Now in its 7th year, Lemonfest is fast becoming THE event to go to in the Southwest. Being a one day event with the option of overnight camping on the Saturday appeals to those who want to let their hair down and for those who would rather cosy up in their own bed, a taxi is never far away.
We attended the event in 2015 and had a BALL, everything just seemed perfect, the line-up, the selection of food and drinks, even the timings of the stages meant that there weren't many times when two acts were on the stages at the same time meaning that if you wanted to check out all bands, you could without even breaking a sweat!
The other factor that can make or break a festival is the weather, we are after all in the UK where fine weather is NEVER guaranteed but seeing as the Radio 1 Big Weekend was an absolute scorcher the weekend before, I had everything crossed that the sun would have its hat on for Lemonfest!
After much building up and promoting the bands and acts that were to appear throughout the day, it was soon upon us and we agreed to cover the entire event, making notes and taking photographs across the entire site. We arrived at the site, acquired our press passes and found the press tent and gave the lovely Steph Knight our interview requests (as if she needed anymore work to do!) We decided to wander the site to get our bearings, it was much the same as last year’s layout which made life a lot easier for us.
Midday was fast approaching and there were rumblings from the main stage as the opening act tuned up and prepared for the first set of the day. Big Fat Astronauts are an Exmouth based post punk/doom trio who had won a competition to open the event. Their set featured some tremendous guitar playing and some proper heavy breakdowns, backed by pounding drums and tight bass. Amongst the dark soundscapes came glimpses of genius, some great riffs and a real heavy undertow that captivated you for the entire set. I really want to hook up with these guys for a chat soon as I think they have a real bright future ahead of them, catch them on Facebook.
We ventured over to the Locally Grown stage on the other side of the site to check out a band called White Light who played a mixture of covers and self-penned songs. A highlight for me was their version of QOTSA’s ‘No One Knows’ which provided a great sonic backdrop as the festival goers filed in past security and worked out where they wanted to go first. Opening up this stage is always a bit of a tough gig, not many people in the arena but those who were there did a good job of showing their appreciation. The guys have a 4 track digital EP available right now on Bandcamp https://whitelightdevon.bandcamp.com/releases, why not go and check it out?
Local folk trio Wildwood Kin were on hand to produce some stunning vocal harmonies and exquisite music on the main stage, the girls are having a very busy 2016 with appearances booked at Larmer Tree Festival as well as Glastonbury. I’m unsure where they find time to fit in so many shows as they’ve also been in the studio, assisting Seth Lakeman with his latest long player! If you get the chance to see them play over the summer, make every effort to do so, you won’t be disappointed.
From a 3 piece folk act to a 4 piece rock act on the Locally Grown stage next, Emerald Hill hail from Teignmouth and cite Biffy Clyro, Reuben & Incubus amongst their influences. A tight band who were pumping out some killer guitar melodies, Adamcha Wilkins’ performance stood out, very confident, strong vocals and to top it all off, they looked like they were having fun which is what local festivals are all about!
We strolled through the busking tent on our way to the dance area and stumbled upon Go Tell Alice who were midway through their set, these guys are terrific and I must have seen them at a number of local festivals throughout the years. They blend comedy and great music to create a tremendous festival vibe that just keeps you coming back for more and judging by the amount of people in the tent, their fan club was with them and in good voice, singing along and providing plenty of heckling!
We took our first dip into the Drum n’ Bass tent where Ragadee & Steppin Razor were busy tearing up the tent with a heady concoction of rough n’ ready D&B, the kids were loving every minute of it and whilst the bone rattling bass may have appealed to some, we made our exit owing to feeling quite unwell after a few minutes, we would however return throughout the day to see how things were coming along!
The Church are an 80’s Psych Rock band from Sydney in Australia who had a string of hits back in the day, they were next up on the main stage so we headed over to see what they were all about. It soon transpired that this WASN’T the band I thought it was, instead there was a crazy preacher man who goes by the name ‘The Right Reverend Michael Alabama Jackson’ who was accompanied by 3 nuns (The Hail Marys) who, in-between comedic religious sections, knocked out a range of festival friendly hits including Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ and Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’.
The Hail Marys ditched their habits midway through the sermon to replace them with silver cocktail dresses, I have my doubts as to whether they were actually proper nuns! Keeping things going at the back was a sock and sandal clad church goer who was doing a grand job of playing the church organ. Though not the band I thought they were, they were a great addition to the bill and got everyone up and dancing in no time at all, just the tonic you need in the early afternoon of a one day festival!
We chatted to Michael from Mad Dog Mcrea before his set and he was on top form, you’ll be able to read our interview over at the ‘Introducing’ section soon but in the meantime, we let them do what they do best on the main stage. There was a huge crowd waiting for them to take to the stage and once they had kicked off proceedings, the audience were up jigging along to their raggle-taggle dance-demanding recipe of folk, pop, rock, jazz and bluegrass. Michael was sipping from a water bottle as he was unable to take glass onto the stage so had craftily decanted his beverage (whatever it might have been) into an empty water bottle beforehand!
Kiko Bun is a London based reggae singer, writer and producer and he bought along a fantastic band that encouraged the audience to bob along gently to his summer tinged reggae vibes, this sort of music is exactly what you need whilst stood in the sun at a UK festival!
It was getting on for late afternoon and we thought another trip to the D&B tent was in order, Instigator was playing a back to back set with Operation D whilst MC Sarge stood at the front of the DJ booth, spewing out rhymes throughout the set, young and old were dancing along to the molar rattling bass that was being pumped out of the speakers, we will take another look later on to see how things have progressed later on in the evening!
We left the D&B tent and took a stroll over to the Locally Grown where Bristol based 5 piece outfit Leo and the Heist were just about to kick off. The vocals of Leo Wood were divine, and their eclectic mix of soul warming vibes and ground shaking rhythm was enough to get you up and dancing on no time at all. Leo was wearing lycra and midway through the set, announced that she was really hot! Sadly, I left my lycra at home but I did feel for her as there was zero breeze and by the time they finished, the sun was beating down on the stage. For a slice of what they’re all about, you should check out their new single ‘Acoustic Glow’ which landed on June 1st.
Back to the main stage where Exeter heroes The Computers were about to set the stage alight (not literally!). Speaking to Aiden Sinn (drummer) before the show, he explained that they had to cancel a number of gigs on their recent tour owing to Al tearing a vocal chord and was made to rest by his doctor.
From listening to their set, you wouldn’t have known that there was anything wrong and I only hope that their performance today didn’t cause any further issues. Al was climbing the stage, walking along the barrier, jumping into the audience for a dance but I think the highlight of the set came when he and the guitarist jumped over the barrier and organised a ‘Wall of Death’ (possibly the first to have been done at Lemonfest).
To top it all off, the guitarist was hoisted aloft in the crowd and the aim was to keep him up there until Al decided it was time to get back onto the stage. What ensued was brilliant, I know it’s a family friendly event but I think all the kids had been ushered away whilst some hardcore fans of the band proceeded in slam dancing, throwing themselves wildly around the pit whilst the guitarist was held high in the air, looking on more than one occasion like he might have been dropped! After an impressive set consisting of some killer tracks such as the soulful ‘Mr Saturday Night’ and ‘C.R.U.E.L’ , they decided to dig deep and pull out ‘Music is Dead’ which dates back to 2011 and boy, did it sound GOOD, screaming vocals and driving guitar and drums really made it a stand out moment for me. Check their website for details of future dates in your area soon!
Following The Computers was a New Orleans based 8 piece brass act called the Hot 8 Brass Band who played a variety of funk tinged tracks backed with some killer percussion to get the crowd on their feet once again and dancing along to the smooth sound.
Things were hotting up again and Multi-instrumentalist come rapper come human beatbox Beardyman was due onto the main stage to enthral the audience with his very unique skill of being able to make up songs on the spot about anything at all! We saw him last year in Exeter and before the show, he got audience members to write down what they wanted him to write a song about and put it into a large bucket, he then pulled out the pieces of paper one by one and created an entire album in just 60 minutes.
I hoped that he would be applying this to his festival shows as well but in place of this, he started the set with some very impressive beat boxing and rhyming before introducing a couple of rappers to the stage who performed some amazing freestyle. Unfortunately for them, they thought they were in Exeter, not Newton Abbot, eventually getting a huge cheer from the audience when they finally got it right!
As the set wore on, I feel that it lost a little of the pzazz that he started out with and had he taken a few requests, I think the set would have been received a little better. All told, he is an amazing performer and his skills left the crowd wanting more come the end.
The quality of the acts on this years Locally Grown stage were phenomenal, we headed over there to catch the performance by Zuri Aura, a five piece reggae fusion group that have packed out venues, kicked off festival’s and played live BBC introducing radio shows across the UK and Europe, storming the scene after forming just a few years ago.
Their music had an almost African feel to the vocals and it was great to see that Lizzie on Keys could also play the sax, adding a totally different level to their music. They kept me glued right to the spot for most of their set, their blend of dance beats, slick bass and smooth guitar provided me with just what I wanted to hear as the evening fell on Newton Abbot Racecourse.
They have already supported some very big names in the music world such as Quantic Live, The Skints and Chainska Brassika, we wish them every success for what is shaping up to be a mega 2016!
We were eager to see who this year's 'Secret Guests' were so it was off to the Hairy Beaver to check out who was on. We entered the area and saw a 6 foot drag queen on the stage, wandering around and generally getting in the way whilst Land of the Giants were desperately trying to get setup for their show. After a few minutes of sound checks, they were ready to go and burst straight into 'Bangkok', one of my favourite tracks from their most recent EP 'Surrender' which is available to buy now from all good record shops and online download stores. It didn't take the room full of people long to realise that LOTG are THE party band and to have them performing for you at a local festival is a real honour, everyone was soon up and dancing to the heady blend of reggae, rock. blues and general feel good music that they produced. We had to get over to the main stage but it was a real pleasure seeing the guys play at a local event, we hope to bump into them again in the very near future.
We took one last peek into the D&B tent on the way over to the main stage, unsure who was playing but whoever it was, they were doing a great job of producing an array of hectic beats and tight banter for the tent to enjoy, it was pretty full by now and I was happy to leave the kids to enjoy the music until the wee small hours!
We wandered over to the main stage for the main event, now I was surprised to see that the next band weren’t from Alabama and there were more than 3 of them in the group so I’m unsure where ‘Alabama 3’ came from, I don’t think that 'Brixton 9' is nearly as catchy as there own name so we’ll leave it where it is!
They took to a smoke filled stage to perform a killer set full of electronic, blues, country, gospel, and spoken word which captivated the capacity audience throughout the set. The gravel toned vocals of both Rob Spragg and Jake Black sounded awesome, backed by punchy bass, rhythmic guitar and pounding drums. Their music provided a solid foundation for people to groove to, it was so dirty, so grimy and just felt GOOD!
We had to leave prior to the end of their set but from what we heard, they did a sterling job of tearing up the main stage and WHAT a way to end Lemonfest 2016! We are looking forward to next year’s event already!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper