Halls Farm, Lytchett Matravers

Wonky Donk 2018

13th & 14th July 2018

With the continuation of the UK’s summer heatwave it is great to be back at Hall’s Farm, Lytchett Matravers once again; for one of Dorset’s favourite festivals Wonky Donk. This ever-popular annual event just gets better and better every year, where it’s friendly atmosphere and diverse selection of ‘roots’ style acts hits the spot. This year Lord of Wonky Manor ‘Hawkeye Hoolihan’ has made a few tweaks to facilities to include a “Viking Kitchen” serving tasty Danish meatballs; new toilet facilities, more seating around the arena and a handy little-covered cart to house the soundmen and their equipment. It’s possibly one of the most laid-back festivals out there and you get to see lots of familiar faces return year after year. The main arena features two large inflatable stages and each time an act finishes the other is ready to commence…..so with things all set let’s get on with this year’s entertainment.

Day 1
So it’s Friday 13th – with even the most superstitious not looking over their shoulders as the chilled relaxed atmosphere, along with the Cranbourne Chase and strawberry sunshine cider creating some great festival vibes. First to the stage is local rainbow troubadour Jonny Philips whose thirst for the summer is being quenched beyond his dreams this year. A regular at local festivals this six-string maestro entertains with a great selection of original tracks including “Nag Champa”, the very appropriate “Sipping At The Sun” and a new tune called “Admiring The View” about a David & Goliath-style battle with a large power company – with of course the underdog coming out on top.

Jonny Philips
Jonny Philips 

The 2nd act this evening is the four-piece “Dr. Beatroot’s Bluegrass Band” featuring the ever smiling Steve Perry (Disco’s Out Murders In). With just a simple set-up of Elliott Bradley on double bass, Ben Thomas on Banjo, David Hughes on Ukulele and Steve on acoustic guitar these guys make a delightful sound, very in keeping with the festival’s theme. These guys; despite fighting against some early technical problems, deliver tunes like “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Cripple Creek” and astonishingly a bluegrass version of “Money for Nothing” which I’m sure would have Mark Knopfler heading for his shotgun! Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Dr. Beatroot's Bluegrass Band
Dr. Beatroot’s Bluegrass Band 

Grant Sharkey or “Grant Sparkey” as the ill-informed compere introduced him takes to the stage with his controversial “before the watershed” show. With just a double bass and huge amount of political satire Grant divides the Wonky Donk crowd with thought-provoking hard-hitting songs that take in difficult subjects in a somewhat carefree way. To the casual observer Grant’s views could be easily misunderstood with songs about “Muslims”, “Vladimir Putin” and “Racists”. But if you stand there and listen you will find that he is just making a mockery of racism, hypocrisy and greed. One of the highlights of his set was “Pubes & Toenails” (The Brexit Song), where Grant strips on stage with his man boobs for all to see and then puts on a Geri Halliwell (Spice Girls)-style Union Jack dress. Think back to all those comedians of the 70’s such as Bernard Manning, Jimmy Jones and Roy Chubby Brown. They all pushed the boundaries of their acts and here Grant is doing the same sort of thing to spark a reaction and earn an honest living from spouting controversy – the very best of luck to him I say.

Grant Sharkey
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Bournemouth’s Harpin’ On continue on the other stage next and you cannot help but be drawn in by the skill of this four-piece who deliver some lovely swamp/harp/ blues. They mix Blues, Rockabilly and Swamp sounds to bring some really danceable tunes that show off the inspirational quality of frontman Little Dave’s expert harp sounds, coupled with some 50’s-inspired spot-on vocals. This is all complemented by a very tight rhythm section of Gary on bass and Mic on drums with Paul adding some excellent six-string electric guitar work. The usually hard to please Wonky Donk crowd are soon up dancing and by the band’s last number “Swings & Roundabouts” the dance floor in front of the stage is full of enthusiastic dancers.

Harpin' On
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With yet another seamless changeover things get started as soon as Harpin’ On leave the stage, with those Hampshire Hillbillies The Devils Damned String Band. These guys are a sort of local supergroup brought to you from other bands with the likes of Doghouse Boat Boys, Catballou and previous Wonky Donk favourites Catratchers. Their acoustic sound brings together a mix of American Folk and Bluegrass styles to create a highly infectious set full of toe-tapping highlights.

The Devils Damned String Band
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As the sun starts to go down behind the Lytchett Matravers rolling hills it provides a welcome respite from the searing heat of the day. The main arena starts to get much fuller and when Sixteen String Jack take to the stage they have an excited audience in front of them ready to dance. This popular three-piece featuring Andy on Mandolin (Formerly of The Jack Ratts & Milk Machine) bring an endless supply of great tunes including a folked-up version of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and an unbelievable version of the Faithless classic “Insomnia”. The band get the crowd in sing-a-long mode with “Minnie the Moocher”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and a storming version of “Whiskey in the Jar”. Their set made things much easier for the next band The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show to continue with this up-tempo momentum.

Sixteen String Jack
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This huge seven-piece band bring a host of influences from all over the place and are beginning to make quite a name for themselves with some notable Festival performances this summer. You can just tell from the first number that these guys (and girl) are really up for it tonight, they are oozing an infectious excitement that radiates right out into the audience. They perform familiar tunes from the band’s debut album like the earworm “I Read Magazines” and “Tick Tock” as well as introducing us to some great new material. The new material comes in the form of the lyrically generous “Floats Your Boat” which shows the band’s continued eclectic evolution. Here tonight this band have possibly played one of their best gigs to date and have thoroughly thrilled the audience with an abundance of energy along with a supply of great, well-constructed tunes.

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show
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The last band on the main stage have travelled all the way from Bristol to be here. The Railway Sleepers who are a five-piece make their debut here at Wonkyville tonight. They describe themselves as “pickled swing” which is a complex mix of a multitude of influences with bits of Gypsy, Balkan, Punk, Swing, Folk and Blues and a whole lot more besides. Their energy knows no bounds with frontman Tom Holder and violinist Calum Smith using up mountains of calories as they leap around the stage. I know now how Calum manages to get in to those rather striking tight striped jeans. They play on into the night and keep all the festival revellers dancing right up until midnight, with a sterling show full of Bristolian musical magic.

The Railway Sleepers
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Though it’s past midnight things don’t stop now….oh no!! Those with the energy and pace to keep going have some more acoustic goodness in the bar from Devils Damned String Band to keep them going into the wee small hours….this old timer is going to call it a day as I’m feeling absolutely shattered after such a great day of music. As my Dad always used to say “There is always another day tomorrow”…….so night night from me and see you in the morning.

Videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNqcPg3Pg-Y
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABumJuYD7Vo&t=21s

Day 2
It looks like we all survived Friday 13th unscathed and Wonkyville is once again blessed with lots of unlimited sunshine. The afternoon’s entertainment starts with the ever smiling (Honest) Pete Read, a gentlemen who wholeheartedly supports our flourishing local music scene and clearly loves watching as much as he does playing. Pete uses his acoustic guitar as a weapon of peace and helps the weary shake off their slumber and blows away any lingering hangovers. Next up are the delightful band Stanford Road featuring husband and wife Terri & Rachel. These two have been through plenty of difficult challenges in the recent months and to see these two lovingly smiling up on stage with their band is completely wonderful. I have always been a fan of these guys since they first formed, as they write honest down to earth lyrics and really beautiful heart-warming songs. Together with their band; featuring for the first time ‘Cherry’ on drums and Matt Street on bass, they thoroughly entertain with tunes like originals ‘So Wrong’, ‘Feathers & Stones’ and a few covers including an audience favourite sing-a-long with ‘Jolene’.

Last year Essex based singer/songwriter Little Earl (Elliott Paterson) made his debut here and it is great to see him back once again, clearly by popular demand. With his three-piece band featuring members of ‘Nano’ Elliott delivers a great set full of highlights. The band beautifully combine electric and acoustic guitars with spot-on rhythms to create some crowd-pleasing music. We are treated to a great Nirvana(esque)-inspired tune called “Black Wave”, as well as a reworking of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love”.

Little Earl
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Next the crowd in front of the stage balloons as the ever popular Quinns Quinney arrive for their earliest slot of this festival ever. These guys don’t normally even get up this early! This skiffle disarrangement septet have a unique quality to take popular songs and stamp all over them adding hilarious lyrics of their own. They use a host of strings, drums and a small green watering can to create a sound like no other band. You cannot help but join to dance to their infectious tunes like Backstreet Boys “Everybody” which is mixed with the “Oompa Loompa Song” from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and there is a reworking of Britney Spears “Toxic”. My only gripe is that they perform no new material as most of these tunes have been heard in the fields many times before. It would be great if these talented guys (and Girl) could bring us some new clever reworking’s. They earn themselves an encore and return with a piece from the mystic east in the form of “Arabian Knights” from the Aladdin movie.

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After his appearance yesterday in Dr. Beatroots Bluegrass Band, the biggest smile in Dorset returns with Steve Perry’s Citizen Perez band. These guys have their version of Bez (From the Happy Mondays) in the form of Steve’s young daughter Molly, who positions herself in front of the stage to enthusiastically dance throughout her Dad’s set. The band effortlessly entertain with a host of original tunes including the appropriately titled “Little People”.

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One man band Mark “Pork Chop” Nolan is next with his foot-stomping rhythms; created with a Cajon adapted with a foot pedal, stomp box and foot tambourine – coupled with expertly played clawhammer banjo, along with some blues harmonica. Mark gives us a good mix of original compositions along with old-time tunes, a perfect accompaniment to sipping cider in the sunshine.

Mark Pork Chop Nolan
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All the way from Bilbao in Spain the Mud Candies make their Wonky Donk debut and bring a whirlwind of energy along with feelgood vibes with their infectious music. The four-piece feature Xandra (Vocals/Ukelele), Guillermo (Guitar/Vocals), Victor on double bass and Ioigo on drums. Xandra’s vocals beautifully radiate across the arena and soon their foot-stomping tunes have much of the audience up dancing to songs like “Ekaitz” where the band are joined by Goiatz Dutto of Moonshine Wagon. A great debut and the crowd give the band plenty of positive applause as they leave the stage.

Mud Candies

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The music continues with Hampshire’s Hometown Show who since last year’s performance has been hard at work in the studio writing new material. This is delivered in the form of new single “Texas is the Reason” which is a tune all about hitching from Tennessee to Texas to see the one you love (Ahhh!!). It features some beautifully skilful harmonica work from Trevor Thwaites, along with a lovely vocal combination from Matthew Harrison and Amy Louise Sladden with Joshua Hibberd holding things together with the bass. The quartet performs a good mix of originals along with a few covers to keep the Wonkers more than happy.

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The Jimmy Hillbillies are a band that needs no introduction in these parts, they have since their first appearance at the Wonky Donk Festival gone on to perform at a host of festivals far and wide bringing their wacky songs and foot-tapping extravaganza to the masses. They are not content like most bands to stand on the stage; they want the audience to get involved, with singers Jo Egan and Harry Cotbeans climbing off the stage and performing amongst the audience. Their tunes are wholeheartedly stolen from other artists and Harry pens some of his own more appropriate and sometimes hilarious lyrics which really work…..You can just see as the band are performing, peoples minds ticking over saying “I know this song, but the lyrics are different”. The set highlight is undoubtedly “The Chicken Train” where the audience forms a long conga train and takes it all around the Wonky Donk area. Long live The Jimmy Hillbillies…who most probably get voted band of the day by many…..for their fantastic performance.

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One of the best performances of last year’s festival came from Portsmouth boys Shoot The Duke whose set was suddenly put in jeopardy this year when drummer Rob Whale fell off the stage and sprained his ankle. With Josh’s leg virtually out of action, it was thought the band might have to cancel? Oh no, Rob was having none of it; if the Def Leppard drummer can play with one arm then Rob can play with one leg…..With some modifications to the drum kit and some strong painkillers, Rob was ready to perform. A big crowd gathered in front of the band and they set to work to entertain. I do love this band so much, they have an incredible amount of talent and the guys are so modest too. The set is filled with lots of wonderful electric guitar effects; combined with full-on funky basslines, with some inspirational varied drumming coupled with Tom’s spot-on vocals and harmonica. The set is just four lads having great fun with original songs, only mixed together with plenty of jamming; all in all a wonderful noise that gets better and better each time you see them.

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The great Johnny Cash was a huge influence on the vast majority of the artists that have played here and his spirit manifests itself deeply into a lot of modern music. Bournemouth’s first class tribute Cash Converted keep his music alive by bringing an authentic take of his tunes to music venues and festivals like this. Frontman Mark Carter, a railwayman for more years than he cares to admit has the “clickerty clack” of the music embedded into his soul and carries off the role of the main man perfectly. The band recreate iconic sound so well with famous tunes like “I Walk The Line”, “Ring Of Fire”, “Ghost Riders In The Sky” and “We Got Married In A Fever”; a duet with the velvet tones of Bethan Shergold as “June Carter Cash”. They are always a popular act here and get invited back year after year after putting in some great live performances, with tonight being no different.

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Mick O’Toole the band from Wiltshire, not the man are up next with their interesting mix of Metal, Punk and Folk. They are full of energy giving the crowd plenty of reasons to get up and dance, with their infectious fast-paced tunes including “Still in Cider” and “A Traitor Born” featuring some epic mandolin work. They really get the crowd singing at the tops of their voices with a great version of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town”, a great debut for them here.

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The penultimate band of the evening are Moonshine Wagon a bearded European foursome who after last yearís debut performance return by popular demand; they came, they made friends and lots of beautiful music which really suited everyone’s tastes. This year they take the stage with high confidence and a legion of new fans, ready and willing to hear their brand of fearsome bluegrass mixed with large amounts of punk attitude. The band feature Goiatz Dutto (Cigar box fiddle, Vocals), Will Santib·Oez (Guitar, Vocals), VÌctor Martin (Double Bass) and Ioigo Elexpuru (Stand up drumming) and they all have plenty of musical talent in abundance. They keep the crowd totally satisfied with tunes like “Everybody Lies”, the epic stomp “Gipsycho” and “Baby What You Want Me to Do” where they are joined by Xandra from Mud Candies on vocals. They try and leave the stage but are openly encouraged to return for just one more. They deliver this in the form of “Porca Miseria”, the title track of their album which is sung in a mix of Portuguese, Italian and Basque.

Moonshine Wagon
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The final band on the main stage this evening is Dana Immanuel & The Stolen Band, a five-piece Alt/Americana band who are certainly no strangers to the festival circuit and certainly know how to please any festival crowd. The band fronted by Dana (Guitar/Banjo) feature Feadora Morris (Guitar), Hjordis Badford (Cajon) and Karen Regester (Double bass) who were all stolen from other bands, hence the name. They have a real chemistry about them and perform with some impressive musicianship, delivering a vast majority of styles. There are delicately sung harmonies with some expertly plucked stringwork played over solid infectious toe-tapping rhythms with songs like “John Wayne” and “Rock Bottom” during their absorbing one hour set.

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As with last night the amplified music now stops and we move into the bar for some unplugged with the Mud Candies which goes on well into the early hours, keeping the late night revellers entertained. Well that’s it for the 2018 Wonky Donk review, it has been an absolute blast and I’d like to thank Hawkeye Hoolihan and his team for their amazing continued hospitality as well as all the artists who played…….See you all back here, same time same place in 2019!!

Videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pXqVOge3Ic
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrF1CIqrV5s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI-Bw8Ovk4A
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNO4FHlYzww
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsCTOJ2dO1A&t=12s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89tQfkUnFsU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02DzlCz2aWM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfEFDtAofBY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tl8uQJphTk

Links
https://www.facebook.com/wonkyville
http://www.rusticstomp.co.uk

Words, Pictures & Videos by Dave Chinery (Chinners)

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