A new festival to us, highly recommended by SAGA (Salford Anti Greenchair Association). Weather forecast was atrocious for Thursday and Friday, but decided to get there a day early on Thursday. Managed to get the tent up ok, but it lashed it down Thursday night/ Friday morning. Mud galore, but the team were working tirelessly to keep things moving. (Tez was surprised at the lack of straw?).
The setting is amazing, the staff are friendly, security is ok, Farmer Phil is as genial a host as you could wish for and the beer and lager is £3.00 a pint. Good foundations already. So, let’s review the music…
Friday. First people we caught were Thin Vision. Played original songs, I think, but nothing that would create an earthquake. Next, Savannah. Singer made big entrance with a Gallagher-like swagger, and their main influence was obvious. (Sorry lads, about twenty years out of date). ‘All or nothing’ got an airing. Went back to the tent. Soul Preachers. Reggae. I have never understood why black people playing reggae have to have some sort of cod-Jamaican accent, especially when they are from the Midlands. I don’t try and sound like Chuck Berry talking when I am slaughtering ‘Sweet little rock ‘n’ roller’! Got a ‘7 Nation Army’ riff in one of the songs, but reggae leaves me totally nonplussed (which by the end of the fest was completely totally nonplussed…can I say that?) Amusing to see people walking past and springing into a ‘Dad at a wedding’ dance. A You’ve Been Framed slot would be really embarrassing. Went off to put my wellies on, noticed Dr Feelfood already here backstage. Savannah’s tourbus is bigger than theirs! Imperial Leisure. Ska / 2-Tone stuff, not for me . Gratuitous swearing from the singer, very clever mate. Are you experienced. We all failed in predictions for first song, it was ‘Stone Free’. Not much point in going through all the songs. The man has done his homework, even the banter on the Monterey Pop ‘Like a rolling stone’. But the call and response section of the song was totally naff! I also think the bass sound is far too loud, neither Billy Cox nor Noel Redding would have been so dominant. To be fair, he is a good guitarist who has spotted a niche and cashed in on his genes too. Went down well. Next up, Troy Redfern. Had checked him out on Youtube. Straight away, Tez said’ Proper music!’. Originals mixed in with stuff from Albert King, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker , with ‘Voodoo Chile’ to finish. (Not good programming to follow A.Y.E. and play that!). Speaking of John Lee Hooker, Tony McPhee was there all weekend, we all hope he is still on the road to recovery. Very good, Mr Redfern. Dr Feelgood. They regularly come in for criticism for lack of original members, but I always remember Robert Fripp’s comment when the big turnover in King Crimson was brought up, namely ‘King Crimson is a way of doing things’ . The same goes for Dr Feelgood, I reckon. Her Ladyship was spot on , calling the arrival of ‘Down by the jetty blues’ at halftime. There have been times over the last 15 years when Robert Kane has asked’ Who likes the blues?’ and I have gone for a pee, gone for a pint, filled in a passport application, phoned the tax office and still got back before the end. Mercifully it is slightly shorter nowadays but still the sign for me to go to the toilet.
Set list. All through the city/ I can tell/ Who do you love/ Baby Jane/ If my baby quits me/ Milk and alcohol/ She’s a wind-up/ Rolling and tumbling/ Back in the night/ Roxette/ DBTJ Blues/ She does it right/ Going back home/ See you later alligator/ Down at the doctors/ One more shot/ Riot in cell block no. 9/ Great balls of fire/ Tequila-Bony Moronie.
A nice touch from the Feelgoods to dedicate the show to a fan who had died travelling back from the previous night’s show. They rarely disappoint.
Saturday. By now, very obvious that dogs and kids were free entry, so was mud. Funke and the 2 Tone baby. Interesting one – man band, he had some fans there. Lots of multi-layered instrumentation, definitely a step up from Don Partridge. Good early festival fare. Hot Rod 55. Quiffabilly music, (but no quiffs). Stray Cats, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Kidd, Del Shannon, Elvis, Animals and even Motorhead to finish. Good strong vocals, entertaining stuff. At this point two animals that looked like they should have had saddles on and were going to be in the 4.30 at Ludlow parked in front of us. Talisman. More reggae, from Bristol with some more cod-Jamaican patter. Thankfully I had a fantastic Scotch egg to block out the noise, and it made me realise how apt is the surname of one of reggae’s leading lights…TOSH. Dubvocaliza. Yes, you have guessed, some more. Went back to the tent, put Planet Rock on…Thin Bloody Lizzy! Have I upset somebody ‘up there?’. Thankfully, batteries died. Went back to catch end of Envy of the state who , seemingly, had ‘rocked our socks off’ Not much evidence of that. BC/DC. Another outfit from nearby Bishop’s Castle. Announcer said ‘The best AC/DC tribute act ….’. Couldn’t catch the rest, but it must have been ‘on this field’. I am not even sure about that. They neither looked like, nor sounded like AC/DC. They played some Acka Dacka songs , plus the standard pub covers by Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and others. Can’t they find, or play, something from AC/DC’s 40 years?! Spectacularly underwhelming, and driving four hours to see a crap pub group was not my idea of a good weekend. Buster Shuffle. The name gave me a Ska premonition and I wasn’t wrong. Mad Dog McCrea. Festivals nowadays are either padded out with ska/reggae stuff or this…jiggleypiggley pretend Irish combos. ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ et al. Drew stumps and left . Had already checked out Ferocious Dog on Youtube, they looked like more of this, only more …ferocious. Having moaned like hell though, we didn’t expect anything to our tastes on Saturday, and we weren’t wrong.
Sunday. Have to mention the brilliant paramedics. Her Ladyship had an infection to an operation and they couldn’t have been more helpful. Top, top marks. Many thanks. Back to the music. Scientific Simpletons. Singer informs us it is ‘folk-punk’ . Keeps asking me to join in( when he’s not swearing), His banter was about as witty as his songs, Her Ladyship thought they were good (she also thinks Meatloaf is wonderful). Dan Owen. Young Dan is very good but, and it is a big but, I cannot watch him! To expand a bit, I can happily sit behind some one who is blocking my view so I can only LISTEN. His flailing legs are just the most ‘uncool’ sight. Similarly, his gruff vocals seem too ‘affected’ after listening to him speak. Does that make sense? Robert Johnson to start with, Robert Zimmerman to finish with Willie Dixon in the middle. Cartoon Violence. Classic ska instrumental line-up, singer with pork pie hat. Her Ladyship shouted for ‘Atom Heart Mother’, for some reason it fell on deaf ears. Encore did feature Kraftwerk’s ‘Model’ and they departed to thunderous applause from three friends, two illegal immigrants and a dog without a lead. Abdoujaparov. Not reggae, ska, 2-tone, jiggleypiggley cod-Celtic stuff! So crowd somewhat bemused. I had a vision of Jilted John playing at Woodstock having taken the bad brown acid. Their slot was a much shorter than some ska crap yesterday that got twice as long. I like them. The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican. Been looking forward to these lads from Barnsley. Merciless attacks on likes of Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Monkees/Justin Bieber, Kraftwerk, Thin Lizzy and especially Abba. Thought woman behind me was going to have a prolapse. Crowdsurfing an optional extra, they had the whole arena applauding and deservedly so. John Otway. Could he follow the ‘Doonicans’? Sadly, he had to and he had a decent go. Usual start, with the first hit and ‘B’ side, we now get the second hit and ‘B’ side (House of the Rising Sun). ‘Louisa on a horse’ and a couple of ‘proper’ songs. Plenty of familiar stuff for Otway fans, who were mainly at the front. Now it is just he and roadie ‘Deadly’ , his manic persona didn’t quite carry up the hill. Still a genius. Leatherat. Very popular, they play lots of festivals. We have seen them at festivals. We went to the beer tent. 3 Daft Monkeys. Very popular, they play lots of festivals. We have seen them at festivals. We stayed in the beer tent. A lot of food outlets had shut by 10.00 pm. We overheard someone say ‘What this needs is a good rock group’. I was hoping that Wayne Martin would be just that. Keyboard, bass, drums instrumental heralded the big intro for Mr Martin. The sort of thing BB King or Willie Dixon used to do, is he that legendary? Not really. Some Joe Walsh followed by Doobie Bros, he appears to be a journeyman Midlands bluesrocker. Perfectly capable, and probably quite acceptable at a small festival, we chose to await the rest of the standard pubrock setlist from our camp beds. And that was Farmer Phil’s Festival.
Verdict? (Apologies for any repetition from earlier). A cracking small festival for those music fans who are happy to jump up and down to Bob Marley/ Specials/ Levellers-inspired stuff.
Beer is good and reasonably priced. Setting great, staff fine, organiser a top man who has created a 2000 capacity event and honed it to be a regular meeting place for those afore-mentioned music fans. But yet another place where people start to form a queue for no apparent reason! Just lean on the bloody bar and wait!!
Toilets were a bit ‘hit and miss’, lots and lots of dogs and lots and lots of kids. Bloody cold at times and very muddy at times. Unusually, music went on until after midnight, presumably because there isn’t anybody living nearby to complain? Good in one way, but it also means noise from inconsiderate campers goes on longer. Some factors are under Farmer Phil’s control , others are not.
If we could have had something to look forward on Saturday, it would have been perfect. But it was still a good weekend. And the 2nd stage isn’t really an option. Room for about a dozen seats, and the rest have to stand on the main thoroughfare. We hope to be there next year.
Quick postscript. Copies of ‘Best of Farmer Phil’s 2008’ were made available for a charity contribution. A very good gesture. A slightly double-edged sword, as there are quite a few ‘f-words’ on it. I was a bit surprised, given that it must have been not too difficult to edit them out or have different tracks? The language doesn’t particularly bother me, sadly there are some people who don’t have a sufficiently large vocabulary to use other words. However, if I were to give it to friends who have young children as a way of saying what a suitable family festival it is, I don’t think they would be all that impressed.