As the above picture depicts, Chagstock really is a festival for EVERYONE, young, old, middle aged, midlife crisis, there really is something for all demographics at Chagstock.
It’s hard to believe that what started off as a small festival in the rolling Devonshire countryside is now 10 years old! Looking back over the years, its stages have been trodden by many of the finest bands including the likes of Levellers, New Model Army, Seth Lakeman, The Waterboys, The Lightning Seeds, The Boomtown Rats, Billy Bragg, The Mystery Jets, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, KT Tunstall and Alabama 3. That ladies and gentlemen is only a very thin veneer from the thick slab of talent that have played in the past.
It’s easy to see how this festival has gained in popularity year on year, we covered the entire event in 2015 and had such a good time, we were straight on the phone once press accreditation was available, thankfully they really enjoyed the piece we did last year and agreed to have us back once again!
The one thing that really made Chagstock special for me is the way that they manage the stages, normally, you end up arguing over which band to go and see, you ALWAYS end up missing something which is a real shame, if only there were a way that you could set up the 2 stages to run at opposing times, this way, you COULD see all of the main acts across the whole weekend, this is exactly what the clever sausages at Chagstock have done. So, whilst you’re watching Seth Lakeman blow the audience away with his multi instrumental skills, there would be another band setting up and sound checking on the other stage. Once Seth has finished his set, everyone would have 5-10 minutes to get across to the other stage, charge their drinks and make themselves comfortable for the next act to take to the stage. I sort of wished that other festivals would follow suit but then again, I’m glad they don’t as this means that Chagstock is unique in this respect and I think this is why there are so many repeat visitors attending year after year!
So, the 2016 event has arrived, the weather looks to be behaving itself, a little light rain is forecast for later on Saturday but nothing to get too worried about, it is after all a UK Summer festival so you have to expect a bit of the wet stuff to drop!
Checking out the lineup for this years event, I am really looking forward to seeing The Blockheads, The Stranglers, Cattle and Cane, The Leylines and a fantastic band called Ferocious Dog who absolutely kill it every time they play live, they have one of the most raucous, lively audiences and always bring with them a selection of ‘Hell Hounds’ who are their most loyal followers so it should be good to see how the regular fans react to their rather lively mosh pit action throughout their set!
The food on offer is always of great quality and the choices are endless, I remember last year being torn between the noodle bar or the hog roast counter, in the end, I think I opted for both (not at the same time!) as I just couldn’t settle on just one! There’s always plenty of things to keep all ages entertained, you can walk around the site all day if you like, just watching people enjoy themselves, some families bring their camping chairs, pitch up, roll out the tartan blanket and get the sandwiches out whereas others are keen to dive straight into the us if and make sure that they’re at the front of the barrier to cheer on their favourite acts that are performing. Whatever floats your boat, there really is something for everyone at Chagstock.
I think that’s enough of an introduction to the event, I feel that you now understand what it’s all about and can see just how excited I am about the acts performing this year, I’ll leave you alone to take it all in and I’ll be back to report on how the first day went, see you soon….
Upon arriving, it all came flooding back to me, I was ushered into the performers car park and after getting my things together, took the short walk to the arena. After a quick security check, I was in! The layout was the same as last year (to my delight) and it wasn’t long until I was backstage, catching up with my photographer who had been onsite since late afternoon to capture the action. The weather was good, a bit of cloud but high enough in the sky to avoid causing any issues to us festival goers who had camped out in the field with camping chairs and picnic rugs and by the looks of most of them, heavily tucking into a few pints of ale and cider courtesy of the well stocked and cavernous sized bar.
So onto the music, we saw so many quality acts over the weekend, we tried our very best to catch at least a couple of tracks from each and I hope that my short snappy write-ups of each act will help to give you a flavour of what I sampled, here goes….
The Andy Quick Band opened up proceedings on the main stage, whenever Andy plays, you know you’re in for a treat and today was no different. His guitar skills and those of the bass player and drummer accentuated his honey-dipped, silky smooth vocals.
People love Andy and it’s easy to see how he has become a regular performer at so many festivals all over the country. He played Glastonbury this year with his band ‘Land of the Giants’, I think they managed to notch up 7 gigs in 5 days which I think is a record even for them!
Wildwood Kin were the first to grace the Marquee stage, drawing a huge crowd despite their early slot.
Their music suited both the environment and the mood perfectly, the three lovely ladies weaving their intricate melodies and angelic vocal harmonies amongst the audience, their sweet acoustic tones cutting through the late afternoon Summer haze and into the minds of anyone fortunate enough to be present for the duration of their set.
Tankus the Henge bought with them their unique flavour of rambunctious frivolity to all in attendance. You really do never know what to expect from their live show and quite literally anything went, including acrobatics from the piano to goading the audience into releasing their inner animal and joining them for an evening of kick ass rock n’ roll.
We’ve seen these guys a number of times live and they NEVER disappoint, any preconceived ideas of them being a straight laced bunch of performers are soon quashed and you leave the performance with a true sense of fulfilment, drunk on their music and their onstage antics, you just can’t help recommending them to anyone that will sit and listen to you! A true ‘festival’ band and if you’ve never had the pleasure before, do make every effort to catch them when you can.
Josephine and the Artizans can only be described as ‘Hip Hopera’, imagine if you would the emo Rock act ‘Evanescance’ but with their ‘metal’ backing being replaced with a DJ and a couple of rappers. Their blend of classic operatic style vocals paired with the modern day rap/scratch music, made for an interesting combination that initially surprised the audience but soon got them bobbing along, whooping and hollering after every song.
These guys hail from London and I can only imagine that they go down a storm there like they did at Chagstock, another act to watch out for on the festival circuit of the future.
The Voodoo Trombone Quartet are an 8 piece ska/big beat band who cook up some super funky recipes using their rather impressive brass section as well as other instruments.
It was easy to get mixed up in their range of lounge friendly chilled tracks which accompanied the late afternoon sun perfectly.
It was great to see Cattle & Cane entertaining the crowds again, I saw these guys in Exeter last year and they did a great job of producing a beautiful blend of Americana and country influenced rock which had the audience shouting for more come the end of their performance.
Being made up of 4 siblings, 3 brothers and a sister, I recall referring to them as The Corrs but in reverse. They played a brilliant set and I know that should they offer, Chagstock would have them back in a flash.
Next up were a band called Ferocious Dog, quite an intimidating name I’m sure you’d agree and if you have seen these guys before, you’ll know that they have a VERY loyal following consisting of tattooed men, stripped to the waist and ready to go mental everytime they play!
Their trademark blend of high energy Celtic rock saw the audience up on their feet and dancing along to their music, Ken’s between song socialist commentary included interesting speeches on anti-racism, Brexit and of course his fondness for Jeremy Corbyn regaining leadership of the Labour Party. The guys looked on form and were really enjoying themselves throughout, if you missed these and are able to catch them at another festival this year, you WON’T be disappointed!
It was over to New York City’s Easy Star all Stars next who have had amazing success both in the US and here in the UK with their ability to take a classic album and make it their own with their brilliant blend of dub and reggae.
They’ve released ‘Dub Side of the Moon’, Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band & Easy Star’s Thrillah and tonight they were performing their 2006 release of ‘Radiodread’, yes, a tribute to Radiohead including some brilliant versions of tracks such as Karma Police and Airbag that literally blew me away! It takes a great band to be able to take seasoned classic tracks and add their own twist to the proceedings, some would fail but these guys nailed every last track and the audience fed this back to them by the end of the set.
It was time for the Friday night headline slot on the main stage…. The term ‘Legend’ is used all too much these days, your run of the mill vacuous celebrity who appeared in ‘Made in Chelsea’ or ‘Geordie Shores’ possibly, I’m not referring either to some pretty boy pinup who uploaded a video onto YouTube of him crooning into his hairbrush and became an overnight internet sensation, oh no I mean a REAL, proper celebrity, someone who has earned the right to call himself just that. After developing an eclectic and distinctive style, blending folk, jazz, pop and psychedelia, he reached fame in 1965 with live performances on the popular TV show ‘Ready Steady Go!’. I am of course referring here to Donovan.
To see him at Chagstock was a treat, he has more songs in his repertoire than I’ve probably had hot dinners and to have the chance to hear him play both solo armed only with his acoustic guitar and also with his backing band was immense. From the word go, he delved deep into his back catalogue and threw a number of hits at the audience who had congregated to see and hear him perform. Tracks like ‘Catch the Wind’, ‘Colours’ and ‘Universal Soldier’ were delivered with such passion and feeling, they took you right back to the early days of his career, back to the swinging 60’s, back to the time of ‘Free Love’ and everything else that went along with it!
Donovan is a softly spoken man, his in-between song banter told of how he used to work in a hotel in Taunton (I’m assuming pre-stardom!) and he kept saying what a wonderful part of the world this is and looking across the rolling fields of Chagstock, I couldn’t agree more. His set continued with the hits coming thick and fast, ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, ‘Mellow Yellow’ and ‘Sunshine Superman’ rang around the arena for all to soak up. For a man turning 70 this year and having survived the Sixties, I was delighted to see him up there, doing what he does best. I can officially cross him off my bucket list as a ‘must see’ artist before I buy the farm!
We departed on Friday night, tired, but happy with the great range of bands and acts that had performed so far, tomorrow was another day and the lineup looked EPIC, we raced home, had lashings of ginger beer, set our alarms and went straight to bed.
We arrived on site Saturday late morning and thought we’d have a walk around, taking in the sunshine whilst seeing what people were up to before the bands kicked off. Apart from the sights of various people looking a little worse for wear after imbibing a few too many on the Friday night, everyone seemed in good spirits and preparing for the day ahead. The food vendors were open for business and I must admit that the waffle van looked enticing, had I not just loaded up on a large breakfast at home, I may have been tempted but we’ll leave that until later! There were various sideshows, shops, stalls and various places selling high sugar content items to keep the kids charged all day long (as if they need extra energy to get through the day!) The climbing wall was busy, kids scaling the peak in next to no time at all, had this had been me, I think I would have been checking that the ropes were tight enough every 18 inches climbed and I’d probably be shouted down to allow someone else the chance to climb (I’m not that good with heights!). We got settled in the backstage area, put new rolls of film into our Kodak Brownies and waited for the first act to take to the main stage….
Despite hailing from Tavistock, I must admit to never having heard or seen Black Static before, a few minutes into their set, I was amazed by their sound, bass heavy, machine gun rhymes accompanied by tight beats, vocal harmonies and a live scratch DJ, something for everyone you might say!
They did a great job of opening the main stage on the Saturday, assisting those with sore heads from the night before and laying down a solid foundation for others to build on as the day progressed!
We ran an interview feature with a band called Up Down Go Machine some time ago so it was great to see them on the bill of a local festival and even better to watch them perform.
Normally a 4 piece, they played as a trio today owing to one member being otherwise engaged back in London, even so, they played a blinding set consisting of their trademark acoustic, indie-folk tunes that weaved amongst the people lucky enough to be in the tent to witness the spectacle.
We’ve seen The Leylines a number of times before and they NEVER disappoint, their sound is on par with The Levellers in its ferocity but with a lighter touch courtesy of Steve Mitchell on vocals and acoustic guitar, backed by Hannah Johns on fiddle creates a great slant on the traditional alt-country vibe.
With a new album due shortly, they’re midway through a hectic schedule of festivals and gigs across the country, catch them on tour if you can, you will NOT be disappointed!
Rews are a female pop rock duo hailing from Belfast and London (now both London based) who blew the marquee tent away with their amazing sounds. I thought as these as a more indie rock version of The White Stripes but carrying all the weight of Royal Blood, their fabulous high energy rock managed to create noise levels on par with a 4-5 piece act.
They are also playing at Beautiful Days in Exeter in August, we will definitely be in the audience when they play!
Johnny & the Chic Sisters feature their very own 3 piece backing singer/sax ensemble, bass, drums, 2 guitars and a female singer.
They played some amazing funky disco cover versions including ‘We are Family’ & ‘Disco Inferno’, bringing a little bit of Studio 54 to Chagford which did a great job of clearing people’s hangovers from last night’s escapades!
Nick Parker & The False Alarms were next up in the Marquee tent, after a plethora of name and style changes, it’s great to see that Nick has now settled into his current guise of folk/country/rock that appealed so well to the many folk who stood in the tent at Chagstock for his set.
Looking at this guys website, it’s easy to see that he is a firm fixture on the UK festival scene, hailing from Glastonbury, it was only right to see him performing at various stages throughout the corporate love-in that Michael and Emily Eavis lay on for the 200+ thousand people to attend and millions more to tune into from the comfort of their sofas. You can catch Nick at various other festivals throughout the summer and even in Europe in October (should that take your fancy).
Marc O’Reilly is an Irish folk/blues troubadour who played a blinding set consisting of just about everything that could possibly drop into his pigeon hole, kicking off with gentle acoustic strumming, accompanied by his deep, gravel toned and passionate vocals.
Early in his set, he introduced his bass player and drummer to the mix which created an awesome tour de force of brooding music with rolling drums, thumping bass and some killer electric guitar work. Marc is on tour throughout the UK and Europe until the end of November, do yourself a favour and get along to a live show.
Drew Allen is a super talented singer songwriter who caught the eye of James Blunt and was invited to support him at his Bournemouth show, going down a storm as a solo performer in front of a 3600 strong audience. Fast forward to July 2016 and here is is, performing in a marquee tent at Chagstock to a similar sized audience but this time, accompanied by some amazing musicians who made up his band.
His material borders on a variety of genres, nothing wrong with that at all and his influences from Blues to Rock , Country and Folk shone through in every song that he eagle Ray delivered to the crowd that we more than happy to let their hair down and get involved. I caught up with Drew after his performance and said how much I enjoyed his set, okay, I MAY have dropped a changer after referring to his ‘Pedal Steel’ guitar player as a ‘Lap Steel’ player but hey, I’m no musician so excuse me for my ignorance….
New Crisis are Chagstock’s very own ‘House Band’ featuring the one and only Si Ford on guitar! They played a mixed bag of cover versions ranging from ‘When Love Comes to Town’ (U2 with BB King), ‘Valerie’ (The Zutons/Amy Winehouse) and closed their set with an intense version of ‘Purple Rain’ by the late and oh so great, Prince.
The music was amazing, Si Ford doing a sterling job on guitar and vocals (even if he was wearing a skirt), the backing singers also doubled as more than capable Sax players who really added another level to the overall sound. These guys always pull a huge crowd and at the end of the set, Si thanked the audience for making it to the 10 year mark and is looking forward to the next 10! (Okay, he never said that bit I imagine it’s what he would have been thinking….maybe!)
Noble Jacks are a 4 piece alt folk act that quite literally bought the house down. Their high energy brand of alt-folk had the tent leaping about in next to no time at all, think of the mainstream offerings of Mumford & Sons only with electrodes attached to their wotnots and you’re not far off the mark.
The singer/violin player changed his instrument for an acoustic guitar and strapped on a harmonica to play a couple of songs that really cemented their place so high up the bill on the Saturday night. An ideal addition to the Chagstock lineup And one that people will remember for months to come. If you’re in need of a band to get the party started, this is it!
Saturday night was ramping up and I for one was getting excited at the thought of the next act taking to the stage. The Blockheads started their musical journey in the late 70’s and rose to fame with the one and only Mr Ian Dury as the legendary frontman, adding a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to proceedings. After Dury’s passing in the year 2000, The Blockheads continued to tour and record, releasing a further 6 albums, the latest being in 2013. The time came, the stage lights dropped and on strode the band and launched into a tremendous set, proving that they deserve their place in the list of legends. The one thing that’s always amazed me about The Blockheads is how tight they sound as a band, the bass, the guitars, all working together to create such a smooth groove, this juxtaposed by Dury’s lyrical poetry, word play, observation of British everyday life, character sketches, and sexual humour made for an interesting mix which just….worked!
To be standing 10 feet away from the band was an incredible feeling, to think I used to listen to them in the late 70’s whilst I was chowing down on my Rice Krispies before leaving for school, happy days indeed….. Their live performance was incredible, the band were feeding off each other and there were smiles all round, clearly they were still enjoying themselves after being together for the best part of 40 years.
Chaz Jankel and John Turnbull did a great job of providing the classic guitar riffs that they are renowned for, the keys player and drummer did a sterling job of keeping the backline in order whilst the bass player (who was standing in for Norman Watt-Roy who was away on tour duty with Wilko Johnson) played an absolute blinder, note perfect throughout each and every song! A very special mention has to go out to Derek 'The Draw' Hussey who did an amazing job as front man, never have I ever thought of a bigger pair of shoes to fill!
After filling 90 minutes with the majority of their back catalogue including "What a Waste", "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick", "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3" and "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll". Tonight was a night for memories, invoked by what some may refer to as the soundtrack of their lives, I for one will certainly be looking back on it for years to come as one to remember!
The final act to perform in the Marquee tent were London based 6 piece alt Country act Danny & The Champions of the World. Releasing their first album back in 2008, the band have toured relentlessly and notched up their 6th album release in 2015. Danny George Wilson (vocals/Guitar) was previously in a band called Grand Drive alongside his brother Julian Wilson, when Danny formed the new band, fans and critics saw a departure from their more rootsy/Americana sound to one that resembled a much more alternative Country vibe, something the fans latched onto.
To this day, they have enjoyed a huge following both on social media and at their live shows. They cleaned up at the annual UK Americana Awards, picking up gongs for UK Artist of the year, UK Album of the year for ‘What Kind of Love’ and UK Song of the year for ‘Clear Water’. Their set consisted of lush sounding, quality, country influenced tracks that were accentuated by the pedal steel and brilliant backing that the band provided. They managed to get the tent jumping by the end and it was a great way of drawing the curtain on the stage for Chagstock 2016!
The air was thick with anticipation, hardcore fans donning jackets adorned with patches had congregated along the front row and keenly awaited their heroes like a line of school kids hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen.
Rain was forecast and despite a few drops, it held off as best as it could, it wouldn't have mattered if it had been belting down with rain, the audience would still have been there in their droves to witness the spectacle about to unfold. The Stranglers took to the stage to an enormous cheer and dived straight into a high octane set featuring some of their finest work from their lengthy career which spans 39 years to date.
Tracks including Relentless, Nice n' Sleazy and Lost Control rang out around the stage, people locked in and bobbed about in unison with their fellow worshippers. The set was interspersed with classics such as 'Golden Brown' and 'Peaches' which saw the audience conjure a new found energy that spurred them on, late into the evening. Jean Jacques Burnel's melodic and super tight bass lines doing a grand job of keeping the good ship pointing in the right direction whilst Baz Warne snarled into the microphone to deliver his trademark vocals over his angular, stabbing guitar riffs.
You could barely see Dave Greenfield behind his mountain of keyboards but he WAS there, doing a sterling job of keeping the backline in order, alongside him was Jim Macaulay who had HUGE shoes to fill in place of Jet Black who despite being part of the touring party has stood down from the drums for health reasons. Together, they cut a tight line through the remainder of the evening, thrilling the crowd that had formed to watch them deliver their classics in a large field on the outskirts of Chagford. Come the end of their set, the band were spent, the crowd even more so but by the sizes of the smiles on everyone's faces, it was more than worth it!
It's hard to see how Chagstock can possibly better the lineup of acts on 2017 and looking back at their previous performers, there can't be that many acts left that HAVEN'T played there.....I guess we'll just have to wait and see who has been picked to entertain the masses next year, so from all of us at musicmuso.com, we hope you've enjoyed reading our write up, there are a ton of pictures available in our gallery, go take a look, you may even find yourself on one of them!
Words by Steve Muscutt