This weekend saw the first of 2019’s festivals for my partner and I. We decided to kick the year off with Cursus Cider and Music Festival, as we enjoyed it immensely last year. It is situated in Sixpenny Hadley in the lovely countryside of Dorset and took place between Friday 24th to Sunday 26th May. Some highlights of the line-up include: Ferocious Dog, Black Water County, Gaz Brookfield, The Eskies, Will Varley and The Dreadnoughts.
I took the day off work for the first day of Cursus and my partner decided not to. His idea was to race through the door at 3pm, get our stuff into the van and bullet it to Dorset, in order to not miss the first band! This is exactly what we did, we were camped up for the weekend and ready to go.
The first band Black Water County started on Friday evening at 5pm. The rowdy five piece from Bournemouth have an energetic stage performance. Shannon Byrom, one of the vocalists and tin whistle player, is the crowning glory of the band with her rich vocals. Her effortless charisma is a joy to watch and she seems to genuinely enjoy the presence of the crowd.
Palooka 5 followed and despite their lively performance, the lead singer’s stare is just as scary as it is intense. B Baigent, who provides backing vocals and maracas, brought a lot of fun and bounce to the set. Their 1960’s surf garage is unfortunately lost on me, but if you like the sound of that mixed with vintage equipment and a spiral of craziness, then certainly check them out.
It probably wouldn’t be a Fuelled By Cider event without the cheeky and crude ‘Skimmities’, The Skimmity Hitchers, with their west country twist on well known songs. We were surprised not to see them playing on the Sunday, but it was a welcome surprise to watch them early on in the weekend. Personal favourites from the set were ‘West Country Holiday’ and ‘Drink Up Thee Cider’.
I never seem to write a review without mentioning Gaz Brookfield and that’s entirely because I don’t tend to even go to a festival if he’s not performing. He’s an all round lovely bloke, who I think never fully realises how much he and his music is appreciated. His voice sounded as amazing as I’ve ever heard it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know this enjoyment is shared by everyone in the crowd at Cursus, as Gaz was presented with raptures of applause even midway through songs. I was exceedingly happy to hear three of my favourite songs by him, including ‘Under The Table’, ‘It’ll All Rock N’ Roll’ and ‘Be The Bigger Man’. Definitely, without a doubt, check out his tour schedule and go and see him play!
Headliners for the Friday night was The Dreadnoughts, a six piece from Vancouver, Canada dishing up a set of loud folk-punk. They were perfectly placed on the running order and truly seemed to match the energy and atmosphere of the audience, accentuating it to an even higher high. Two standout songs were ‘Cider Road’ and ‘Polka Never Dies’. The amazing first night of Cursus surely wasn’t over yet with The Imprints doing a late night performance and a rave adorned with flashing lights in the DJ tent till early hours.
Saturday morning saw festival goers engaging in a little of the old trusty hair of the dog, alongside some hearty breakfast. First up with the mighty duty of waking everyone up was B-Sydes, an acoustic folk man, well equipped with self-deprecating jokes and personal lyrics. From the 2015 album Constant Fictions, Ben Sydes played songs such as ‘The Desperate Dance’, ‘Verbatim’ and ‘Over There...Past Those Trees’.
Dr Splink are a rainbow collective of absolute madness, incorporating elements of ska, reggae, punk and jazz. Their song ‘Cheese’ is at the peak of their insanity with a board of cheese being offered all throughout the crowd to accompany the song. It’s safe to say that as a vegan, this board of dairy couldn’t be politely spurned quickly enough! This made me miss the vegan cheese board we ate at Beautiful Days 2018. However, Dr Splink’s performance was funny and entertaining.
Sick Love, a four piece who came down from Dublin, were the epitome of energy and youth. Their lead singer Rebecca Geary is vivacious and unforgiving in her liberation as a woman. Their new single ‘Gun In Your Pocket’ is a anthem of sexuality and was amazing to listen to live. Geary’s vocals are reminiscent of the riot grrl genre in places, which is something I greatly enjoyed. The lads and instrumentalists were lively and highly animated.
The Sweetchunks Band were a pleasure, as always. They never lack any humour or charm because they have several buckets of it between the three of them. I had their song ‘Lonesome George’ stuck in my head for at least two days after the festival. They’re so much fun and Stuart is a such a genuinely talented vocalist.
The capacity of Cursus seemed to increase significantly on Saturday evening with a flood of merch-clad Hell Hounds in the direction of the Cursus stage. Ferocious Dog did what they do best, perform their material and care massively for political issues. Ken Bonsall, the lead singer, had a yellow and red hat on his head knit into liberty spikes. This I found very amusing as his real hair is to be no more and he was a good sport for being in on the joke.
The two food vendors consisted of the Made In Dorset bus van and The Pizza Box. We decided on Friday night to indulge ourselves with pizzas from The Pizza Box. However this wasn’t the case, as I believe I have eaten larger pizzas at children’s birthday parties when I was a child myself. This previous statement comes without exaggeration: the meal left us still hungry and incredibly underwhelmed. Especially at the price of £7 each. The vegan cheese that topped my pizza was very tasty and perfectly melted, however my partners’ cheese wasn’t.
Made In Dorset is a repurposed retro bus that also offers seating in it’s top deck, as well as hot food and drink. Sitting upstairs with the view of rolling hills was a lovely addition to eating breakfast of vegan sausage rolls and tea each morning. The selection of food consisted of burgers, venison steak, chips, pulled beef, English breakfast and a few others. The churros they offered were delicious and a great treat.
The atmosphere was friendly, humble and lively. Everyone was welcoming and happy to chat to all they met all weekend long. As to be expected from Cursus, their was a large variety of ciders from Dorset Star, West Milton, Ham Hill, Dorset Sunshine, Dorset Nectar and Crambourne Chase. All well priced at £3.50 for apple only or £4 for fruit/flavoured. The lush Dorset Star’s “Supernov” was on draught, a rare slightly carbonated real cider, excellently makes for a nice hot days treat. Also on offer were Tribute and Proper Job, both St. Austell brewery’s straight from the keg, and a lager and another “mass” produced cider on draught.
The Bomo Swing started Sunday’s music offerings with their reggae swing fusion. Kimari Raven, had crisp clean vocals and the beatboxer of the band was enjoyable to listen to also. Fuelled By Cider favourites The Hawkmen commented on how they were all hungover and possibly still drunk from the night before. Despite this, they managed a great set. Nosebleed are a raucous trio and the two frontmen were kitted out in their special black suits and snappy black and white shoes, which quite reminded me of The Hives. The frontmen performed in the crowd, as apposed to on stage with their drummer. The audience definitely seemed to be revelled by this experience and even forgave them claiming that a famous northern bitter was the best drink in the world. A brilliant and intimate show.
SN Dubstation take up stage next, whilst not really my cup of tea, the energy between guitarist and lead vocal was plain to see as the both enjoy the whole stage, they seemed to have a few new members to the band now from the last time I saw them play a year ago. Knocksville are a loud punk/rock-a-billy feel with full on double bass playing and screaming guitar alongside solid drumming. With a mix of there own songs, ‘Crazy Ex’ being a highlight or covers from Soft Cell and Micheal Jackson. It was a great set and a band I’d like to catch again soon.
We didn’t see much of Freeborn Brothers. I had in mind some sort of Freeborn John inspired music, but they were more of a Balkan/gypsy/roots feel. Quality musicians and as mad as a barrel of frogs, but food and pre-Eskies drinks pull me away.
The Eskies finish up our weekends music, a welcome return to Cursus after last years steaming hot set brought the marquee roof down. This year they didn’t fail to repeat a classy and very musically tight show.
If you like grass roots, non corporate, friendly and down-to-earth festivals, where the focus is set firmly upon quality music from start to finish then you most certainly should pay cursus a visit. I’d like to finish up by thanking all the fuelled by cider crew, stewards and security (everyone of them smiling and happy). Can’t wait until the next one.
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