Sunday started with an early morning conversation with a hedgerow near my van thanks to the previous night’s over-indulgences! Oops! It’s safe to say I was feeling a little delicate whilst we mustered on the benches infront of the Merch stall listening to the lovely chilled out acoustic vibes of River Roots. Some beautifully melodic singing and playing, just the thing for soothing an angry hangover!
Meanwhile Les, Nick and Skeg had arrived for a natter – once I’d got some tea and a sausage cob down me things were looking decidedly less troublesome! I wandered down to the Hidden Stage just in time to catch Oliver Cunliffe finishing up what I’m told was an excellent set – he ended with Don’t Look Back in Anger, a confident vocal and guitar delivery, I wish I’d caught his full set – definitely one to watch out for in the future – a real talent.
Back on the mainstage and The Fargo Railroad Co. were set up and underway – drenched in Americana, delivering a set of amazing bluesy southern rock (with suspicious lapses into Yorkshire accents between songs, haha!) – I really enjoyed these guys, they were certainly dressed for the part and sounded amazing – but we needed to head into the campsite so Ella and Morgan could practice some of the songs for their set later (some of which they’d never done before!).
Still unable to face cider just yet, I tried to fend off feeling ropey with a platter from The Cheese Basket – wow! Curry sauce cheese, horseradish and mustard cheese (and I missed out on the charcoal cheese!) were all really nice – some cheese trading with Sweetchunks Stuart and Lily made for a wider selection, although the portion was so big I couldn’t even finish it off. Well recommended!
Then t’was time for an energetic set from Doozer McDooze. Doozer and Birdy were our camping neighbours but we barely saw them all weekend, I think they might actually be nocturnal! Searching was early doors in the set along with Dreams and Let’s Not Forget – then anthemic Not Going Back to That. This was followed up with a song about pubs I forget the title of – followed up with Panic Attack.
An acapella song led into It’s Nice Down Here, then another whose title evades me before Stuart Sweetchunks was invited on stage to demonstrate The Fuck You Dance – a catchy song tackling internet bullying, following that up with a rousing cover of Carter USM’s Sheriff Fatman which had the crowd singing along the instrumental ‘na na na’s’ with some gusto!
The Sweetchunks Band were up next – they kicked off with the opener from their current EP Drunks on a Boat, with Ash sporting a hangover that I think rivalled mine it was impressive to see they maintained their usual standards of measured chaos on stage. Devil at the Door was next before world-record holding stage-presence Maty joined them for Folk Star with his bodhran – he did a good job it has to be said!
Drunk in the West Country with Maty and Doozer (eventually – he managed to disappear for a spell) was good fun, then the epic new song starring Lonesome George, a galapagos tortoise who was the last of his kind and his struggle to find a mate. A cover of The Beards’ Shaved off his Beard was next, with heavy references to Maty who had of course recently done that very thing.
Drink Up! was up next and probably resonated pretty strongly with a number of folk in the crowd. For Greatest Love Song in the World.. Ever! it was Maty who would prove the object of Stuart’s affections, he gamely took on the role, I’m sure Brian was relieved! There was an epic shirt-bursting moment for the finale – which of course led into the inevitable and awesome Bees!. Characteristically fun and irreverent set from the Hampshirians.We caught the very start of Flight Brigade who opened with 39 Steps on the main stage, but of course had to make a dash to the hidden stage because Morganella were up. Considering they were up against Flight Brigade followed by Leatherat on the main stages, an impressive crowd had assembled to see them. It didn’t take too long to get them soundchecked and sorted.
They kicked off with Black Horse and a Cherry Tree and it was sounding great, Won’t Fight Your Wars is sounding stronger with each airing – always good to hear original material, then it was time for Rob’s doorbell to make an appearance for a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm. Then Blink 182’s I Miss You which worked really well too.
Probably the highlight of the set – indeed, one of the moments of the festival for me, was the brave move of tackling Skunk Anansie’s Weak – it was a decision Morgan made post-Bearded to include, and they’d had just one run-through earlier in the day – wow. Morgan had done a great job on guitar but (and I know I’m biased) Ella’s vocals, just wow – she properly let go and it was pretty damn amazing.
A slowed down Black Dog Day by Gaz Brookfield reduced Jamie to a blubbering wreck who had to go off and find some bounce to Leatherat as a result, the set finished up with The Middle, Run For Cover and with time tick-tocking away Photosynthesis dedicated to Papa Parry for his birthday. At some point I found myself deployed as a prop-holder as it had a got a bit windy. Amazing set – considering how rarely they get to practice together an awe inspiring level of performing.
As there was a bit less time than we thought it meant we missed some songs that had been planned, but on the bright side it enabled me to hotfoot it back to the main stage and catch a good helping of Leatherat, who looked to be a guitarist down for the day – but it still sounded great! As I power-walked to the main stage they were in the midst of Life in this Old Dog, then into The Rocky Road to Dublin.
Well curated covers continued with Whisky in the Jar, but then we got to enjoy their own compositions – All in this Together is of course ideal fodder for election time, Party Time in Chavbury got the crowd properly bouncing and then Large One was accompanied by one of the biggest hip flasks I’ve ever seen being handed up to Pete to have a swig from. I do like Leatherat, and I was resigned to missing them so this was a real bonus!
Meanwhile whilst still being very limited on the drinking front I was finding eating a great comfort – and few things are as delicious as the halloumi and salad wrap from Creative Intentions. Did I mention how much I bloody love that place?
Funke and the Two Tone Baby was next – he kicked in his set with Never Used to Dance and then into Bella’s Kiss, over the year or so he’s added some real oomph to his sound (as if it needed it!), but a sign of an artist who’s not content to rest on his laurels. Work All Week (which I probably usually refer to as ‘the la la la song’) was up next, and then another new one – quite acoustic by Funke standards with an awesome melody and indeed sentiment. Considering I’m writing this on election result day The World Will be a Wasteland feels very apt!
Nice to Me brought us back to the very familiar and then more teasers for forthcoming material Buy a House and The Signal Is Cut – I’m really excited for his future recording projects before finishing up of course with Not Enough Bonobo. Nobody was on hand to join him in an ape costume, not that it’s really needed to enjoy dancing about like a loon infront of the stage and shouting back the words to him! A cracking set from the one man wall of sound.
Next was John Fairhurst with his band – he unleashed what felt like an unceasing explosion of intricate blues work. I really enjoyed it but felt it difficult to get absorbed by, it made a wonderful soundscape but perhaps lacked the interactivity of more typical festival performances. I’ve long wanted to see him perform with accompaniment though and it was powerful stuff – his bass player in particular stood out!
We’d firmly ensconced ourselves back on the benches by the merch desk for Land of the Giants. I’ve not seen them since the first Smile two years ago, and then I’d been well and truly Meaded (and just been moshing to Ferocious Dog) so didn’t get to fully appreciate them – they deliver punchy funked up folk/ska with lashings of brass and bounce, really nice feel good music to wind down to as the festival was drawing to a close.
With an early curfew Kev had been with Issac to arrange an impromptu jam in the Creative Intentions tent once the amplified curfew had arrived – we set up and played a few songs, a chap joined us to deliver an acapella one and as we finished up other musicians were adding their own sound to the space as we relaxed and wiled away the evening before heading off to bed, exhausted of energy but nourished in spirit (not spirits!).
Something to Smile About once again has been an absolute triumph – the wonderfully thoughtful programme, the amazing jokebook that Leon, Daniel and Cyrus had collated – the acts, the site – sure, there were challenges but watching people band together to overcome them was heartwarming and given the state of the nation somewhat affirming that we’re not simply amongst self-serving isolationists who only think of themselves.
The next one is already in the calendar for 2018 – I for one can’t bloody wait!