Torquay is an interesting place, I fondly recall spending entire Saturdays in my youth, trawling through records in Our Price/Virgin/Sounds (anyone remember these shops?), whiling away the hours in the amusement arcade playing Track ‘n Field and doing what 16 year olds do when they get fed up with spending their days in Teignmouth!
Fast forward 30 years, the High Street is awash with ‘Pound’ shops, cheap sugar infused confectionary stores and fast food joints, luring the masses in with the promise of a quick fix to maintain your sky-high cholesterol levels.
Would a music festival work in the heart of Torquay? Was there an appetite for it? How would the townsfolk deal with the thought of a bit of culture coming their way which didn’t involve Jim Davidson or Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown?
We went along to see for ourselves, read on to find out about the acts we saw and just how the weekend panned out….
Louis J Walker is a UK Hip-Hop / Spoken Word artist from Exeter, Devon. He recently featured on BBC Introducing.
I didn’t catch his full set but what I did see was very engaging. Louis uses mindful, introspective lyrics that are full of emotion. With Grinagog being his first festival, you could tell it meant the world to him. That said, he remained cool on stage whilst giving the crowd a blissfully ethereal performance.
Tracks included ‘Perseverance and Motions’, ‘Solitude’ and ‘Focus’.
From Teignmouth, Devon – Will Bruce also known as AGK, has come such a long way since we first worked together, having gained 107,000 views (and counting) on his very first music video – AGK now has his own radio show ‘808SoulRadio’, and has been supporting the likes of Akala, Gardna, Kelvin 373 and The Mouse Outfit. His music is fresh, catchy, and like a synergy of bass-heavy trap mixed with chilled R&B.
Taking inspiration from Young Thug through his creativity and energetic musicality, AGK has been making a name for himself in the UK Hip Hop & Grime scene at the moment, and it makes me proud to see him performing – having followed him closely from the start. My favourite tracks of his set were ‘10/10’ and ‘Energy’, alongside some unreleased tracks that I’m looking forward to hearing this summer!
He aspires to play at Reading & Leeds Festival in the future, in addition to Glastonbury and some USA Festivals! “Grinagog is just the start”, he added. I’m looking forward to seeing him go further afield with his music, which he most definitely will.
The One World Café seemed an appropriate place to host some awesome world music from Afro Reggae Soundsystem ft. MC Jahfayah & MC Paco!
And what better way to get the evening rolling, than with an energetic ragga jungle set full of amen breaks and wobbly basslines! We took position right in front of the eight-foot hi-fi, which originally had excruciatingly loud high’s, almost painful to listen to – so we politely asked the guys to crank up the bass slightly, which sounded much better, overwhelming the rattly treble and inevitably drawing in the crowd towards the vibrations.
My favourites were ‘Collie Buddz – Tomorrow’s Another Day’ and a series of Ed Solo and Serial Killaz tracks including ‘No No No’. It was a great couple of hours that got everyone warmed up for what was to come…
Towards the end of the set he switched it up with some much more slowed down roots reggae, which, had I not already been jumping around to jungle for an hour and a half, I would have gracefully stayed! But, to keep the energy levels high, we head on over to the RC.
The stunning Bloem de Wilde de Ligny AKA ‘Bloom’ from Sam and the Womp executed her lyrics to perfection! She has a unique voice, which sounds fantastic alongside Sam Ritchie’s trumpet. Their stage presence was world-class, dancing circles around each other in a playful fashion, whilst singing and playing beautifully. It was bloody brilliant! Easily one of the best sets of the weekend.
Tracks included: ‘Bom Bom’, ‘Ravo’, ‘Zeppelin’, ‘Fireflies’, ‘East Meets West’
I hadn’t listened to, or heard anything of Akala for quite some time, having lost interest in grime some years back. So when I saw him on Friday night it was safe to say I was impressed – it was a very nostalgic set that I hadn’t heard in forever! With songs from his album 10 Years of Akala – I found myself singing along to the choruses of all the old classics. For the rest of the evening I decided to head on over to the Rosetor where Jah Shaka was already well into his six hour dubplate set…
Jah Shaka turned up to the festival with the one of most ridiculous soundsystems I’ve ever seen, standing at the front turning plate after plate of reggae and dub. In front of one of the stacks it was so loud I was surprised that it wasn’t actually hurting my ears, the sound was literally perfect. I was told he “didn’t want any photographs or videos being shot”. So I put my camera away and had a chance to really listen, to some of the most authentic dub I’ve heard.
It was a shame I couldn’t get any shots of him flipping 12 inch records one after another, but it sounded so good that I didn’t care – it was a set that I could focus on, without looking through a viewfinder, and was in-turn one the highlights of the festival.
Being a resident of Rattery (near Dartington), it’s hard NOT to have seen Bert Miller and the Animal Folk doing the circuit around Totnes and neighbouring villages so it was with excitement that I stood waiting for them to take to the stage at the Spanish Barn to instill their unique blend of animal and insect related musical tomfoolery onto a somewhat unsuspecting audience.
Musically, the band are super tight, Ryan on guitar did a grand job of holding the frontline together with Cameron providing some proper ear bending sounds on the electric geetar! Bert, well, Bert is Bert, he dances about the stage, getting properly involved in the songs, think of a cross between an acoustic singer songwriter mixed with a real whacky drama presentation (akin to ‘Legs Akimbo’ from The League of Gentlemen) and you’re NEARLY on the same level that Bert likes to work at! He’s an enigma, a great person, a fine musician and a brilliant songwriter who plays solo as well as with the ‘Animal Folk’.
To fully appreciate their music, you really need to get to a show, start with the softer stuff, go and watch Bert perform, he’s regularly on in Torquay, once you have built up a tolerance, keep an eye out for the full band shows, they will hit you hard at first but trust me, once you’re into the set, you’ll be bouncing along to the tales of worms, wasps and badgers and maybe a song about his time spent in Bristol, you WILL thank me for introducing you to him!
Having not played live since October ‘16, it would have been rude to not go and support Tiny Folds. Elliot (bass player) so very kindly sorted out AAA passes for us so I really owe it to him for such an eventful weekend!
After a bit of trouble from the audio technicians, with loud feedback and having both guitars cut out, Jordan, Tom and Elliot pushed through and managed to get the crowd onto their feet and heading towards the front of the arena.
As expected, Elliot was jumping around spinning and headbanging like a lunatic whilst banging out his basslines like it was second nature. I just about managed to get my shutter speed high enough to catch a sharp photo of him! Ha!
Jordan’s vocals were on-point, also, sounding soft and as blissful as ever, but Tom (drums) held things together and kept things rolling even when the guitars cut out, which resulted in a tight performance despite their technical problems!
They played all of their classic synth-pop tunes with some new unreleased tracks thrown in. My favourites included ‘Glamorous’, ‘Amplitude’ and ‘Arcadia’. All of which have awesome music videos you should go check out now!
Firm favourites of Ted Evans (the compere), Devon based duo Moriaty took to the stage, known for their heavy in-your-face rock/blues and alternating vocal roles. It was my third time seeing them live - this time, however they were showing the full Moriaty attitude. Dressed in a reflective metallic cloak, Jordan shredded his guitar so well I was surprised it was still alive! Coupled with some great vocals, the intricacy of the way these guys play is just insane. I was stood in the pit in front of one of the rigs for ‘Belding’ and remember being almost blown away by the heavily distorted intro!
Half of the gig took place on stage whilst the other resulted in Jordan jumping the barrier and taking his show into the audience, giving them a great view of how he does what he does (and how well he does it!)
Traditionally, during the last song Jordan jumped off the stage again and ran through the crowd, before ripping his guitar off, throwing it on the ground and leaving the stage without a care.
These guys bring the BEEF to the party, they’re so cool, their music is infectious, if you get the opportunity to see them live, grab it with both hands, shake the f*ck out of it until a ticket pops out of the other end
After having the plug pulled on them at their first SXSW show in Austin Texas in March (things got a bit too much the promoter said!), I was excited to see HECK perform. I entered the room midway through the first song and I was a little confused, there were 2 guys on stage, a drummer and a bass player, there was one guitarist scaling the rigging to the left of the stage and another running around in circles in the mosh pit (with his guitar). I glanced over to Chris Hines who just remarked, “Welcome to a HECK show!”
The whole performance was immense, powerful and somewhat brutal. Thrash metal really “ain’t my bag baby” but watching these guys perform was a complete and utter master class in audience engagement and all out FUN!
I couldn’t even start to name any of the songs they played but my hat goes off to them for arranging a couple of circle pits and a wall of death which resulted in a few lively punters on their backs, scrambling about in the madness but they were soon on their feet again, jumping around like demented chickens, clearly having the time of their lives….
I’d love to see these play at a larger event, maybe an outdoor festival where I imagine the chaos would allow them to really spread their wings, definitely an act to watch out for on the live circuit!
Having no releases since 2007, Ratboy played through their last-released album ‘Wading In The Balance’.
I loved their attire, and everything about their presence was on point, definitely living up to their name.
But in all honesty, they weren’t really my thing, however being such a big name I insisted on staying to get the shots I needed before leaving for a bit of fresh air.
Chris Tofu, one of the organisers of the event, had a couple of DJ sets, featuring Pax Nindi on vocals, showed us a crazy mix up of Vintage Remix tunes, Electro Swing and a bit of Ragga Drum and Bass. Such a great combination of upbeat, happy music. No wonder the guy is always grinning! He has a way of absolutely smashing the dance floor, making everyone in the room start jumping and swinging!
Some of my highlights were Song 2, Wash My Hands and other tracks from the likes of Phil Mac.
John Row, world renowned storyteller also made an appearance on-stage, looking like a spiritual wizard straight out of a fairy-tale or something (or just dressed like it was 60’s…) It was quite surreal indeed. Given the vintage nature of his set, it felt necessary to take some photos on my 35mm film camera. Admittedly I was battling with the light, and ended up wasting most of the roll.
On the decks was audiophile and music ‘nerd’ Kavus Torabi, who is known for being into some very weird stuff… But I was relieved to see him come out with some 4x4 Psychedelic Tech-House and Acid, which kept the dance floor going HARD.
Regarded as the greatest snooker player of all time – 59 year old Steve Davis also DJ’s festivals from time to time, having played Glastonbury, he took to the stage at Grinagog primarily as hype man, standing at the front with his arms wide, like he was flying around pretending to be an aeroplane but without the noises (as you do), and by the look on his face, you could tell he REALLY loves techno!
Rinse: IT with Mr. Nice were pushing the sound system so much, that the whole building was rattling and this could be heard from outside… Now I am all for a good bit of Drum & Bass, but when you have an MC like that it completely ruins the experience for me, this is subjective of course, but in my opinion there was just too much going on, and the guy kept missing out bars. Seriously. I sort of wished he would just stop MCing, it completely overwhelmed the otherwise incredible rolling DnB, and it got to the point where I wasn’t actually enjoying the set, having heard every track played dozens of times before. Frankly, it was a couple of years out-dated, with Noisia’s Dead Limit – once the flagship song of BoomTown Fair 2015, now an overplayed club “banger”... For lack of a better word, it felt like a teen rave, with most of the audience looking under 18! But what did I expect?
The last set I saw, Congo Natty gave a majestic jungle set with some classic reggae from Bob Marley added to the mix. With emphasis on junglist’ culture and drug references after nearly every song, it certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted! The stage was lit with a bright green hue, and ‘incense’ to match…
The set had the best of both, and the way it was put together had everyone surprised, and on their feet. Phoebe AKA Iron Dread filled the vocal parts to all his best tracks whilst hyping up the crowd to the max!
By this point the arena was the fullest I’d seen it all weekend!
Tracks included ‘Get Ready’, ‘UK Allstars’, ‘Jah Warriors’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Jammin’, ‘One Love’
Before you knew it, Sunday had arrived, I was busy in the day and didn't arrive until late in the afternoon, just enough time to grab (another) burger from Meat59 and chill out to some heavenly tunes whilst laid on the grass, soaking up some rays and waiting until 5pm when the mighty Reigning Days took to the stage in the RICC Arena to close the festival.
Fresh from signing with Marshall Records, the trio took to the stage and proceeded to infiltrate the ear canals of all present with their amazing blend of alternative rock that sounds SO good through their brand new Marshall amps that stood pride of place on stage.
They played an awesome set which included their classics "Crazy Horse" and "Empire" which were well received by the appreciate audience who had come to see these local rock heavyweights put a close to proceedings at this years Grinagog Festival.
In short, Grinagog is a great festival with something for everyone. It’s VERY family friendly, If I had to give feedback, it would be that it was maybe TOO family friendly? I would have liked to have seen a bouncy castle or playground to keep the youngsters occupied and stop them running around in circles in the food tent, causing many folk to scatter their burgers after colliding with the little darlings!
In addition, it would have been nice to see the tennis courts being used as another stage (or a tent), with areas in between having more bars, food stands and general information showing stage directions in order to keep things connected and flowing. I was issued with a schedule of events, which was great but it would also have been nice to have a blackboard outside each stage/tent showing who was playing and when, this would have made my job a little easier throughout the weekend.
The walk from the Torre Abbey area to the indoor arenas felt quite open and a bit too far, maybe next year they’ll consider how this affected audience levels in the arena whilst the sun was shining and people were enjoying the hypnotic thrum emanating from the dance tent.
The weather was AMAZING, it really made a difference as had it been raining throughout the event, I can’t imagine the outdoor tents in the grounds of Torre Abbey would have been that well attended with the majority of folk being holed up in the RICC watching the bands on the bigger stages. As it was, the ice cream vans, bars and food stalls did a fine job of keeping everyone happy!
The food on offer looked incredible, I must admit that I paid two visits to the Meat59 stall over the weekend with a friend of mine tucking into the largest fajita style wrap from the World Food Kitchen opposite. It’s great to get involved with some of the food on offer at festivals and these guys didn’t disappoint!
All in all, I think that Grinagog was a success, kudos goes to the event organisers and Torbay Council, your experiment worked! It was so good to see Torquay come alive for a weekend and I can only hope that it returns next year for another fun filled, music fuelled, weekend of frivolity without any mud!
Words and Pictures by Alex Sydenham and Steve Muscutt