We checked the weather forecast ahead of the festival, rain, lots of it with the occasional thunderstorm.....Ideal! Being the stiff upper-lipped types that we Brits are, we weren’t going to let a few drops of the wet stuff deter us from having an amazing time at one of Devon’s most prestigious smaller, family friendly events of 2017, yes folks, it was time for Chagstock!
Arriving a little later on Friday afternoon, we parked up and made our way to the security checkpoint where we were met by a friendly bunch who searched our bags, commented on the size of my camera lens (which always raises a smile!) before letting us into the main arena of the event. Having rained for the majority of the day, the condition of the floor wasn’t too bad, this was due to the clever people of Chagstock dropping hay bales in order to soak up some of the moisture which by the looks of things was doing a great job.
All around the place were people, were they moping about, moaning about the unfavourable weather? No, quite the opposite, dressed in waterproof gear, they stood, under umbrellas, drinks in hand, having a fabulous time! What I love about Chagstock is the fact that it attracts so many families, looking around, I spotted a few people who have been coming here for the past few years and I managed to speak to a few of them, they were happy to chat to me and commented on how well organised and run the event is, you never miss a band due to the way that the stages operate and the sheer variety of acts on offer is one of the key factors that keeps them coming back year upon year.
Sadly, owing to other commitments, I missed the opportunity to catch Biere De Luxe, Clara Bond, Black Water County, Mistreated and Buster Shuffle but from looking at the various pictures I managed to acquire from an amazing photographer called Andrew Hobbs, they looked like they all had a great time, playing to the hoards that had descended on Chagstock for a weekend of music, family fun and laughter.
The first band I caught was UNDERCOVER HIPPY on the marquee stage, having seen them perform previously at The Phoenix in Exeter, I knew what to expect and he didn’t disappoint. From the get go, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand whilst his talented band churned out their trademark sound for all to enjoy.
RAGHU DIXIT and his band played a delightful set, blending traditional Indian sounds with a more Western approach, their sound captivated the audience and kept them bobbing along to their infectious beats as the set wore on. I caught up with them after their set and they told me that they were in the UK for 10 days prior to heading back to Bangalore where they have a hectic schedule of festivals all over the country. I wonder if their music goes down as well in their motherland as it did at Chagstock this evening?
I’ve seen SLAMBOREE a number of times when they descended upon The Phoenix in Exeter but nothing quite prepared me for the next 45 minutes. Think if you will of a combination of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow fused with a band consisting of various musicians and a great two piece horn section that played a pivotal role in keeping the vibe alive whilst various performers took to the stage to peddle their wares. I think the most interesting was the chap who ‘snorted’ a condom and with one end hanging from his nose and the other his mouth, proceeded to give his nasal passages a good flossing, very gross indeed, this chap went on to swallow swords, climb inside an unstrung tennis racket whilst dislocating his arm at his shoulder, causing some proper cringeworthy moments amongst the audience! The act went on, a dancing girl with VERY little on caught the attention of the audience whilst she whirled and swirled on stage to the hypnotic beats that permeated your soul. We stood watching in the wings as the acts got stranger and the applause got greater, before we knew it, it was time to head over to the marquee stage to catch the Friday night headline act SOUL II SOUL.
After a lengthy setup, the band were ready to take to the stage and dazzle the audience with a set which spanned their career, Jazzie B was on top form, looking every bit the ringleader, stood behind his decks whilst the band took us through the opening bars of “Keep on Moving”. When Caron Wheeler took to the stage, the place erupted, her soulful, rich vocals effortlessly floating above those of the backing singers cemented her place in the line-up.
Their set took us all on a roller coaster of a ride through the years, they kept the best to near the end of their performance, “Back 2 Life” created a huge sing-a-long, despite not knowing many of the words, it was great to see the youngsters getting involved in the action too. The last track was Jazzie’s Groove which took everyone back to the year 1989 with the samples and breaks that drifted through the speakers. It was a great show, well received by everyone in the tent and did a great job of setting everyone up for the Saturday session!
We arrived on site on Saturday around 1pm, parked up and made our way into the arena. The weather had behaved itself overnight and despite amber warnings of thunder and biblical amounts of rain, the hearts of the Chagstock revellers remained strong, if you’ve never been to the festival, you must know that the fans that support the event every year are a bloody hardy bunch, it’s going to take a whole lot more than amber weather warnings to deter this lot!
We considered getting some food ahead of the action kicking off on the main stage but thought that we’d hold fire and wait until our bellies were rumbling prior to selecting some fayre from the myriad of food stalls on offer. Pizza, traditional fish ‘n chips, noodles, burgers, curry, the list really was endless. After the food, you had a choice of crepes, ice cream, cakes and a whole load of other stuff to satisfy any sweet tooth!
Off to the main stage we went to catch the next act.
ECHO TOWN are a duo from just outside of Newquay, comprising of two brothers, one on drums whilst the other plays guitar, sings and somehow finds time to have a puff on the didgeridoo too! Having been awake for 36 hours after a hectic trip from a festival in Hungary the night before, they received a more than gracious welcome from the eager crowd that had congregated to check out their amazing set which comprised of some killer blues tinged music. An amazing drum solo ensued midway through the set which was surprising as it was clear to see that the guys were running on sheer adrenalin, the singer adding that he felt like he was “going to pass out at any moment”. Having seen these guys perform has made me want to find out more about them, I strongly suggest you do the same!
JOHN FAIRHURST played on the marquee stage and did an incredible job of keeping the near capacity tent entertained with his blend of blues/slide guitar, accompanied by his cajon which doubled as a handy seat and a bass drum which he operated with his left foot. How one man can sound like a duo is incredible, couple this with his husky, bourbon tinged vocals and you’re onto a sure-fire winner! I caught up with John after his set and chatted for a few minutes, I never knew that he hails from Wigan! I had to let him go as he had received a set of coordinates from a friend in Cornwall for a show that he was playing that very evening…..he didn’t look too sure as to the general direction he was heading but he did say that he would more than likely end up in a field full of cows, playing to a bunch of party-heads in the deepest darkest depths of Cornwall somewhere!
I spoke to a bass player who was playing for CUT CAPERS on the main stage, he explained that he was standing in for the band as their regular bass player had other commitments this weekend, it was there we went next to check them out! Chagstock is the 15th festival these guys have played this summer and believe it or not, this was THE festival that they’d most been looking forward to playing, I bet they say that at every festival! Even so, when the time came, the 32 piece band took to the stage (okay, there’s not 32 of them, I think it was 9 the last time I counted but others may have joined them midway through the set. With their impressive horn section, they played a stunning set, chock full of floor filling funk flavours to satisfy the appetites of all in attendance. Cut Capers are what I refer to as a ‘party’ or ‘festival’ band, I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, they’re EXACTLY what you need to get things started and get things started they definitely did, the huge crowd that had gathered were all bobbing along, beers and brollies in hand, was the rain going to dampen their spirits? Was it hell, this is the CHAGSTOCK crowd you’re talking about!
We took solace in the backstage tent as the heavens opened once again to give everyone a fresh soaking, it was forecast so it wasn’t as if it was a major shock for many and looking around, everyone had come prepared for the adverse weather conditions.
Sat next to me in the hospitality tent were a bunch of guys, they looked familiar but I just couldn’t place them, it turned out to be none other than DR FEELGOOD who were appearing on the main stage later in the afternoon, they looked to be enjoying their food and beers whilst watching the rain fall through the canvas doorway.
We were fortunate enough to bump into THE GOAT ROPER RODEO BAND at Glas-Denbury Festival recently, I fell in love with their wonderful heady concoction of cosmic blues upon hearing their latest CD a couple of years back, how 3 guys from Wales can sound like they do is beyond my understanding. They perform a mix of Country styled ballads with more upbeat groovy numbers, mixing in lush 3 part vocal harmonies all whilst kicking out a real groove that people just can’t help getting involved in. By the looks of things, the guitarist (Jim) has been for a haircut recently as I swear the last time I saw him, his locks were somewhat more substantial than they were this afternoon. We chatted to them ahead of their Chagstock performance, you can see what we chatted about HERE. They’re also working on new material right now and the fruits of their labour will hopefully be available soon for all to consume.
It was time to venture back to the main stage to catch the awesome blues sound of DR FEELGOOD, admittedly, I was struggling to think of anything that they’d done in the past but soon into their set, I recognised “Milk & Alcohol” straight away and from there on in, I was hooked. I closed my eyes briefly and could picture Wilko Johnson doing his famous duck walk around the stage whilst connected to his amp via his very short guitar lead, it’s been a long time since he left the band but the musical legacy lives on.
MR TEA AND THE MINIONS contained neither MR T (from The A-Team) or any small yellow monsters hell bent on causing chaos throughout the festival, instead, we were treated to a stage full of super talented musicians who seemed to have a problem standing still….Honestly, the amount of energy that was oozing from these guys was amazing! They wasted no time at all in getting the entire tent bouncing along to their blend of folky-gypsy-pop that the audience were lapping up like a cat with a saucer of cream.
The Chagstock house band NEW CRISIS were on fine form, knocking out a barrage of big hitters including “Knock on Wood”, “Come Together” and a truly remarkable version of Santana’s “Smooth” which sounded immense with it's killer guitar solo which really knocked the ball out of the park! The band is made up of a very talented bunch including 2 guitarists, a full brass section (who also double as extremely capable backing singers), drums, bass and led by Si Ford on guitar and vocals.
In keeping tradition with every previous Chagstock, there was a fancy-dress theme, this year it was ‘Spies ‘n Dolls’ which saw many people turning up dressed as a character from a Bond movie, I even saw a bunch of guys dressed as Austin Powers with their very own Dr Evil and Ivana Humpalot. We were invited onto the main stage to take some pics whilst Si Ford judged the competition, great fun all round!
And here are the lucky winners of the Spies 'n Dolls fancy dress competition who won themselves a pair of tickets to next year's Chagstock Festival....
RAGLANS are a band that I have heard about in the recent past but have never had the chance to see, imagine my surprise when I heard that they were appearing at Chagstock, they wasted no time in nailing their colours to the mast and delivering some loud, indie rock to the masses that had congregated in the marquee tent to witness this spectacle first hand. They played a wonderfully rousing set which went down really well with the Chagstock crowd. I hear that the band are set to go back into the studio later this year to work on the production of their new album, if they could somehow bottle the passion and feeling that goes into their live show and channel it into the mixing desk of the studio, we’ll be in for a real treat!
DUB PISTOLS are a band that EVERY festival needs on their bill and how lucky were Chagstock this year to secure the services of Barry Ashworth et al. I caught up with Barry in the bar over a beer ahead of their performance and we chatted about the past few times we have seen them at local festivals, I think they pretty much have a full house when it comes to coverage of local events, Chagstock (twice), Beautiful Days, Lemonfest, add to this a slew of gigs at Exeter Phoenix and around the county and you are looking at one of the hardest working bands in the UK right now. Barry went on to tell me that he is getting married in September this year, I asked him about the stag night but he claims to know nothing about it, now, Barry Ashworth isn’t known for staying in on a Saturday night, he LIKES to party, and I mean PARTY! I can only imagine the depths of depravity that await him on his special weekend, I only hope that they have someone there to capture the event as I am sure it will be a weekend that none of the attendees will be able to recall the morning after!
They took to the stage in a more casual dress sense than usual, I seem to recall them wearing matching suits in the past but maybe the warm weather coupled with the energy they exude during their performance was just too much and they opted for more lightweight clothing to prevent them getting so sweaty! Their infectious blend of rap/vocals and quality musicianship (including an amazing one man brass section) made damn sure that you were up on your feet, bobbing to the bass lines and killer singalong choruses, you just couldn’t help yourself! It was great to see that quality music, excellent catchy songs and a blend of hip hop and ska can really bring so many people together in one place, touching the souls of so many. It was a highly enjoyable show and a real shame that they were unable to hang around afterwards to have a drink and party as I hear they’re all pretty good at that!
We met up with SKINNY LISTER in the backstage area shortly after they’d arrived, we chatted to Dan Heptinstall a few weeks back ahead of their appearance at Chagstock and it was great to finally meet the band and chat about such mundane things as the weather and their journey to the festival. We left them in peace to eat and met up with them again minutes before they took to the marquee stage to entertain the huge crowd that had appeared to catch their set. Taking to the stage in a sea of fog, it wasn’t long until the beat kicked in and everyone joined in dancing, shouting and generally having the time of their lives. This 6 headed, 12 legged folk rock group took literally seconds to win over the entire tent with their blend of high energy sea-shanty styled offerings. Lorna jumped down from the stage to the pit area and handed out the flagon which I think she told me contained rum but after a few shows, who really knew what was in there!
Lorna’s father was on the road with them and midway through the set, she dragged him up on stage to join in on a track, by the looks of things, he was having the time of his life and the crowd loved him for it! After what seemed like 20 minutes (it was an hour), the set came to a close, the band were a sweaty mess, the audience even more so but the smiles on the faces of EVERY person in that tent told you that it was all worth it! If you want to check these guys out in more detail, their 3rd studio album The Devil, The Heart & The Fight is available to purchase right now on CD, vinyl and digital download.
As people made their way to the main stage for the last time in 2017, we were in agreement that SKINNY LISTER were one of the stand out acts from the entire weekend, granted, there’s a ton of bands out there doing the festival circuit year on year but sometimes, you need a band that’s going to rouse the crowd, blow away all of the cobwebs and let people forget all their worries and stresses and let their hair down for a while and it’s acts like these that tick every box!
Taking to the main stage bang on time was UK country-pop sensations THE SHIRES. We chatted briefly to Ben from the band earlier in the day and he said how excited he was about being there and was really looking forward to performing for the audience who had endured their fair share of rain throughout the weekend.
They launched straight into their set, the backing band doing a great job of keeping it all together whilst Ben and Chrissie sang and played over the top. Tracks such as “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Nashville Grey Skies” sounded immense but it was the introduction of the big hitters such as “Beats to your Rhythm”, “A Thousand Hallelujahs” that really hit the spot, creating a deep sense of joy throughout the thousands that had come to watch them close Chagstock 2017.
On our way back to the car, I asked my two colleagues what the highlight of their weekend was, I think we all agreed that the rainbow coming out after one of the heaviest downpours I have ever known, me getting dragged on stage by Barry Ashworth of Dub Pistols only to be kicked off again by the stage manager before I managed to get up there and the fact that once again, Chagstock had delivered a spellbindingly brilliant festival! I think its success boils down to the fact that there are only two stages, everyone has the chance to see every act that performs and its family friendly attitude towards the event, all of these things really go a long way to creating an awesome experience that will no doubt, be relived for many years to come by their loyal, fun-loving followers!
Whilst the acts were incredible, the weather was....ahem, changable (to say the least), the food and drinks were fab, Chagstock just wouldn't be Chagstock without the people who attend the event year after year, we wanted to celebrate this by showing you a few pictures of YOU that we took around the site over the weekend.
We look forward to seeing you all again in 2018, in the meantime, please take a few minutes to check out our amazing photo galleries which can be located below.
I would like to extend thanks to Julian Baird and Andrew Hobbs who took some incredible photographs over the weekend, Michael Eccleshall who kindly arranged access for us to attend the festival and Si Ford and his team for putting on yet another amazing festival that was enjoyed by all.
See you next time!
Review by Steve Muscutt