Well, it finally arrived. The much anticipated Chagstock Festival was last weekend. And what a weekend it was.
Chagstock is one of those rare things, a truly family orientated, proper music fan’s festival, and boy did they go out of their way to spoil us this year.
Elaine and I travelled down from Barnstaple on Friday morning in unfeasibly good weather, the past few weeks having given very little reason to expect anything but an extremely soggy weekend.
The plan was the same as last year; stay in the fabulous Southcott B+B (from which you can quite literally see the arena field), take our large tent, to use for a daytime base on site, and in which a friend of ours, Ho, was staying for the weekend, and also to meet up with a couple that we had first met at the festival last year. We were joined by a mutual friend, Inge, that we’d not seen for many years, who came over from Holland with her young son.
The gang’s all here. (I appear to be strangely faceless)
Having arrived on the campsite in glorious sunshine, the possibility that we might be about to have a proper English summer festival began to sink in and I’ve got to say it felt good. We set up the tent with the casual efficiency of festival veterans (whatever you’re thinking about that sentence, you’re probably right), and made our way off to get some lunch and check in with out genial B+B hosts.
For two days, this was our world.
We realized one of our objectives almost immediately after re-entering the site, meeting up with Mick and Jane, a couple that we’d got on well with the year before, and we went in search of a festival.
Straight away we headed for the food tents, got ourselves a drink, sat in the sunshine, and just soaked up the atmosphere.
There were already a few people in fancy dress, – the theme this year was Arthurian – and there were carved wooden animals, kids activities and stalls of all kinds. It was just a perfect setting for a weekend of relaxation.
I regret to say that we missed the first couple of bands, due simply to the novelty of being able to sit in the sunshine, but by the time Ellen and the Escapades came onstage in the acoustic tent, we were certainly up for a bit of jigging about, and they didn’t disappoint. They delivered a lively, country flavoured set with some tasty harmonica playing.
The main stage was only to be in use on the Saturday night, so we had the full evening’s bill in the spacious marquee.
Up next was the silken voice of Kate McGill, the Welsh girl, adopted as a local (no mean feat, let me tell you) by the West Country since she moved here.
Now, we come to my only complaint about the whole wonderful, sun-drenched weekend. There was only one beer tent for 5000 people.
Ok, so we weren’t all in there at the same time, but it was a considerable effort to go and buy a drink. For this reason, I’m afraid I missed Ruarri Joseph, but I an reliably informed that he was superb.
Exhibit A – the queue for the bar before KT Tunstall came on.
As I say, the single gripe about the whole weekend, and a small one at that. I believe most people, myself included, learnt to buy three pints at a time by the Saturday (to be drunk responsibly, obviously) necessitating fewer trips to the bar.
What we were all waiting for, of course, was KT Tunstall. And as it turned out, we were waiting a fair bit longer than we bargained for.
She took the stage to a predictably enthusiastic reception, from a pretty much full tent.
She started to play.
She stopped playing.
There was fiddling with cables, knobs, pedals, and other devices that we poor front-of-house mortals could only hope to grasp the complexities of.
She started playing again.
She stopped playing.
There was clearly a problem, so we waited, mainly good-naturedly, for a further ten minutes or so until, finally Miss Tunstall took the stage, apologized for the cock-up, and launched straight into an amazing set, which included much use of her trademark delay pedal vocals / beatbox / guitar riff that made her so instantly famous with her appearance on Later with Jules Holland. At one point, she even got the crowd beatboxing the chorus from “We Will Rock You” by prog-opera stalwarts Queen.
KT Tunstall, pedal to the metal.
To be fair to the organizers, she was allowed to overrun her allotted time slot to make up for lost tunes, and we all went back to our tents happy.
Well, we went back to our cosy bed, but we were shivering in our tents in spirit.
Saturday promised to be another scorcher, and the music looked as though it would be pretty hot too, but for a first day, you really couldn’t top it for England’s first day of real summer.
Continues in part two…