Hidden away in the hills of Dartmoor, in a land that commerce forgot is Chagstock festival, a place so at ease with itself populated by the Chagstock family faithful that I can’t imagine it gives stuff about what the outside world thinks of it, it certainly doesn’t strike me as a place that would be interested in change, and why, when it sells its 5000 or so tickets every year without any problem would it?
I’ve been coming here for 8 years now, and if someone told me they didn’t take it down between festivals, I could well believe it, and it works.
There are two main stages, one outside and one in a huge marquee, and as one finishes, the other starts, the people at the back of one stage are first out of the traps for at a front row of the other, what could be fairer?
Gates open at 3pm on Friday, and the festival ends Saturday night, which seems quick for a festival these days when many others seem to be stretching out for 4 or 5 days, but it is like one good party rather than the endurance test others can feel like for those of us past 30!
Fridays musical line up was a great mix of styles with electro swingsters the Correspondents followed by some cracking Scot- rock, courtesy of the brilliant King King on the main stage, divine slide guitar work & song-writing of Martin Harley, and a bit of good old fashioned British punk delivered in some fine traditionally wet British weather, not the best way to end a Friday night, but it stopped me worrying about my tomatoes!
By Saturday morning things had dried out and it was easy to see why Chagstock is a favourite destination for those who want to spend the weekend relaxing, groups of people enjoying a beer and a bit of banter around tables and under gazeebos, there’s stacks of space here and no one seems to get upset by awnings and chairs spread around.
If you don’t fancy what’s on at either of the main stages, there’s the Live Lounge off to one side, a small stage with a small PA, but plenty of protection from the extremes of weather, which this year, unusually, was blistering heat.
There’s a reasonable amount of traders on site, and a good selection of food stalls with tables and chairs around so you can sit and enjoy the music while you eat.
The music on Saturday was as good as any that I’ve seen at Chagstock over the years, from the likes of Barbarellas Bang Bang, The Grahams, The Luck and New Crisis, but the first one to really catch my eye was a young Irish band called Wood Burning Savages who seemed to be in the Rock n Roll business for all the right reasons, energetic, enigmatic and very popular it seemed. Folk favourites and darlings of Radio 2 Show of Hands put a touch of class to the afternoon on the main stage, followed by the Marquee stages last band of the festival The Hot Sprockets, another Irish band, who had come all the way over from Dublin especially for the gig, and I bet they were glad they did! The tent had not seen such a spectacle the whole weekend, people were quite literally running across the field to get a look at what was going on. With a 60s / 70s inspired look, somewhere between the Who and Led Zeppelin, they really had a party and blew away any cobwebs with an awe inspiring set, on the back of their latest album release and looking forward to a UK tour in October, definitely one to watch out for!
The one thing I have always admired about Chagstock is their ability to find unknown gems which don’t seem to be booked by every other festival
Last act of the weekend was Imelda May, having seemingly gone through a bit of a makeover since the last time I saw her 7 years ago, from the rockabilly chick with wild songs about Mayhem and the like, she now has a different band, a different look, and a different style. I`m not sure if some people were disappointed to be hearing the new songs rather than the earlier ones, but I thought the show was stunning, she has a beautiful voice, compelling presence on stage, the songs were a mix of gorgeous Brenda Lee inspired ballads to modern pop and a few of the old favourites like Johnny got a Boom Boom. She has a superb band and great interaction with the audience, even after all I said about the Hot Sprockets Imelda May was unequivocally the right person to end the festival, just brilliant.
Published on 27 July 2018 by Keith Dennelly