Small but perfectly formed.. pt 1..
I’ve been feeling the pressure a bit of trying to find the right words to sum up another lovely experience courtesy of Roystonbury Festival, with a busy week leaving me no time the task has – if anything – become more daunting, but I’ve taken the plunge! A little over a week ago we’d set off for the hour or so journey, we encountered a white van with a Star Copiers logo on the back on the way in that looked suspiciously like Jamie, indeed it was as he veered off to a service station for last minute supplies!
We got onto site to a lovely welcome from the volunteers getting everyone in and sorted, and found ourselves a spot close to the arena next to John who was setting up his tent (hell, the whole place is close to the arena, haha!) – Russ and Michelle arrived shortly after so a bit of adjusting of position we got everything sorted in the van and settled with a cider or two before getting our bearings ending up sat by a certain Purple Bus for some early liveners.
The open mic set was open on the acoustic stage early afternoon, and first up was Emily Batchelor who was stepping up for her very first live performance with her guitar. We’d caught a glimpse of her rehearsing just before as they were camped close by, apparently she was dead nervous (which is understandable!) as we all gathered in the beautifully decorated acoustic area to watch. She kicked off with Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive – nerves visibly evaporating as the song went on.
Jake Bugg’s I’ve Seen It All was up next – and then a short set finished up with the treat of an original composition, Your Lies was a gently paced acoustic song which belied the accousatory tone of the lyrics. Looking at how far Emily was singing from the mic as the set went on it’s clear she’s got one hell of a powerful voice – I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing future performances, if this was the first then the future bodes very well indeed!
Next up Russ had been rustling (Russell-ing up? Haha!) a backing band for the open mic slot he’d booked – Kev, Mark and myself had our gear with us, so we lined up as The Egyptian Whores (in honour of a classic Ferocious Dog misheard lyric) and rattled through Criminal Justice by them, Fifteen Years with Jamie on tambourine duties (at a pace a little faster than Russ is used to, ha!), we then tackled Doozer McDooze’s Searching with Kev on vocals – as ever winding up the speed at the end to try to throw him. Sorry Kev x. Not really!
We finished up with Good Riddance, Riverflow and then Slow Motion Suicide – considering the criminal lack of rehearsal it wasn’t too car-crash – it was certainly fun, and in the absence of a queue of people waiting to play it filled a gap for the afternoon so that’s always good! People were more complimentary about it that we felt!
Next up on stage compere for the weekend Helen on Earth took the stage with (I think) a borrowed guitar. She started out with Stir It Up, having the tent nodding along in time, perfect afternoon chill out music – and what better place than a tent bedecked with origami cranes hanging from the roof and settees strewn around the edges? Original number Shout Out was next, then a re-imagining of Zion Train re-tagged as Peace Train.
The soundman casually sat at the edge of the stage with his bass to accompany Holding Hearts, When We Gather and New Clear (or is it Nuclear?) Prayer – a really nice chilled set, with a sore throat there wasn’t much chance of any more sadly – so we hotfooted it over to The Cheezy Vinyl Bar incorporating the Scrumptiddly Cider Bar – some exciting new ciders on offer this year, I’m not telling you which I liked best as you might buy them before me!
Whilst we were indulging in cider goodness the strains of Pete Drake and possibly some other acts were drifting over the fields – I can’t emphasise enough what a wonderful atmosphere this place has – the arena is small, the aforementioned emporium of cheese and cider was flanked by some amazing food offerings, Dave had set up an outdoor version of the Black Market Venue for the ale drinkers which looked superb, meanwhile costumes, sweets and clothes were also on offer from stalls. Magic.
Musically next up was Brian Stone, kicking off with Jack of All Trades, then summoning Tommy over for a rendition of Ward the Pirate complete with – of course – the requisite dance moves! Life Begins @ 50 led into Never Drink with The Leylines – I would say that’s increasingly inaccurate with Steve’s new found sobriety but the others certainly make up for it! It’s Down To Us saw him joined by Jonny and Zoe on stage.
Jonny Wallis remained for a bout of Oh You New York Girls (Can’t You Dance the Polka). He risked a new song next, I must confess subsequent drink intake and lack of note-taking at the time render it fuzzy in my mind, I thought it sounded good though – talking to Brian after he was half regretting throwing it in too early! He finished up, of course, with Why Is All The Rum Gone complete with the hip-flasks going round the crowd. After his set I grabbed a copy of his new live EP that he’s just put out – highly highly recommended!
Ominously my note sheet now says missed one. Missed what? A song? An act? A troupe of dancing rhinoceroses? What even is the plural of rhinoceros? Rhinocerii? I collectively noun for them is crash which I do quite like. But yes, I can’t really tell you what it was I missed – I’m terribly sorry about that!
What I didn’t miss though was Shanks’ Pony, the tent was getting pretty packed – they set off with Buskers Jig / Poachers Moon and were on riproaring form. I joked at Paul’s observation of the crowd that it was raining outside – it wasn’t at the time, but it turned out to be a prophetic quip as the heavens opened for the only really meaningful rain we’d see of the weekend – it was pretty heavy though so we were grateful the music was under cover!
Final Breath led into Wild as she Grows and then the increasingly anthemic Rollercoaster. I must admit I spend most of my time at Shanks’ gigs watching Big Bob on his cajón trying to work out how he plays his assorted bits! High Street Sell Out led into Special Brew complete with the offering of beer from the crowd, Mark opting to claim his at the appropriate line in the song for him. Never Kissed a Girl was next then the sad Rotherham’s Lament, telling the sad tale of the murder of Bessie Sheppard (appropriately 200 years ago to this very day).
Top of the World picked the mood back up then into a whirling instrumental which saw the awesome stand in fiddle player Rob disappear off into the crowd still keeping the tune going courtesy of his wireless set up.. with time marching on it was time for Mosh Pit Waltz to finish up a rip-roaring set. Shanks’ are very very close to putting their first album out which I’m really excited to hear – I’ve long yearned to have some of their music recorded.
The Star Botherers also have a new album in the offing, they lined up in full configuration with Bart on vocals and guitar, Dave on bass and Brad on drums and launched into Ringing in Sick and then into One Inch Death Punch, it actually occured to me on the night they’ve actually got a big old canon of songs to call upon now. Hubball Shuffle was up next and then an early introduction of Bad Guys, more commonly a show finisher. Intriguing!
Next up was the newish song about buying guitar strings on eBay as its cheaper, despite making life more bleak for a local music shop. I think it’s called Three Sets of Strings but I could be wrong! If I was a Tory becomes more and more fact rather than parody as you see the news every day, whilst First Night Festival Fever resonates strongly with most of us (unusually I didn’t get in too bad a state this time around though!).
Star Wars Bride was next, then Just Around the Corner and finally – one I’d not heard before, it was possibly debuted at Bearded Theory. Bart introduced it as ‘a love song for Dave’ – and launched into frankly what I think is his finest work to date, it perfectly straddles the tightrope of deeply inappropriate and absolutely hilarious – When Dave’s Dead is probably my new favourite song – made all the more amusing by Dave’s dancing along gleefully to the chorus. Another recording I’m really looking forward to hearing!
We returned to The Purrple Peeple Eater for further drinks and merriment, before getting back in time for the day’s headliner, the inimitable Funke and the Two Tone Baby – the tent was packed so I contented myself to watch from the sidelines, we might well have missed the very start of his set but Bella’s Kiss was underway when we arrived, and then into Work All Week which gave rise to some pretty epic singing along of the ‘la la’ bits from the assembled crowd!
I’m Not Well led into The World Will be a Wasteland which is rapidly starting to feel like a familiar friend rather than ‘that new track’, Nice to Me followed and then Buy a House, and then The Signal is Cut. With the facilities beckoning (I’ve not mentioned it yet, but much like last year Roystonbury had the best portaloos ever! On the way back, with Mark, we diverted into the Black Market Tent to find Dave dancing about to Ferocious Dog – it seemed rude not to grab a pint of Illicit and join him for a bit – sad to miss the end of Funke, but we still had a lot of fun!
Jonny and Brian were on in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar but we contented ourselves by avoding the crowds and settling around the Purple Bus to finish off the evening – with Jamie leading a band of intrepid heroes (or victims?) to watch the rugby in the pub the next morning it wasn’t a ludicrously late night, but a fun one. Upon returning to the van we realised we backed onto the Black Market tent which was still jumping, haha – but soon enough we found ourselves happyily cocooned in the land of nod. What a superb day.