Tag Archives: Gaz Brookfield

Gaz Brookfield – Greatest Anti-Bullying Song Ever

I detest bullying.  It’s insidious, heartbreaking and destructive.

I honestly think my good friend Gaz Brookfield created the best anti-bullying song I have ever heard.  Check it out and show Gaz some love.The video is pretty awesome too.

A Party At The Fleece – Bristol

I don’t often head to Bristol for gigs.  Frustratingly the city has an incredible live music culture but it is so difficult to get to from Dorset.  The journey is under 70 miles but it can easily take 3-hours to do the drive.  In reality this rules out travelling to a gig and coming home the same night.  The thought of driving 70 miles, late at night on some of the worst roads in the country doesn’t bear thinking about.

This was a gig that we almost didn’t go to because we are off on holiday on Monday but in the end the allure of a brilliant line-up and the prospect of meeting up with some great friends just before we go away proved too great.

After sorting our hotel and grabbing a bite to eat it was time to head off to the Seven Stars for a few pints before the music started.  It was wonderful to see so many friends had made the trip and we were soon chatting and laughing together as we renewed old friendships and made new  ones.

What a great line-up of artists the fleece had for us.  The evening was kicked off by the irrepressible Doozer McDooze.  You can’t help but love Doozer.  His enthusiasm, sense of fun and clever lyrics bring a smile to every face in the room.  Doozer’s song “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”  has been adopted as a festival anthem by those of us who love grassroots festivals.  Tonight Doozer brought the house down as every voice in the room joined in singing the anthem at the top of their voices.

You cannot fail to enjoy yourself when Doozer plays and so tonight proved once again.  Doozer set the scene for a Kent invasion of the west country and laid the foundations for a fantastic evenings entertainment.  Next up were another festival favourite act, Hobo Jones and The Junkyard Dogs.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the Hobo’s this year but they never fail to entertain.  The “godfathers of Skunk” are so amusing with their blend of madcap covers interspersed with often self-deprecating humour.  The jokes may be familiar but they never seem to lose their currency largely because the boys facial expressions and the audience reaction is enough to keep you laughing.  Davey Malone is an expert at playing to the audience and as a result the performance always seems fresh.

Hobo Jones at the fleece

That’s not to say that the Hobo’s can’t produce a moment that brings a lump to your throat.  They did so last night with their version of  “Fairytale Of New York” which was dedicated to Kirsty MacColl on the 15th Anniversary of her tragic death.

Next up on the night was another man of Kent the simply incredible Funke and The Two Tone Baby.  Funke and Gaz Brookfield have just been out on tour together and in their journeys up and down the country they sold out over half of the dates, quite a feat for two independent artists.

Funke is in my opinion one of the best songwriters I have ever heard, his lyrics are complex and occasionally surreal.  His mix of guitar, harmonica and voice and creative use of loop pedals creates a unique soundscape rooted in the blues but thoroughly modern and absorbing.  The crowd were  bouncing throughout Funke’s set and by the end we were all as exhausted as he was.  The mild weather, a packed house and the energy coming from the stage ensured that by the end of his set Funke had the crowd dripping with sweat as we all jumped and bounced along with him.

I was so hot by the end of Funke’s set that I had to get outside for a sit down and some fresh air.  Whilst I was outside Gaz Brookfield opened his set with his now traditional “land Pirates Life.”  On dashing back inside I found that the venue was absolutely rammed, so packed that I couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to take any decent photographs.

As any fan of Brookfield knows Gaz doesn’t know how to give anything less than 100% and tonight was no exception.  As a rule Brookfield plays solo or with Ben Wain on fiddle but tonight we were treated to a full band performance as Gaz was joined by The Company Of Thieves.

Gaz’s performance as always was flawless and we were treated to an exceptional set as we were treated to favourites like Under The Table, Diabetes Blues, Ode To Ozzy and the Ballad Of Elizabeth Duke and Godless Man.

Brookfield’s performances are always high energy and entertaining.  He is always an incredibly engaging performer but I thought the addition of a full band added something to the show.  Of course the addition of a band is always going to add depth and vibrancy to the sound but there was more to it that just that.

I felt that Gaz enjoyed sharing the stage, the interaction between Gaz and the members of the band added an additional sense of theatre.

I am delighted to have made the trip to Bristol, I enjoyed a quite brilliant evenings entertainment among friends and kindred spirits, what more could you possibly wish for?

Gaz Brookfield

Gaz Brookfield Tears It Up at Bostin Days Live

You all know my love of grass roots festivals and Saturday saw Shirley and I head off to Bostin Days live.  A full review is upcoming but I just wanted to share this shot of Gaz Brookfield on Saturday.

It say’s a lot about Gaz that he turned up to play at Bostin Days.  This was after all a charity gig and he wasn’t being paid.  He honoured his commitment despite the fact that he had a paid gig in Preston later that day.

I hope you enjoy the photo.

Gaz Brookfield

Gaz brookfield

Gaz Brookfield: True And Fast – album review

Acoustic Troubadour Gaz Brookfield is back with his fourth studio album.  In True And Fast Brookfield treats us to a collection of personal observations on life, love, politics, religion and the music industry.  As usual Brookfield lays himself bare for all to see.

Gaz Brookfield is one of the hardest working men in the music business.  It is far from unusual to see Brookfield perform 200 or more shows a year as he hauls himself up and down the highways and byways of our green and pleasant land in a never ending struggle to make a living from what can only be described as broken music industry.

Brookfield has built a loyal following, I have yet to meet someone who, having heard him play, hasn’t instantly become a fan.  You can’t help but like a man who works so hard at his art and who is prepared to allow you to look so deeply into his psyche through the medium of his songs.  As someone who has seen Brookfield perform on numerous occasions I was already familiar with some of the tracks on the album, something that in my view makes a review more difficult.

Brookfield’s strength as a songwriter is his ability to take seemingly banal observations on everyday life and turn them into a song.  On True and Fast Gaz tells us about his ongoing struggles with his not so trusty old van Ozzy, so called because it’s “always fucked.”  In typical Brookfield style the seemingly superficial hides a deeper truth as Gaz tells Ozzy, “you mend me when I mend you.”  Followers of Brookfield’s music will know that he has struggled with depression and his life on the road is both cause and cure.

Gaz’s constant touring is a recurrent theme in his songs and he hints at a desire to put down more permanent roots in “Sailor Jerry’s Kitchen” and in the album closer “Cornish Fishing Town.”  The theme is unsurprising for a man who is shortly to marry and yet Brookfield admits that his ideal home would have a “festival back garden” complete with a stage and a fire-pit.

In both “Just A Ride” and “Godless Man”  Gaz contemplates his own mortality and his struggles with religion, not an easy subject for someone brought up in a religious family.  Diabetes Blues reveals Brookfield struggles in coming to terms with the condition, especially given that cider is now off the menu.

Throughout the piece Gaz remains honest, self deprecating and humorous, though he has not above an acerbic sideswipe at the government and the music industry.  Solo Acoustic Guy may seem like a bit of self-deprecating humour but it also lays open the injustice of promoters and festival organisers who expect musicians to play for free or for “exposure.”

Brookfield demonstrates his fierce independence throughout the album.  With the exception of the banjo and steel guitar on “Mud and Rainbows” and fiddle parts by long time friend and collaborator Ben Wain, Gaz plays all the instruments himself.  In my view Brookfield is underrated as a guitarist, his ability to mix styles seamlessly is an art and he is extremely proficient at doing so.

True And Fast contains half a dozen tracks that are the equal of anything that Brookfield has produced in the past and both Knights of the Round Table and Cornish Fishing Town are amongst his very best work.  The album is a grower, repeated listens reward us by revealing the hidden subtleties in the songs.

What I find most appealing in all of Brookfield’s work is that he delivers a sometimes damning social commentary, always honestly, often painfully but always in a way that offers forward hope for the future.  There is a resounding positivity in Brookfield’s work that is amply illustrated in Diabetes Blues when he sings “so from cider I’ll abstain, i’ll do my best not to complain, and after all there is always single malt.”

True And Fast is another fine offering from Brookfield, another gem of an album from a man whose enthusiasm, hard work and gifted songwriting deserves every success.

Larmer tree

Larmer Tree Festival – preview

The Larmer Tree Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and over the years it has built an enviable reputation as one of the most friendly, relaxed and family friendly festivals on the UK circuit. Arguably the original “boutique” festival it is set in the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in stunning countryside on the Dorset – Wiltshire border and the site provides a stunning and unique setting for a festival.

Larmer Tree Festival are determined to celebrate their silver jubilee in style and intend making this years festival the best one yet.  The festival is renowned for providing an eclectic musical line-up showcasing established acts, emerging talent and the best of talent from across the South-West of England. This year will be no different in that respect and today sees the announcement of over 30 new music acts to play alongside the already announced headliners, Tom Jones, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Levellers, Bellowhead and Bill Bailey on the bill this year.  The Magic Numbers, Meadowlark, Laura Doggett, Seafret, The Beat, and Molotov Jukebox are just some of the acts announced in this second wave of line-up.

After fantastic sets last year, a number of acts will be making an exuberant return to the gardens in 2015 following high demand from the festival audience. Joining Coco & The Butterfields, the most requested return act this year are Music Weeks ‘One To Watch’ Hunter & The Bear who have just completed a Europe-wide tour, and folk legend Steve Knightley, following on from his 150-date solo tour around England.

Last year Larmer Tree Festival showcased rising star James Bay as part of a successful collaboration with BBC Introducing. This year’s BBC Introducing slot goes to Bristol-based 3-piece Meadowlark, who will play the Main Stage on Thursday. Having taken the music world by storm since forming two years ago, this band are tipped for success and the festival are thrilled to be championing them.

James Bay

James Bay

As always the Larmer Tree line-up celebrates an abundance of talent from the South West. Breakthrough Music Awards winners The Villanovas and The Drystones won through in the recent live finals to claim their spots on the 2015 bill, and Bournemouth-based Drew Allen along with Wesley Bennett, Tinderbox and Pachango prove that the South coast town is a hotbed of refreshing new sounds.

These artists are joined by the festival circuit legend that is acoustic singer-songwriter Gaz Brookfield, high energy percussionist Jon Sterckx and the mighty 12-piece afrobeat powerhouse No Go Stop who all originate from Bristol.  Exeter’s Tobias Ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater (3 Daft Monkeys) also make an appearance.

Gaz Brookfield Larmer Tree

With comedy, shows, workshops and more music still to come, the 25th anniversary of the Larmer Tree promises to be very special indeed.

The lineup to date can be viewed here: Lineup In 2014 Larmer Tree Festival introduced a tiered ticketing system, rewarding loyal festival-goers who buy early, and this is in place again for 2015. Super early bird tickets, tier one, two, three and deposit scheme tickets (introduced this year) for the 25th anniversary festival are now sold out.

If you want to include the Larmer Tree Festival as part of your summer don’t delay, buy your tickets now.  Tickets are available here.

Joining the already announced acts the following bands are added to the lineup today. The Magic Numbers The Beat Meadowlark Laura Doggett Seafret Molotov Jukebox | Dub Inc. Shlomo | By The Rivers | Andy Kershaw DJ Steve Knightley Blair Dunlop | Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six | Hunter & The Bear Jarrod Dickenson | Megan Henwood A.J. Holmes and The Hackney Empire Chainska Brassika | Winter Mountain | NudyBronque | Time For T | Pachango | Count Bobo Tezeta Gold Of My Own Peluche | Lotte Mullan |Will McNicol & Luke Selby Tinderbox Bella Figura | The Villanovas The Drystones | Cate Ferris

DogFest 2014 – Artist Photographs

DogFest – 6th December 2014

DogFest is a one day mini festival organised by folk-punk band Ferocious Dog.  As it happens in December it is thankfully an indoor event and it is held at the Black Market, a music venue in Warsop Nottinghamshire.  I didn’t mange to get to last years event so I was eagerly anticipating this one.

As people were travelling from all over the country the venue kindly put on a night of free entertainment on the Friday evening but as I had other commitments I unfortunately missed this.  The event was priced at just £25 a head started at Midday and ran to 1am, considering the strength of the line-up this was an absolute steal.  Over the course of 13 hours we were treated to 13 bands with a DJ covering the short intervals between sets.  With two stages running there was never more than a few minutes between acts.

DogFest-5Due to my engagement on Friday evening Saturday saw an early start with us leaving home at 8am for the near 250 miles drive from Dorset, thankfully on this occasion we were in the car rather than the camper Van and despite a stop for a ‘fat boys’ breakfast we were in our hotel at midday for long enough to drop off our bags and grab a taxi to the venue.  We had a bit of a delay as the dispatcher sent the  taxi to the wrong place so sadly we missed One Eyed Gods set and arrived just in time to catch the last few songs of The Star Botherer’s set.  I am glad we did because frankly my day would not have been complete had I missed the brilliant ‘Bad Guys’, a song I simply can’t stop singing.  It must be said that a slight delay with the taxi was the only glitch from a brilliantly organised day.

DogFest-1The devils prefects were next up on the second of the two stages.  These guys were new to me but I really enjoyed their tongue in cheek take on Country & Western Music.  This was followed up by an unbroken run of fantastic acts, as always with these things it is difficult to keep up with all the bands and to catch up with friends.  When you are part of the ‘Hellhounds’ set up, you really are part of a family and during a one day event you could easily spend the day just catching up with friends.  I did my level best to catch up with as many people as possible but of course I wanted to take photographs and see enough music to ensure I could write a review.  As a result I spent the day rushing around like a lunatic and boy am I paying for it today.

The music came at a breakneck pace.  Funke and the Two Tone Baby was absolutely freaking DogFest-2brilliant.  I freely admit that I am not usually a huge fan of technology based music but Dan is such a brilliant exponent of it that you can’t help but love it.  His use of loops to augment and layer his songs is amazing, the energy makes you tired just watching him and he plays with such mad abandoned enthusiasm that you can’t help but love him.  By the end of his set he was quite literally on his back on stage exhausted.  If you saw Ed Sheeran’s set at Glastonbury this year you would have seen him make very creative use of loops and drum machines. Funky (Dan) does the same, but he does it better.  He didn’t even blink when he broke his D string.  He must have been shattered at the end of his set but he wasn’t about to get a rest because Hobo Jones was up next on the second stage and they called Dan up to play harmonica with them.

I am sure that many of my readers will have seen Hobo Jones & the Junkyard Dogs at festivals DogFest-4across the country.  You know what you are going to get, great fun high energy skiffle based versions of punk songs.  No matter how many times I see these guys I never get bored.  Pure quality fun entertainment.  Next up on the main stage was Gaz Brookfield who has established himself as a firm favourite at festivals up and down the country.  Gaz has built up a very dedicated group of followers and this was made very obvious when he played to a packed hall who sang the words of every song along with him.  Gaz played a great set full of crowd favourites, including, ‘Under the Table’, Diabetes Blues’ and ‘When the East Winds Blow’.

DogFest-6Les Carter was up next with Abdoujaparov, Les rarely disappoints and he certainly didn’t on this occasion.  He drew a large crowd as he played a set packed with tracks from the bands new album, I was particularly interested on this occasion as it was announced last week that Les will be replacing Kyle on guitar for Ferocious Dog.  Roughneck Riot were next up on the main stage.  I recently reviewed their latest album and was very taken with it.  I must say though that the album hadn’t prepared me for their live performance.  This was the first time I had seen them live and I must say the totally blew me away.  The energy and passion from the stage is totally absorbing, they deliver their songs with total belief and in a style that takes you right along with them.  Brilliant stuff.

By the time Roughneck Riot had finished their set I was exhausted and needed some food I spent DogFest-7the next hour or so grabbing a bite to eat and catching up with friends so only managed to catch parts of the sets by ‘Attila the Stockbroker’, ‘The Stiff Joints’ and ‘Rev Hammer’.  I enjoyed what I saw of all of them.  By the time Levellers frontman Mark Chadwick arrived to play his solo set I was just about recovered.  Mark played a fantastic set which was, somewhat to my surprise, made up mostly of Levellers songs.  We were treated to a couple of songs from each of Mark’s solo albums but favourites like 15 Years, One way of Life, Beautiful Day, ‘Just the One’ and ‘Another Man’s Cause’ had the whole place bouncing and singing along, it really was a blinding set thoroughly enjoyed by everyone in the room.

DogFest-9As you might expect the evening was closed out by the now customary madness by our hosts ‘Ferocious Dog’.  The venue went nuts with the usual mosh pit madness, crowd surfing and an hour long sing-a-long.  I never cease to be amazed by the energy and antics of the Hellhounds, the sight of dozens of shaven headed, tattooed middle aged men mashing like madmen really is a sight to behold.  The band played their usual live set, with a run through of their debut album with the addition of ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’.  The songs are well known to all who have seen them on numerous occasions through the last year and beyond.  It is of course the enthusiasm and commitment of the band and the Hellhounds that makes a Ferocious Dog gig special and long may that continue.  The set closed out with a second encore with ‘Slow Motion Suicide’, a song which in my humble opinion is the best they have written.  It was a very fitting end to an amazing day.

The last word must go to two sets of people.  The first is the barstaff and stage crews at the venue.  They were amazing, once a few teething problems were overcome the sound was excellent.  The barstaff worked themselves to a standstill keeping us all supplied with copious amouDogFest-11nts of ale and cider.  Lastly the ‘Hellhounds’, the fantastic group of crazy people who love nothing better than to come together, whether in a music venue or in a muddy field, to celebrate great music together.  This assortment of Punks, Anarchists, ‘New Age Travellers’ and Crusty’s are the most amazing people you could ever hope to meet.  Often these are people that others jump to conclusions about, that some will look at and attach a label to.  These are often people who don’t have much but what they do have they will share with you gladly, quietly and unobtrusively, seeking neither thanks nor recognition for all they do to help out others, their friends, their festival family.  Believe me when I say  these are the kindest most genuine people it has ever been my pleasure to know.  Bless you all!

Something Else In The Dean – Review

In this life we spend so much time with people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.  In these days when 3 days at a music festival can cost upwards of £200 can the reverse be true?

Something Else In the Dean is a small grassroots ‘Under the Radar’ music festival, held for the third time, at Elton Maize Mazes in the beautiful Forest of Dean .  The festival has grown out of the Something-Else Tea Tent which makes an appearance at festivals up and down the UK.

The Tea Tent is owned and operated by Gail (Something Else)  and her team.  It offers quality Tea, Coffee and Cake as well as a place to chill out.  Just as importantly Gail offers breaking musicians a stage at festivals, a great opportunity to gain exposure to new audiences.  What started out as an end of season party for her crew has now grown into a a fully fledged small festival with a difference.SEITD_Sat0029_wm

The festival takes place on a stunning site at Elton Mazes on level farmland near Newnham in Gloucestershire.  The festival is Eco-friendly, the stages solar powered and is limited to 500 revellers.  For those who attend it is a great way to have an end of season party.  It is also probably the most laid back and friendly I have ever attended.

Costing just £40 for three days of music (inclusive of camping) it is also the most incredible value for money.  You can even take your own beer onto the site but with a huge range of beers and ciders available from the bar at just £3 a pint many people don’t bother.  Food on site is also great value.  I was really looking forward to the weekend as was meeting up with others I had met over the course of the festival season and it was shaping up to be something of a ‘boys weekend’.  SEITD_Sat0016_wm

I took a slow drive up to the site from Dorset and arrived at about 2pm.  After setting up my van and having a chat with the neighbours I took a wander down to the site, exchanged ticket for armband and then spent a couple of hours chilling out whilst waiting for the weekends drinking buddies to arrive.  I even managed to leave enough space for one of my buddies to park his caravan next to my van.  This was great because my pal and I shared breakfast cooking duties for our little group and we were even able to sit under the awning for a late night rum before bed.  Unbelievably, despite it being the last weekend in September, the weather was gorgeous.

On site for the music you are really blessed.  The main stage (in the tea tent) is all of 30 seconds walk from the second stage.  The bands alternate between stages and once the party starts there is never more than a minute or two between acts.  You might just have time to grab a bite to eat from one of the stalls or a beer from the bar if you are really really quick.  On Saturday & Sunday there is even a 3rd Mini Stage inside the maze!  This is largely for acoustic acts and almost unbelievably it sits between two heavily laden pear trees 🙂  It is also striking that the site had no high fences or visible security guards.  Sadly there were a couple of thefts on-site but I really hope this doesn’t lead to increased security in future years.

You might think that at a cost of just £40 the quality of the acts wouldn’t be up to much.  How wrong you would be!  Admittedly the majority of acts are unsigned musicians who release their music independently, by crowd funding and so on.  Make no mistake though the line-up for the whole weekend was superb.  I did see a couple of acts that I didn’t care for much but the vast majority were excellent.SEITD_Sun0012_wm

Friday nights highlights for me were the inimitable Gaz Brookfield and longtime favourites Leatherat. Brookfield’s songs about love and life are always crowd pleasers.  He has an incredible stage presence and I am sure he must have enjoyed the sound of the entire crowd singing every word of every song back to him.  If you don’t yet know his music I urge you to check him out.  Leatherat are regulars on the UK festival scene and have no less than 5 studio albums under their belt.  Their brand of high octane folk-rock is sure to have you on your feet. I also really enjoyed the folk-rock-punk band the Leylines.  This 5 piece were new to me but I will be keeping a close eye out for them in future.  I also liked the Ska influenced Punk of AOS3.  A superb evenings entertainment.

Saturday’s line-up was top quality too.  I loved Skraelings, Muddy Summers & The Dirty field whores,  New Groove Formation, One Eyed God, Skewhiff, Tarantism & Back to the Planet were all excellent. The vibe over the whole day was fantastic.SEITD_Sun0002_wm

The quality continued throughout Sunday.  You have to give a shoutout to Ned the kids Dylan.  The confidence this young man shows is absolutely remarkable for one so young.  He performs his own songs on acoustic guitar and on this occasion he was joined on stage by Les ‘fruit bat’ Carter (Carter USM) for a full band performance.  This saw him jump the barriers and head off into the crowd for some audience participation.  Speaking of Les Carter, he appeared with his new band Abdoujaparov.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect and wasn’t sure I would like it as I confess I just never ‘got’ Carter USM.  This band has a much more ‘Punk’ feel that Carter and was therefore much more to my taste. I must say I loved them.  I also caught a brilliant set from Lukas Drinkwater (3 daft Monkeys).  I was looking forward to Firepit Collective, Doozer McDooze and Funke and the two tone baby but sadly too much sun and too much cider had me scuttling off for an early night.  What a lightweight.  It would seem that it rained shortly after I went to bed but I was oblivious 😉SEITD_Sun0017_wm

I was really sad to leave this festival.  Time spent in a superb atmosphere with great mates, great music and a great vibe really is a priceless commodity in a world where the music industry is dominated by formulaic dross.  This little festival is a true gem, so much so that just one day after it ended next years event is almost sold out.

It would seem that those attending recognise the value that Gail and her team provide is second to none and that real value doesn’t necessarily have a high price!

Forever Sun Festival – Dorchester

July 2014 saw the second staging of the Forever Sun festival on the old Dorchester show grounds on the outskirts of Dorset’s county town. We hadn’t planned to take this festival into our summer itinerary but It was reasonably priced and only a few miles from home.  The following describes my experience of the weekend.  This is a new festival and it has much to learn.  Unfortunately my experience was not a positive one, it was a very poor festival experience.  I hope the organisers will recognise that I am pointing out what went wrong from my perspective, I gain nothing by ‘bashing’ an event and I know most of my readers will recognise that I try very hard to be positive and constructive in every blog I write.

The line up included Buzzcocks, Happy Mondays, Glen Matlock, Dub Pistols, Moullettes and Gaz Brookfield. The rest of the artists were unknown to me, but as a regular festival attendee this didn’t cause me any concern. You always find new bands to love. We arrived on site within 30 minutes of leaving home and it is a beautiful setting, a little flat area of ground bounded by a minor road and lying in a valley. I was struck by how few tents were pitched given that we had arrived mid morning Saturday and weekend ticket holders were allowed access on Friday evening for a limited programme.

There was a solitary steward on the access road and he directed us to another steward at the entrance to the camper van field. We pulled up and were told to find a spot ourselves. Not difficult even at this late hour. We quickly set up, wandered off to exchange tickets for armbands and entered the arena to find a bacon butty. We were surprised to find everything so quiet. We walked up to the main stage to find a band in full flow playing to about twenty people scattered across a vast arena. As we wandered around the site we saw that there were no more than a handful of people at each of the four stages! It was a ghost town. No one using the food stalls or traders, virtually deserted. It felt that there were more security, traders and staff than punters. The atmosphere was bizarre. As mid afternoon came and went it did get busier, but not much.

We went to see a band called the Jimmy Hillbillies at one of the side stages as they were on before the Moullettes, or should I say they should have been. The start time for the Moullettes came and went. An announcement was made that they were stuck in traffic. That was it, no attempt to rearrange the programme, no information about when or if they would appear. We wandered back to our van to chill for a while and went back a couple of hours later to find we had missed them. We arrived in time for Gaz Brookfields set only to find another band setting up. I spoke to the sound tech who told me Gaz was stuck in traffic and hadn’t arrived. Bizarre as I had seen him in the campsite several hours earlier. I spotted Gaz and spoke to him asking when he was on and was told things were running an hour late. I popped off to see Glen Matlock and grab some food, a venison chilli and rice from the Poachers Cafe. Very tasty and great value at only £5. All of the food vendors were very well priced and the bars charged £3.60 – £4 a pint.

Matlock was crap so we made our way back to the side stage for Gaz Brookfields set. I was both stunned and pissed off to find Gaz told to wrap it up after 30 minutes to make way for wrestling. I kid you not. Wrestling at a music festival! I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. I quickly legged it over to the main stage to see the Buzzcocks. They played a great set to a crowd of 350 – 400 people. My wife popped over to watch a bit of the wrestling and returned a few minutes later to say it was even worse than it sounded.

I was really disappointed to see the security staff acting in a totally overbearing and threatening manner to some of the crowd. I had not seen anything other than high spirits from people yet the security was very high profile and totally over the top for such a small event. At one point in the afternoon I counted 11 security staff at one of the small stages, there around 30 people in the tent. We later spoke to a couple of people that my wife knew vaguely through work. They had prebooked and paid for a pre erected tent with bedding etc and arrived to find they had no accommodation.  This in my opinion is unforgivable.

It looked like the rest of the evening was to be taken up with dance music so we headed back to the van. On our return to the campsite we found all the toilets taped off. We were told later that all of the toilets in the camp site were closed from 8pm to 7am. Seriously! Thankfully I only had to use the urinals because my wife reported the toilets were absolutely rank. We didn’t see the toilets cleaned all day, nor were the bins emptied. There was rubbish everywhere. I was also really hacked off to find that Gaz Brookfield had played an earlier set on thee chilli village stage. There were supposed to be notice boards at each of the smaller stages with information about who was playing and when. We never saw any and the information was not in the programme. No-one made any attempt to keep people up to date. When my wife and I discussed the day we agreed that this was the worst organised festival we had ever attended. To be honest it was a shambles.

Sunday was little better although things did seem to run more smoothly.  As we were having breakfast at our van my wife commented on the number of people leaving the site and they did not seem to be being replaced by people arriving.  We spent the morning chilling out at the van and wandered over to the arena mid afternoon.  It was very apparent that numbers were considerably down on saturday.  We settled by the main stage and caught the excellent Lion star who’s reggae vibe had most of the sparse crowd on their feet.  These were followed by Josephine and the Artisans.  This was a fusion between opera and hip-hop.  The classical side of the equation was wonderful, the soprano singer was stunning as were the cellist, and other strings. The mix of guitars etc into the mix worked really well, I loved the contrasts but unfortunately the overall effect was spoiled by the ‘rappers’ who just were not very good.

I felt desperately sorry for The Alleys, a great band from Carlisle.  These guys were great but they were playing to a crowd of exactly 112 people, I counted.  Just pause and think for a moment, you are at a music festival and you can actually count the crowd.  We left the main stage to go and watch the fantastic Sinnergod, a heavy rock Goth band.  They were superb but when we arrived at the Garden State Stage to see them we swelled the crowd to precisely 14 (fourteen).  At the end of their set we made our way back to the main stage to see Toploader, a band who have had No1 hits and sold millions of albums.  They were playing to about 40 people.  We decided at that point to go home.  I just could not face the prospect of watching Happy Monday’s in an environment totally devoid of atmosphere.  This is the first time I have ever left a festival before the end!

So, what advice would I give the organisers?

  1. Create a festival identity.  You cannot be all things to all people (unless you are Glastonbury size) do you want to focus on Rock, Dance, breaking acts, local acts?
  2. Who is your target audience?  Do you know?  If you do find out the best way to get information to your potential audience
  3. In my opinion you need to review your stance on children.  There is a reason that most festivals do everything they can to be family friendly!
  4. Who promoted the festival?  Did your promotion work, personally I don’t believe it did and numbers attending suggests that it did not?  Why was this?
  5. Think about the acts you book.   As you try to get established you need to book bands that bring a following with them and who are being talked about.  The inaugural “Behind The Castle’ event in Sherborne did this brilliantly last month.  The levellers, Newton Faulkner and Seth Lakeman have great followings on the festival scene, people come to see them.  Buzzcocks were great but are not a headline act who will bring a following with them.  Likewise Toploader and Happy Monday’s.  Think Levellers, New Model Army, Frank Turner etc.
  6. Think about your ‘smaller acts’.  Are they creating a buzz, do they have a significant local or festival following?  Bands like Ferocious Dog, Leatherat, Ninebarrow, Mad Dog Mcrea, Bellowhead and many others create a great festival buzz and do not cost an arm and a leg to put on.
  7. Review your security arrangements.  In my view the security was totally over the top.  I found the security overbearing, intrusive and threatening.  I was made to feel like a criminal every time I came through the gate.  Check out the Larmer Tree or Beautiful Days for how to do security well.  Security should make you feel safe not threatened, it should be discreet and friendly not overbearing and threatening.
  8. The Chilli Village is a great concept, similar ideas work brilliantly elsewhere.  Gails tea tent at Bearded Theory and the Bimble Inn  works Brillaintly at Beautiful Days (and elsewhere).  Unfortunately it didn’t work very well at forever sun because it is smack in the middle of three other stages and is drowned out by noise pollution.  The answer to noise pollution between stages is to reduce the volume not to crank it up on each stage.  The volume at The Garden State and Curiosity lounge could have been reduced considerably without degrading the experience for those watching acts in those environments.
  9. Toilets!  Oh dear, they were vile.  This is not acceptable, they must be cleaned during the day and kept open.  I know that you contract others to provide these services but it is the festivals responsibility to ensure they are up to standard.  The site was also filthy.  I applaud your attempts to be green by promoting recycling.  However, there were glass recycling points in an arena that banned glass!  There were very few bins for general rubbish and those that were there were overflowing early in the day.  As a consequence people just threw their rubbish on the ground.
  10. Bar service was terrible.  No Ale on Friday, draught lager and cider so ‘high’ that the poor bar staff poured more beer on the ground than into glasses.

I really hope that Forever Sun will take my criticisms in the spirit they are given.  I would love to see this festival become the success that the Larmer Tree is and hope that you got enough people in over the course of the weekend to at least break even.  I wish you all the luck in the world for the future.

 

 

Copyright A. Ewart 2014 – All rights reserved.  If you wish to reproduce any part of this blog for any reason then please ensure that the author is credited and a link back to this page is included.