Halls Farm, Lytchett Matravers

Wonky Donk 2017

Here we all are again in the lovely rural location of Halls Farm in Lytchett Matravers, just outside of Poole in Dorset for the Wonky Donk Festival. The festival now in its 6th year celebrates the talents of artists spread across the wide spectrum of the “Roots Revival” movement. The festival features two stages with a carefully picked line-up of acts spread over two days. It kicks off with the sun shining on this laid back Friday afternoon and with the 6% Cranbourne Chase cider along with the tasty Strawberry/Lime cider at just £4 a pint, it’s best to take things steadily as you would not want to peak too soon and miss all the fun! The first act to take to the stage is a young duo from Wareham called the “Inner City Smugglers” who ease us in gently with a collection of covers played on an acoustic guitar, accompanied with a pedal drum and saxophone. Their voices work well together and they do a pretty good job of opening the weekend.

Inner City Smugglers
Inner City Smugglers 

Next up all the way from Essex we have Elliott Paterson aka “Little Earl”; who with his electric guitarist really entertain with a delightful set full of lovely harmonic vocals, culminating with a fantastic reworked cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. The positive Summer festival vibe arrives on the stage next with “Mischa and his Merry Men” who despite lots of technical problems pull out all the stops to entertain the crowd. The eight piece includes keyboards, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin and bass with electric and acoustic guitars. Together with the band’s solid chemistry; they create some thought-provoking tunes from their debut album “The Art of Word play”, including the excellent “Band’s that Saved My Life”. They end their set with a great new tune called “Trans-Orbital Lobotomy”, written about lazy people who are not willing to make sacrifices to save our beautiful planet. It’s a slightly rockier tune with a very infectious vibe that gets this crowd moving. As soon as the applause has died down after Mischa and his Merry Men have left the stage, Bournemouth’s “Harpin’ On” are really to roll.

Little Earl
Little Earl 1234
Harpin' On
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Harpin’ On are a 4-piece that have their roots in 50’s Rock n’ Roll, Blues and the “swamp sounds of Louisiana”. The band have an incredibly visual frontman in ‘”Little Dave” who; with his 50’s-style fashion, Elvis-like quiff and dark shades plays some incredible vintage harmonica that really hits the spot. The four-piece band takes us through a selection of mainly original material including tunes from their first two albums. The infectious rhythms soon have the Wonky Donk crowd up on their feet and dancing. From Portsmouth up next are “Hometown Show”, a four-piece who create an authentic Americana Bluegrass sound with traditional instruments. Tonight the audience are given what I would call a pub set featuring a whole host of covers including “The Joker”, “Honky Tonk Woman” and the rather tired sounding “Folsom Prison Blues”. These guys are really talented musicians and I’m sure this well-educated crowd would have really appreciated hearing some of their original material.

Hometown Show
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The penultimate band on the main stage this evening is the return of the ever popular “Johnny Boxcars” who have played this stage a few times before and always impress everybody they play in front of. The focus is on frontman John McCurry, who with his supreme guitar skills and uniquely powerful voice serenades the stirred crowd. John switches between electric and acoustic guitars delivering tunes like the “Noisy Thief” and a cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”, which all have a distinct blues feel to them. The best is saved until last with some lovely slide on an excellent original tune called “Sky Burned Red”. The band leave the stage to massive appreciation from the delighted crowd, shouts of “more” are sadly ignored as the next band are set up and ready to go.

Johnny Boxcars
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The final band of the evening are a band that have been hastily put together to headline the show as The Freeborn Brothers sadly had to pull out. The band have been named “The Cunning Stunts” and feature Ged Putt on guitar (Catratchers/Lady Winwoods Maggot), Bryan Andrews on double Bass (Devils Damned String Band/Catratchers/The Ace Trio), Curtis Allen on drums (Catratchers) and Little Dave (Harpin’ On/Jelly Roll). Despite never ever playing together as a band before they really pull it off with a set full of covers that are rather well put together. The audience is treated to “Great Balls of Fire”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Strawberry Wine” and a great version of “Rumble in Brighton” by the Stray Cats. You have got to hand it to those chaps, being brave enough to get up on stage unrehearsed and deliver a set as impressive as that.

Cunning Stunts
Cunning Stunts 12345678

At the stroke of midnight, the amplified music has to stop, but that does not mean the party has to end. There is the small matter of “The Lord of Wonky Manor” Hawkeye Houlihan’s band “Milk Machine” to play their last gig. The party goes on into the wee small hours and they certainly bow out with some style. Many stay partying until the sun comes up; but the Rock Regeneration team exit to our beds as tomorrow is a very long day, starting at 12:30pm sharp with “Honest Pete Read”.

Wonky Donkers…

Wonky Donkers
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Words & Videos by David Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Jon Musselwhite.

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