After weeks of sunshine where festivals that normally fall fowl to the curse of disastrous weather conditions (Glastonbury), it was pure bad luck that I woke on the morning of day one of Chagstock to the sound of hard rain falling. I always plan for mixed weather conditions and ensure that I pack accordingly, plenty of layers, waterproof jacket, walking boots or wellies and a bin liner to put all the soiled garments in when I finally pack up after spending the weekend yomping about in a field overlooking the Chagford hills. The forecast looked like things were going to improve and as at 11am, the rain had eased off, the clouds were still there but it looks like things might dry up a bit in time for the first acts to hit the stages.
I missed last year’s Chagstock, this was owing to me working in London and not being able to get the time off to attend so I was extra excited about this year’s event.
The line-up looked pretty impressive, some names jumped out at me more than others but when you see acts like FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS and FROM THE JAM as the headliners, you know you’re in for a great weekend of live music, fabulous food and dare I say it, the odd pint or two of ale!
I arrived onsite just before 5pm, parked up and grabbed my camera bag and made my way to the main entrance. As at any festival, I was subjected to a thorough bag search by the friendly security team and after explaining that I was there to shoot some photos for my website as well as brushing off comments like “ooh, that’s a big one” (camera lens – it happens everytime!) my pit pass was located and I was a free man!
The layout of the festival hadn’t changed since the last time I attended, the main stage was towards the bottom of the field, the marquee stage was near the top and the live lounge tent was on the other side near the shops selling a wide range of festival attire that seemed to be selling very well. The food and drinks on offer was as usual varied and of a very high standard. I always look to indulge in something every day and this weekend would be no exception, it was a toss-up between pie, mash & gravy and freshly made pizza but the pizza finally sealed the deal with a rather splendid ‘Pacific’ topping including tuna and onion (my favourite!), I would partake in a pie the next day!
What I really love about Chagstock is the way that the stages operate. Whilst one is in action, the other is busy setting up for the next band and with a 5-10 minute gap between performances, it allows you plenty of time to get a decent spot to watch the next performance. Some savvy festival goers setup their camps outside the marquee stage which also affords a birds eye view of the main stage at the same time, avoiding the need to actually get up from your seat! (I would name names but that would be rather rude and uncalled for!)
We arrived around 5:30 knowing that we’d already missed a slew of acts including THE CABARATS, VELVET & STONE who I had heard had played tremendous sets ahead of the rain coming in. It started off with a bit of blustery drizzle but soon gave way to quite a downpour and saw hordes of festival goers heading for the marquee stage, the bar or the Live Lounge until the foul weather subsided. Being the hardcore photographers we are, we braved the wind and rain and managed to shoot some great pics throughout the evening.
Highlights for me from Friday included SMALLTOWN JONES who we have had the pleasure of seeing previously in Exeter, 3 DAFT MONKEYS who did a tremendous job of encouraging people in from the rain to enjoy their fun filled set and FROM THE JAM who played just about every JAM classic there was out there, ‘A Town Called Malice’ and ‘Going Underground’ were just two of their offerings which saw the audience forget the weather and allow the sounds to transport them back to the late 70’s/early 80’s when Bruce Foxton, Paul Weller and Rick Buckler would have been knocking out the hits. HOLY MOLY & THE CRACKERS were the final band on the marquee stage and my goodness did they perform, the whole tent was jumping by the time they had warmed up the audience with their blend of brass, distorted guitars, violins and vigorous vocals.
MAD DOG MCREA concluded the action on the main stage and it was great catching up with the lead singer Michael before the show, he said that he was “chuffed to bits to be playing the main stage and he didn’t really care about the weather as by the time the band get started, everyone will be having a great time!”. They played an immense set consisting of songs filled with tales of love, drinking, smoking, gypsies and fairies, just the type of subject matter you ned to finish off day one of CHAGSTOCK 2019!
Saturday started off a little better than Friday had ended, the rain had passed and left an overcast sky with high clouds which didn’t threaten rain ALL DAY, the forecast looked favourable and it wasn’t long until the ‘chair army’ started to fill the main field. By the looks of things, the wine and ale started to flow a little early too so come early afternoon, there were a few ‘wobblers’ wandering about, looking a little lost (but happy!)
The theme of this year’s festival was ‘Under the Sea’ and it came as no surprise to see that the Chagstock masses had pulled out all the stops with their fancy dress, I saw Neptune (Si Ford), a ton of mermaids, crabs, lobsters and even seaweed themed costumes wandering about covered in face paint and glitter.
I was not able to get onsite until later in the afternoon and missed a lot of the earlier acts but I heard that GENTLEMEN OF FEW, KATY HURT and COCO & THE BUTTERFIELDS went down really well. By the time I did arrive onsite, NEW CRISIS & THE FBs were midway through their set, knocking out some killer cover versions of classic hits that had the main stage audience up and dancing in their funky costumes.
I managed to catch up with WILL VARLEY ahead of his performance on the marquee stage, we saw him in Exeter a few years ago and chatted about him becoming a father and how he still loves his job as much as he did back in the early days. His set was great, filled with some incredible folk songs which has encouraged thousands of people to fall in love with his style over the years. CHAINSKA BRASSIKA ignited the main stage with their heady blend of ska and upbeat party anthems, the audience going mad for their music and making it difficult for them to leave the stage on time!
We chatted to Will Page (Lead Vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin) of NOBLE JACKS about the last time they performed at Chagstock (3 years ago maybe?) and how things had progressed since then, he said that they were now a 5 piece band and were still loving every second of their journey which allowed them to play at some incredible venues and festivals across the country. Their set was action packed from the get go and drew a MASSIVE audience in the marquee tent where they showcased songs from their repertoire including some toe tapping, foot stomping indie folk favourites from their top ten sophomore album Stay Awake.
It was getting late and as the sun set, we found ourselves in the backstage bar chatting to fellow photographers and reviewers from other local publications about the weekend, we all agreed that whilst the weather plays a HUGE part in making the festival a success, it really does boil down to a number of other components which are the bands and artists who perform, the staff and crew who without them, the whole thing simply wouldn’t happen and lastly, YOU, the audience, if it weren’t for your passion, your dedication and your LOVE of Chagstock, the event would not be happening so a MASSIVE thanks to each and every one of you who bought a ticket, pitched your tent, drank too much ale and scoffed too many pies!
The last act on the main stage were the legends that are FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS and having seen Huey Morgan floating around backstage, we managed a brief word with him minutes before he took to the stage accompanied by Brian (Fast) Leiser and Frank Benbini to enthral the audience with a string of hits including ‘King of New York’ and of course, their most popular hit “Scooby Snacks”. Their 90 minute set breezed past in a blur and before long, it was time to think about retiring for the night.
Saturday had been a tremendous day of fantastic music, great company, fine weather and some delicious food, thinking back to every past Chagstock, I probably say this every time but to me, these are the things that keep people coming back year after year. I dare say it won’t be too long until the 2020 tickets are on sale (keep your eyes on www.chagstock.info for more information as it lands).
Until then, I hope you enjoyed our write up and our PHOTO GALLERY, maybe you can share it with friends who didn’t make it this year and convince them to head down next year, we’ll be there, we hope you will be too!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Andrew Hobbs