lizzy who played with Brad Dear, and Watson is a close relative of Björn from the Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. They kicked in with a rousing instrumental track and then into The Path Of Life. Lovely rhythmic and tuneful folky stuff – I’ve been looking forward to seeing these for a while.
I think And Devil’s Dream was next, then a song with a strong Gaz Brookfieldesque sound – I’m not sure what it was called but the refrain of The Poor Stay Poor While The Rich Get Richer might be the title too! Next up was an Irish Jiggy sounding number (Dan did reveal the name, but I didn’t catch it – it led to Herb doing an impressive riverdance impression at the front though!
Next up was a love song (my notes say Corn Breeze as a title – I’m not sure that can be right!) before a rousing cover of Wagon Wheel – a song I’ve heard quite a bit of from different performers, always fun to listen to different interpretations! The Durham Rangers was up next and then a final song that I didn’t catch the name of – thoroughly good set, I shall be seeking opportunities to see them perform again soon!
Food was calling, we opted for the Caribbean food stall which furnished us with some frankly superb curry goat – we found a nice spot to sit and munch whilst The Endings were finishing up their set on the main stage – including Tell Me Ma and a rousing instrumental finish. A bit sad to have missed the start of their set really, but the line-up is a full-on jam-packed non-stop line of goodness – you have to miss some stuff!
Gaz Brookfield was up next, and he brought with him another annoying clash – but I opted to take in the start of his set, he was on electric form (as ever, to be fair) – kicking off with Diabete’s Blues and then Ozzy. Looking around the huge crowd gathered it was great to see how many folk were singing along – Gaz’s songs have a lot of words! Godless Man was then slowed into Maps before The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke brought the pace back up.
Anyone who follows Gaz on social media will know he’s been recording a new album lately – I’m presuming that the new song he dropped will feature on it, it sounded great, I think it might be called Knowing My Place but I’m not sure, the next track was Diet of Banality. It was at this point I decided to wrench myself away from the main stage and wander the short distance around to the second stage.
Which is where The Star Botherers were on hand – I caught First Night Festival Fever and Ringing In Sick – they had amassed a big crowd considering the competition that they were up against such stiff competition. I was a bit torn, but I did find myself drawn inexonerably back to Gaz on the main stage for the rest of his set. Land Pirate’s Life was underway in what would prove to be a marathon of absolute anthems.
Deathbed, Bigger Man, Let The East Winds Blow, Under The Table and an ‘encore’ of Thin – he really does have an impressive canon of material now, I can’t wait to hear what he has in store on the new album. Backstage Ella was loitering in the wings holding Lacey Lee, I’d signalled her to remind her she wanted to capture ‘the jump’ at the end – she’d pre-empted that, placing her camera on a surface and doing just that, whilst holding a small child. Impressive stuff, an awesome shot (and I can be seen lurking on it if you look carefully!).
The crowd remained in the main arena for The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican, it said it all when Scott looked up and mouthed ‘Jesus Christ!’ on seeing the crowd amassed infront of him. They kicked in with Massage In A Brothel and then into the highly apt Portaloo – my only gripe with this year’s Farmer Phil’s was the state of the toilets, there were mitigating circumstances with some unexpected issues – but some of them were proper minging!
Back on to the set though, Since You’ve Been Ron was up next – as ever with a large crowd there was much laughter from first-timers and seasoned Doonifans alike! Controversy was courted with Keem em art of t’Pub – made all the more amusing by Addie bringing Tommy on stage to provide some backing vocals. She’s From Dodworth was next before Alan took to the keyboard for Walking In Man-Piss.
They kept the anthems coming, Nandos, The Zipper and Festival Weirdos all creating mirthful dancing amongst the revellers, many sporting their own lurid tank tops and wigs – on a quick dash to the loos I bumped into probably the two furthest flung festival revellers, visiting from Tasmania, and readers of this blog apparently (hello!). The Doonicans finished up with Lady In Greggs, Kanye West Is A Cockwomble.
The Devil Went Down To Georgia seemed strangely empty without Tom cavorting on stage in his guise as The Devil, whilst the epic finale of Jump Arahnd was accompanied by an equally epic crowd ‘surf’ (okay, maybe crowd carry!) of Scott up the hill to a very confused looking barman who eventually furnished him with a pint before being taken back to the stage (via a lift from Big T behind the barrier!). Fun set, as ever!
Then t’was up to the open mic for Morganella – as we wandered up to the blue big top it was pretty empty looking and dark. Examining the sign it transpired that it was cancelled – there were some issues with a dam behind the tent that needed fixing. Ella was gutted, she went to find Morgan whilst I had a brainwave to ask Debbo and Phily if they’d host the gig instead – no amplification, but better than cancelling!
The fly in the ointment was locating Ella and Morgan – Suzy and Paige were despatched to ask in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar whilst I found them both, and eventually we got everything underway with a big crowd of folk. Whilst many of them probably couldn’t hear much over the noisy main stage, down at the front I was able to take in a lovely performance despite the background chatter and noise from the arena.
They started out with Black Horse In A Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall – it wasn’t a song I was that familiar with, it sounds great though! Gaz Brookfield probably achieves most covered artist I heard – with a slowed version of Black Dog Day, which was also great. Brian Stone was invited to join for Fifteen Years, then it was back to Gaz for Bigger Man before one of my favourite songs, Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm (complete with doorbell accompaniment for the chimes in the song).
The set proper finished with a preview of what was to come on Sunday with a cover of The Leylines Run For Cover. That was supposed to be it, but loud calls for an encore from the amassed crowd in the tent, a quick conference and a return of Brian Stone on guitar gave us the bonus of Riverflow and I Don’t Wanna Go Home. Ace set – I know I’m terribly biased but I can’t wait to hear their next amplified gig (I’m sure announcements will be coming soon!).
We celebrated with cheesy chips – sadly Nana had run out of chips, so we nipped down to the cafe on the campsite where a veritable mountain of cheese was placed upon a healthily big portion of chips. John and Angela were close by too and lured into cheesy chip goodness too. Once Ella had decompressed a bit after her moment in the limelight we wandered back up to the arena.
Whilst Dreadzone were on the main stage we were more excited to see Nick Parker and the False Alarms on the second stage. We’ve seen Nick a few times, but never with a full band – I was intrigued, and in truth a bit scared, to see how it would translate – his songs are lyrically clever, and work brilliantly with just him and a guitar – there’s always a fear that they’d get lost with a full band. I needn’t have worried – this was probably the set of the festival for me.
At night the second stage crowd is swathed in darkness – I might’ve misheard but I’m sure that Nick said the first song was called Cock (!), I’m sure I misheard. The setlist had both familiar and new songs to me, but with wonderful depth and layers provided by the electric guitar, bass, violin and drums also on stage. I’ve Never Been To Dublin Before was up next, then You Should Be Home By Now.
So many of the crowd were singing along – we even spotted an incognito Gaz Brookfield, hooded, dancing along with everyone else. You Should Be Home By Now led into Could We At Least Try. A new and metaphortastic (Nick is master of metaphors in his lyrics!) song Make Yourself At Home was followed up by probably my favourite of his songs An Open Letter To My Human (ostensibly written by his dog, amusingly named Kenny, having observed his songwriting process).
Down With The Youth is another cleverly funny song, the one with the immortal line ‘I don’t wanna be the kid with the double-denim dad’ – written with his son. Jerusalem is pretty anthemic – and the volume of singing from the crowd took Nick back a moment. Terry and June is a ludicrously charming love song – it’s Ella’s favourite so she was delighted when it appeared. Come On Jump Over Your Shadow starts slowly then opens up into a full band epic.
The placards were out to help the crowd sing the German sections of The German Song (that might not be its proper name!). Metaphor is great example of Nick’s lyrical wordplay, charting the frustrations of working as a Nanny (being a general in someone else’s army). A two song encore was negotiated with the sound-desk chaps, so we were treated to If I Can’t Change Your Mind Then No-one Will and Another Journey Home.
As I said above – an undoubted highlight of the festival. Nick and the band are superb performers, and I love his style of songwriting – funny, irreverent yet clever and catchy. Definitely a contender for my musical find of the year in a year that has had an embarrassment of riches – and a thoroughly lovely chap to boot. All that remained for us was a wander to the campsite – a raucous singalong was underway in our camp, we joined in for a while before retiring to bed. Saturday, what a day!