Ey Up Mi Ducks! Part one.
This weekend is going to be one of those impossible to sum up festivals. Ey Up Mi Duck – what an absolute triumph! We arrived on site on Friday afternoon and were immediately directed to ‘Camp Copier’ by Jamie (this was our corner of the campsite, not Mark’s nickname – although it might yet have a dual purpose!). So after finding a suitable spot to park up we set about sorting out van things before cracking a drink and settling down with our neighbours – Jacquie, Aimee, Mark and Amanda were already in situ, soon enough Kev, Julie and the kids would arrive and Jamie would be relieved of his stewarding duties.
It was a bit of a headspin (in a nice way!) to have an artist wristband for the first time, too!
The entertainment in the evening would all be in the clubhouse – as we’d got an earlyish set the next day we all decided not to be too ridiculous on the drinking front, the best laid plans and all that! As we moseyed on down to the clubhouse we found some rather splendid ciders on offer – and Al Rate kicking off the music. Difficult slot, it was a talky room with lots of folk catching up, but Jacquie and I made a point of watching his set – at one point the gentleman whose name I’ve forgotten (but he was drawing folk as they played) settled nearby – and promptly started drawing me rather than Al! Awkward!
I really enjoyed Al’s set – he kicked off with Lady Chatterley’s Bower, and attempted to fight the background noise with Americana-infused folk – Greenback Dollar was in there, A Protest at the Protest and Sinnerman (with some vocals help from a chap whose name I didn’t catch) – my notes are a bit sketchy at this juncture, it has to be said! It reminded me that I really must make an effort to get to see DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show soon, though. If nothing else it had me listening to their album when driving about today!
Next up were Shanks’ Pony – with guitar, cajon and violin they had a bit more oomph to get the crowd quelled (and dancing) – kicking in with Fisherman’s Blues and then Good Old English Folk Song and into Never Kissed a Girl. I’d already been having a quick cajon conference with Bob before they went on – every time I see him I learn something new, so I was watching very carefully! Top of the World was in there, and a couple of new songs (I think I have these right), Rotherham’s Lament and Cruising Insanity (the latter inspired by a canal boat holiday).
The rest of the set was a mixture of covers – Raggle Taggle Gypsy, Far From Home, Dirty Old Town and Beautiful Day (which was the encore) – with Shanks’ favourites Special Brew and Moshpit Waltz in there too – it was an ace set! Hunger was setting in for Ella and I so we popped to the food stall outside selling pork cobs for some sustenance, unsure of our next movements – we ended up with Becky and Pete (and Buster!) who had quite a gathering in what would be the merch tent until tiredness saw us head vanward.
So Saturday arrived with more of a hangover than I had intended – soon put paid to by a breakfast in the clubhouse – once that was sorted we headed back to the campsite for a chill and lots of tea courtesy of Jacquie. Today we did have to be sensible, after all. We headed to the Vintage Acoustic Stage for the opening act at 11am, which was none other than Dirty Davey. Mark, Kev and I had agreed to join him for a song or two at the end of his set so we took our gear down there to get soundchecked.
Chris was grappling with the PA and got it up and running and sounding great – but running half an hour late, which had obvious timing implications. Luckily there was a planned gap later in the day, stage-manager Rob asked us if we’d mind sacrificing our early slot to play later at 6pm. After a quick conference we agreed, I cheekily quipped ‘Does that mean we can go on the main stage?’ not really thinking much of it – only for Rob to return saying ‘yeah, okay!’ – ha, what a promotion! But of course, no real drinking for quite a bit longer than we’d thought. Not really a bad thing!
Dirty Davey kicked off on his own – Shirt of Blue documents the tale of the school-bully turned policeman who ended up facing off against his relatives during the miner’s strikes. A powerful acapella rendition of Summer Fields and Riot Shields was up next, and then the emotional The Old Man – the story of Dave’s coal mining grandfather and mentor. What immediately struck me was how much more confident Dave is on a stage these days – interjecting between each song with their background and story.
Next up was I Hate You Mrs Thatcher (not exactly a surprise sentiment!) which got Dave into a bit of bother when posting the lyrics on Facebook. It’s a scathing and at times funny song – it did make me wince a bit looking at how many kids were in the audience, haha! Then we were on to provide some backing instrumentation and Russ was on for vocals for Criminal Justice and an impromptu encore of Riverflow – considering we’d not rehearsed together I think it went rather well from what I could hear through the monitors!
In the meantime Nick and Morgan had arrived – meaning it was all systems go for Morganella to get up next – Morgs was quite nervous before the gig, surprisingly as he’s a natural – although I think that was helpful for Ella. Either way, those nerves clearly evaporated by the start – Black Horse and a Cherry Tree kicked off the set to a decent crowd, and then on to The Middle. As Rob had brought his doorbell Disarm made a welcome return to the set (I might’ve had control of the doorbell, though!).
For Caroline they’d both hastily learned Galway Girl (the proper one, not the Ed Sheeran abomination – although rumour has it that’s the one Morgan learned first by mistake, haha!). Then the treat of two original songs getting their debut gig airings – Fight Your Own Battles was first, and then Daisies and Sunshine which you might’ve heard during a rehearsal livestream they did a few weeks back. Speaking of livestreams, I was on that duty at Ey Up – so you can watch back the gig should you want to via the magic of Facebook!
We retired to the Cheezy Vinyl Bar for some, well, cheese! From there we were serenaded by Evie and Orla who were on the acoustic stage, and Blue Vulture opening up the main stage (we picked up Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have) whilst munching our way through cheesy goodness courtesy of Phily and Debbo – finishing up in time to hotfoot it back to the acoustic stage for the all too rare treat of…
Paige Seabridge making a rare-these-days live appearance – it was a proper treat, too. You’ve Got the Love opened up the set, then Hey Ya. Fifteen Years was next – bit of pressure for the watching Star Copiers who also would have that in their set, then Heartbeats. It was so lovely – I’ve really missed seeing Paige perform lately and this brought that right to the fore of my mind! She finished the set with Beautiful Day and finally Black Dog Day in honour of Gaz Brookfield, who’d had to cancel his appearance due to illness (happily he’s on the mend now). A lovely set.
Down on the main stage Folk the System were up next – they kicked off with Tale of Tyrants and then Street Corner People with its distinctive pennywhistle refrains. They were sounding ace. Civilisation, a new song Short Sharp Stop were in the middle of the set which finished up with Environmentally Friendly and finally Vanity. It went down very well with the crowd – unsurprisingly really, there were probably only more Ey Up Mi Duck t-shirts in the crowd than FTS ones and hoodies. A top set!
Back in acoustic-ville Jake Martin was already entertaining a packed out crowd by the time we got up there – Revolution’s Always Late was underway I think as we made it up there, followed by the new song that still has no name – someone really needs to tweet him a winning title for it! Anthemic For Fuck’s Sake, Jake! gave the crowd the opportunity for the crowd to call him an arsehole, which they took up with gusto. We were playing with Rich’s dog at this point (oh my god, SO MANY DOGS!) it was amusing to hear kids nearby shouting ‘You’re an arsehole!’ at each other, haha!
We listened to Black Cats and Magpies from afar (annoyingly, as they sounded great) as we nipped back to the camp for a quick warm up for our set which wasn’t too far away now. We were back in time for Raynor Jackson who’d recruited Big Bob on his cajon to accompany him – he kicked off with My Hero and then into Down Under (another song we’d later attempt!). His own song Bog Ankor was followed by a mash up of Dock of the Bay and By The Rivers of Babylon, and he finished up with Jolene – it was an ace set. And time for us to head on down to the main stage for our set.
In the absence of any volunteers to write about The Star Copiers I’ll endeavour to do it myself without being either too biased or too scathing, haha! Thank you Angela for the photos! The sound crew did a great job in getting us set up quickly (and were very patient with us) and we quickly nabbed Suzy to come and introduce us on stage. Obviously I only had the monitor mix to listen to, but we kicked off with What’s Up and we were pretty pleased with how it was sounding. Next up was Good Riddance – it always used to be Mark’s ‘cock up’ song – but not this time!
As is tradition we’d thrown a few extra songs we’d not performed before, the first of these was Stiff Little Fingers’ Listen – it’s a song I’ve still not listened to the real version of, I love how it works with Jacquie’s vocals though, then we went back to the familiar with Down Under, I’d switched out my cajon for this but it was proving a bit echoey so switched back after for Too Late, which saw Issac on stage to play guitar with Kev on vocals – and Mark and Jacquie out amongst the crowd for a bit of a break.
Our next surprise was up next – Mark kicked off the distinctive intro to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. The observant might’ve noticed Jacquie was stood by me rather than at the mic, at the last minute I jumped up to ‘sing’ it with Jacquie taking over percussion duties – it’s something that fell out of one of our rehearsals by accident once. It didn’t actually sound too bad, I don’t think. It’s a really special song to me, and I do confess I did actually enjoy it a little bit – when I’d first sung it at rehearsal I did a deal with Mark that I’d sing it at Ey Up if he learned the intro riff, so the bastard went and did it didn’t he? We were so committed to the surprise we didn’t move the microphone stand up, haha!
I was back in my comfort zone on the box for another new song to us, Frank Turner’s I Still Believe which is one that rarely goes right in rehearsal – we didn’t do too bad a job of it on the stage. We were on to more familiar territory next for Ferocious Dog’s Mairi’s Wedding Part III and then invited Jamie on stage to tambourine for Fifteen Years. We really enjoyed ourselves and had some lovely comments – even Naomi deigned to make it in time for at least one song. It was particularly special to be playing at Ey Up Mi Duck which of course where The Star Copiers were first heard.
On the acoustic stage Maelor Hughes was on as we were packing up our stuff – here’s the drawback of playing, you end up doing stuff when other awesome acts are on! I quickly packed up and caught Won’t Fight Your War, Better Day and Milltown Boy from the fringes of a packed tent. Meanwhile having got my boxes back to the van I needed to retrieve one for a secret project – meaning I missed a chunk of Sea Monster Eyes, they were playing what I’ve noted as ‘ponderous rock’ – a kind of prog blues that I was really enjoying. I couldn’t tell you a song title though!
The secret project was finished in time for Jonny Wallis on the acoustic stage – he kicked off with Ofsted and then Locked Up. Again is was pretty rammed in there so I contented myself with listening from without, Goodnight Lullaby, Light the Darkness, Crime of Rights and Social Divide finished up his set with cries of JULIE! from the crowd ignored – as, to be fair, he had promised it would be. It was an ace set though – he’s really going from strength to strength, this is going to be a big year for him.
The Collective were whipping up a reggae hip hop ska fusion on the main stage – there were as many as eight of them at various points – a real challenge that the sound guys rose to! I had a few things to sort out (like getting drinks, finally!) and preparations for the secret project so they were more background music than they deserved to be, but they did finish up with a rousing version of Killing in the Name – definitely a band I hope I get another chance to see in more detail in the future.
Next Nick Parker had recruited Ben Wain to join him to cover for what was originally Gaz Brookfield’s headline slot on the main stage. In inimitable Nick style he was deeply apologetic about this without any real grounds! Before he got going Suzy presented Caroline with the proceeds of a collection to get her a nutribullet to help with her plans to combat the crap health news she’s facing, along with a frankly astoundingly lovely book of well wishes she’d started work on (in the midst of organising a festival, the crazily kind bugger!).
Nick started with Departures and moved into I’ve Never Been To Dublin Before and then Could We At Least Try. I’d prepped a costume for Nick’s gig, featuring a bit of double-denim so was asked on stage along with Ronnie for a bit of crap dad-dancing (if there’s one thing I can do it’s dance badly!) to accompany Down With The Yoof. Next he invited Paige on stage to duet I Guess I’ll Never Know with him which sounded frankly beautiful. Four kids joined him on stage to hold the placards for Es Tut Mir Leit to great effect before the fruits of the secret project were unveiled.
To make up for Gaz’s absence Nick had procured a wig, some tattoo sleeves and a checked shirt to turn someone in to Gaz for the night. That someone was Ella, and he’d asked me to join on cajon too for a rendition of Diabetes Blues – the monitor mix sounded really dodgy to me, but hearing a video after it sounded really good but for low vocals at the start (and maybe a couple of lyric slips, ha!). Ella finished with a Gaz jump before we both returned to the crowd.
Make Yourself at Home was next, and then Terry and June – so many people’s favourite Nick song. The highlight of this for me was watching the quite incredibly drunken Rob attempt to put Lisa up on his shoulders without a huge degree of success. An Open Letter to my Human had a sneaky lyric adjustment to include the recent snap election announcement, don’t know enough about politics indeed! He finished up with Metaphor with Maty from Folk the System accompanying with style on bodhran (considering he didn’t know then song!) which morphed briefly into Gaz Brookfield’s Under The Table.
An ace set – and a fitting headline one, I would say – notwithstanding of course that everyone concerned would have rather Gaz be able to make it! Post-curfew we retreated to the clubhouse where open mic action was underway – Warren Ireland was brilliant, then Spud took the stage for his festival song and the DHP song – eventually though we succumbed to tiredness and gradually wandered back to the van for a sleep – Ella gradually shedding her Gaz Brookfield costume which she’d mostly been wearing!
I was going to attempt to do the whole festival as one blog post but that might prove a bit ambitious so I think I’ll tackle Sunday’s shenanigans tomorrow night. From festival reveller to performer has been really strange though – I played on stage three times and danced on it once too! It’s such a treat to be able to share a stage not only with my fellow bandmates but the likes of Dave, Russ, Nick and Ben too. Do you know what? The price of the ticket had already been amply repaid just on this day and a bit. And a whole day and night of entertainment awaits (well, maybe not for me.. but more on that next time..)