Cursus saw our first festival of the year and I just knew the coercion from my partner to try a new cider wouldn’t go amiss at this cider and music festival. There were several new ciders to taste and enjoy, if you’re that way inclined! However, there was also a great selection of spirits, wines and soft drinks too. As opposed to the range of drinks on offer, I was certainly most excited for the headliner on the Friday evening: Gaz Brookfield and The Company of Thieves. I had been listening to a few albums the week leading up to Cursus and couldn’t wait to hear them live. Just as much as I can’t wait to write about them here. Gaz was humble but energetic, his face dripping with sweat and his fringe sticking to his forehead. He is such a brilliant and consistent musician, whether with the band or just as a solo acoustic guy (lame joke I know!). I sang till my throat hurt and then sang lots more. I danced with members of the crowd who were enjoying the performance as much as me, old and new fans alike. There were songs from the newest album "I Know My Place", including it’s title track of the same name, but also lots of fan favourites too. Such as: "Bigger Man", "Under The Table", "Thin" and "Let The East Winds Blow".
That performance was incredible and the highlight of my Friday evening, however there was great music being played beforehand. The Outlaw Orchestra and The Intercepteurs were the first two bands on the bill and warmed up the crowd for the night ahead, IDestroy, an all women ultra-loud trio from Bristol are a fantastic live band. They played a good mixture of tracks from both their EPs "Vanity Loves Me" and the newest "Pure Joy Of Life". Their very new bassist was clearly talented and performed seamlessly with the band. They were then followed up The Rumjacks, a celtic-folk fourpiece from Australia. They were evidently an experienced band, at complete ease with performing well, they were also a lot of fun.
Apart from live music, a thirty minute DJ set played in between performers to allow for band changes and soundchecks. I felt that this was a good amendment to the festival as it allowed ample eating, drinking, socialising and relaxing time before the next band. Cursus is child and dog friendly event and this interval allowed family time, fun play with your dogs and some dancing too. People were invited before the festival to do a set if they wished, this meant that the people decided what they wanted to hear and give a great mix. My favourite song from the DJ marquee was The Damned – "Born To Kill", such a great song.
The food on offer for the weekend was from Made In Dorset, a purple double decker bus that has been kitted out to made and sell tasty food. It was the only food venue but at a small festival it didn’t feel like too much of a miss. Made In Dorset had a vegetarian option available and even optional vegan cheese with the accompanying burger, yum! We didn’t experience the meat eaters portion of the menu but their chips were great with a large variety of sauces. Their root vegetable burrito was tasty, however their veggie curry was more of a tomato-y sauce rather than a curry with spicey flavour. My favourite of the weekend was their jacket potato with chilli con carne. It was the best veggie chilli I have ever tasted. Some other options included venison steak in ciabatta, beef burgers, pork and cider sausage with onions and pulled pork baps. Vegans would definitely have to ask if the veggie options are also vegan or could be made so. But your own packed lunches and food was allowed on the festival site, as long as everyone remembered to support the food on offer and the bar, which they did in heaps.
Saturday morning I was proud of myself to get up and start the day with ease despite the whiskey intake the night before. This was something I haven’t been good at during previous festivals but my partner’s promises of a weird rubber chicken and some lewd songs sounded quite intriguing. The owner of the weird rubber chicken was Andy Twyman, a one man band playing the blues. He sang about how he would help pandas reproduce, a song he swears isn’t autographical about wanking the pain away and my favourite was a crude song about a pickle fork (!). We had a good giggle at his humorous lyrics and also enjoyed his slightly more serious songs.
The rest of the line-up for the day included Sinful Maggie, Smiley & The Underclass, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Black Water County, New Town Kings, The Eskies and finally Skinny Lister. It’s hard to even begin with a line-up so good and fitting for a cider festival in the space of one day. Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County were just as amazing as they always have been. The Eskies, who very easily could have been headliners received such a positive and loving response from the crowd. Fans sang along and cheered when they recognised the first couple of notes from their favourite songs from the band. The Eskies were also really funny group of blokes and the running joke of the set was about Michael Buble, which set everyone off in pits of laughter.
There was a euphoric atmosphere in the marquee for Skinny Lister, which was intensified by the lightening storms coming in from the two separate directions. Skinny Lister are a folk-punk band from London and played great songs such as Devil In Me, Geordie Lad and Colours. I was particularly impressed by one of the two vocalists Lorna Thomas, she was the life, soul and happy-go-lucky fire of the band. Almost as if the other five members were a strong accentuation of her personality. As in Skinny Lister tradition, a large flagon of cider was given to the crowd by the band for everyone to take a sip and enjoy. It was unquestionably the right kind of “thank you” Cursus goers wanted.
Sunday’s line-up consisted of The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Stealing Whiskey, The Surfin’ Turnips, Cuba Libre, The Hawkmen, The Surfin’ Birds, The Skimmity Hitchers and The Popes Of Chillitown.
The Surfin’ Turnips were full of sea shanties and cider-fuelled lyrics. The band collectively come from places such as Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, which anyone could take a good guess from their songs. Great songs they played included "Cider Commando" and "Boys Of The West Country". The latter was then corrected by the lead singer: “and girls of the west country too!”. This was appreciated by the women in the crowd with their pints of cider in hand ready to dance and sing for the next tune.
Sunday also saw Scooby Doo from The Inbredz - who unfortunately weren’t performing – creating a top notch piece of art underneath the sign for the men’s urinals. The badger and rolling hills painting he did put a smile on our faces. Even more so was the changing of ‘urinals’ to ‘uranals’, the ‘a’ also being the a for anarchy. He did however pitch in by doing one of the things he does best and DJing. It was great seeing him and his partner enjoying the festival, showing they truly love the Fuelled By Cider line of festivals that they play for. Hope to see them play again soon!
The Skimmity Hitchers offered their jaunty tunes that fans always love a sing-a-long to and those seeing them for the first time have a good laugh at their crudeness and west country banter. I enjoyed seeing them at Outcider last year, Cursus this year and would like to see them again.
The site is super easy as the accommodation area for campervans and tents is only a very short 1-3 minute walk in this small but friendly festival. There was plenty of restroom facilities in the shape of men’s urinals (with screens for added privacy) and port-a-loos. The security and staff were really nice and accommodating to everyone. They made sure everything was comfortable, safe and enjoyable, which was gratefully appreciated. Another aspect of Cursus that was commendable was that all of the ciders were reasonably priced within the range of £3.50-£4.00 a pint. Even though it is only a small festival, there’s enough space for you to take it at your own pace, whether you’re their to party and have fun or to relax and soak up the sun with a cold drink in hand.
Cursus is in it’s fourth year now and I fancy we will be back for Cursus 2019, as you can always rely on a cracking line-up and a lively atmosphere. A super big thanks to Kev, Mike and the Fuelled By Cider team for such a remarkable event.
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Cursus Cider and Music Festival 2019 review