Mid July is hotly contested ground among the many festivals vying for your business in the so called high summer, so why, of all the big players touting their wares on this weekend, would you want to come to little old Chagstock, when, with a capacity of a mere 5000 there surely can’t be enough revenue from ticket sales to attract the big names available to others?
Firstly, set amid the simply stunning scenery that accompanies Dartmoor national park, within a few miles of the turning off M5, the drive alone feels like the festival has already begun, nothing coporate, and barely a que to enter the site.
Unlike many others this festival has genuinely grown from a garden party, and has the feel of a hand made with love event that is precious to staff and regulars alike.
And, I’ll say it again, it’s only 5000 people, think about it! It all makes sense
The gates open Friday lunchtime for camping, and the festival starts at some point in the afternoon, basically, when they’re ready.
The weather was atrocious on arrival, probably the first time I’ve seen proper rain at Chagstock, but it soon passed and by late evening the wellies were off and dancing shoes were installed.
The music started at 4pm and saw Biere De Luxe blowing away the last of the rain with songs from their new album into the thicket.
A great performance by Grammy award winning, million selling, Soul 11 Soul, who dominated the club scene in the late 80s & early 90s with the chart topping dance album club classics Volume 1 followed Undercover hippy to close the Marquee stage on Friday night, while the mainstage prepared itself for one of my weekend highlights, the incomparable Slamboree.
Sword swallowing, nudity & dislocation mixed with great party music, bondage & sinister masked geishas were just a couple of things that set Salmboree apart from other acts of the weekend, utterly compelling, and i`m not sure Chagstock will ever be the same again.
Saturday was fancy dress day, with the theme being Spies & Dolls, in honour of the organisers late mother Sheila Moneypenny. Some real effort had been put into costumes by the participating punters, and though I struggled to make the connection to the theme on a few costumes, it brightened up the overcast weather no end and brought smiles out all round if not quite the sun.
I have to say, I am a fan of the alternating two stage system they have in place here, it means you don’t have to miss any of the main acts, and, best of all, there’s no hogging the front rows, because the back rows of one crowd get out first and get a better chance of the front row at the next. And if there’s something on that you don’t want to see, you can take a stroll around the many stalls of clothes, craft & festival artefacts that we all love to bring home and put in the loft, or you can grab a bite to eat at many of the fine selection of food vans always keen to fill that gap.
I’m always really impressed with the quality of acts here, for such a small festival, and Saturdays music was yet another fantastic mixed bag of emerging talent, established names and current chart acts.
A masterclass in blues guitar by songwriter John Fairhurst, a Bristolian takeover bid in the form of festival heavyweights Cut Capers, followed by Mr Tea and the Minions, all proving that quality can be found on any stage at any time of the day,
Dr Feelgood, Pioneers of the 1970s pub rock scene, whose energetic performances inspired and influenced the British punk explosion, were one of my must-see band of the weekend. Although not a founding member among them, with over 75 years of service to the Dr between them, I think you could safely say they’ve passed the audition and were well qualified to belt out the classics “Roxette”, back in the night”, “down at the doctors” and of course “milk and alcohol” better than any ordinary covers band, and with singer Robert Kane admirably filling the shoes of the late lee Brilleaux, I don’t think anyone watching would disagree, Rhythm and blues music don’t get no better than this.
The raucous punk-folk sound of Skinny lister followed another of my stand out performances of the weekend from the Dub pistols. Preparing for the release of their 7th studio album Crazy Diamonds, the band were in great form and drew probably the biggest crowd of the weekend as the sun was setting, people were getting ready for a final party.
At just a day and a half long, this is a short festival, certainly by modern standards, where most seem to be getting longer, and the need for careful pacing comes into play, but at Chagstock, you can go balls out for the duration, and still be home in time for songs of praise, which at my age is no bad thing.
Headlining the main stage and wrapping up the live music for the weekend were radio 2 play list regulars The Shires, looking every inch the archetypal beauty of youth, it’s not difficult to see why they would attract attention, but, to be fair to them, they did sound great too. Boasting the fastest selling UK country album of all time, hitting number 3 in the album charts, as well as a string of awards and nominations under their tiny belts, they were a totally credible headliner and a very good booking for the festival.
Chagstock does always seem to be over in a flash, and it’s so hard not to be overcome by the relaxed atmosphere, so you really do have to be careful not to spend too much time on the campsite if you want to get the best of the music.
Published on 25 July 2017 by Keith Dennelly