Well where does the time go? Summer is at its end and it has been a busy one since our first festival this year way back in mid may, but here we are again at Looe Music Festival 2015, a highlight of our season. The festival organisation is a charity and puts all its profits into improving itself year on year. This in turn helps the town too, giving what must be a sizable injection of people and cash at near the end of holiday season and I'd think creating a fair amount of repeat visits because of it.
I was recommended the festival after my dad had bumbled into the town to eat back in 2012 (not knowing it was on) seeing the crowds etc looked into what was happening. This advice we took, looking for a later in the year type festival and so came in 2013 and have been back each year since.
There is no camping in the town itself, but being a holiday destination, there are lots of b&b accommodations, inns and hotel to chose from, though these do book up early, with people often repeat booking for next year either this weekend or very soon after. We chose a camping package at Tencreek caravan site. this costs us £56 for the pair of us and parking on site. There are, I think, six sites out of town offering either camping/ touring caravan/campervan or static caravan options. These sites are also handily on the festival bus routes which runs regularly over the weekend at £1 each way, so its a park the car and leave it for the stay, although you can pre-book car parking space too in the towns main car park just on t he edge of town, and it's an easy walking distance in.
This beautiful Cornish (working) fishing town is full of character and history, with ancient pubs and narrow streets. the festivals main arena is set on the lovely level sandy beach. No need to worry about mud here! It is a strict "no alcohol into or out of" policy with bag searches on entry, this is however carried out with the minimum of fuss and plenty smiles by the volunteers. Security again is conducted by coast2coast, who in our experience are a helpful, happy bunch.
Also within this main area is a second stage within a marquee and houses the bar. This year its "BBC Introducing" running this stage and Sharp's brewery providing the alcohol. A few years ago you could get 'stacker' beer mugs and use them all weekend, unfortunately this system was not in place this year and it was back to disposable plastic glasses instead (though I'd kept my old one and used it as did a few others I saw). Also this year in this beer tent, they'd adopted a pre-poured system, which I'm sure helped speed up service at busier times but leaves you wondering how long some may have stood there waiting to be drunk. The costs for a pint were around festival averages of £4 to £4.50 and with wine and Pimms on tap, various (plastic) bottles and frozen margaritas available there was plenty to tempt.
Regular Looe Festival openers The Huckleberry Finns fire up on the main stage at 4pm with a reasonable crowd for early on, a minutes amble across the sand, a pint of Atlantic and we can enjoy Athena Rockets a 3 piece rock outfit who have also managed quite pulled a good crowd in.
A short walk back across town to Buller quay which plays venue to the second large venue. A marquee that houses two stages that are sponsored by the ground works and Burt's crisps and another bar. This one is serving St. Austell ales 'Tribute', Weston's 'Old Rosie' and 'Rhubarb Cider' (Ruth's favourite of the weekend) and a couple of other options (lager and another cider).
Black Diamonds, and Chay Snowdon are the first couple of bands on and again manage decent sized audiences Walking back through the town's busy streets we hear Heavy Souls playing and are entice into the ship inn by their White Stripes style guitar n drum loudness. There is music in many of the pubs throughout the weekend and its great to be able to dive into these from time to time.
As the sun goes down and a new-ish moon starts to rise over the hill in West Looe, the Buzzcocks come out to play. It's an enjoyable set with songs you know like 'Ever Fallen in Love (with someone)? and others I didn't recognise.
The Normals, who I caught here last year playing on top of a van roof, come down this year and entertain a crowd on the harbour side and with precision stage turn arounds we go straight into Hedluv + Passman, a pair of comedy rappers (also part of the Thursday opening party the night before alongside Land of the Giants). They open with 'Doin' it Dreckly' and continue through a fun set with a few costume changes including a risqué jock strap wearing semi naked run around a somewhat bemuse but laughing audience.
The Proclaimers probably have travelled 500 miles for their set this evening and even though I'm not a big fan of theirs, they do seem to have a great Friday crowd listening to every word of their songs and you'd trouble to fault how well they performed.
A mis-timed exit and by the time we get to Bad Manners over at the harbour marquee it is rammed with a queue waiting to get it, we decide to cut our losses and head back to the beach for Wille and The Bandits who we've seen before but these are a quality Cornish act worth listening to again, with skillful slide guitar from Wille they put on a great bluesy set. What was a shame though, was the bar shutting at 10.30. Ah well the rest of the town is still buzzing so a pint or two here and there and its time to catch our bus back to camp.
Saturday and the sun is shining for us today, feels like a summers day in Cornwall excellent news for the day ahead. The campsite seems to have more tenters this year, which is good and even though the site has plenty of facilities and showers (enough for its regular size) it would be convenient to have a few portable-toilets provided for us under canvas lot.
This year an 'all you eat' buffet style breakfast is put on in the club house for £5.99, its a welcome addition but I opt to head into Looe for a pasty brunch (when in Cornwall after all!) and off through the bustling/busked upon narrow streets of East Looe. All the bars, restaurants and bistros seem to have festival specials on eg 3 pints for a tenner or 2 wood fired pizzas for £15 in Mama J's restaurant for example, some acoustic sessions where held here too, a first for this year I believe and one of about 7 or 8 other official smaller venues in bars, restaurants and hotel. Even Nine open the main stage to a decent early crowd enjoying this lovely sunshine, and it's rather warm on the beach today followed by Echo Town both have a rock tinge to them and get me nicely into the day's swing.
Oompah Brass get the "day release crowd" on board (their words not mine, but its kind of right as there seems a big influx of day ticket banded people in, no doubt for Jools Holland tonight's headliner) with 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart', 'Angels', 'Fat Bottom Girls' and many other power ballads on the main stage, again playing many sets all over Looe this year.
Dr Thud's Remedy play some trad folk before we head off to board one of the floatila of small fishing boats ferrying people over the tidal river to west Looe, alas this time said tide is low and so we take the walk over the town bridge along the other side to the oldest pub in Looe, The Jolly Sailor for a pint and as luck would have it, a session group of musicians are playing.
A walk back around and along what is the quayside and daily catch warehouses to where most of the travelling food vendors are situated. Food of all types and costs are available from four pounds for roasted new potatoes cooked in cider and butter with homemade Coleslaw to a "smoked meat trinity" of brisket, pulled pork and chicken for ten pounds and all sorts in between.
Sounds of Sirens call us now, not onto the rocks but back to the sand and BBC stage again. These two ladies play some great folk rock between them to a near full tent, one I'll be looking out for in the future.
The Dodge Brothers bring some Americana to the main stage 'Died and Gone to Hell' sees a skiffle feel with percussion on washboard n wine bottle. Mark Kermode proudly boasts that the album was recorded at Sun Records. We get our mackerel boat ferry this time and over for Mevagissey based Press Gang' male choir at the Trewithen dairy stage for some proper shanty tales and working men's folk.
Next a short walk along to probably the poshest stage at any festival I've been too, set in the four star Portbyhan hotel, to listen to Souls Of Misfortune, an 80's goth covers band. We get in and catch the end of another Oompah Brass set, how's that for diversity of music! Between bands I get to chat with Ramshackle Seranade who are relaxing after their two weekend slots and staying on for the weekend. Souls of Misfortune took me right back to my dark youth with a great set of goth classics that was a real change to anything else I heard over the weekend.
A brisk walk back to east Looe to grab a later night snack and back into harbour side stage for 3 Daft Monkeys, a set we've been looking forward to and of course they do not disappoint. A great mix of older and newer songs that entertain a good crowd. Athene was worried it would be empty going up against Jools Holland but oh no, there's no problem with that! A band I've seen so many times over a good few years and they always bring a top performance.
We decide to try to head back to the campsite a bit earlier tonight and its about a half hour wait for bus, not too bad as time flies by, chatting to others in the queue, most are happy to have had a lovely sunny day in Looe. Our bus driver warns not to press the next stop bell, this happens on a narrow lane, most of us laugh about it as no doubt it was an accident, though it did mean we missed last orders at the site Bar.
Sunday morning and we wake to a dappled sky, giving a beautiful light to the view out over the countryside to the sea. I catch the bus from our site which is supposed to pick up from other sites on the route (its been full from ours on the last two outbound trips so we've gone straight to town) I'm told its been a bit sporadic at Trelawne and I can see why after the previous days experience. I'm sure this will be ironed out by next year either by more buses or by reversing pick ups for some of the buses, personally I prefer the more bus option, with maybe a pre paid pass system to allow for a small increase in cost but would give organisers an amount in hand with which to negotiate these options.
Another pasty breakfast then into the harbour stages for bands from Plymouth and Launceton colleges.They were both full of talent and helped show part of the festival's commitment to local groups and many are on over the weekend from main venues and stages to the pubs and clubs of the town.
The Oggymen, another Cornish male voice choir are my first act on the main "Sharp's" stage. The Slackline School and Circus Skills entertain some of the kids. there is also team building games and storytelling on the beach too and also the opportunity to venture off on an organised beach comb. Massages for some of aches n pains and few other vendors in the arena including Ed Org an artist of pencil and ink whose nature mainly includes fairies, nymphs and the like and was the original artist to many of the first Wychwood Brewery products. Also clothing company Supersaturated who have again provided T-shirts to the official photographers.
The Velvet Hands on the BBC Introducing Tent warm up our rock buds ready for a much touted King Creature. I was wrong though, these guys are full on metal not rock! very loud and good at their craft. If you like it hard and bassy t'boot, try and catch them! They've either blown away your hangover or added to the pounding in your head! for me tho (even being not a really big metal fan) they were a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed this departure in sound.
A stop for freshly made falafel (£4) from Oasis, a street vendor who plies his trade in Exeter normally and onto Rusty Shackle who engage their crowd with banter and a meddlies including hokey-cokey and a Cheeky Girls number, as well as songs of their own.
Martha Tilston is the weekend highlight for me, I downloaded an official album from her quite some years ago, so when I saw her name on the line up I knew I'd like to get along to her and The Scientists set. 'Artificial' hits a right note with me, if you work in an environment that doesn't really fulfil you, then I'm sure you'd agree. her voice is clear through out and a testament to great sound over the whole of the weekend, small amounts of feed back are quickly and smoothly sorted out. Though the sometimes slightly loudly chatty audience is not so easy to deal with.
A Grumpies hommity pie, mash and gravy (£6.50) for supper was filling and tasty and its off to another highly anticipated set of the weekend, Ferocious Dog. They play a great festival set with a reasonable sized pack of hell hounds too. Another band that we've seen a lot on the festival circuit over the last few years and always tight, I'm sure they will continue their success and rise ever upward onto people's radar, especially with the release of their next album and tour. Ken and a couple others from the band come out to the audience after for signings and some general fan chat, they always seem happy to engage with their crowd and make new friends.
A brief dash to Auction for the Promise Club another band that I'll keep an eye out for in the future. And back for the return of Red Hot Chilli Pipers who wowed last year and didn't fail this year either with a "bag rock" set full of sing alongs, theatrical banter between musicians on stage and some highland dancing girls, all very entertaining.
Away just along the beach for Gaz Brookfield, one of the hardest working musicians I know, so much so he dedicated this set to his new wife whom he married just yesterday! What commitment to his craft and also a start to a honeymoon maybe? He and fiddle player Ben did such a good job last year that they were instantly asked to return this year and rightfully given a good bump up the running order to close the BBC Introducing Stage. It was as ever a brilliant and heartfelt set played to a very welcoming and full tent.
We decide to skip on and not stay for Johnny Marr, not because he's not a worthy headline act and I'm sure many were there predominantly for him, but we have a bus to catch, a queue to dodge and 'Mad dog mcrea' to see. We did catch a couple of songs one of which was a Smiths song, and he seemed on form.
Mad Dog Mcrea played to a full tent with many of the crowd staying on after another 'Oompah Brass' set, who had the crowd singing along with much gusto! The performance by Mad Dog Mcrea was, as I'd expect, very good and tight with songs I wanted to hear like 'Drinking Enough' and 'Happy Bus'. A really good end to what was for me a really strong day, lineup wise. Our timing was great this time and only had a short wait for a homeward bound bus (just enough time to enjoy a quick takeaway that is) and back to the campsite bar for a nightcap.
All in all this is a great town based festival, which is still young in its years, but is evolving and developing each year. We'd really like to visit again next year, and I have little doubt that we shall. Maybe we'll get lucky and manage to book a b&b or a camping pod for next time. Many congratulation to Tania and her team for putting together this great weekend, and for getting what certainly comes across to a non-local, some great community spirit and pride.
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
joining Steve'n'Seagulls, The Waterboys, Gwenno, The Young 'Uns, Molotov Jukebox, & more
Saturday headliner & more announced
The Correspondents, Gwenno, Uncle Frank, Gaz Brookfield and The Company of Thieves, & more