Having attended more years than not since it started, I had a pretty good idea what to expect beyond the gates of Chagstock, on a normal year that is, but with just 5 days between the final Government announcement of whether or not Covid restrictions would be lifted, I had to wonder what preparations had been left till the last minute and how different 2021`s festival would look compared to previous years.
The line-up certainly looked as varied as I had come to expect, with Scouting for girls headlining the mainstage on the Friday and Blues Supremo Seasick Steve on the Saturday, you`d struggle to find a more diverse twosome, but that`s Chagstock for you, essentially a private party gone viral!
Inside things looked more or less the same as normal, with a slight reduction in trade stalls, eateries and possibly punter numbers, but it’s always difficult to tell here, as there’s so much room for everyone to spread out, It’s a super chilled place, set in the middle of Dartmoor`s beautiful countryside and one that benefits from breath taking views at any point of the site.
The quality of bands here never fails to amaze me, and I rarely ever leave this weekend behind without a favourite new, usually unsigned, band or two to follow up and look out for. The band that totally bowled me over this year was Town of Cats, funky, hip hoppy, brass laden, guitar crunching and lyrically brilliant, pure entertainment, as well as leaving a few of the ladies I spoke to in the audience a bit hot under the collar!
Town of Cats were followed by the super fun, and extremely popular, Scouting for girls, with Martin Harley bridging the gap between the two over in the Marquee stage.
One feature of Chagstock that should be mentioned is the way the stages change between sets, with one setting up the next band, while the other is playing, allowing for continuous entertainment and giving the audience who were at the back of the previous one, the chance to get a much cherished front row place at the next.
This is a great festival for all ages, there`s a small area with fairground rides and games, there`s trade stalls for all your hippy festival clothes, hats, glasses and the like, plenty of food choices and a boat load of space to spread yourself out, which is especially handy for anyone cautious of social distancing, and a plentiful supply of toilets, which are cleaned and emptied daily, so none of that old timey festival, half hour in a que awaiting your hell on earth in a sewer filled cubicle routine, which helps!
I didn`t get up early enough on Saturday to catch the full set of another band that so impressed me, but the last few songs were enough to tell me that I need to see more of them! Haytor. Full of energy, great songs brilliantly put together, dynamic and tight, with a frontman who captivates and entertains in equal parts, `I’ll say it again, brilliant.
Some great bands followed during Saturday afternoon Diving for Pearls, Cut Capers, the Inimitable John Otway, New Crisis and the Fireblockers, quality sets from Xander and the peace Pirates and Elles Bailey, with the sublime Sound of the Sirens closing the Marquee stage and American blues legend Seasick Steve on the main to finish the festival for another year.
Even the weather seemed to understand that people needed a break from the doom and gloom that has besieged life over the last 18 months and the met offices predictions of thunder storms and torrential rain, thankfully never came to fruition, although it does make you wonder what good their equipment is, when their main weather station is only half an hour up the road!
The live lounge is a small marquee stage, but with a great sound and some fantastic acts, ranging from singer songwriters taking their first steps towards festival fortune, to fully formed bands like The Roadcrew Erbertz and one that was just perfect for a bit of afternoon jazz funk, Lazy Snacks, possibly a bit niche for some, this is an extraordinarily tight fusion of musical styles and songs, a bit Santana, a bit Weather report, dare I say even a bit Miles Davis at points (that`ll rile the purists!), played by super talented, young virtuosos, definitely one to watch out for.
Spirits were high across the weekend, bands all seemed excited to be back out plying their trade and giving it their best shot and however this weekend had gone, anyone with any sense would have to have given massive credit to the organisers for their nerves of steel and sheer Dunkirk spirit in even daring to think about putting on a festival this year, but the fact that it was undeniable cracker of a weekend made it all the more special for everyone present, and when peoples kids ask what it was like during the pandemic, I certainly won’t forget to mention the feeling of my first festival back, Chagstock 2021!
Published on 03 August 2021 by Keith