Spring has arrived at last. For those of us in the UK Spring has brought snow, sleet, hail high winds and rain. Despite the unseasonal weather the arrival of spring has UK music fans licking their lips in anticipation of the music festival season to come.
Where others see the flowering of the first daffodils or the shift of the clocks to British Summer Time as the arrival of spring for me the seasons first festival is the only true indiction that spring has arrived. Again for me the seasons first festival is the Something Else warm-up party held in the beautiful Forest of Dean.
The Something Else festivals have become a staple part of my festival season. These provide an amazing sense of true grass-roots festivals, the artists mingle and camp with the fans. Facilities are fairly basic but for me and many others the Something Else festivals offer something unique. Each of the four festivals has a maximum capacity of 500 people and advertising is largely word of mouth. As a result you can be sure that you will know, or at least recognise most of the people on site. For me the Something Else festivals feel like coming home.
When you arrive at a Something Else festival you will quickly realise that everyone is smiling. People are smiling even when it is cold and wet as it was last Friday. You just know everyone is there to drink, party and listen to a great line-up of music. You know that you are amongst friends, even if you have not met them yet. The truly wonderful thing about grass roots festivals is that you know that you have stepped into a bubble where, at least for a few days, the outside world does not matter quite so much.
When you came to a Something Else festival leave your concerns and prejudices at home. This is an all inclusive family. Race, religion, nationality, sexuality, patriarchy, disability is immaterial. The only thing that matters is whether or not you are a twat. Don’t be a twat. National flags are not even allows here, we are all one.
As we gathered round the camp-fire for Beardy Keith’s Uke Jam on Friday evening it was cold and drizzling but every face was lit with a smile as we sang, played and laughed together. As we drifted off to the campsite later in the evening you could happily gather with friends around their fire and party all night. Many did!
Saturday was the day of organised musical entertainment that ran non-stop from 11 am. to midnight. We were blessed both with a quality line-up and with some beautiful sunny (though bitterly cold) weather. We were even treated to the irrepressible Les Carter (Carter USM) playing a solo acoustic set, something he tells me he hasn’t done for years.
It is difficult to pick out musical highlights from the line-up because every act was superb in its own way. Of course headliners 3 Daft Monkeys were brilliant as always. I also enjoyed Muddy Summers & The Dirty Field Whores who treated us with a listen to many of the songs on their excellent new album Seeing Red (& Black). Perhaps my favorite set of the day was from my good friends Tobias Ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater. These two guys get better every time I see them. There is such a great synergy between Tobias and Lukas, their playing is top quality but it is the almost telepathic understanding they share on stage that really sets them apart. This gives both the freedom to improvise and embellish their music in a way that always seems entirely appropriate.
As always it is always a wrench to have to head home after a festival though the consolation is knowing I am off to another festival tomorrow and my next Something Else festival is just a week away.
Life is good!