Beautiful Days 2006

Beautiful Days 2006

Photographer: John Bownas19 August 2006

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Well, I'm extremely pleased and proud to say here we are again! This is the second time in three years we've played The Levellers' own great and gloriously eclectic festival on the rolling, tree-lined, banner-bedecked slopes of Devon's Escot Park. And we contrived to pitch-up here last year anyway because our mates Flogging Molly were playing! We had a brilliant time last time we played here. The Beautiful Days crowd are very open-minded & generous: everyone's here to have the best time and it's pretty cool in that it's an extremely family-friendly festival (including a 'Lost Parents' tent!) but it's by no stretch of the imagination just some boring, safe, lukewarm shower o' shite! Not on yer proverbial, Missis! It boots serious botty with a kinda general, but by no means universal, rule of thumb that most of the acts over three days have either a rootsy or folky influence, however subtle, and, usually, a singer with a very distinctive voice…

The Lev's themselves kick things off, as is tradition, in their 'unplugged' guise, Drunk in Public, in the Big Top Tent and a fine job they make of it too, with the real feel for the folk end of what they do coming-through. They had the whole tent leppin' & the first bona fide deafening crescendo roar of the faithful!

As I was saying, though, it's a very eclectic line-up, which generally means there's something that'll please everyone and a few surprises that you initially think "Hmmm-that ain't gonna work…". Then somehow they do - or even if they don't, there are two other stages and a comedy tent and in true Glastonbury's lil brother fashion, some mind-snappingly irreverent stalls and side-shows -  Shmangle, Fairy Love, House of Oddities, Dan's Lounge, the list goes on...

Over on the Main Stage, The Crimea's spacey spike-adelia is ideal sunny afternoon festival fare in a sub-sub-Kasabian, Pinky Floyd stylee, giving way to the sublime, crystal clear enchanting voice of Cara Dillon. I'm a sucker for girls with Derry accents anyways, but the sheer pristine beauty of the incredible, haunting sound yon Cailín makes has myself captivated and all but bedewing me britches…

Gomez surprise and impressed with their mid-paced, angsty urban blues – full of hypnotic drone chords and harmonies pinned underneath the distinctive voice of Ben Otwell – how can such a rich, smokey blues groan, fitting of some old Blues fella from Mississippi, come out of a chunky student-type from Stockport? No matter – it does and fair fucks to 'im! They really do whip the crowd into a frenzy with 'Whippin' Picadilly' (Manchester, that is…)

Seth Lakeman (and his percussionist!) is just incredible – sprightly, hypnotic, incredibly lyrical fiddle playing, with a great voice, and he can sing and play at the same time – no man feat! Hayseed Dixie too are a blast and a great Fessie band – we've played with them before and, apart from the fact that their Blue-grass versions of hard rock classics are very clever (nice to see they're keeping up with the times, with the addition of Green Day's 'Holiday'), they can play the bejaysus out of that shite. You've just gotta catch the two brothers playin' the one banjo at the same time!

Echo & the Bunnymen – again it's a case of it's THAT voice. Nothing much has changed here (at least for the two leading lights). Will Sargent's still a guitar alchemist, producing shimmering sparks from a dazzling array of unique guitars, while Mac's as contrary and bemusing as ever. "What the fook's a 'Good Thai Din'?" being one memorable riposte. He wrote the book on North-West Gobshite Attitude long before Liam Gallagher dreamt of even nickin' a car radio. And he seems bent on using their set as his personal karaoke. Ah, but Jeez, THAT voice and those great beautiful dollops of melancholy songs: ye could forgive him (virtually) anything…

And so for Saturday: I apologise now if I drift off at times- I played one of the best gigs we've ever done in the UK, so I get dispensation from The Pope!

So. More spacey urban soundscapes from Merla, while our mucker, Dan Donnelly's band Sonovagun – featuring none other than SLF alumni Ali McMordie – kick things into gear with their winning combination of catchy pop songs and soul-searching, heart-felt Norn-Irish vocals. Happy Days! - as they say North of the border.

If there wasn't any rabble rousing before, there's plenty now and they've come to the right place, because Goldblade literally TAKE the stage (and the crash barrier at the front just to make sure!) 'Strictly Hardcore' and they ain't kidding, with Clash-delineated terrace vocals, quiffs & leathers. They're here to make their mark and get things hot 'n' hectic!

So how the hell do ye follow that? I'll tell ye how, wid swirling pipes, banjos, fiddles and whistles – all punked-up ta fuck wid a guitar sound Steve Jones'd be proud of and some thumpin' bass & drums. Then throw-in some stage leppin' shenanigans and more Irish blarney ye could shake a shillelagh at!  My band Neck play one of the best two gigs we've ever played in the UK (the other one was at Wasted, last week), got ourselves an encore AND I got the crowd to shout 'FECK'!

The American guys after us played horn-heavy jazzy soul with a rapper – very cool , very clever, but I was on a mission by then. Sorry, lads…

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