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Moor music. (Chagstock 2013, part one)…

Some people look forward to a couple of weeks in Torremolinos, some save up all year to enable
them to visit menacingly giant cartoon characters at their home in Florida, and there are even those who choose to bob around various oceans on board giant floating hotels.

But if if I had to pick my ideal summer break, I’d have trouble thinking of something I’d rather do than go to a music festival.
And for the third year running that means Chagstock, an eclectic family-oriented festival that is deservedly growing in popularity,set in the beautiful surroundings of Dartmoor national park.
And yes, again we played the “glamping” card, (we may not go abroad for expensive holidays,
but we do treat ourselves to luxury accommodation as Elaine doesn’t cope well with the temperatures involved in camping in the midst of a heatwave. See last year’s Chagstock blog for details)

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So, old friend and fellow festival-goer, Ho, collected off the bus in Okehampton, base camp tent set up on the festival site, and Elaine and I booked into the B+B, we could finally relax in the sunshine of the campsite.

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Ho and Elaine stay cool.

Now, even if I have got a comfy bed and a shower to return to at the end of each day, I still love camping, and even if Ho wasn’t using it we’d still put the tent up, because it’s good to have a base on site where we can relax, make a coffee, and just enjoy a few minutes in the shade away from the heat and bustle of the arena.

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                 “Cheers”

As a result of all this relaxation, we were slightly late in getting into the festival proper, and when
we got within earshot of the main stage for the first time, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman were already soothing the audience with their gentle lilting folk.

But a louder sound soon took over.
The growling of three neglected bellies.

We headed straight for the food stalls, having not eaten since breakfast, and as usual were spoilt for choice with freshly cooked dishes from Thailand, India, Egypt, Spain, and the Caribbean, alongside local West Country fare, from a Hog Roast of pigs bred on the farmland where Chagstock is held, to traditionally smoked meats from Devon, and the justly famous Tom’s Pies, to which Ho has become addicted since he first came here two years ago.

Suitably stuffed with ballast, I stopped in at the beer tent, which displayed this huge sign above the bar..

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…a Monty Python reference,which I realised was a nod to the “Circus” theme of this year’s festival, along with chalk boards bearing quotes, including one about someone not being the
Messiah, but in fact being a very naughty boy.
This reminder also went some way to explaining why I kept walking past ringmasters, strong men, and clowns, seeing as by this point I hadn’t even drunk that much cider.

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Welcome to our world

Now fully equipped, we headed to the acoustic stage in the giant marquee to watch a frenetic set
from Ferocious Dog which included a song written about the singer’s brother, a soldier who
suffered from PTSD, and whose story featured on a recent current affairs programme.

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They played a storming set and drew roars of approval from the rapidly swelling crowd, finishing with a surefire festival winner – a song that appeared to have about five endings.

After their triumphant exit we made our way outside and headed down to the main stage for the next act, all the while taking in the spectacular views across the moors.

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We didn’t have to wait long before Wille and the Bandits took to the stage, and they didn’t put a
foot wrong throughout a punky, funky, folky, slide guitar-drenched set that even included a sleazy,
rocked up cover of Dire Straits’ peon to ’80s consumerism, Money for Nothing.
And so, as the sun began to set…

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…and the stage was set for tonight’s headline
act..

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…we watched the moon rise and waited for the Mystery Jets

This was the band that the younger section of the crowd had come to see, and I’m sure they didn’t leave disappointed either.

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I’d not heard much of their material prior to this gig, but I was pleasantly surprised by the bright,
dreamy pop and spacey, folk-tinged anthems.
At one point it looked as though the mothership actually had descended to carry off the faithful.

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But as the night’s entertainment drew to a close, the most memorable image I have is that of the almost full moon, shining down from directly above the stage in a cloudless sky, promising another beautiful day in the great circus that is
Chagstock.

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For the hardier amongst us though, there was still the dance tent, and that was pounding out
techno as we left the arena for a quiet nightcap back at camp.

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Then a slightly unsteady but happy stroll back to the B+B for some much needed rest.

Because tomorrow there would be some bona fide punk legends at Chagstock…

(I apologise if you have received this post or any others more than once, this is due to technical stupidity at this end.)

Go here for part two…

 

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Billy, Sir Bob and Moor. (Chagstock 2013, part two)…

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Waking on day two to a hazy morning that none the less promised another scorcher, just looking at the view from our luxuriously appointed B+B was enough to lift the spirits.
A dense carpet of bright red poppies covered the fields outside the window, the vivid splash of colour practically shouting summer.

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A bowl of home-grown garden strawberries, two hen-fresh eggs, 3 local beef sausages, and one damn fine cup of coffee later, we made for the campsite, collected Ho and made for the second and final day in the happy land of Chagstock.

By the time we got into the arena the sun had made short work of the haze and the temperature was climbing again.
But wait, what’s this? A breeze? The ideal festival climate – hot, but with just enough air moving around to provide some relief from roasting.
Nevertheless, we decided to start off cool and work our way up to baking gradually, and with that in mind made for the Live Lounge tent.

Soon after we got there we were treated to short acoustic set from a young lady I shall describe as a petite blond, in order for you to more fully appreciate the surprise I felt when she began to sing.
With a powerful, soulful voice at odds with her diminutive stature, she charmed the audience with a great set that included a fabulous version of Dream a Little Dream of Me. (I believe her name was Fiona Richards but apologies if I’m mistaken)

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A quick trip to the bar, via some rock shops for Elaine, (the crystal sort, not the seaside sort) and a stroll round the rest of the stalls, then we made for the Acoustic Stage in the marquee.

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And I’m very glad we arrived in time to see the amazing Marc O’Reilly, a riveting performer with a voice I instantly compared to the late, great John Martyn and a finger-shredding guitar strumming style, he captivated the crowd for his whole set and was rewarded with wild applause and whoops of enthusiasm.

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Marc O’Reilly. You should see his pianist.

Time to venture out into the breezy sunshine to catch the Main Stage performance by someone Elaine and I had both been looking forward to seeing.
Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo play a hybrid of Country, Folk, and Aussie blues with a fair bit of rocking thrown in for good measure, and on a balmy Saturday afternoon on beautiful Dartmoor it felt like the music was part of the landscape.

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By time their set finished, despite the breeze it was still pretty damn hot in front of the stage so we retired to the tent to sink a couple of cheap cans, (no alcohol allowed to be brought into the arena from outside) grab some shade, and cool off for an hour or so before heading back for the final session of music.

There’s one band that you know is going to play Chagstock every year, and that’s the band fronted by the man we’re all grateful to, the founder and organiser of the whole event, your ringmaster, Mr Simon Ford.

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His band, New Crisis play good time party music for an early Saturday evening and they really get the crowd on it’s collective feet with songs by bands ranging from Status Quo to ABBA.

Here’s a taste of how much the punters enjoyed it, please excuse the wobbly camera work.

We elected to keep our seats set up in front of the main stage, grab some more food and have a rest before the two main acts came on, and at 8.15 the man they call the Bard of Barking strode onstage with his newly grown silver-streaked beard, to the introduction “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the legend that is Billy Bragg!”

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I’ve seen Billy Bragg a good few times over the years and he never fails to entertain. This time we got the benefit of both sides of his musical personality – What I like to think of as his “strumming and shouting”, alongside the mellower folk numbers by Old Timers like Woody Guthrie.
And he still has the same quick wit I remember too.
When heckled by a group of circus themed whiteface pierrot clowns, The Bard spake thusly;
“Oi, Pierrot, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly, mime your heckles”

He did the to-be-expected good natured politicising, and the bigging up of the unions speech, but more importantly he did Sexuality, he did an updated Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, and most important of all he led the crowd in a singalong to A New England.
And I bet I wasn’t the only man of a certain age present who would flatly deny getting a tingle on the back of the neck or a need to swallow an unaccountable lump in the throat, as Billy yelled for us to “Sing it one last time for Kirsty!”

But if it was legends we were after, we didn’t have long to wait, because as ten o’clock approached the crew began hoisting a new backdrop.
One with a distinctly rodenty appearance.

And half an hour later nobody would have had the slightest doubt who the final band were.

A monumentally thudding techno beat began pounding out of the speakers, along with sirens and noises more associated with Prodigy gigs.
Then, with the stage still in darkness, a chant joined the beat “BOOMTOWN RATS BOOMTOWN RATS!”
Then the lights came up and there they were, the punk survivors (minus original pajama-clad pianist, Johnny Fingers) with Bob Geldof wearing what he described as “a fuck off suit” of fake snakeskin.

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There was nothing fake about their performance though, thundering through an extraordinarily tight set list that included the manic Like Clockwork, a mid-set I Don’t Like Mondays which had a much extended pause before the final chorus, presumably symbolic of the continuing tragedy of school shootings, and a totally superb Rat Trap.

Before many songs, Geldof drew parallels with the times they were written and the present day, citing their continued relevance and giving us all an Irish history lesson into the bargain.

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I don’t know if it’s his saintly status, but every photo I took of Bob had his whole head so brightly lit that you can’t make out his features.

After a rapturous encore of Diamond Smiles the Rats left the stage only to return when their ludicrously over the top intro music started up again.
Only this time it carried on.

What followed can only be described as sounding like the bastard lovechild of the Utah Saints and the KLF, with the whole band riffing, thrashing and bellowing over the top of it.
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, Absolutely Fucking Astounding. I was so stunned that I forgot to film it.

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I’ll leave the final word on the subject to Ho who, when I asked him if he was looking forward to seeing them, said he was “resigned to it”.
At the end of the gig he said “Now I’ve got to go back to Brighton and try to convince people that the Boomtown Rats really were amazing”

And that, apart from one more visit to the food stalls and a quick nightcap under the stars, was Chagstock 2013.
Another sellout year, and long may it continue.

I’ll leave you with a little taste of the festival that brings out your inner smile.

This is Chagstock…

 

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