How do you put into words the excitement visible on every persons face that passed through the entrance to Watchet festival this year. For many, this was their first dose of that festival buzz for two years and with the sun giving us its best shot, things looked set for a cracking weekend.
The line-up this year was classic Watchet, a little something for everyone, the total entertainment factor of Sister Sledge, Toyah, The Feeling, Company B, The South, the genius of acts like Oh My God! It`s The Church, Palooka 5, Ghosts Of Men, or Dry White Bones, there is always something to surprise you when you least expect it.
There was a slightly reduced capacity this year, but you would never have realised that, as the crowds poured through the gates from Friday lunchtime it was party central, the weather was perfect, the bar was rammed from the off and the music kicked started on the main stage with 80`s legend Toyah, who at 63 (she said it!), had lost none of her charisma and none of the voice that made her a superstar, she was fantastic and the first tick in the box for Watchet 2021.
The 2nd stage, or Udder stage to give it its proper title, was one thing that had noticeably changed this year, it was smaller, but circular, with a complete open wall half way round, this was done, I suspect, as a Covid measure, but worked just as well, especially with the weather being so perfect all weekend. Some of the music I saw in there was also perfect, Hands Off Gretel put on a spell binding performance of Punky metal to headline Friday night, Oh My God it`s The Church (not to be confused with We Are The Church, who opened Sunday morning) finished the Saturday night with an impossibly entertaining set of Gospel inspired songs delivered with equal measures of panache, comedy and blasphemy, going from a song entitled Sexy Jesus, to possibly the best version of I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends I have ever witnessed!
This festival is in such a beautiful location, while you watch the bands, you feel like the main stage is the only thing between you and the sea, and with the West Somerset steam railway whistling past, you would have trouble finding a better location for a festival. It also always strikes me as a fundamentally well organised event, there`s always enough of everything, toilets, food vans, a great array of trade stalls, street entertainers, bar staff and security, and while anyone could forgive some short comings after the ping-demic that seems to be afflicting all services at the moment, it just seemed like business as usual at Watchet.
Back on the main stage, The South put on a masterclass of Beautiful South classics as support to Sister Sledge, who finished off proceedings on the Friday night, and were just incredible, super slick and strutting their funky stuff with a band to die for and a full on Las Vegas style show that set the bar high for the rest of the weekends acts to follow
The phrase “more than the sum of its parts” seems inadequate to describe the sound produced by Ghosts Of Men, One guitar and one drum kit, this two man band, who apparently, recently headlined a stage at Bloodstock, were surprisingly to be found in the Something else tea tent, the third stage at the festival, which also had an open fronted tent, presumably for the same reason I presume the Udder stage did, but it worked well, with great acts all weekend from Poetry, Open mic and well known festival favourites including Attilla the Stockbroker, Two man Ting and Semantics.
This year’s fancy dress theme was Pirates, chosen in memory of long time Watchet festival friend, magician, raconteur and all round entertainer, Alf the pirate, who sadly passed away shortly after the previous festival, and though there was no fancy dress competition this year, there were some inspired interpretations of the phrase pirate, from standard pirates, to voodoo pirates, and pirate radio stars.
Hue and cry were an interesting choice for the Saturday evening early spot, not necessarily an act that you would find on every greatest hits of the 80s compilation, but well remembered by the majority of Watchet`s demographic and they stayed true to their colours by playing the hits and other less known stuff very well, I really enjoyed them.
90s hitstress Gabrielle performed brilliantly through her set, warming up the crowd for a supremely polished end to the evening by The Feeling, who went down so well last time they were here it would have been crazy not to bring them back.
It might sound odd to many, but coming on after Somerset bad boys The Wurzels on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Watchet is never easy for anyone, the crowd fills the main arena for an hour, then seems to disappear, possibly for more cider, tea, or maybe a siesta. Los Pacaminos, ft 80s superstar Paul Young, had that honour. A really good, tight band playing original, zydeco-country rock, Texas style, which although had the draw of a famous name, seemed a tad bewildering for some I spoke to, who unbelievably still expected to hear him sing his pop hits of the 80s.. move on people, I enjoyed it and was rather grateful he didn`t!
While the ethereal and super talented Sound of the Sirens ended the weekend for the Udder stage, 90`s Brit-pop legends Shed 7 were at large on the main stage, with frontman Rick Whitter snaking around, sneering and swaggering through the bands finest moments from their 4 top twenty albums, though most were just happy with anything off the bands classic 1996 masterpiece A Maximum high, which included the hits Going for gold, On Standby, and It’s Getting Better. Not a bad way to finish a weekend that, even as late as July, many thought could never happen.
This was such a brave undertaking from the team at Watchet, they could have gone down the same route as many other festivals understandably did, and decided it was too much organising in too short an amount of time, too financially risky, or just been caught in the lethargy of lockdown to be bothered, but they didn`t, they took a chance and it paid off big style.
Published on 07 September 2021 by Keith Dennelly