Being a bit broke – plus the line up wasn’t really as appealing to us as last year – we’d decided to give Beautiful Days a miss this year but fate in the form of some last minute (very last minute in fact) free tickets had other ideas so on Saturday morning we set off for sunny (ahem) Escot Park. By the time we’d got settled, hooked up with random strangers and old friends for a cheeky pint or six we only managed to catch a few bands. Small and Gold, four sisters from Oxford, were ruddy great, New Model Army were still pleasingly shouty but Sisters of Mercy somewhat divided opinion, partly because lead sister Andrew kept vanishing in a haze of smoke or wandering around the back of the stage like a man looking for his car keys. Still Temple of Love, This Corrosion and Dominion remained mighty fine goth anthems even if I suspect that not everything was being played live. Hmmmm...
Sunday was a lot more fruitful, musically speaking/listening at least. We kicked the day off with ‘the Hendrix of the kora’ N’Faly Kouyate, Exeter’s finest Sound of the Sirens and 2 Tone legend Rhoda Dakar who was delightfully batty, coming onstage with her dress undone, failing to get her logo emailed and loaded on the screen at the back of the stage on time and giving us all her best Bruce Forsyth impressions. Bless.
Hip Hop, Cuba and comedy might seem like an odd combo but The Cuban Brothers (who I last saw playing on the roof of a bus at Glastonbury about 15 years ago) are (back) flipping brilliant. Mixing soul, hip hop and sexy talk they’re that rare beast a genuinely funny parody act who, if they ditched the humour and costumes, could quite possibly make a serious grab for Bruno Mars’ crown (jewels).
As the drizzle slowly but inevitably became a downpour The Lightening Seeds gave the hardy/faithful a greatest hits packed set reminding anyone who’d forgotten them just what a great pop singles band they were/are. We took shelter in our tent though and listened to it all as we vainly tried to dry off before bravely battling through the mud to the Bandstand to catch former Inspiral Carpet Tom Hingley. Arriving to find no one there we feared his set had been cancelled but he spotted me from behind a fence on his way to the loo and cheerily shouted out “Not long to wait”. Thankfully he or the Bandstand crew allowed the growing audience to shelter under the bandstand itself which turned the whole thing into a delightfully intimate gig featuring impressive new tracks from Tom’s forthcoming solo album plus some rather fabulous acoustic version of Carpets classics.
That just left The Levellers to polish things off with their traditional two hour set. No matter how many times I hear it One Way still strikes a chord but there was only one song that could cap off the weekend and as What a Beautiful Day climaxed (steady now Cuban Brothers) and the sky lit up with a budget busting firework display, despite the rain, mud and hangover, it really had been.