As I watched the third supergroup appearance of the weekend at the 8th Watchet Live Music Festival I realised this is what festivals are all about - getting together for a sing along. It's all about the festival spirit and Watchet has that (and clean loos) in abundance.
Better still the weather wasn't a wash out. Brisk breezy days and that awesome sea view meant we did feel a bit exposed on the opening day. But the days were brightened by warm sunshine, with only rainfall on the late evening of the final day and some rain in the wee hours of the previous night.
You can rely on the family friendly Watchet, put together by volunteers who love festivals to bring a great atmosphere whether you want to rave it up with the kids in the dance tent or silent disco, singalong with big name acts in the main stage crowd, check out some new music in the Udder Stage, or enjoy some more alternative festival circuit favourites in Gail's Something Else Tea Tent.
Gail's have been entertaining us on the festival circuit for a few years now, and are hoping to raise funds for a new look in future years including a pirate ship stage! (more info here)
Despite spending almost a month at various festivals already this summer, there were still an interesting selection of acts I'd not seen before. These included
my favourite new act of the weekend The Sweetchunks Band - think Brian Blessed meets Mr B The Gentlemen Rhymer in waistcoats, patchwork trews, and steampunk hats.
Other acts that caught my interest was hammy rockers White Pigeon, cool bluesmen Mayflower, and the rather brilliant Funke and the Two Tone Baby with a terrific mix of blues and a great out of timelessness delivery. Ash Mandrake was also a first time and I even got a chance to do some looping though I'm a strictly rhythm beatboxer. Last minute bill additions Missin' Rosie also impressed, as did The Leylines with their brand of nu-folk, and it was my first time seeing Geno Washington who delivered a storming set of Blues Brothers-esque soul hits.
The rest of the line-up was full of highlights including Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs, The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican, Doozer, Stevie - One Bloke One Mandolin, Leatherat, Dub Pistols, Land of the Giants, N.U.M.B, Ned The Kids Dylan, RSVP, Bellowhead, and a great performance from Boney M as the heavens opened.
My wife got a chance to show her chord skills joining in with The Uke Ellington Orchestra in Gail's Tent, and as I said when I started many of the acts would call up members of other acts for a great get together during their sets packing out this small stage.
The festival is laid out in the classic campsite beside the arena model, with a separate field for live in vehicles. The arena is a donut shape, with a kids and family area in the middle, which at night became the silent disco. Food stalls, and bar down one side, and merchandise stalls down the other. With 'The Greatest Little Coffee Box' (terrific coffee), cake workshops, and Glamour tent down at the end beside the Udder Stage.
For those with families camping over the weekend, the location means that it's easy to spend an hour or two down in the harbour town exploring, perhaps catch the steam train to Minehead and the seaside, or nearby Dunster and it's castle, and still get back in time to enjoy the live music.
Watchet Festival also offers a wealth of real ale, cans, and cider choices for the discerning drinker, and all priced at £3 (£2 during the happy hours). There was an extra payment on solid plastic cups which meant the site stayed pretty clean the whole time, with most of the food and can waste also disposed of. Kids drinks were also reasonably priced, the only slight issue (fortunately it wasn't sunny the whole time) was how hard the water points were to find, particularly at night.
Although for those seeking a tap, it was easy to ask a steward, who were both helpful and friendly. The security were also laid back as were the on site police presence, the medical staff, and the prayer tent and Street Pastors - which meant all our possible needs were catered for! Even Zombie ravers!
The festival also had some quirky merchandise including a reusable plastic cup, T-shirts, hoodies, badges, and the merchandise stall also sold band's merchandise and offered the chance for fans to meet the acts. They also had a raffle to raise money for the Childrens Hospice in the South West with some great prizes donated by the acts including a chance for Ned The Kids Dylan to do a show wherever you wanted him to. Another good idea was the programme was published in the West Somerset Free Press meaning readers got the chance to read about who was appearing over the weekend.
There appeared to be even more on offer for kids this year than last, as well as the I-Scream van, there were pirate workshops, circus skills, knitting, and the like plus cake baking workshops, and among the stalls - hairbraiding, felt wings making, and pirate fun with talented magician Alfredo aboard the good ship Cyril, where kids were decked in balloon pirate outfits including, swords, hats, and parrots. Plus chances to get face painted. For those who wanted a more upmarket look there was the Glamour & Grooming Bar. Enough to keep the little ones entertained for hours.
The food concessions could do with an additional stall or two, prices were very reasonable at £4.50 to £6.50 for pasties, Mexican, burgers, fish, chips, pizzas, crepes, and vegetarian salads and stuff, a hot option for veggies on a cold evening would have been welcome, perhaps a curryhouse, any chance of Oki's coming back? For treats there were yummy cakes at Gail's and a liquorice sweetshop.
A well laid out festival, with good attention to details, and a surprisingly good line-up. A big thanks to the organisers Jackie and Mark Bale who have put together a great team of volunteers who organise the event. I look forward to seeing who is on the bill next year.
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Watchet Music Festival 2016 review
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