Well it's been a couple of weeks since “that muddy festival” and I'm itching to get back into a field with like minded people, live music, good food and maybe a beer or two. So yay, here I am back Once Upon a Time in the west (OUTwest) for mine on theirs third year .The site itself is a flat few fields, so you're welcomed off the road by smiling happy stewards who know the small site and directed to either the rows of campervans or to the next field for car parking. The camping grounds are right next to the arena entrance and only a minutes walk from the parking field (not hiking for miles with all your kit!) the CV's are all of a couple of minutes further away, but really no distance either. Camping for less able folk is the closest of all to the entrance and couldn't be much easy for those that require it. So its a quick set up for me and a friendly “ hello” to my neighbours for the weekend and a beer too.
Each time it evolves a little bit, just changing its layout slightly, tweaking vendors or introducing a new venue. This year we lost Malinky's Hotel Bastardos but gained the Djin Palace ( a clever play on words, as its where the late night DJing would take place and also some late night Gin or cocktails), a small shots bar (Sid's) is added too also the orientation of the smaller stage has been rotated 90degs.
Food wise there's a couple new vendors this year, Naans provide food in yep you've guessed it, naan bread, falafel got the thumbs up from all I saw eating them and also Moroccan spice chicken and some other spicy offerings. There was also a Thai street foods selling green curry and tempura, chicken satay and bbq pork skewers. We also saw the return of some favourites too like Nana's Kitchen, selling the best cooked breakfast on site (veggie and meat options) but also good wholesome home style cooked meals like sweet potato chilli or farm reared (the farm land we are on!) beef stroganoff, all served with a smile and on real plates! Also retuning is “The greatest little coffee box on earth”, apparently the mochiartos are amazing, I can vouch for the chai latte and hot chocolates as well. Those with a sweet tooth are catered for by Lucille's sweet treats caravan too. All bases covered there then I think. As for the main bar, well we're not left wanting there either. Ales are supplied by Wally's bar, who run a great crew bar at a larger near by festival, so they know how to source good beer, we had about six ales to choose from, from a couple of lower percentage ones like Buttcombes bitter and citra to an American pale ale called livewire from electric bear brewery at 5.9%, two lagers Amstel and Astrella and two ciders inc firecracker which is a solid tasty scrumpy.
OUTwest runs from lunchtime (for site opening) on Thursday with the arena opening up around 6, so there's plenty of time to relax or set up tents etc. Music starts around 7 in the larger marquee only tonight. Friday and Saturday has music running from around midday until midnight across the two stages then into the wee hours at the Djin Palace and behind the chicken wired clitterati stage in the main bar.
There's also a few festival type stalls, a make a noz bug workshop and circus skills to try your hand at. The Book Cycle bus is here again to buy books from at a price you choose and a story telling set up in a large tepee too. These little extras I believe helped bring in a few more families this year. Also added was a crazy golf course! A first for me on the festival circuit.
The Back Wood Redeemers open with some redneck southern tunes. Flounder's gravelly voice suits it well, whilst the lead double bassist's voice it cleaner and balances the sound well.” Ain't no grave can hold my body down” stood out from this set.
Funke and the Two Tone Baby rips a grand 4 minute long set with crowd favourites like 'Bella's Kiss', 'I'm Not Well', (track no5 as shouted by a couple of people in the audience ) 'Be Nice To Me' and ending with 'Too Much Benobo'. This guy works so hard to build up a sound on stage and all over the festival scene (over 40 this year)
The Sneak Eazies bring a fancy dressed bunch of skank inducing musicians from Bristol to the stage. A Lively 7 piece with 4 brass. And a drum kit desperate to leave its platform.
The Skimmity Hitchers crack on through their set of cider and west country appreciating songs (Scrumpy and western). The crowd enjoy themselves and a lively end of performance sees a stag take on the badger suit and dance around the audience.
Friday has a dank start to it, so it's a lazy start for me too. So a cooked brunch sets me up for the first pint of the day. Coral Creek, (US) all the way from Colorado, open up to a small early crowd but sing with a blues country purpose, sipping whiskey vocal. Next the short distance to the second stage for some guitar and violin folk from Sue Harding.
The Blunders, (a localish band I believe) are a classic 3 piece punk band, singing of signing on, dentistry & austerity and cat shit. They play with some real energy and I'm sure I'll check then out again.
The Kings of Outer Space fly in from Mars dressed in NASA jumpsuits play some upbeat swing/rocknroll, ghosttown, zombie walk, monkey alarm (about a bicycle factory that had monkeys ride around on them and escape occasionally). Muff Said, are a lively bunch, much bounce and sway from a swelling audience. A dance off to "tits n grits" sees one of the bands 8 CDs given away (that's how many they brought with them to sell!)
Black Water County bring some (Dorset?) Irish jig to us now with 'Cannonball', 'Irish Rover', 'Fields of Athenry' and a good few new ones of there's “like no regrets” that had some more rock influences for sure. Final song gives us a version of 'Loch Lommond' mashed into by the drummer with “bonkers” before half the band head into the crowd for a dance.
Captain Cactus & The Screaming Harlots, breaks a G string so we get fat bottom girls and all about the bass from the screaming harlots, which nicely filled the gap in a great country set. The free whisky shots may have helped too. The Boot Hill All Stars, (well we thank flounder and pink morph for this festival and here they are on stage), with a searing “Jolene” and saucy songs of the “devils doorbell” and the fluffettes out to the audience. Special guests the inbredz with a bit of “back on the (black)rat!” Full set from them tomorrow.
Gadje Scum (gadje meaning outsider in European Romany according to one of the band members when I asked them later whilst sharing a supper table with them) have a sound I can't quite put a name too, but they have a live dance vibe to them and then they come out with a steaming version of 'Ghost Town', 3piece brass, guitar and Dismaland T-shirt wearing singer, they've travelled over from Belgium for this and were great.
Mr Tea and the Minions (no small yellow creatures here!) are a 6 piece Bristol band playing songs from their forthcoming album, polka and waltzes with a Balkan edge. The female lead vocal could easily hold an audience in a Smokey west bank café too. After a taster of Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six I slip of to chat with some friends I spot across the site, a chai latte and some supper.
Back inside to Poor Old Dogs whom I've seen play here before and were great again. ease movement around the site is key with only short distances between stages, you really easily get maximum amounts of music in.
The Destroyers fill the stage with about 12 musicians, a frisky bunch, sees the lead singer/violinist off stage for the first song, devil stick juggling with a flute and later his violin. Tunes from around Europe get the crowd happily swaying and bouncing.
The Cat Ratchers have the lesser sized crowd, which is a shame with the band crossovers. A solid yet fairly new four piece, they get the audience moving with a great version of “gangsters” and keep them moving with a fast paced rockabilly vibe and titles such as 'Spitting Teeth', 'Boomerang' and a couple of other covers inc 'Rock It' and an incendiary version of The Cure's 'Love Cats'.
Saturday, and the weather has notched up temperature wise. At around 11.30 Nick Parker & The False Alarms, take to the stage, songs from latest album, 'Larissa', 'Never Been to Dublin' and newer stuff to about feeling like wanting home after a poor support booking but getting through. It's a great set with his band in what is becoming a very warm marquee.
A few beers with friends and I recognize a voice from years ago on stage, I wander in and it's Dudley Sutton (Tink from mid 80's TV 'Lovejoy' and many a film and theatre role) performing spoken word and song too. Subjects a old British gents toilets and some of what used to go on in them, existentialism in Paris and a rhyming slang poem about being on the drink around London.
A hop out of the tent and Key Lime Pi bring a new Orleans style funeral procession through the site and perform at the far end near the djin palace
Dusk at Dawns play some classic hillbilly twang in the main marquee too. Dubclass, as the name may suggest have a dub beat about them, but also something too, that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's a sounds mix that gives an interesting feel for a Saturday afternoon. opposite side of the field and of musical sound are some dogs, playing a loud and raucous set with a country edge underneath, good fun too.
Immigrant Swing, have a great European swing/folk, with energetic front man, leaping from the stage, hula hooping. Also played the only 'Folsom Blues' I heard over the weekend, great!
Calico Jack, born of a group of local boaties on the Kennet and Avon I believe, play a Balkan gypsy set full of jig n pace, with songs of being lost in the woods and hearing the trudge of foot along the towpath.
Dana Immanuel & The Stolen Band are a really tight group of ladies who I've seen a few times and really look forward to. on the other stage are another crew that always pull a crowd, and are somewhat different to Dana! The Inbredz rap sing over popular tunes with, in the main, non family friendly lyrics, but they are definitely well liked and received, tunes about enjoying wearing women's clothing, being small in the man department and other edgy topics! see them if you're not easily offended, oh and they've big al with them now too!
Pronghorn bring 25 years of cowpunk next up, so if you've not seen them yet, I'm sure you will if you like raw lively music! First Degree Burns have a Reggae/hip hop sound and whilst entertaining the only song I remember the title of was 'Esteban'.
Frenzy bring punk with a double bass! 32 years of quality from this 3piece powerful bunch, 'Johnny Rocket' and 'Misdemeanour' stood out from their own material.
The Urban Voodoo Machine take upon the stage in a southern funeral march style. They are a theatrical band for sure who know how to put on a show, with great costumes, stage presence and two drummers! But lack just a bit in audience interaction, something I'm sure doesn't bother most of their crowd, but I like. 'All Mixed Up' from new album was good and I'd give them a second chance I'm sure.
Fat 45 jump jive/ swing group finish off the main stages for this year drowning in tears and down with the fish were just a couple from this smooth outfit.
After a walk around the site one last time, I leave gates to the sounds of The Showhawk Duo, Should I go back in? Ah indeed I should, back to the Djin Palace, small dance tent at the back corner of the field, where indeed, Showhawk are playing and what I hear is a set of classic dance tunes from these guys on their guitars, something to behold and certainly if the chance arises listened to. Second bite at heading back to the van fails all too easily when the chance to catch some dogs again, this time on the bar stage behind the chicken wire. The short walk back to the van draws a close to the evening for me, tho there are plenty out enjoying the warm night air and late night music.
I love this small festival, of I'd guess around 1000 punters, its all about an old school festival vibe, which it has in abundance. It is for sure one of the friendliest around, I ate with many band members over the weekend and chatted to lots of festival goers too, which made going solo a great experience. I got to see around thirty acts over the festival, which equates to some fantastic value for money too.
Look forward to this great small but evolving festival again next year I hope. Many thanks to the festival crew, caterers, stewards, stall holders and musicians for an excellent festival. Oh and Flounder whose at the heart of all this. Encore!
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Once Upon a Time in the West 2017 review