Well, Once Upon a Time in the West (Thursday afternoon to be precise) we arrived at the site in West Ashton, Wiltshire and set up home in our campervan for the next few days. With bands such as Billy In The Low Ground, Pronghorn, Three Daft Monkeys, The SkaVengers and Tankus The Henge awaiting us...
The highlight of Thursday night for me was the folk punk loudness of Mick O’Toole, the deserving headliners who stole the night with a frenzy of musical talent. Siring from Calne/Swindon and the frontman exclaimed “we’re so fucking happy to play in Wiltshire!”, which made me feel akin to my second home. A stand out song for me was Cider Tonight from their 2013 EP ‘Deep In Cider’.
Friday was certainly a day of great music. Early Friday afternoon saw Dexter Selboy & The Shonky Trio, a local band from Bath. Their vocalist having a effortlessly strong voice in the softest whisper. Captain Cactus & The Screaming Harlots, a nine-piece of country folk were enjoyable. The Harlots specially with their gorgeous vocals, charisma and frills a-plenty. Next on the West Stage was Jo Carly and The Old Dry Bones, who have an incredibly unique sound. 'Devil In A Black Dress' and 'Brother You Better Be Praying', from their new album 'Them Old Bones' really caught my ear. 3 Daft Monkeys were splendid and vocalist Tim Ashton was a delight speaking kind loving words to fans who were evidently pleasant. My favourite song was 'Days Of The Dance', where the audience were asked to dance the waltz in their couples. The penultimate band to play the stage was Tankus The Henge, armed with his piano full of smoke, Jaz Delorean surely didn’t forget to play a fan favourite Weather and have the audience in the palm of his hands.
I was particularly excited for Black Hearted Riders, their lead singer James Ray had contributed to The Sisterhood’s album 'Gift' (Sisters of Mercy off-shoot album) in 1986. Nevertheless, I was surprised (and delighted) to hear a gruff gothic voice holding true in him in present day. A blend of rock, folk and blues couldn’t guise the way he moves being so similar to which Andrew Eldritch does when performing. My only negative of this band is that Ray’s vocals are not as clear as I would desire. Despite this, their lead guitarist is exceedingly talented and his stage presence is riveting.
The food vendors at the festival included Jumunjy, who sold authentic Thai street food with dishes such as roasted red duck, Thai green curry and rice, chicken or vegetable pad Thai noodles. Lucille’s is a retro converted caravan selling award-winning ice cream (Mendip Moments), coffee, ice milkshakes, dairy free sorbets, sweets and cold drinks. As a human icebox, who would be standing a few metres away from the sun and still complain of being cold, I didn’t opt for any of Lucille’s treats at the festival but saw many a happy child (and adult!) leaving the van with something delicious-looking in hand. Our frequent for the festival was Events Horizon, who served different food everyday and had lots of tables and chairs to sit down and eat in the shade. My favourite meal from them was the big potato wedges with cheese and the most scrumptious sweet chilli jam. Simple but tasty! An intense infusion of spices originated from Intents Catering, who were serving dishes such as Moroccan spiced chicken, pan fried halloumi and always a vegan option. Out West was also accompanied by The Greatest Little Coffee Box On Earth, who sold an assortment of coffees, teas, milkshakes, hot chocolate, sweet treats and witty coasters.
My favourite of the DJ sets at Out West was undoubtedly The Inbredz, whose hilarious lyrics made me laugh from beginning to end on Friday night. It was obvious I wasn’t the only one. There I stood without my shoes but in my socks (as I did all weekend) in the amusement of crude cider-fuelled hip hop.
The last performance on the Once Upon A Time stage on Saturday night was the ram-packed 25th anniversary party of Pronghorn. My partner managed to get to the front, but I just managed to get inside the tent! After their fill of cow-punk and merriment, fans in high spirits descended upon the Four & Twenty bar to party into the night. Whilst others took an amble over to catch the last half of The Turner Brothers set.
My overall highlight of the weekend was Skeg, who played early Saturday afternoon with his acoustic folk sincerity at the Four and Twenty stage. His song 'Poor Excuse For A Man' captured my attention and respect, broaching a particular case of domestic abuse. However sad, the song was crafted beautifully with an air of hope, which was achieved after all. Other subject matters included the love for his wife, positivity, war, politics and freedom. He finished off with a festival favourite, a brilliant cover of Doozer McDooze’s 'I Don’t Wanna Go Home' (“don’t tell Doozer!”).
Camping and campervan fields were just a couple of minutes walk from the festival entrance, with less mobile campers taken into consideration and having closer access. The circular layout of the festival allowed children the freedom to run and play with parents easily able to keep a caring eye on them. The Dijinn Palace provided music, live DJs and neon lights as well as the bar selling alcoholic cocktails and shots. Whilst the Four and Twenty bar provided ales, ciders (both produced fairly locally), lagers and spirits were priced at around £4. In addition to these, orange juice and fizzy soft drinks such as lemonade, ginger ale and colas were at the reasonable price of £1 a pint/50p for half. A few stalls were selling festival apparel (including mermaid leggings and flower crowns) with the addition of a gemstone stall. The Wiltshire Air Ambulance charity was also present at the festival, along with a tent providing information on fostering by the Wiltshire council.
Once Upon A Time In The West 2017 was enormously fun for a smaller festival with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, great food and even greater music. At £65 a ticket for three days of complete entertainment, it is great value for money.
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Once Upon a Time in the West (OUT West) 2018 review