Well here I am again for Once Upon A Time (OUT) In The West Festival, set in great level site, on the edge of a small village near Trowbridge. The site's location is kept low key until close to the festival date. After a quick chat to the happy gate stewards, I'm stickered with my pumpkin (live-in vehicle) pass and shown where to park, three neat rows of various vehicles from new T5s to small horsebox traveller conversions give a good indication of the great cross section of the weekend's revellers. Car parking is just behind our rows and gives the tent dwellers an easy fifty yard walk to the camping area closer to the 'arena' entrance, which is right next to their tents. An area for disabled camping is also conveniently placed just about as close to the entrance as possible.
It was time to crack open a cider and amble over to the wristband exchange, this is a swift and pleasant process with more smiley folk, pleased to welcome you to the party. A short walk back to the van and I bump into a couple of people I know, that now also have a van, so a quick recharge of my pint and a pleasant afternoon is spent chatting and catching up, also other neighbours join us and weekend friendships are formed.
The Thursday admission is new this year and a steady break into the weekend with only the main (West) stage running an evening programme with the bar, food vendors and stalls open too. Though the main food venue Malinkey's is closed for the evening whilst a private wedding ceremony is conducted.
Billy Shinbone opens up the entertainment takes up his guitar and away we go. A song titled 'Taste Like Apples' leads us into an exchange on favourite ciders like red streak, dabinett and Kingston black, being a Glastonbury town man, he's well versed in this tipple and also in his songs of flooding on the levels. Mickey FanDango joins billy on stage for 'Gentlemen Dare' and they lead us through some more hillbilly disco.
Food time a full plate of pulled pork with smoked sausage, smokey beans, pickles n potato salad for £7.50 from Jonesy's Texas Brisket, goes down well with a pint of Citra ale at £3.50.
Gaz Brookfield is next up and his audience swells, his name and hard working reputation is becoming well known on the festival circuit (four festivals shows this weekend alone!) We're treated old songs and new in a well balanced set that includes 'A Bigger Man' and 'Diabetes Blues' songs about Ozzy his van and this time it's Billy Shinbones who joins him for 'Mud and Rainbows' a song penned by the pair in a challenge set them at last year's Glastonbury festival by BBC west.
A quick pint in the bar and I'm treated to some old punk songs like 'Babylon's Burning' being acoustically played on the small stage behind chicken wire, just like the bar, on which the Blues Brothers get bottled in the film.
The Jack Ratts are our headline act for the evening, it's a lively end to the first night. with songs of their own like 'Skint!' And classics like 'Dirty Old Town' they're allowed an encore and they play a very fast 'Hava Nagila'.
Friday morning wakes me with a rain shower, but this site seems well drained and shows no sign of mud! So up and at'em for a full English from Malinkey's for a reasonable fiver.
The Goat Roper Rodeo Band from Rhyl round up the early crowd, a three piece guitars n double bass southern country/bluesy style, 'rhythm of love' plays over some last minute stage adjustment and adorning.
A nip back to put short legs back on, as the sun is out now and warming up quickly. I return for Jim Evans, a big bearded folk singing man plays some beautiful acoustic guitar work and banjo too, 'Song For Gem' was written in the shower on Boxing Day and songs in appreciation of pro active people. DJ Dapper Dan, sits stage side attentively listening too.
Kevin Brown Trio (actually there's 4 of them) play a mellow but musical set with some rock n roll tunes. Lead singer (Kevin Brown I guess) has lighthearted communication with the audience between songs, like how the bass player was the only distributor of his music at the start and how they met in a charity clothes shop, back when they could afford charity clothes.
Port Erin, a localish group from the other side of the valley, bring a livelier sound to the West Stage now. The two main stages are but a short hop from each other and so skipping between bands is so easy and means so much more can be enjoyed. This in turn makes the whole weekend such good value, with personally getting to over thirty acts over the weekend and tickets typically cost £55, could you get much better?
I decide to take a moment off from the music to amble around the campsite, it is so compact but not to the detriment of space, which there is plenty of amid the blocks of tents and their nicely marked out fire lanes. A quick drop of cider back at the van (there's a strict no booze from campsite to arena and vice versa policy, I'd guess due to licence restrictions) and I'm back in time to catchScreamin' Miss Jackson & The Slap Ya' Mama Big Band for a bouncy, happy set of their Mississippi skiffle sound.
Buffo's Wake take up the entertainment now with a heady Balkan gypsy beat, all the way up from Brighton! They're loud and very good.
Inbredz bring a bit of west country rap, get orf my land and pitchfork rebellion amongst others of more personal problems and drunken Sunday football! this pair of "fast talking" guys are something to hear, especially if you're not too easily offended, and will have you either laughing, embarrassed or possibly both.
Rhythmites are bringing their legendary reggae set now and there's a lovely vibe in the tent for them.
After a bite to eat we're back inside for Billy Shinbone's other set up, Flipron. Songs that stuck in my mind were 'Dogboy vs The Munsters' and after a cautionary tale about eating them after mid October when the devil has marked them, 'Big Blackberry'.
Our hosts The Boot Hill All Stars take their turn in the spotlights now. They start up with 'Folsum Blues'. The Fluffettes (corsetted lady members of the band) tickle up the audience, who mostly know what we have here and are happy to take part in the antics. 'Nightbus' brings on some more ska and rousing end to the set with 'Jolene' and frontman Flounder is at the barrier to get the audience to sing along. Its been a speedy set after a couple of slight overruns but most enjoyable as ever.
Julian Gaskell & His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists are on the West Stage. This guy has a gravelly voice and is a multi instrumentalist (moving with ease between instruments with every other song it seems) and his band run through an interesting take on some Cornish folk heroes, surfing Poldarks and the A30 road!
Cat Ratchers pop some rock n roll in with 'Everybody Smokes In Hell' and a great version of the specials 'Gangsters'. the Lead guitarist/vocalist manages to carry on through the set with two broken strings. Also putting in a crowd pleasing mash up of 'Look Good On The Dance Floor' and 'My Generation'.
The Zen Hussies catch us for a part of their set as a thirst calls us to the bar. This itself is well stocked with three quality cask ales, Funky Monkey, Citra and Summer Lightning, a Heck's perry and mead, Firestarter from the Handmade Cider Company, a couple of lagers and of course Thatcher's Gold which seems to be on every counter nowadays. The bar itself is provided by Wally's bar, a quality watering hole at another local festival. Whilst here, the banjo player from The Jack Ratts comes onto the small stage for a solo set, dedicating his first song to his girlfriend about eating and loving and another to turpentine! Its a great little addition to the festival having this small stage with DJ booth to the side.
The Meow Meows are our headliners tonight, bringing the night to a close. They're another band from Brighton with four ladies up front, a brass section and a Caribbean/carnival feel. But, I'm definite that one of the songs in the middle of the set seemed to have 'Footloose' as the backing sound, some ska tones in there too and a song called 'Tits and Hatred', all about what apparently sells newspapers!
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Once Upon a Time in the West (OUT West) 2018 review