Rock-Stock is rising.. friday..

One hell of a bar has been set as the festival season commenced this weekend, for Ella and I it started on Thursday evening for Jonny’s EP Launch. After finishing up at work Ella got a train in to Solihull and we headed off to grab last minute stuff from home and jump into Ludo to take the short drive up to The Chimneys in Willington for Rockstock and Barrel. On a normal day it’s a nice-but-functual former industrial social club site – when Debbo, Phily and the team get their hands on it they turn it into a magical festival wonderland.  We got ourselves parked up in a handy spot, and set to the quick job of getting the van sorted as our accomodation for the next few nights.

The Cheezy Vinyl Bar and The Scrumptiddly Cider Bar were set up outside, the former also housing a Murphy’s Stage giving a third performance space at the festival.  Inside the main hall housed the main stage area, the acoustic stage moved into the former snooker room which had – predictably – had a Rockstock and Barrel makeover to create a wonderful intimate space.  Friday morning started with helping John move his tent – then a stint covering the gate to the Riverside campsite for just under a couple of hours.  It was quite nice to just watch the world go by and guide in a few early arrivals to their camping spots.

Then it was time to loiter around the Chimneys campsite as people started to rouse or arrive – a quick walk to Willington for supplies passed some more time, and a chance to ‘vandalise’ Tim and Jo’s new van, Tootle (it has a blackboard-paint covered boot lid and they had chalk pens for us to use).  We were pretty restrained I think, it will be interesting to see how it fairs over the course of the festival season!  Soon enough though it was time for the music to start.  I’ll make no apology for doing lots of dipping in and out of things and not making detailed notes – but hopefully I can still do the weekend some kind of justice!

Chuck SJ Hay was up first on the main stage – she’s an artist I’ve heard lots of people talk about and never seen perform so I was looking forward to it.  I think it’s fair to say she’s an aggresive and passionate performer, fast paced rhythmnic yet intricate guitar work and powerful vocals make you stand up and pay attention.  Bless her she’d been caught in awful traffic so had literally tipped straight out of her car and onto the stage, a request for a guitar tuner saw her end up with three to choose from during the set!  I didn’t catch any song titles but loved the one that seemed to be inspired by the current political climate and particularly the aftermath of Brexit.

I needed to cut her set a little short though to head to the Cheezy Vinyl Bar stage to catch Dirty Davey playing.  Poor Dave has been really suffering with illness lately that has rendered his voice somewhat compromised – so he roped in Russ to provide vocals whilst he stuck with guitar.  It was a packed space so it was difficult to get a good spot, and they were underway already when I arrived.  Sell Out and Millionaires were early in the set – Russ really warming to performing at a festival for the first time in no time, whilst Dave’s new Gretsch guitar sounds great.

Unconditional was up next and then a lovely rendition of Elation – always one that I reckon it takes some balls to tackle full stop, but particularly after the version Maelor pulled out the bag for Bostin’ Days.  It works well though!  They got the crowd singing along with 15 Years, although the crowd seemed to be singing it back at a faster pace than the slowed version Dave and Russ seem to have come up with, always tricky, haha!  They finished up with another singalong of Slow Motion Suicide – cracking set, Dave’s last as an unmarried man!

As we were playing the festival we’d been given a voucher for a camembert in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar, we’d booked that in but had time to catch a very small chunk of Brian Stone and Jonny Wallis in the guise of The Fox and the Pirate, which whilst regrettable – wasn’t so bad as we’d seen them both last night (well, Kev might’ve been asleep in his van, thinking about it!) – so after Jack of all Trades, Quiet Anarchist and Crime of Rights we hotfooted it back to the emporium of cheese to enjoy some cheesy goodness.  And very good it was too.  All riders should consist of cheese!

In the main room we saw a bit of Ghosts of Men – a full on rock sound considering it’s just Pete Clegg on guitar and vocals and a drummer.  Most songs were introduced as ‘this is a song’ so heaven only knows what they were called, but they had some real oomph.  Whether it be through some dropped tuning or an effects pedal there was some real bassy goodness in there as well as top end with some real grooves from the drums too.  A really enjoyable chunk of set – after which we had to do a mad dash to catch Doozer McDooze over in the acoustic room.

He kicked off with Searching and then I seem to have utterly neglected to make a note of any of the other songs!  It was a typically raucous Doozer set which kept the crowd well entertained though – we moved back into the main room to see Debbo’s belated birthday celebrations, she’d been asked to sit at the feasting table set up by the side of the stage and be waited on by the assorted folk in the room which seemed to work very well indeed – along with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday led by Jay from the main stage.

In the meantime we were a bit transfixed watching The Balkan Bandits set up on stage – they are definitely my discovery of the weekend.  Unsurprisingly a full on eastern european sound – reminscent of some of the more Balkan-style 3 Daft Monkeys songs.  They were all dressed up, they’d adorned the stage with tinsel and they struck up eventually with Dirty Failure (I think), before singer Carolinka cavorted to the stage via the dancefloor ready to kick straight into I Will Survive.  They were so much fun, and the combination of accordion, fiddle, double bass and percussion interweaving with vocals from most band members.  Great fun!

Putting on the Ritz was next up which morphed into the Cantina song from Star Wars, a song about wanting to be an astronaut morphed into the Tetris theme tune, a song called Vladimir then on to the familiar re-imagined was Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps.  A song about Jägermeister was next, and very fitting to most of us – a song about halloumi cheese also strangely apt for the setting – then another involving Jeremy Clarkson that borrowed the bass riff from The Chain.  By this point Debbo had single-handedly dragged most of us from our chairs to the dancefloor, and I’m mightly glad she did!

A run rendition of Mein Herr from Cabaret was next, and with loud cries for an encore coming from the crowd we were finally treated to Can’t Take My Eyes of You.  I absolutely loved these guys – so much fun but with fantastic musicianship to bring it all together.  They’re actually from Sheffield too so it’s definitely not inconceivable that I contrive a reason to see them again – I shall certainly be trying to.  I do like it when I discover a new band that I really enjoy like this!  We headed on outside to enjoy some of the amazing cider from The Scrumptiddly Cider Bar – Pineapple in most of our cases.  It truly is a drink of beauty.  I did spend most of the weekend telling people it was horrible though so it wouldn’t sell out, haha!  I failed.

By the time we’d finished our cider interlude it was time for Gaz Brookfield on the main stage – we’d seen Gaz earlier and it was great to meet his wife Ange, they were en route to a holiday in Scotland.  Now anybody who knows me knows Gaz is one of my favourites, this was a wonderfully relaxed set.  His early arrival meant he’d had a chance to soak in the festival feeling, coupled with perhaps soaking in some of the cider on offer and a touch of pre-holiday giddiness there was a really fun collaborative buzz between the crowd and performer.

He kicked in with Diabetes Blues and then moved on to March of Progress from the new album – you’d think Towns as an older song would be a safe bet for lyrical safety but it seemed that the lyrics just fell out of his head a couple of times.  It was deftly dealt with though, either utilising the not inconsiderable singing back from the crowd, or just declaring “fuck it, let’s do the chorus!” without skipping a beat.  I love this about seeing live performances from artists quite a lot, it really helps make a gig stand out – particularly handled in such good spirits.  He did point out he hated doing it when I was there as it’d make it into these pages – soz Gaz!

The Tale of Gunner Haines was up next from the new album – I still plan on writing up the story behind the song (although to be fair, read the lyric book or listen intently, the song does a really good job of that in itself!).  Under the Table had glasses aloft and swaying along before It’s All So Rock and Roll had the crowd singing the ‘la la la’ bit unprompted (I won’t take credit, but certainly I bellowed it loud enough to make sure if people weren’t going to do it spontaneously then they’d pick up the idea quite quickly – I think a fair few folk had the same idea though as it was picked up very quickly!).  Apparently the la la bit was Nick Parker’s idea – and what a good idea it was!

Land Pirate’s Life had a bit of a lyrical whoops in it too, similarly handled with cool collectedness, and then it was back to the new album with Life Begins, Gaz made a point of pointing out the inadvertent lyrical borrowing from Brian Stone (who was, of course, in the middle of the crowd dancing like a loon for much of the set).  Pleasingly for me Godless Man was introduced with a reference to atheist fruit (arf), possibly in reponse from Jamie’s bellow in the crowd he chose Maps next – which was played to the frankly impressive sight of Jamie being hoisted on Tim’s shoulders.

I Know My Place was next and then he announced he’d do the song he does last next for a change – Thin is another pretty old song, and sure enough, more lyrical slip-ups!  The crowd participation was lustily provided with no real need for prompting – he finished the main set with anthemic Be the Bigger Man with, wait for it, another lyrical slip-up!  Ha, it was funny!  For his encore he’d had a quiet word with a few of us to join him on stage to provide the echo bits from the stage too – what an honour, proper life-goal to share a stage with Gaz, we had some real fun singing along.

With a more cramped stage than usual he didn’t go for the jump, instead he unplugged his guitar and Pied Pipered his way to the acoustic room where Davey Malone was due on (although probably not immediately as he was stood next to me on the stage!) whilst playing Doozer McDooze’s I Don’t Wanna Go Home – wonderful set.  We ended up outside for a while enjoying a cheeky cider or two and nattering before eventually wending our way back to the van (sorry Davey!).  What an epic day though, and I’m conscious I missed plenty of excellent music too.  Stay tuned for Saturday!

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