Well its been a whole year since Outcider and I've been looking forward to this year's ever since. The journey is an easy one for us across a couple of counties, though I hear there was a bit of trouble for some on the motorways. This year the signs for the event were easier to spot, they're sprayed up wooden ones that withstood the elements much better.
We pull up to the site box office (a graf art covered caravan) and are greeted by happy folk and security, given a running list and site guidance for the weekend and a couple of bin bags (clear for recycling and black for general waste) - another useful little improvement. We're guided to the live-in vehicle area along a hard based track. The camping/tent area is just next to this and though you can't park your car next to your tent, the car parking is literally in the field next door and only 2 minutes walk. Both areas are nicely flat, considering we're on top of the Mendips.
The festival is a two nighter weekend ticket with an optional £10 Friday night making the whole festival price around £60. It's set on Fernhill Farm, near Combe Martin and the stages are set in two of the barns, the sheep shearing shed (main stage) and the agricultural barn (second stage). It is a rustic site as it's a working farm as well as having some holiday lets and some glamping options too. Personally I like this unpolished feel as it's very honest and unpretentious, definitely not a middle class ya-hoo affair, as the blurb for the weekend states, no tossers and I certainly didn't see any all weekend, just happy people.
Friday evening opens with Ned Dylan, and he has a full band, something I've not seen him with before. Well nearly one, as a guitarist is stuck in traffic! On with the show and Ned has leapt up several notches musically it feels since last year. He has some proper indie rock edginess now and the band set up helps with this no end. His mum heckles something from the crowd at the start of 'Limbo'. 'Absolutely Free' gets Ned off the stage and on walk about around the crowd to ask how free we all are. 'Outsider Society' fits nicely and we're introduced to the missing guitarist and its Fruitbat no less (now playing with Ferocious Dog and his own band Abdoujaparov) ex of Carter USM, his bassist incidentally was from Filthy Spectacular. A great set and new fullness to his sound.
This year sees an additional food vendor, Nana's Kitchen, who will be serving wholly vegeterian food this weekend. Their menu has choices from soup for £3 to potato n spinach curry (which I choose) served on a real plate and cutlery for £6. Also providing food is the farms own food vendor, most of the food from here was either grown or reared on the farm. They serve cooked breakfast each morning, a daytime menu of burgers, lasagne, meats and cheese platters and a different evening menu each night, pork in apple sauce with roast potatoes was one of tonight's hearty choices for £8.
The White City Shakers are a group of chaps dressed in a country dapper style, smart but Victorian farm practical! and playing an Americana style sound. 'Talk To Your Daughter' gets us shouting back at them. 'Hotel Yorba' slows us down and picked back up with "drink a little poison before you die!" 'Fly Away' ends an enjoyable set.
The Black Rats are a super group featuring members Smokey Bastards, Dreadnoughts and maybe a Surfin' Turnip. They smash into a high octane set and Invite the Friday crowd to start a west country circle pit to 'Champion Dungspreader', 'Black Flies North Ontario" brings some Canadian content too. The audience are a thoroughly happy lot with this set.
Doozer and his band Deferred Sucess are next up in the shearing shed (all the Friday night bands are playing in here). 'Drunk and Disorderly' and 'I Don't Wanna Go Home' go down well as usual and with a finale of 'Sheriff Fatman' and I'm much happy!
Black Water County are our last act of the evening and, having watched them before, we were looking forward to seeking them again. 'Fields of Athenry', 'Brandy' (re named cider for the night) and 'Under Skies Of Black N Blue' stood out. A rowdy 'Loch Lomond' sees half the band take to audience and the pit, well worth seeing them play again.
Another new addition this year are official after hours acoustic sessions, both around the blazing campfire and under the edge of an extra marquee (used for mainly eating and chatting under during the day). The blue moon is high in the sky tonight and highlights the field beyond the open air/ in field urinal (feeding into a drain I must add, not onto the land) and I name it "the pisser with a vista."
Saturday is overcast after a really cool night from clear skies that gave us such an amazing full moon. Not too early to rise, it's off for a sausage and bacon roll for £4 and a Dorset Star Supanova cider, just in time to catch Heybus finishing his solo set with "drink up yer cider", seems a reasonable instruction! There's also badge(r) making in the agri shed.
The Filthy Spectacula's lead singer has a steam punk/goth look and the merch seller is a "scene" goth, both adding a different look on the farm and I wonder what we're going to get musically. After some light hearted complaints about having to be out daylight and not liking it, we get a mix of dark folk about Jack the Ripper, drunken pirates and some Cossack dancing!
The Imprints bring some youthful exuberance to the smaller agriculture barn stage. they have a tangible energy on stage and I bet they'd really feed off a slightly larger crowd. They declare that they're staying on to enjoy the rest of the day on site and they all down a pint mid set, well most of them. The lady of the group has a half. A brief chat later in the day revealed she'd actually already finished hers and needed a top up, well played!
Poor Old Dogs play an Americana sound with "designated weirdo" dedicated to the messed up world of BoomTown! 'Jack Hall' the highwayman and 'Chains In The River' is my favourite from an enjoyable allotted time in which to play music aka a set as they called it.
The Marksmen bring an alt-rock/punk feel to mid afternoon, with the a lighter sprinkle of a softer female vocal.
Surfin' Turnips are another bunch of apple tree appreciaters. When they asked who was there from Wiltshire I think I was the only one! But I got to enjoy our unofficial Wiltshire anthem 'Turnip Hoe'er', and 'Ciderman Killed The Radio Star' was another worthy track. With a couple of guest players from Dreadnoughts they play a great set and during 'Cider Commando' we witness an 'almost' streak around the barn, they're great fun and plenty cider swilling.
Mick O'Toole bring some west country 'Irish' loud folk all the way from County Calne. Out comes the cider stick, to feed us some more! I'll try to catch this bunch again nearer home.
Inbredz have made me laugh a few times over the last couple of years. They 'bring it on crazy, like haysi-fantayzee rapping about mid life crisis at 36, Some self 'appreciation' at night and being "back on the rat". Their hip hop is often crude but its fun for sure and at this over 18's only festival goes down well.
The Tuts bring their all girl punk feel into the ag barn, they have plenty of bounce and sees the lead guitarist exit the stage and play amid the crowd.
Acid Drop, a self appointed bunch of northern dickheads continue a loud afternoon with much energy. I spotted these lads on site all weekend and they really seemed to enjoy themselves on and off stage all weekend whilst watching many of the other bands. Their set roared along but was punctuated with one serious tune for friends that have left us "I'll Not Forget You" which was heartfelt for sure. They instigate a first for me "the wall of death hoe down" the crowd separated into two halves and then run toward each other to then link arms and dance. With that and a also a small human pyramid and circle pit, that's geometry gigging right there!
A Food stop now and one of tonight's mains is firecracker brisket, new pots n salsa for £8. All washed down with a Cider. Most of the ciders here are still proper farm ciders from west country farm producers, such as Cest Milton, Cranbourn Chase, Wilcox, Hecks and an Outcider special. Beach Blonde, full English ale from Sunny Republic Brewery all at what has to be the cheapest festival prices around, being only £3 a pint. They were joined by carbonate beers at £3.50 for Hop Dog IPA, Korev larger from Cornwall and Supernova Cider from Dorset. Operating this year again with a £1 keep your plastic souvenir pint glass policy. I thought highly of this idea last year and not only did it help reduce litter on site, has also been trialled at other larger festivals now. I think it'll be the way forward from disposable thin plastic pint or wax paper ones too.
I saw Sam Green & The Midnight Heist last weekend and both then and now his slide and picking guitar play is very good. Coupled with a good band, they produce some real quality blues rock.
Beans on Toast was one of my before festival must sees and he plays a blinding set, I think the best by far I've heard him play. He walks about in the audience, climbs up on the speaker stacks proclaiming "go hard or go home" (the sound man looks scared, and J professes to being so also after). All the songs you'd expect from him are in this set but with 'Billy Banjo' on for some of them it gives J the freedom to add that bit more to this set. Crowd plasers 'Mdmazing', and 'The Chicken Song' (with audience clucking and real chickens roosting to the right of the stage adding a new slant to the song) are joined by a new song about his first Sunday home which is also his last for the foreseeable future.
Ferocious Dog are on next for us and are without a doubt a highlight to the whole weekend not just for us but for many on site, plenty of whom I think came especially for them. We met one lady who will have seen them more than twelve times by the end of the year. They play a well received set that included older songs and some new CD ones too. 'The Glass' is dedicated to soldiers suffering from ptsd. 'Ruby Bridges' their latest single about the first coloured girl into the first mixed race school in America, and 'Criminal Justice' is about the victims of the Battle of the Beanfields. All powerful numbers from a band that has a really mixed following from youngsters to grandparents.
Sunday comes around again and the rain of the day before has caused no trouble with the site. A bit of a breeze is drying the ground nicely, ably assisted by some lovely sunshine. A few campers have left, including our neighbours who I don't think really seemed to get the festival, and others that were probably there just for Ferocious Dog. A cooked breakfast in the nick of time (breakfast stops at midday) and a Supernova, and I'm ready for Aranka's Cackle, 'Police n Thieves' and a Clash cover with a rap fits it nicely. 'Tight Pants' (I think that's what it was called as there was a bit of chatter about what was next on the set list) is about some smoking material. They end with 'Cider Ska', an ode to real cider! A great last minute booking due to a drop out.
Hobo and the Hippies are from Sevenoaks (seems there's more than one hobo in Kent!) deliver a set with 'Walky Walky Man' about a local lonely soul, and 'Bolt Down The Hatches' off their first ep, before ending with 'St Mary Cray' where a few of the band grew up.
Next up Perkie plays her keyboard to a small but friendly audience, she seems nervous but genuine as is her voice and content of her songs, 'Run', her last for us was her most polished too.
Benny Mayhem plays a solo set, he's travelled all the way here from Australia. 'Morning Birds' is all about how after drinking 'til dawn those evil morning birds are! 'Greg The Consumer' was good as was 'Suspect Device' a Stiff Little Fingers cover that gets some of the older punks shouting along.
Various Guises includes two of Dana Immanuel's stolen group, Maya on cello (who takes lead in this band), Blanche and Dana on banjo they play some beautiful songs of language and madness whilst with instruments And the second half of the set lovely includes an acapella version of 'Drunken Sailor' in a 40's style and lush harmonies to "you ain't got no pants on!'"
Fish Hook are a full on, loud, rock n roll band, playing amongst their own tunes a great version of "Johny B Goode'. 'Alright Alright' gets crowd hollering back and Rachael the lead singer points out how one of the band has forgotten their shirt. All in all a welcome return visit to Outcider.
After missing most of Bill Smarme & The Bizness at Village Pump last weekend I wanted to see them for sure this time. All of the band are in smart evening wear. Bill sings of 'His Favourite Things' a la the sound of music but in his very own style, 'The Girls From Twerton', 'Tattooed Tina' a local café owner, 'Shooting Old Lola Down' for wandering off with an ice cream man called Rick O'Shea! and 'Viva Lyme Regis'. It was a set of comic songs that made this west country boy laugh and the other audience members too.
A lovely falafel, humus and rocket wrap makes for a quick snack before a barn storming, stage leaping, rafter climbing, set by The Feminists, dressed in suitable attire for what has become such a traditional thing that is ladies day, well amongst a certain festival crowd that have taken it firmly on from the old Endorset days.
The Jack Ratts hit the ag barn stage now with an extra member from Dreadnoughts (this guy has played where ever and when ever he can over the weekend running headlong into this festival), straight in the crowd are up fer a good ole dance, songs of best things in life 'Eating And Loving' and 'Rolled In My Sweet Baby's Arms'. It's a real dust kicking set.
Will Tun and The Wasters showcase a really lively folk set that involved passing round the will tun scotch bonnet and lime cider home brew, a real knock out blend that would blow your socks off. And we take part in the second wall of jig of the weekend.
Funke and the Two Tone Baby is another of those amazingly hard working musicians plying his trade where ever he can. Driving 6 hrs down from Cumbria after last night's gig, then back to Essex tonight and off to Holland tomorrow! His clever use of loop back technology, guitar, harmonica reverb and echo all bounced around with his voice n energy. 'I'm Not Well" off his latest cd, 'Be Nice To Me' and 'Bella's Kiss' are my favourite tracks.
Counting Coins bring their taste of fast ska all the way down from Hull and they are loud and very up for lads. But it's time for a quick bit to eat and a pint for me and then along to the agricultural shed, here Louise Distras has a nicely punk/folk attitude. It's just her and her guitar and she plays a soulfelt set that those who chose to listen enjoyed and one I was glad to have been recommend by a fellow Outcider that I'd chatted to both last year and this. Something that we found over the whole weekend was just how happy people are to chat to each other when in such an easy going atmosphere.
The Skimmity Hitchers played to a proper barn full, just about the whole site was in there! Except for a couple of stragglers outside around the fire or those filling their cider jars ready for these cider loving musicians who drag us all to this festival of theirs, and they don't fail to entertain. With many a song about cider, if you hadn't of guessed, like 'Black Rat' but also much love for the west country in 'Viva Lyme Regis' for the second time today, 'Drunken Farmer' and 'Badger Man' which sees another member from Dreadnoughts called up to the stage to take on the badger suit! He dances on stage, leaps and runs around in the audience and even surfs the crowd. After a round of thanks and the farm owner tell us we're cider drinking apprentices, we get a few more songs to finish off like 'Get Out Of My Barn!'
DJ Dapper Dan spins up some tunes for those that wish to dance for a bit longer but it sees us off into the night with big smiles on our faces yet again.
It's been another great Outcider festival with a few welcome additions this year, like the second food vendor (Nana's Kitchen) selling only vegetarian dishes, there was also a T-shirt stall, a charity stall selling chocolate and also aiding ladies day by selling "suitable-ish" dresses and a coffee/tea/smoothie van from which I had a lovely chai latte and Ruth had a couple of great smoothies for breakfast.
The music quality was great as was the sound all weekend. I reckon I watched thirty acts over the weekend, working out at £2 each, throw in 3 nights camping in August, how good a value for your hard earned cash is that?
This "fuelled by cider" lot really know how to put together a great mix of bands in a beautiful location for a real bargain price and cider at £3 a pint! what more could you want? Looking forward to next year already!
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