Archive | June 2011

soundCHECK 105 – June 30th 2011

In what might be one of the least sensational cliff-hangers in history, last week’s soundCHECK erected this rickety little totem of drama:

“My plan next week is to give you a rundown of this summer’s regional festival action. Whether or not that actually happens shall remain a hook of suspense that I’m going to leave swinging like a literary pendulum for seven days.”

Now, I shall take what was undoubtedly met with universal ambivalence, and inevitably always going to happen anyway, and shatter the literary tension. It’s time to make good on the plan and take you on a rummage around some of the regional music festivals that will be hoping to rub their grubby little mitts all over you this summer.

But first we proceed with what precedes us: Goldcoast. Hundreds, nay, thousands assembled themselves beachside in Croyde during early June to watch the likes of Seasick Steve, Stringer Bessant, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Ed Sheeran in a weekend that cemented Goldcoast’s status as a quality and culturally important event for North Devon.
What of the future?

Well, The Levellers-curated Beautiful Days takes the crown as the summer’s most hotly anticipated regional festival. Mostly because of a stunning line up that includes lots of names you should know. The festival takes place in Escot Park, near Ottery St. Mary, on 19th – 21st August. You can find out the facts at Make sure you catch the wistful, bittersweet beauty of I Am Kloot, the wholesome loveliness of Idlewild-frontman Roddy Woomble and the jittery, cinematic walls of sound coughed up by The Strange Death Of Liberal England. The Levellers have booked Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine too! It’s their first festival appearance in fourteen years.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Sheriff Fatman!”

Then there’s Aeon Festival, which unfurls the following weekend (26th – 28th August) at Shobrooke Park in Crediton. The organisers are self-confessed purveyors of ‘cultural loveliness’ which, with a budget that prohibits the arrival of any major names, seems to be the USP of Aeon. That and the cool lakeside location and family-friendly ambience. Full line up details are available at Every year there’s a fancy dress theme. This year’s is ‘Fairy Tales & Storytime’. Make of that what you will.

Sadly, however, there is a notable absentee among the festival listings this summer: LLAMA, which is normally held every June in Lynton and Lynmouth. In just eight years it has become one of the best free music festivals in the UK, hallowed for its scintillating atmosphere, stellar line ups and stunning coastal location. In fact, in 2010, The Guardian newspaper recognised it as the Best Free UK Music Festival. Thankfully, LLAMA’s no-show is a mere anomaly. They are taking a year off to plan how to deal with the growing popularity of the festival. It will return in 2012. You can read the full statement at

At the other end of the formality spectrum is the riotous DIY revelry of the bi-annual Beta Fest, organised by the admirably-industrious Tobias Matthews of Black Hole Promotions. (Seriously, someone buy that man a pint or two.)
Expect to see thirty bands play in The Palladium in Bideford across three days on a line up featuring some of the best underground bands you’ve never heard of punctuated by a clutch of North Devon’s contemporary best. I’ll be writing more about Beta Fest soon. That’s a definite.

I’m done with cliff-hangers.

soundCHECK 104 – June 23rd 2011

By the time you read this, Glastonbury Festival will have already begun. Thousands of people will be in the giddy throes of a special kind of spiritual self-discovery that’s spurred by dressing up in 80s Day-Glo and rolling around in patches of mud like delinquent toddlers. All while poisoning mind and body with a heady and copious cocktail of toxic substances.

This alleged nirvana is soundtracked by some of the best bands in the world. Let’s not forget that. After all, there are plenty of regular Glastonbury-goers that would happily try to convince you that Glastonbury is all about ‘the experience’, usually while affecting the kind of condescending, belittling and self-righteous tone of voice that acts as a pretty effective stimulant for violence. Note: defecating in the same fetor-filled plastic cubicles as 160,000 pretend hippies is not an exclusive experience. Glastonbury is a music festival. Attending it does not make you Gandhi. No amount of stupid dancing, body paint or silly hats will change that.

No. The beauty of Glastonbury is in the diversity, breadth and supreme talent of its musicians. And one of them taking to the stage this year is a local lad. He’s called Phil Smith. He’s from Monkleigh. And he went to Great Torrington School and North Devon College, where he studied music. His band, Centrefolds – based in Bath but frequent visitors to North Devon, play at Fluffy Rock Café (I don’t even know what that means) on Saturday (25th) at 2.30pm. You can find out more at

Those of you without plans to leave Devon this summer needn’t go without. My plan next week is to give you a little rundown of this summer’s regional festival action, which is encouragingly diverse. Whether or not that actually happens shall remain a hook of suspense that I’m going to leave swinging like a literary pendulum for seven days. It could go either way.

I’d also like to offer some advice to anyone attending their first festival this summer: get good at holding your breath while locked up in them cubicles. Once you subject the olfactory apparatus to that level of abuse, it never really forgives you. The nostril-scything stench of eau de toilet shall forever be with you.

Finally, don’t forget Black Hole’s clubnight at The Palladium on Saturday (25th). Jackdaws headline. They’re one of North Devon’s most exciting bands. So it’s worth trying to catch them.