Charisworth Farm, Blandford Forum

Teddy Rocks 2018

4th-6th May 2018

In the words of festival founder Tom Newton “Let’s put a gig on at the pub” was how it all started back in 2011 to raise money for a children’s cancer charity. “Teddy20” was founded by Tom and his family after they tragically lost Tom’s brother Ted to a rare bone cancer. The Newton family were inspired by their heart- breaking loss; forming a charity, and the Teddy Rocks Festival was born at The Greyhound Pub in Blandford. Since then the Festival has just grown and grown with each years line-up is getting more adventurous. In 2017 the festival moved for its second time to a new larger location at Charisworth Farm Blandford Forum, where the acres for green space could more than accommodate the aspiring dreams of pushing this festival forward.

Day 1
To be honest the first outdoor festival of the season is always a bit risky as you never know how the weather is going to treat you, what with the “beast from the east” and all the strange weather the UK has been having of late. The weekend arrived and you could not have asked for a better forecast with sunshine predicted for the whole festival and unusually high temperatures for the time of year. Things kicked off on Friday evening with a choice of three stages, all offering something completely different. The Greyhound Stage offered a host of tribute bands including Stereoironics, Blur’d and the Foo Forgers. While the vocalzone stage featured some top alternative action with local grungers Deltores, as well as Press to Meco and the mighty MC Lars all the way from the USA.

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The fourth woodland stage was set amongst some lovely sheltered woodland and here the red-haired urban hippy Jonny Phillips kicked off the evening’s entertainment with a fine acoustic set, featuring songs from his debut solo ep. Following this was “Ringwood Unplugged” founder Kez Hinton who soothed with some great six-string action while audience members supped local cider and specially made festival cocktails.

Day 2
Saturday morning arrives and as predicted we are blessed with beautiful bright sunshine and a huge choice of live music. Today the festival opens its huge main stage making it four stages in total. The 4G connection out here is great and you can easily tap into the Teddy Rocks website to find out who’s on when, or purchase a lanyard for a modest fee to get a list. I head to the Greyhound stage first and find Bournemouth’s Endea in full flow, belting out their melodic metal and unveiling the new drummer Nick Calammity Scott who seems to fit in perfectly. Go Primitive are sadly playing their final ever gig on the main stage while Home Wrecked turn the volume up to 11 on the Vocalzone stage creating the first mosh pits of the day. South Wales alternative rock band Dream State put in a fine shift on the main stage with a set full of highlights, vocalist CJ’s voice impresses on tunes like “White Lies” and the uplifting “Rebuild, Recreate”. The first new band to really catch my eye are Dubliners Bitch Falcon whose explosive performance shakes the very foundations of this farm.

The three-piece mix grunge and metal with bits of 70’s Irish rock heritage to bring a huge sound, featuring the talented Lizzie Fitzpatrick on guitar with some epic ground-shaking rhythms from Nigel Kenny and Barry O’Sullivan. They are raw, unnerving and deliver a fresh slice of powerful hard-hitting rock which is like a proverbial punch to the face.

Over in the tranquillity of the woodland acoustic stage, it was a good chance to take some welcome shade from the powerful sun. Dave Griffiths and his sidekick Richard Gawler entertain with a host of great original tunes, while the talented Polly Morris mixes comedy with music with some hilarious and clever lyrical content. Bournemouth’s Tim Somerfield the “Afro Ninja” shows us his skills with the loop pedal while performing some layered original tunes including “I Need Your Love More Than I Ever Had” and the beautiful “Colourblind”, as well as a fine reworked version of Justin Timebrlake’s “Cry Me a River”.

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Glasgow’s The Lafontaines” bring some Glasgow humour to the main stage with frontman Kerr Okan not really sure what county he is in. Once this is established the word Dorset is inserted after every song; “Thank You Dorset”! The band have an original sound mixing infectious beats and loops with traditional guitars, coupled with Kerr’s clever vocal delivery. The band are mostly well received by the chilled out afternoon crowd; but Kerr wants more of a reaction so he jumps down off the stage, sits down on a picnic blanket and then dances with many audience members including a rather stunned baby. Next I’m off to the woodland stage to catch one of my festival favourites the unforgettable Plastic Jeezus who have a very clever knack of drawing you in with their infectious tunes and clever lyrical delivery. A wave of new songs including “Confessions of a Petty Criminal” and the hilarious multiple choice love song “Delete as Appropriate” are followed by a reworked cover of The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”, not forgetting the customary version of the brilliant “Mantrap” where honestly things are turned around as the mice trap a man….(well you get that by the title surely ? ). Christchurch band Sirpico draw a big crowd to the Greyhound stage and proceed to entertain in a big way with a great batch of new material, including a tune about Terminator 2 actress “Jamie Lee” and a big piano-led tune called “Monster” where singer Al really exercises his considerable vocal chords.

Next up on the same stage is Lunas (Luna Wilson) who with her band really stun the crowd with some excellently delivered vocals on original tunes like “Black River” and “Don’t Use My Body”. We are also treated to a couple of covers including a slowed down, considerably reworked version of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and a spine-tingling version of Chris Isaacís “Wicked Game”. Luna has surrounded herself with some fantastic musicians and backing singers who really compliment her voice, making for a really enjoyable set. After a quick stop for a tasty homemade burrito at one of the many food stalls it is back to the relentless live music

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As the evening starts to draw in I introduce myself to a new band to me. “Eliza and the Bear” a four-piece band from London who bring bright anthemic tunes to the main stage. They seem really popular with the Teddy Rocks audience and draw the biggest crowd of the festival so far. You cannot help to be drawn along by their infectious guitar-led tunes including “Light it Up” and the emotive “Friends” which gets lots of us joining lead vocalist James Kellegher on the really hook-laden chorus. Mallory Knox follow and once again the crowd numbers swells for this popular band who recently have undergone some major changes to their personel. Vocalist Mikey Chapman recently left the band and bassist Sam Douglas bravely took over the vacancy. The band continue as they always have with a powerful delivery of some great tunes including “Lighthouse” from their debut album, as well as a tune potentially dedicated to their former lead singer “Better off Without You” and from this show they certainly seem to be.

Over at the Greyhound Stage the tent is absolutely rammed for Blinked 182 a tribute band who warm up by performing “Green Day” songs. Kicking off their set the band have the crowd singing every lyric back at them to tunes like “What’s My Age Again” and of course “All The Small Things”. However I cannot stay long as I have the pleasure of seeing the legendary band “Feeder” play in Blandford for the first time ever……I bet if I told Tom Newton this back in 2011 he would not have believed me, but yes they are indeed here and open with “Feeling a Moment” which has the opening notes ringing around the whole of the festival site. Grant seems humbled and privileged to be playing for such a good cause and the band don’t need to give the crowd any encouragement to get involved. Classic tunes like “Lost and Found”, “Just the Way I’m Feeling” alongside newer tunes like “Eskimo” sound just fantastic in this setting. Just before the encore Tom Newton comes on stage to deliver the news that to date the festival has raised just under £53,000, which gets an amazing warm reaction from the crowd. Finally Feeder return and end the evening on a high with the epic “Seven Days in the Sun” and “Just a Day” which features awesome pyrotechnics, confetti cannons and fireworks. The band leave the stage after a memorable 18 song strong set with mass amounts of appreciation from the excited crowd.

Teddy Rocks 2018

Day 3
This festival is run by an army of volunteers who give up their time to do anything asked of them from litter picking, stagehands, security, promotion and a host of other numerous jobs. These unsung heroes need a huge shout out as this festival simply would not function without them and as you walk around the site each one of them shows the same infectious enthusiasm for the cause as the next person. The final day dawns with more of the continuous sunshine as predicted and the first band to kick off on the main stage is Brighton’s Hightown Parade. These guys/gal seem to be really relishing the chance to get up on a big stage as their music really suits it. Frontman, the ingenious extrovert Chris Payn injects some real energy into proceedings and delivers some spot-on vocals to his big tunes that atmospherically float around the arena. Just back from a short European jaunt Bristol’s Weatherstate livens things up on the Vocalzone stage with a solid showing of some skilful twin-guitar work. Waiting For Earthquakes are quite possibly the youngest band of the weekend and over on the Greyhound Stage the four-piece of Megan (Guitar/Vocals), Freya (Bass/Vocals), Matt (Guitar) and Matthew (Drums) impress with some seriously good punk/pop inspired tunes.

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Dressed all in matching black and white shirts the Funeral Shakes dedicate the appropriate tune “Soap” to all those that have camped here this weekend. The band are made up of former members of Nervus, Gallows and the now sadly defunct The Smoking Hearts. They bring a hard-edged sound full of great influences on songs which include “Gold Teeth” and the infectious “Love Birds”. Six-piece alternative rock band True Height from the West Midlands is an outfit that certainly has masses of energy and their hyperactive frontman Zakk dashes around in 25-degree heat with ease delivering inspiring vocals. Along with synth and atmospheric electric guitars, the guys create a big original sound that pushes the very boundaries of rock. One of my favourite local artists DD Allen brings some serenity to the main stage with some Bob Dylan/Rory Gallagher inspired tunes that are just perfect to chill out with a cider and listen to on a sunny day such as this. There is a new song called “Devil and the Rising Sun” which features some awe-inspiring three-way guitar work, as well as some of Drew’s classic tunes including “Rebecca’s Curse” and “Just Like The Old Days”. The quirky duo “Bird Shoes” show that the colour yellow is still very much in fashion over on the Greyhound stage. Robin Clark (Vocals/Guitar) and James Gordelier (Drums) show their energetic back to basics style which whips up a minor storm with clever tunes such as “Nowhere”.

I saw The Bad Flowers at the Planet Rock Winter’s End Festival back in February and I am so looking forward to seeing them again. The three-piece band from the West Midlands are a band on the rise and are perfect for festivals such as this. They stroll out on stage in the afternoon sunshine and are given a great welcome by the Teddy Rocks crowd. With tunes like “Secrets”, “Be a Man” and the epic “Thunder Child” they play full-on no nonsense rock n’ roll. The band absolutely relish playing live and always seem to put their all into their performance which certainly will see them gracing some much larger stages this year. Local punk band The Mistakes are putting in a shift on the Greyhound Stage, seemingly warming up for their performance at the Rebellion Festival in August. This just shows the open-mindedness and diversity of this festival – one minute you are watching a rock band, the next you are leaping around to a punk band. The Mistakes bring their political motivated tunes including the powerful “Quitters Get Nothing” dedicated to the guitarist Shane’s daughter Evie-may with it’s brutal harsh and sometime angry delivery. This is also evident on one of their finest tunes “Self Control” which features a great guitar solo with masses of energy from all areas. “Punk on Your Hits” are up next and the band pull a huge crowd…featuring organiser Tom Newton on guitar they cleverly perform a host of well-known covers with a punk/pop twist. It is hard not to get dragged along with their boundless enthusiastic energy. A quick dash over to the Woodland stage and I catch Matt Underdown delivering some original, wholesome acoustic tunes including a brutally honest un-love song called “Lost on You” and a touching song called “Hero” dedicated to his newborn daughter.

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Dead! are a very reliable band who I have seen on a number occasions and each time all of them give nothing less than 100%. Their whole set on the Vocalzone stage is full of highlights and not once is there a dip in energy. The brothers Matlock provide the intense effect-loaded guitars while frontman Alex gives the audience the right amount of encouragement to get involved. There are songs about Kanye West and a tune about a girl called Jessica, as well as an epic tune called “You’re So Cheap” which for most would give them the band of the day award. Their continued work effort has to be commended and I can’t help but think after all this time why are they not playing bigger stages as they so deserve it. Essex boys InMe grace the main stage next and with such a huge back catalogue they have a huge task in deciding what to play. They have a genius decision to play one tune from each album to cram into the 30 minute slot. Playing their first gig with new drummer Tom Dalton, the band power through some atmospheric gems including “Ferocity in Desire”, “Reverie Shores” and the popular “Firefly” with the crowd singing the line “it’s all over now you killed Me” in beautiful unison. In stark contrast next up is “Spector” who today is a keyboard player short as he had to attend a wedding. The band were so determined not to cancel the show they encouraged the keyboard player to pre-record his parts so that the band could use them live on stage. Fred and the rest of the band worked around this minor hiccup and delivered a great set which featured “Decade Of Decay”, the brilliantly uplifting “Chevy Thunder” and final number the emotive “All The Sad Young Men”.

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The Magic Numbers are up next, a band that features two pairs of brothers/sisters Angela(Keys/Vocals) & Sean Gannan (Drums) as well as Michelle (bass) & Romeo (Guitar/Vocals) Gannon. The band’s soothing soulful harmonies create a great atmosphere against the backdrop of the sun setting over the festival site. The band play a handful of tracks from their new album “Outsiders” released this month, as well as popular tunes from their back catalogue. Next up are “Sonic Boom Six” who cause a whirlwind of excitement on the Vocalzone stage. They bring masses of energy and plenty of infectiously danceable tunes which soon get the whole of the audience moving. Fusing dance beats with Reggae, Ska and Rock the band generate a unique sound with lyrics that address social and political issues. Sampling Dexy’s Midnight Runners there is “Do What You Wanna Do” where vocalists Laila K and Barney Boom combine beautifully. There is also an uplifting anti-racist tune calling for unification called “Bitter kiss of Multiculture” which totally hits the mark with its music and message. For me they were certainly one of the bands of the day and gave everything a festival audience could have asked for. Tonight’s headliners are Northern lrish 1990’s legends “Ash” who themselves are about to release a brand new album called “Islands”. The three-piece featuring all original members Tim Wheeler (Vocals/Guitar), Mark Hamilton (Bass) and Rick McMurray (Drums) arrive on stage to a huge welcome. The band have the whole crowd on their side right from the start with tunes like “Goldfinger”, “Shining Light” and a slowed down cover of The Undertones “Teenage Kicks”. The undisputed highlight of their set was during “Burn Baby Burn” where 4 rows of pyrotechnics shot high into the air along with confetti, streamers and fireworks, creating a beautiful and memorable sight. This was the end of the night for some but for those that still had the energy to dance, The Decatonics rounded things off on the Greyhound stage with plenty of Ska classics.

Teddy Rocks 2018

The year the festival raised just shy of £84,000 and Tom Newton said “If somebody told me 7 years later we would have raised a combined total of over £250,000 for children fighting Cancer…. well god knows! It is very difficult to comprehend how far this festival has come in a few short years and the festival delivers in all areas offering something for everyone. It has now become a staple part of the festival season and as the work is being carried out taking everything apart; plans are already being made for 2019, where if everything goes to plan this festival could easily raise over £100,000 which certainly would be some achievement.



Words, Pictures & Videos by Dave Chinery (Chinners)

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