Festival Reviews

There can surely be no better ‘value for money’ festival anywhere in the land. Tickets were £89.50 for the whole weekend, including camping. And this year the festival was extended to three days, where previously it had just been two. Truck has a local feel and the absence of corporate badging is refreshing and the  festival continues to punch above it's weight in terms of line-up.

Many of the outlets are run in aid of charities, eg local Rotary Clubs or churches, which complement the usual food and drink stalls. This gives the festival a 'do it yourself' vibe which is fine apart from the amateurishly constructed urinals many of which sloped the wrong way - enough said......

There are five principal stages with only the main one ‘Truck Stage’ outside. Second stage is ‘Market Stage’ inside a large-ish rectangular tent, then ‘The Nest’ and ‘Veterans & Virgins’ in tents of decreasing size. The ‘Barn’ is in a cowshed on the farm – on previous visits this housed some established acts but this time around felt like it was just peripheral bands appearing there. Finally there was ‘The Saloon Bar’, a mock western bar but with a real drinks counter inside – catering for country/folk performances.

The good thing is the site is small so extremely easy to dip between the stages. Sally and I got to see 31 bands across the weekend with loads of variety. As usual for us though, this didn't include any of the Main Stage headliners (Catfish & The Bottlemen, Friday; Manics on Saturday; Kodaline Sunday). Stand out sets we saw were Youngfathers and Yndi Halda, a new discovery for us. Also one to look out for: Palm Honey

Reflecting the diy vibe, alcohol can be taken into the festival. Really welcome but can lead to some hazy afternoons (and band reviews, below).

Friday 15/7

Connah Evans - Palm City Stage
Indie singer-songwriter dude. Songs complemented brilliantly with guitar (Leon) and drums (Callum). Guitar gave the songs colour, depth and quality. A confident lad but with no swagger.

Willy J Healy - Market Stage
Lively songs from WJH supported by a quality band

Ady Suleiman - Truck Stage
Cloudy afternoon with sun occasionally peeking through made for a marvellous backdrop for AS's RnB tunes. 5-strong support. We particularly liked the little acoustic guitar player

Hooton Tennis Club - Market Stage
Played some songs from their forthcoming second album. Powerful Pierre was a crowd favourite (as usual)

Boon Mew & Wooster - Saloon Stage
Rockin country tunes that somehow failed to get the place rockin. Good box-beating though.

DMAs - Market Stage
An accomplished Aussie band. Punchy and anthemic songs. Best band of the day so far albeit a little repetitive. Much chanting of 'D, D, DMA' from the ebullient crowd

Soak - Market Stage
There was an irritating over-fussiness through the set up and sound-checking which lead to Soak taking the stage 45 minutes late by which time much of the crowd had departed for the Main Stage (for Catfish & The Bottlemen). So the set was played to a sparse crowd, lacking a vibe. And ironically the sound was poor with overly heavy bass (guitar and drum)

Applewood Road - Saloon Stage
Emily Barker's latest side-project with two American girls, Amber and Amy; all three each taking a share in the lead vocal. Excellent folk harmonies and included a great rendition of Losing My Religion.

Saturday 16th July

Flights of Helios - Truck Record Shop Tent
1.00 pm set. Very pleasant dreamy tunes while we browsed the vinyl racks and sat outside firming up our plan for Day Two. Rather comically on the stroke of 1.15 the crashing opening chords from Judas on the nearby Truck Stage swamped the band completely. Fair play, they soldiered on.

Judas - Truck Stage
Rockin guitars. Perfect sunny afternoon stage-opening set.

Virgin Kids – Nest Stage
Excellent band, a pre-fest pick for me having been impressed by them in a recent supporting slot (to The Big Moon) at The Joiners earlier on in the year. 3-piece guitar band. Song 'Never Nude' is worth checking out.

Shame - Nest
5-piece guitars. This band has a lead singer with serious attitude. "We're Shame - to listen to us is a privilege". Second song in he pulled his arm out of his T-shirt so he was half bare-chested and proceeded to pour lager over his stomach and chest. The next song was titled ‘Lick’. After that they threw in a new untitled number that got a spontaneous mosh-pit going which heralded beer throwing amongst the crowd, lead singers shirt coming fully off and a spit into the audience. The final tune saw him join the mosh. Great stuff – the kind of youthful exuberance that rock n roll was built on. Ones to watch.

Estrons – Truck Stage
Estrons means ‘Aliens’ in welsh. 4-piece from Cardiff. Thumping bass and female lead vocal. A bit shouty in places

Traams – Nest Stage
This brilliant threesome from Sheffield was another ‘must-see’ for me. Bass and Guitarist share the vocals. Parquet Courts soundalike in places so they’re in great company. As ever, they build their set and culminate with Klaus, an 8-minute tune with an exhilarating guitar climax

The Big Moon – Truck Stage
London female foursome; slightly edgy but actual playing well-constructed pop songs. Totally at home on the main stage. Included a Madonna cover ‘Beautiful Stranger’. Penultimate song ‘Formidable’ sounds like a tune to listen out for on their forthcoming debut album.

Public Access TV – Nest Stage
This festival serves up a good helping of British bands so it was a refreshing change to hear some good old American garage rock from PATV. Good set.

Spector – Nest Stage
Back to quintessentially English tunes. Indie pop to perfection. The tent was the most rammed we saw it all weekend. Brilliantly crafted tunes, the crowd singing along to most of ‘em.

Ratboy – Truck Stage
Jordan Carty’s show takes on a different hue on the bigger stage. Solid performance, fully appreciated by youthful crowd, but loses a bit of edge compared to performances we’ve seen on smaller stages.

Spring King – Nest Stage
Spring King’s debut LP ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is one of my favourite albums of 2016 and was given a good airing here. Started the set with ‘Better Man’(not on the vinyl but is a bonus track on the download) a belting song that got the boisterous crowd forming pit-circles from the off. Drummer and Lead Singer Tariq Musa sounded truly genuine when he said this was the best festival crowd they’d ever played to.

Youngfathers – Market Stage
Marvellously different to anything else we heard all weekend. Dramatic drumming in the Scottish standy-up style. Perfect backdrop to the rapping/chanting of the three front-men. Strong on social commentary. Particularly impressive is that they can all sing very well. Powerful in all regards. The most striking set of the weekend.

The Long Insiders – Saloon Bar
Was expecting country but got rockabilly rock n roll. With disguised relief we had to depart after four numbers for our final band appointment of the day

Recreations – Veterans & Virgins Stage
‘Recreations’ is Sam Duckworth’s new persona. Played some tunes off recently released album under that moniker, including excellent song ‘Built To Last’. Also several songs of inaugural ‘Get Cape Wear Cape’ album ‘Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager’, Joined on stage for final two numbers by Festival co-organiser Joe Bennett on cornet.

Day Two was rounded of with an hour in the Silent Disco – an experience I cannot commend highly enough.

Sunday 17th July

Palm Honey – Veterans & Virgins Stage
From Reading – four-piece band but refreshing to see keys rather than the usual second guitar. First on at noon but I made a point of catching their set as had encountered them previously in a support slot. Great vocalist and the keys give an electro/orchestral feel. Shades of The Boxer Rebellion...... or in places even Radiohead (but that may be brain being unable to break the connection with this band’s name). Drummer was shoeless. Penultimate song was a wonderful orchestral/melodic 6-minute song. Final number ‘a new one’ was a seven minute epic with a lengthy metronomic middle eight and a fantastic guitar climax that wound down to see the band take us into ‘two additional minutes’ of scuzzy guitar. Real potential here.

Cassels – Nest Stage
A guitar and crashing drum duo. Grunge rock in a classy style, interlaced with some good social comment (or maybe they were just angry because their booking agent had ripped them off so they weren’t getting any fee for playing the festival). Confident in what they do. Lyrically clever.

Emily Barker – Market Stage
Usual top notch country folk from EB. Today supported by The Dreaming Spires

Yndi Halda– Nest Stage
Our find of the weekend. This band has a welsh-looking name with a sound like Icelandic favourites Sigur Ros mashed up with Scotland’s Aerogramme, but actually hail from Canterbury. Yndi Halda means ‘Enjoy Eternal Bliss’ in Old Norse. Fantastic cinematic tunes with violinist taking centre stage. Definitely will be seeking out their recorded material.

Storme– Band Stage
Our one visit to this stage. 3-piece with female lead vocal, keys and electronic keypad.

Get Inuit– Nest Stage
Angular rhythms, sounding like Alt-J in places. Confident lead singer.

Danny & the Champions of The World– Market Stage
The best thing by far about this band is the great sight and great sound of the Hammond Organ.

Blossoms– Truck Stage
Looked highly presentable on the main stage. Played their increasing recognisable pop-indie tunes.

Black Honey– Market Stage
Crowd in excellent lively mood for this band who I feel are slightly underrated. Haven’t had the same attention that Wolf Alice have had, but their songs and stage show are equally as strong.

Mystery Jets– Market Stage
Irritatingly were 45 minutes coming on (in common with the Friday and Saturday headliners on this stage). Particularly annoying in this case as the excellent Blaenavon were paying another stage at this time and we could have squeezed them in as well. But during the wait the crowd was extremely good natured and remained lively during MJ’s excellent set that featured a number of tunes from their excellent recent release ‘The Curve Of the Earth’ with some old crowd-pleasing favourites thrown in ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’

Si

Festival Website

 

So the annual, small and bijou family friendly Deershed festival was upon us once again, and the weather gods were smiling on us with a forecast of sunny spells over the whole weekend.

The live music is only actually spread over 2 full days, 4pm start on Friday, and roughly 5pm end on Sunday afternoon, but if you have young kids, there’s plenty of other activities to keep them occupied.

Being in the massive minority with no kids to entertain, after the tent was erected, we headed into the arena on Friday afternoon with the first stop being a cold cider to keep us cool.

The music takes place over 4 stages - Main, Lodge, In The Dock and Obelisk, in decreasing capacities, and the festival does its best to avoid any clashes, which means due to the intimate venue, it’s simple to stage hop and catch sets from pretty much anyone and everyone.

Highlights from day 1 were Lusts - Leicester based shoe gaze, indie types, Gwenno and Patch & The Giant - a 5 piece, multi instrumentalists of alt-folk. Everything Everything closed the first day, doing what they do.

Day 2 dawned warm and sunny making it impossible to stay in the tent after about 9am, so the hangover had to be nursed alfresco with the obligatory bacon sandwich....although the baby crying at approx 5.30 woke most of us in a 100 yard radius.

Saturday is the real meat of the festival, where the established acts mingle with newer unknown artists and where I always look forward to finding someone new to go on about. New (to me anyway) were Fews (Swedish/American guitar driven indie), Plastic Mermaids (uncannily sounding like Mercury Rev playing Flaming Lips songs), and a 17 guy called Declan McKenna who played some lovely songs to a sun drenched, lazy midday audience on the main stage. It’s also worth mentioning the quality of the sound system at this festival - always top class.

The wonderful Emma Pollock played the Lodge stage on Saturday afternoon - incredibly engaging and charming - swigging from a bottle of York Brewery Guzzler, and playing mostly songs from her magnificent latest release In Search of Harperfield. The only downer was her declaration that she no longer plays Delgado’s songs....”a line had to be drawn”.

Misty Miller was next up, on the Main Stage, and have to say left disappointed. She seems to have been turned into a pop princess - over produced and polished, as opposed to the rock chick I first saw a couple of years back.

Boxed In livened us up again, being the first band we saw you could dance to. Excellent set. This Is The Kit were there usual charming self, but with 1 major omission.....no Rozi on bass. And no explanation either...

Steve Mason pulled the largest crowd so far, which still was’t much as most of the kids and therefore parents, were still playing and enjoying the other distractions. He did hilariously keep referring to the people on the slope of the hill with their camp chairs and picnics as the Melton Mowbray brigade.

Anna Calvi was next up on the 2nd stage, where I bumped into Mr Marc Riley, who was also doing a DJ set at midnight. Ms Calvi reminds me of another Annie....Ms Clarke. I admire both of them, without actually liking much from either of them. Leaves me cold.

Leaving half way through the set meant we could catch C Duncan playing to approximately 50 of us in the In The Dock stage - massive highlight of his set (and maybe the festival) was his cover of The Cocteau Twins’s Pearly Dew Drops Drop. Fantastic. I may have been the only one present who knew the original...

Richard Hawley closed the night and was as professional and fantastic as ever. We finished the night watching Mr Riley press play on his ipod a few times, before staggering off to bed.

After the horrendous tasking of dismantling the tent etc, the few of us that bothered to make it down to the main stage for 11am on Sunday had our spirits well and truly lifted by the wonderful Mt. Wolf. Sounding like a choirboy accompanying electronic, ambient and at times indie music, these guys were a most pleasant surprise. Laters on The Lake were also as lovely as ever, even when the unexpected rain shower hit.

A trio of folk acts closed the festival for us - Serious Sam Barrett (finger picking a 12 string acoustic like a banjo), the uplifting Buffalo Skinners and Sam Lee & Friends playing earnest folk to a large gathering. We didn’t stay for Beth Orton which in hindsight I regret at least not staying for the minimum 3 song Bob Boilen set.

And so that was that for another year. For me Deershed always feels like a warm up for the rest of the summer, especially for the End of The Road festival, but the loveliness, politeness and quite frankly value for money it affords, cannot be denied. 25 bands seen, from stage front and centre, while the kids and parents are playing, cannot be argued with, and add to that the fabulous food and beer, and that’s what I call a good weekend.

Keith
@kjsmith4082

 

This event should be high on every free-thinking person’s bucket list – a warm and generous helping of traditional English eccentricity, in a beautiful setting.

I had never been before but knew the village and its ancient sycamore, meeting place of 6 agricultural workers who were expelled to Australia for campaigning against poor pay and conditions; I helped to select the tree as one of 50 Great British Trees many years ago. It’s normally a quiet place of thatched cottages and tranquil streams – except for the third weekend in July, when thousands of trade unionists march along the high street with full brass bands and banners to honour the 6. In recent years this has developed into a 3 day festival of talks, debate and music – and it’s not what I expected at all...

For a start it would be possible to avoid the politics all together, and some people do. No-one harangued me or tried to influence my thinking, it was more like a large country fete run by well-meaning socialists. There were lots of stimulating things going on, but they were all optional. I started with a film, Cultures of Resistance, shown in a rare 1960s cinema coach, apparently commissioned by Tony Benn to show public information films.

Maxine Peake did a great Q&A about how to succeed in acting without compromising your principles, and there was a fantastic comedian, Elvis McConnogal, who had plenty of material given the current political chaos. There was wonderful food, including a travelling community Real Food shop and the WI doing salads in in the village hall, and lots of stalls covering everything from Cuba and LGBT supporting migrants to Greenpeace and the RSPB, plus all the unions of course. Instead of the morning papers I got a free Morning Star (which seemed remarkably conventional , even covering sport and tv. I may well buy it in future).

And the music? Well, the big names were Dreadzone, Ferocious Dog, Lisa Knapp and Tom Robinson Band. The latter was way better than he had any right to be, with great new material, sing-a-long classics and a genuinely warm audience rapport. He gave a solo spot to his guitarist, Mancunian Lee Forsyth Griffiths, definitely a songwriter to look out for. Worth mentioning that his stage, along with most of the festival site, is on a distinct slope, suggesting band and audience would all end up at one end after the encores.

Ferocious Dog were fantastic as always, channeling early Levellers and the Pogues and playing to the ideal audience for their political songs of sacrifice and history. Said audience did suffer a bit from seeing them outside mid-afternoon on one of the hottest days of the year, and on an even steeper slope than Tom Robinson...but no obvious casualties.

Best discovery of the weekend were local folk rock heroes Skimmity Hitchers, impossible not to dance to, every one of their humorous songs about either cider or modern life in Devon or both. It was great to see an old friend Jon Langford of the Mekons , here playing songs about 19th C Welsh riots with his band the Men of Gwent, along with lots of Mekons stuff.

Rob Heron and his Teapad Orchestra won me over, playing bluegrass and 1940s Americana but almost all original songs, many set in their native Newcastle.

The highlight of the weekend? It had to be the march. Like the Durham Miners Gala but in a totally rural setting, and thousands strong. I walked with the actors union Equity, who had a great band of elderly musicians blasting out rousing tunes, and briefly helped Cambridge politicos Rebel Arts Radio carry their banner. It felt great to be part of it all, whatever your beliefs.

The climax was a speech by one J Corbyn Esq, a great chance to hear him direct without the filter of a biased media. For what it’s worth he seemed to me a good man, kind and honest, old school Labour, though maybe not the strongest speaker. I was a bit disappointed that, surrounded by adoring fans of all ages in a huge variety of JC t-shirts, he didn’t deliver a rallying cry to vote for him in the Labour election. But then that was Tolpuddle in a nutshell – understated, warm and human, politics plus, with a smaller p than expected and a bigger heart.

Kevin Hand

Tolpuddle Website

Located on a waterfront site in Barcelona that has a slightly industrial feel to it, but at the same time provides excellent views across the sea. The festival is heavily corporate-badged, with each stage carrying a sponsor’s name. Seven principal stages, the two main ones ‘Heineken’ and ‘H&M” are located either end of an area the size of an enlarged football pitch with band sets alternating between the two. In theory this sounds like you could sit in the ‘centre circle’ and enjoy pretty much non-stop music. But in reality the sound desks and more particularly the bar areas do not make this possible. Additionally, with strong headline acts scheduled to play these stages it was necessary to get there early to get e decent position (i.e. for the previous band on that stage, meaning a wait of 2 hours).

Other stages are set in natural amphi-theatres giving an option to view from a seated position

The main festival area opens at 4.00 pm with bands on at 5.00. The main stage area opened just before 6.00 pm just before the first act. The late afternoon start time is entirely sensible given the heat, and it means the bands play through till 3.00/4.00 a.m.. Headline acts are on at 11.00 pm / midnight.

Organisation across the festival is very good. Plenty of bars plus vendors walking round serving beer from back-packs. Large beer is €5, with a €1 premium if purchased from a roving vendor. Only Heineken on offer - craft beer has not reached these parts (or maybe the sponsors are insistent on monopolising ?). This lack of variety is disappointing and after three days you are left craving something more flavoursome.

The festival ticket was €175. We purchased a package at £294 each which included 3 nights in a Holiday Inn - perfectly adequate. The festival ticket includes entrance to free gigs at venues in the city the night before the festival and during the afternoons while the festival is on if you are energetic enough and want to get some bands in before the 4.00pm opening time. Alternatively you could use your ticket for entry to the Beach Club, a chilled out area next to the festival site with DJ’s all afternoon.

There are 190,000 attendees across the three days, but it never felt too crowded, apart from the headline band sets. Food outlets were plentiful and provided good quality and value for money.

And so to the bands we saw:

Wednesday night - pre-festival gig at Sala Apolo

Stara Rzeka - a great deal of intense knob-twiddling creating soundscapes that somehow didn't seem to grip the audience. Penultimate track moved into Jonsi-esque territory and was the best song. Finished with a vocal-accompanied song which made for an eclectic mix.

White Fence - four-piece guitar band from California featuring Tim Presley on lead vocal. Good songs and would have liked to have stayed for longer than the 20 mins our schedule allowed

Younghusband - the smaller downstairs room (400/500 capacity) was full for this exciting English indie band. Their half hour set comprised mostly songs from their excellent 'Dissolver' album.

Suuns - took to the stage as a massive blow-up 'SUUNS' appeared which acted as a very effective back-drop for the light-show.

Thursday

Beach Slang - Firestone Stage: Philadelphia four-piece guitars. Lead singer sported a shirt, jumper and blazer so must have been extremely hot in the afternoon sun. Opening number had overtones of British sea Power but as the set progressed the band moved into a post-punk groove. Included a cover of ‘Friday Night And I’m in Love’

Autumn Comets - Rayban Stage: Six piece with guitars, keys and violin. Saved best songs till end of the set, slow-building numbers with screeching violin, ok but a little reminiscent of Snow Patrol

Algiers - Heineken Stage: Started off as a taste of WOMAD in the Spanish sunshine. From Atlanta. Played a variety of styles, World, Rock, Blues and Soul

Car Seat Headrest - Pitchfork Stage: Opened with solo rendition of ‘Way Down’ with the band taking to the stage and joining in toward the end of the song. Voice has a 60s/Lou Reed quality. PA was not as loud as it could have been and people chattering was an irritant. This was the most inventive of the bands of the afternoon. Their first tour in six years, but they still look extremely young. Across the set the songs moved from mournful to anthemic. Additional entertainment provided by blow-up blue dolphin in the crowd.

Destroyer - Rayban Stage: Eight on stage included trumpet, sax and keys. Dylan-esque vocal. Glad to catch this band that we were due to see in London later in June, but we have had to swerve due to a clash

Suuns - Primavera Stage: this time the blow-up SUUNS letters appeared three songs in. Some good songs but they need to work a bit harder to achieve the artistry and charm of (say) a Hot Chip

Floating Points - Rayban Stage: Having caught the end of his DJ set earlier in the afternoon at the Beach Club it was intriguing to see whether this would be a true 'live' set. We weren't disappointed. Supported by a three strong band this was a find of the weekend producing a blend of ambient and rockin tunes

Tame Impala - H&M Stage: given the fairly specialist sounds this band create it is always surprising just how well the assembled masses know the songs. Centring their set on their excellent 2015 release 'Currents' the band were in fine form until, at the end of 'Eventually' the sound went bringing the set to a premature end. They tried to resume several minutes later but the vibe was lost.

Friday

Oh Pep! - NightPro Stage: a female duo from Melbourne, Australia; Peggy-Ann and Olivia, supported today by a couple of guys from Ireland on bass and drums. First set of the afternoon on this tucked-away stage so just 82 people there at the start (it filled up a bit during the set). Very good tunes, reminiscent of Emily Barker. Olivia was the main vocal lead. Peggy-Ann played excellent mandolin and made it sound like a plinky piano in places. Excellent set.

White Fence - Primavera Stage: Having seen the first 20 mins of their set the previous evening was glad to catch the second half this afternoon. Centre-piece of their set was a metronomic, floyd-esque number that saw the guitarist on drums (still with guitar) and the drummer playing feedback/scuzzy guitar

Ben Watt - Rayban Stage: Including Bernard Butler on a guitar who provided the best guitar-playing we saw all weekend on a couple of numbers. The bass player alternated between guitar and full double-bass giving breadth to Ben Watt’s feelgood yet thoughtful songs

Savages - Heineken Stage: Occupying the slot preceding Radiohead this had the feel of a support act. Not the band’s fault but this was a large crowd made up of people content to invest 3 hours waiting for the main act. With just pockets of interest, the audience showed polite appreciation to Jehhny Beth’s fantastic efforts at getting the crowd going with her multiple crowd surfs

Beirut - H & M Stage : Superb vocals harmonising with one another and also with the full-on brass trio that made up the six-strong line-up. The vocal sounded like Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip in places. A mix of waltz and paso doble rhythms

Radiohead - Heineken Stage: With the crowd now swelled to massive proportions we were understandably unable to retrieve the reasonable place we’d had for Savages so we ended up quite a long way back. Not a problem in itself but there was much chattering during the opening 4-5 songs which showcased their excellent new album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. The screens were a let down too, projecting the same as the stage back-drop (which everyone could see anyway) so no chance to see the band in action. We gave up on the set after 25 minutes due the chattering and constantly moving crowd, but we were still able to enjoy some classics (see below)

The Last Shadow Puppets - H & M Stage - Sat in front of this stage at the other end of the arena to secure a good space for this set. Fantastic festival moments when, despite everyone facing away from the Radiohead stage we all joined in with Karma Police. For a minute we lost ourselves. As for TLSP, the new sexy Alex Turner strutting around the stage owns this band completely. A lot of Libertines-style buddy-up moments with Miles Kane but you can’t get past this being AT’s side-project. A good mix of times with plenty from their solid 2016 release ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’.

Beach House - Heineken Stage: A shame that after the rest of the day running to perfect time this 2.00 a.m. set was late (they only started disassembling the Radiohead rig at 1.45). But it was worth the wait. Wonderful band, wonderful tunes perfect for a starry Spanish night. Chased away all feelings of tiredness.

Saturday

Cass McCombs - Firestone Stage: Featured CM with bass, drums and keys. Chilled out indie tunes with a hint of Americana. Some impressive keyboard/guitar interludes and the keys-man added occasional falsetto harmonies

Joan Serat - Rayban Stage: Spanish female singer-songwriter supported by a 5-strong band that gave depth to her sun-filled and enjoyable tunes. Occasional overtones of a country twang

Wild Nothing - Heineken Stage: 5-piece indie guitars and keys. Nothing to get wild about apart from a stand-out track which had a keyboard intro, deeper vocal and a dancey middle section. Best tune of the day so far

U.S.Girls - Adidas Original Stage : Unlike American band ‘Girls’ and Ireland’s ‘Girl Band” these really are girls..... two of ‘em. Dressed in jump-suits, one white one black; put you in mind of Abba c.1974. A highly theatrical performance - both girls on vocals with back-up loops. Edgy, funny, quirky, raunchy in equal measure. Funniest moments were when a guitarist appeared from behind the PA sporting a cowboy hat and white trousers. The first time he appeared for no more than 10 seconds playing a riff and immediately disappearing. Two later appearances were slightly longer with slide guitar riffs complementing the loops. Different, quirky - great fun.

Autolux - Primavera Stage: Three-piece guitars with a female drummer who shared lead vocal. The two guys were all in black; she was also in black but with a fluorescent pink tabard which was particularly stunning when she took the lead vocal standing on the drum-kit. Could really play their instruments.

Richard Hawley - Rayban Stage: we have seen a lot of RH over the years and had there been a competing act we might have swerved this set but glad we didn’t. It was utterly brilliant. Really has moved on over the last 5 years, playing a rockin set with just the occasional crooney ballad. A fantastic musician and surrounds himself with great people to create his marvellous sound.

Chairlift - Pitchfork Stage : Curious line-up: vocals/drums, bass/sax. Energetic dancey tunes

Parquet Courts - Pitchfork Stage: Our original motivation for booking this festival was Saturday’s headliner Sigur Ros, so it had been a disappointment to see Parquet Courts were billed to clash with them. All things considered with the main stage layouts (and the fact we are seeing SR later in the year in UK) we opted for Brooklyn’s finest, Parquet Courts. Their 2016 album ‘Human Performance’ is also one of my very favourites so far this year. I had a minor reservation that the crowd would not be as ‘up for it’ as an English crowd as there had been little evidence of mashing/crowd-surfing all weekend. I needn’t have worried. The band opened with 4-5 songs from ‘Light Up Gold’ and the crowd was extremely lively from the off; and the mashing didn’t cease as they moved into songs from their latest release which were delivered with the now familiar aplomb from this excellent band. A wonderful set for us to conclude the festival with.

This is a great festival albeit we found it a hard slog. Fortunately we had had the foresight to book a further three days in a resort hotel which allowed us to recuperate and enjoy the sights of Barcelona, making this a highly agreeable trip.

@Si_Westley

This is our second visit to Howlin’ Fling (following 2014’s edition) and this time the event is advertised as a stripped down affair of two days, well Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Life of Eigg however, has to be experienced first hand and once onshore, Eigg time begins. We arrived Friday afternoon via the Shearwater ferry and left Monday morning. Howling’ fling is not just a music festival, this is an opportunity to share island life for four days with some of the most hospitable people you could find anywhere. Eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy the music and the company of 200 fellow festival goers, the artists themselves and the fine people of Eigg, that is the prevailing message of the weekend.

The Lost Map record label provides a fair share of the weekend’s bands understandably and the festival itself kicks off with the performance artists and band, Monoganon. Quite a start it is too with just a stripped down two piece version of the band, they certainly left an imprint on the mind.

A forty minute break between each band gives everyone time to eat, drink and chinwag. The ever wonderful Rozi Plain melts the audience with a sublime set and she is followed by Slow Club who mesmerise and seem a bit disengaged with each other at the same time. A pair of solo songs each, sees the other partner in the band seemingly pretty disinterested to what the other one is signing, Perhaps it’s just the night, the tunes are as great as ever, let’s hope this band can forge forward together.

Johnny Lynch aka Pictish Trail (Lost Map boss, festival organiser, compere and singer/songwriter), who sticks in a great full band set. Johnny seems to be following the John Grant route of acoustic singer/songwriter goes electronic, but it all makes for a bouncy set.

The evening goes on till around 4am on Saturday morning, but this correspondent heads tent bound, down the lane and across the stepping stones on the river for a night’s kip. Night’s are short on Eigg this time of the year, it is still light approaching 11pm so you could be up at 5am and find yourself chatting with the locals and late night revellers. Saturday morning passes with bacon and egg butties from the ever wonderful harbour-side kiosk and a walk around some of the island.

Ed Dowie, a composer who has been making music since the late 1990’s kicks off today’s music with a sweet atmospheric set. I think James Blake must have listened to this guy. Victoria Hume from Jo’berg is heavenly, songs and a voice that again melts the heart. Life Model a Glaswegian garage band really ramp up proceedings with the most rocking set of the festival so far, a band to most certainly keep a eye on.

The quality of bands and artists is first class and most importantly they seem genuinely delighted and humble to have been asked to play on Eigg. Gwenno (Saunders) has totally reinvented herself from her Pipette role as a champion of Welsh Music. Her album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ was Mercury nominated and her set comes from that excellent record. An enthralling performance.

There are moments in your experience of live music that are nearly impossible to re-tell. You've got to be in the moment and all that drivel. But what the hell, let's try to explain a dozen pop star cross-dressing nuns on this wee island of Eigg. Howlin' Fling 2016 gave us a new kind of supergroup. Forget Blind Faith. Forget The Band. Forget the Wilbury's or all that you ever saw or imagined.

Yet Blind Faith is an apt reference point - many of us couldn't find our way home. Billed as 'Look Who's Mappin' Too', you might get a flavour if, to the words of a familiar Sgt Pepper track, you sing along: 'Picture yourself in a hall on an island, with transgender nuns holding fender guitars ..... in short, TLC's 'Scrubs' was suitably irreverent and angelic, while Bowie's 'Let's Dance' probably had David Jones jigging in his grave. Neither song will ever be the same again.

Spirits were among us, and no doubt inside us. A brilliantly ramshackle ultra-group of musicians conspired to deliver - in full habit regalia - half a dozen 'tributes' in covers-band style. It was pure magic and drew possibly the biggest cheers of the weekend. They say pop will eat itself - this was pop peeing itself with joy and with a beaming smile on its celestial face.

Break for dinner with the ever superb ‘Where the Monkey Sleeps’ catering crew means next out on stage is ex Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones and his band. Certainly the set of the weekend, almost a Neil Young and Crazy Horse vibe at times, the band is full of genuine musicians in superb form. A stunningly good set in the tiny Ceilidh Hall (where all the music is staged).

Jane Weaver another Liverpudlian plays a storming set of psych/folk around her successful ’Silver Globe’ album and is followed by the ever maturing and classy rockers, Tuff Love and the soulful danceable machine that is Glasgow’s Bossy Love.

Sunday is a day for exploring the island on bikes as the sun shines. Thanks to Libby for opening her tea shop for us! Then it’s an afternoon/evening around the campfire where those who have not caught the ferry back to the mainland just test the local craft ale and kickback. People chat, musicians pick up an instrument and perform or invoke a sing-a-long.

We are piped off the island on Monday morning with new and old friendships made and re-kindled plus, many happy memories. There truly is nothing like a Howling Fling on the island of Eigg!

Pete & Nige

Photos

Lost Map Records

Isle of Eigg

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