Wistful festival goodness..
Whilst YNot Festival was busy providing both the question in its name, and the answer in its execution, just three miles over the hill Wistful Festival continued to incrementally grow and deal admirably with the occasionally inclement weather conditions high up in the Derbyshire Hills. When I think back to the first nameless event Lisa organised, it’s pretty amazing to see how much it has grown into a fully fledged festival.
Arriving on site on Friday morning we were just in time to see Dirty Davey, increasingly confident on stage he rattled through a set including Shirt of Blue, the acapella Summer Fields and Riot Shields, Land of Hope and Glory, The Old Man, March On, Have You Seen Them and finally I Hate You Mrs Thatcher. Longest set I’ve seen from him, and no drafted-in accompaniments to boot!
A few sound issues troubled the set up of The Collective, but soon enough they were underway with a lively fusion of hip hop, rock and just generally bounciness – I couldn’t tell you many song names beyond Smoke My Troubles Away and a cover of Walking on the Moon – in the meantime we’d been checking out the set up of the arena, The Meadevil Bar debuting their new tent, the Cheezy Vinyl Bar next door – that was me pretty much sorted for the weekend!
With a bit of a headache developing a quick power nap in the Meadevil Bar was the order of the day for me, I’m dimly aware of Son Primo providing the the soundtrack, and awakened to the strains of Tainted Love – not to mention occasional harrassment from Buster the awesome festival hound. Happy to say the powernap did the trick, headache banished – and time for the party to go on!
Brian Stone was up next to an already pretty raucous crowd, he launched into Jack of All Trades and then Quiet Anarchist. For a bit of crowd dance participation you can’t beat Ward the Pirate, with the energy dropping back for contemplation during Did She Show. Keen to get everyone back up Never Drink With The Leylines was followed up with It’s Down To Us, complete with backing vocalists.
It wouldn’t be a Brian set without a Jonny appearance, so they combined for Oh You New York Girls (Can’t You Dance the Polka) which unleashed a mass dance off in the crowd including some kind of tunnel arrangement. Needless to say the set could only be finished off with Why Is All The Rum Gone, with a couple of hip flasks making their way around the crowd. Ace set.
I’ve not seen BB Blackdog in ages, since a fair few Dogfests ago – they kinda defy definition. Two basses, drums and vocals – but I’ve never seen anyone play bass like the singer does, getting lead guitar type sounds out of it or strumming – and played so far down the neck. Steam punk in look, psychedelic rock blues in sound – I found them pretty fascinating, but all too soon the set was over!
Next on were Rockabilly Fever, I did a dreadful job of keeping track of what they were playing but they certainly brought the crowd to life with an energetic and fun set which had the revellers twirling and dancing. There was definitely Folsom Prison Blues in the mix, and Johnny B Goode to finish. Inbetween this I did sneak out to grab a couple of awesome wood fired pizzas for Ella and I – Ella amongst the whirling dervish of dancers.
Then a return to folk punk goodness – The Endings have lots of songs I don’t know the names of, Far From Home was their soundcheck track – a lovely cover of Ferocious Dog’s The Glass featured too – and a raucous rendition of Tell Me Ma, a really well delivered set that had the increasingly large crowd bouncing. Bear in mind this was a Friday after all, and a lot of folk were coming from work.
Of course Funke and the Two Tone Baby needs no introduction – he kicked in with Never Used to Dance and into Bella’s Kiss – it was probably a relief to the poor sound guy, despite his array of gadgetry he doesn’t really put much demand on him! Work All Week gave us a sniff of some new material then back to the classics with I’m Not Well, then new again with I’m Going to Buy a House, and the inevitable encore of Not Enough Bonobo with an assortment of apes cavorting around on stage with him – ace set, albeit short seeming (time flies when you’re having fun, afterall!).
Phat Bollard are a band you don’t often get to see in a formal PA setting – so I was really looking forward to it, and they really delivered. They exude an absolute joy de vivre whilst performing, and musically and vocally are incredibly tight. Millionaires was inevitably a highlight – I couldn’t tell you the other song titles I’m afraid, but I absolutely loved the whole set. It gave me a good chance to sit and watch a cajón player too which is always a winner for me. A real treat to have been able to them play fully amped up.
Finally the friday headliners were The Leylines, complete with some pyrotechnics at the front of the stage – ooh! They started off with Let It Go, Steve recovering ably from a mic fumble early doors then into instrumental Stone Circle. You’ve Changed is morphed into seemlessly and then a pause before Queen and Country is dedicated to Andy, who has of course recently been awarded and MBE for both his services to her majesty, and for his tireless charity work. He was duly hoisted onto someone’s shoulders at the front of the crowd.
Hannah’s Song was next, with Dan picking up guitar duties from Steve who’s nursing an arm injury, I’d found myself having a chat with Funke Dan at the back of the barn, who made the amusing revelation that you could easily mash this song up with Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You. Try it, it kinda works (although I was very drunk at the time!). Sorry My Friends was next and then My Own Worst Enemy (thanks for the mention Steve!). Long Way from Home led into Run for Cover then the ineviable finish of Sat in a Field. Excellent set, as ever.
With the music finished we found ourselves in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar for a bit of bonus Brian Stone, before retreating next door to the Meadevil Bar for an impromptu game of Cards Against Humanity which was both hilarious and disturbing. I ended up with the most cards but it was pretty much universally agreed that Joel was the overall winner. I shan’t go into details. A fun way to wile away the wee small hours though before retreating to bed still a little bit disturbed!
Saturday morning came without much of a hangover – always a bonus! After a cheeky breakfast we made a dash for The Sweetchunks Band who were opening up the day. Drunks on a Boat opened up the set, and into Devil at the Door. A cover of The Beards’ Shaved off his Beard was dedicated to the recently shorn Ron, and then Folk Star morphing into Paradise City. For such an early start they were certainly in fine energetic form. Brian was coerced on stage for Kiss, then the epic tale of Lonesome George led into Greatest Love Song in the World Ever! Of course, Bees provided the encore. What a way to get the day underway!
Next up were Amy and Paul, Maid of the River is one of my absolute favourite songs – and Amy’s stunning vocals really do it justice, it was mesmerising to listen to. Paul took over vocal duties for These Nights, which was similarly lovely – a great way to ease into the day. Keeping with the theme they moved on to Hey Brother. I’ve got a couple of gaps after this – but I think Counting Stars features and an encore of increasingly anthemic Rollercoaster. A lovely set.
Meanwhile Issac had negotiated us a slot on the open mic stage opposite the bar – so we hot-footed it over there which regrettably meant missing Hagg Farm Conspiracy which was a bit galling. We called ourselves The Egyptian Whores again and decided to combine our slot with Dave and Russ before us for a bit of a mega-jam. I’d not brought my cajón but luckily Rob had, so we shared drumming whilst Russ and Ella shared vocals in an assortment of songs that I couldn’t even tell you what they were! We had some fun though.
Back on the main stage Emma and the Professor were up next, or perhaps more accurately Emma, The Professor and Luke – they had a new band member to play stringy things for them and it really adds to the sound most excellently. Kisses Sweeter than Wine opened the set, and then Matty Groves. Back on to album tracks, Battle of the Marches and Old Black Crow have both reached earworm status to the point I found myself merrily singing along, much to my surprise. You should get their album. They finished up with a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love.
There was time to nip back to the open mic stage to see some spoken word from Jethro of Parson’s Lot fame – a moving piece called A Collier’s Grave was up first, charting his discovery of an unknown miner’s final resting place and promising to return. This was followed up by Posh Coffee, an irreverent observation about an ineffective manager – Jethro’s a brilliant speaker, down to earth and candid with no small smattering of humour.
I was really keen to catch Warren Ireland on the main stage so headed back that way – he opened his set with Wish You Were Here, a special song for me – and done superb justice to here. He then changed into a dressing gown and revealed his loop pedal (a recent acquisition) – he’s already a bit of a demon on it though, demonstrated with a layered rendition of I’m Feeling Good and Train Keeps a Rollin’ – talented bugger! In a continued bit to steal songs from The Star Copiers set (arf) he then played Down Under and finished up with more Pink Floyd with Another Brick in the Wall. Excellent set.
Jonny Wallis (with inevitable accompaniment of Maty) were up next – starting with To Have and To Have Not by Billy Bragg, then onto his own material with Ofsted, Light the Darkness, Goodnight Lullaby and Crime of Rights. Probably the highlight though was Social Divide and watching the crowd bellow back the chorus to him with some help from Brian toting some cue cards to help the audience out. The energy flow from stage to crowd and back again was palpable – lovely to see!
The cheese was calling me though, so I headed to get some and listened to Ovacast whilst munching on a fine selection of dairy goodness. They were pulling out some classic cheesy rock in fine style on the main stage – Dead or Alive then Sex On Fire led into such classics as All The Small Things, Mr Brightside and finally Everlong. They certainly know how to get a crowd going, that’s for sure – suitably cheesed up I had time to get back down to the front in time for…
… The Star Botherers, Brad had just arrived in time, and there was the bonus of Joel making an appearance too with guitar and mandolin. Bad Guys opened up the set and then into One Inch Death Punch. There were a few knowing glances around the crowd as First Night Festival Fever kicked in – then newish Three Sets of Strings. If I Was a Tory made things a bit more serious for a spell (albeit with typical Bart humour), giving them time to finish up with the piece de resistance that is When Dave’s Dead. I don’t think it will ever not be bloody hilarious.
Bleeding Hearts were on next – I’d call ’em punk folk rather than folk punk, I think – I’m not quite sure how that distinction is made, but either way, it sounds good! Democracy opened up the set – at which point my ability to capture song titles seems to have abandoned me. Maty definitely made another appearance at some point for Hardly Anything, then it was Folk and Glory – a few more tracks and then a rousing finish of Whisky is the One. Another fun set.
Nick Parker was next – I have no problem with his song titles, haha! He started up with Departures and then into I’ve Never Been to Dublin Before. Embarrassed son-penned Down With The Yoof. He invited Ella on stage to accompany him for A Simple Song – this time played on guitar rather than mandolin but still sounding just lovely, then invited a tribe of children to help him with the placards for Es Tut Mir Leid. In what was turning into a parade of guests Paige joined him to duet I Guess I’ll Never Know which was just lovely.
The encore was to get Cyrus to come up and perform Terry and June with him – he’d brashly announced he knew all the words to Nick earlier in the day, and knew them he did. A star performance from him and Nick together. A proper heartwarming set as ever from Nick.
Headsticks were up next – launching into World Away and then Mississippi’s Burning. They were certainly up for it (when aren’t they to be fair?) – Andrew snarling his vocals whilst eyeballing the crowd, most of whom were singing right back at him. Flatline Town was next and then Cold Grey English Skies (pretty apt given the weekend weather – what a good idea having a stage in a barn!), Fanatics led into new song Big Game Hunter.
Taking a cue from Nick, they had a guest vocalist lined up too with Rees taking the stage for What Do You Want. Go Move Shift was next which I’ve not heard them do for a while, then it was on to Dying for a Lie. Newer song Family Tree, leading into the more familiar run to the end of the set comprising Killing Me America and finally Burn the Sun. Stirring stuff.
I don’t think I’ve seen The Fanzines since Bostin’ Days, so I was really looking forward to their set and by god did they deliver. Launching into New Rose was always going to go down well with Damned junkie Mark, then it was on to Where’s Captain Kirk? Given the general demographic of the crowd it was an expertly curated set list for old punk and ska fans – Boredom, My Perfect Cousin, King Rocker, Sound of the Suburbs – it was energetic, loud and fun with the whole barn bouncing.
Speaking of Bostin’ Days – we had the treat of 100 Years of Solitude next, then back on primary theme with Eton Rifles, Babylon’s Burning, Into the Valley, Gangsters and Too Much Too Young. We were lucky enough to get an encore song too – particularly Mick who looked furious this song wasn’t on the set list – when Holiday in Cambodia kicked in so did a full on mosh pit, I suspect with Mick right in the middle of it. It was a tremendous set.
Meanwhile I’d caught up with John Leonard, here today in Seven Little Sisters guise – he made an amusing confession reflecting on the last time SLS appeared at Wistful the year before last. They played a tremendous set – I couldn’t tell you any song titles, but it was impossible not to bounce along to them – or chuckle at John making running repairs to his already gaffa tape adorned accordion. I definitely heard As The Crow Flies and River Song in the medley somewhere, and a set finishing up with Star of the County Down.
As we were planning on leaving the site that night, Ella made sure she encamped at the front for The Eskies, who I must admit made it hard to want to go – they are melodic, energetic and infectious in equal measure. Their set up took a while which made the set a little too short really – but bloody excellent regardless. Highlights included Don’t Be Left Behind, You’ve Already Gone, Jesus Don’t Save Me and Fever (I’d attempted to extricate Ella at this point, but as it was her favourite of theirs we stayed – and I’m glad we did!).
A quick round of goodbyes and we headed to the van which I’d already moved to a sensible exit position – and hit the road home, we had Andy’s party the following day after all. Wistful Festival, you were tremendous – building gradually on a winning formula, the open mic stage was new and great, the bar Paul set up in the barn was excellent and well.. as I noted right at the start, you didn’t have to look very far this weekend to find how not to do a festival. This was definitely an example of how to do it right.