Cerne Abbas Brewery

After yesterday’s musical shenanigans, and plenty of my favourite tipple the Ginger Cider, we are back for the second day; thankfully I have no hangover and as I’m driving home later, it’s soft drinks all the way for me today. (That’s not so easy in a Brewery such as this). Looking at today’s itinerary we have three stages of eclectic acts that should keep us busy until around midnight. As we arrive the fitting sounds of The Devils Damned String Band are floating across the courtyard.

The Devils Damned String Band
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These guys have played the festival circuit for a while and with their banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and double bass they create some wonderfully suitable Country and Bluegrass sounds. Next up is Salisbury’s best known musical export Colin Holton and backstage a rider of Gregg’s sausage rolls, a tank of oxygen & intravenous Sanatogen have been readied as two of his bands are due to play a set today.

The first of these is Punk covers quartet Punkture. The clue’s in the name as to what to expect and we get a whole mix of 90’s classic Dance/Hardcore hits…..well not really!! If fact it’s a host of well delivered Punk covers including tracks by The Stranglers, The Damned and Stiff Little Fingers. These 4 mature(ish) blokes seem to be having the time of their lives, reliving their youth playing the songs they love. Much of the audience of a certain age are having a particularly good time too.

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Over on the acoustic stage, where a host of comfy seating can be found; it’s time for Welsh singer/songwriter Gavin Rees aka Oxbowlake. He is here this weekend with his partner Jess Marie, who is due to perform on this stage later on this evening. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, I bet they even travelled in the same car to get here.

What is it about the Welsh, their voices are sublime and Gavin provides some fine entertainment. Tracks like “Louis Theroux” about watching Television and a really catchy tune called “Safe as Houses”… like a Welsh Gaz Brookfield!! Even Jess Marie gets up on stage and joins him for a number too.

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While all this is happening the rooting tooting large Stetson wearing Some Dogs have got themselves set up on the 2nd stage. As today is dress up day, much of the audience have joined in with some wonderful cowboys and Indians costumes. With large amounts of comedy banter the 5-piece band play plenty of fiddle driven covers including a trucking, Yorkie eating version of “Convoy”, a frantic version of “Jolene”and rip-roaring cover of Dropkick Murphy’s “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”.

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While this was all happening a cowboy arrives on the scene (and for some reason accompanied by a six foot penis) wearing a hat about 10 times the size of frontman Mick’s. There ensues a hilarious “hat off” and there can be only one winner, clearly one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. Also a big shout out to Nik Peckham, one of the most animated bassists of the weekend.

Next up are Pronghorn but not as you know it. So bassist Aussie Mike has sadly departed for a sunnier climate and has been replaced with former Bamboo Vipers/Sunny Jim Cyanides’ Alex. Fiddle players Gypsy Joe and Ffi are unavailable this weekend so Richard “Titch” Roberts from Black Sheep/Two Man Travelling Medicine Show and Simon Cohen from “Some Dogs” (these two guys have also never met before) join Lamma Maund, Jonny Bruce and Steve Gunn in this unique line-up of the band.

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The set is quite edgy and due to lack of rehearsal, the fiddle players work it out as they go along and for someone who has seen Pronghorn 100’s of times this is really interesting to see. No-one stops this Pronghorn train rolling and the band present a crowd pleasing set full of highlights. The “Boscum Stamp”, “Shady Grove”, “Psycho Ceilidh”, “Pay Me What You Owe Me” and a rip roaring version of Lemmy’s “Ace Of Spades”; definitely one for the history books.

After all that excitement it’s back to the acoustic stage for a sit down and a chin wag with this weekends host and top bloke Grant Sharkey. Also to catch The Wanderbird aka Jason Thompson, this afternoons late Summer sunshine creates just the right mood to listen to this wondrous American troubadour who commands attention with his folk storytelling and enchanting songwriting. Thankfully for now there are no other bands on the other stages and you can hear Jason’s warm vocal tones spiritedly uplifting all of us in front of this stage.

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There may be fifty or so of us but the shared experience of listening to this set is one of the sublime moments of this weekend. Towards the end of his set The Wessex Pistols start up on the main stage and it’s hard not to enjoy the set as much as I did. Yesterday he performed a set at the Hinton Martell Church in Wimborne and on this showing I so wish I could have been there as the acoustics would have accentuated his sublime voice.

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The Wessex Pistols are a party band with a distinct twist, they take other people’s songs and change them with unique cleverly thought out, funny lyrics. The band are like a live 7-piece Wurlitzer jukebox with acoustic guitar, banjo, double bass, sax, trumpet and a outlandish stand-up drummer really push along this afternoon’s momentum with plenty of energy. “Teenage Kicks”, “Walk Like an Egyptian”, “Highway To Hell”, “You Spin Me Round Like a Record”, “Creep”, and a skanked up version of The Cranberries “Zombie” all show off the supreme skills of this top class act.

Dorchester’s Cee Luna provide an original musical masterclass with a whole batch of futuristic, progressive landscapes made from some unique guitar sounds, creative keys and pulsating rhythmic accompaniment. The underpinning of the band comes from Jamie Parker (Guitar) & Jack Ansell (bass). These guys have also been working all weekend as sound technicians on the two smaller stages and are doing a fantastic job.

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You can also catch the two of them in a host of other bands including Vanilla Radio; Ansell & Gretel and Masau’u, a couple of really talented musicians and whole-hearted supporters of the local music scene. Due to over socialising and not paying attention to what was going on, I actually missed one band “RoadKill Drive Thru”. Having said that it isn’t bad going as they are only the 2nd act of the weekend that I have missed.

When Grant Sharkey was born the mould was broken and disposed of; this distinctive unrepeated individual is known for his characteristic, opinionated songs which will divide his audiences. Taking to the acoustic stage with a double bass that is actually taller than him, he delivers an engaging set.

Grant Sharkey
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With songs like “Genitals” that has a filthy bass line and is about Donald Trump banning transgender people from the US military, “Funk For You Junk” and a song about the first Tory called “I am an Animal”; Grant has the crowd all on his side with a host of laughs and plenty of generous applause before next act “Jack Valero” arrive on the main stage and makes it difficult sound-wise to proceed. Let’s hope the organisers plan things next year so there are no stage clashes so the music played does not affect each other.

Jack Valero is already playing as I saunter over to the barn and he, along with his 4-piece band are showing us the indie/Pop styles. Jack looks a little like The Enemy’s Tom Clarke, but someone in the know whispers in my ear to say that Jack is actually the son of local activist and singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. Jack certainly has inherited some of his Father’s confidence in front of an audience and shows off plenty of potential with a collection of original material along with a couple of covers.

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The lady with the Punk heart, Dorset’s Shannon White joins us next on the acoustic stage and her reputation has preceded her as quite a crowd has gathered to watch her perform. It warms my heart and others around me that Shannon’s influences are taken well before her time and she clearly has made it her duty to be spreading the word seriously. With a powerful edgy vocal she shows some clever lyrical prowess with great tracks like “Days Go By” and the brilliant “Lost Generation”.

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Like a Frank Turner with the spirit of Patti Smith, this young artist has loads to offer. A couple of covers in the form of “Iron shirt” and one of Strummer/Jones finest “Bank Robber” leave the crowd wanting more……this gem of the local music scene really needs to be on the main stage next year (and I’d love to see her with a band and an electric guitar…just saying!!).

After a lie down and a strong cup of tea and three sugars, that man Colin Holton is back on stage and this time it’s with his band Lump; the so called saviours of sausage rolls and pioneers of Mongrel Rock. These guys sing and write songs about their home town of Salisbury, unlike the covers that they play in “Punkture”.

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As lyricists they are clever and make some fun observations with their entertaining songs. Their world famous song called “Greggs” inspired by the novichock scandal, should have got to number one in the charts. The band were once offered a sponsorship deal with Greggs but the take-away pastry outfit could not keep up with the bands high demands of their favourite tasty treats! The audience are bestowed with Rock/Punk influenced songs including a track called “Barry Tompkins” about a Wilshire wrong un’and “Edge of Reason” about some scandal with Salisbury council.

It’s always fun to have these guys along for the ride, they always provide some great entertainment with their tongues firmly in cheeks, sporting some fine Hawaiian shirts. Shouts from the audience for Colin Holton to be Mayor Of Salisbury have been noted by the only local council member in attendance.

Next up are the finest dressed quartet of the weekend Block 33, who would seem more at home at a Scooter Rally than in a farm shed. These guys are a Mod Revival band who are quintessentially British with an instantly recognisable sound made up of certain influences from the 1960’s to the modern day. The Barnstomper crowd instantly warm to them, revelling in their nostalgic tracks like the powerful “Eye of The Hurricane”, hard hitting “Beaten” and the enchanting “The Girl in the Yellow Jackie Dress”.

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These guys are rigidly tight and produce some wondrous creative guitar sounds with infectious rhythms, along with top notch vocals. They are certainly one of the highlights of the weekend and definitely a band that will be worth seeking out in the future.

Next up on the second stage is Darryl Twitch Rushby who entertains the crowd with a set full of acoustic covers. I mean no disrespect to him, but it’s a bone of contention with me that this slot could have been better filled with a suitable original artist or band. We can go and see a covers artist any night of the week in local pubs and slots like this should be open to original artists trying to get their break…..rant over and one of my very few moans of this weekend.

Daryl Twitch Rushby
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Ahh yes, we saw Gavin Rees aka Oxbowlake earlier and now it’s time for his better half Jess Marie to take her turn as tonight’s headliner of the acoustic stage. Jess says this is just a 14th gig performing in front of people and though initially she seems a bit shy, within moments of starting she settles herself and gets on with her set. With the benefit of her fine voice and her four string ukulele, she charms the audience with her modest talent.

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There is a great song called “Five Foot Two” that every short person will understand; about standing at a gig behind a very tall person who blocks your view and another beautiful number called “Bull & the Butterfly”, which is the first song she ever wrote. Jess is somewhat overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and the positive reaction from everyone and takes a selfie with the audience stating, “My Mum’s not going to believe this”.

Now I’ve been looking forward to seeing the next band; now as some regular readers will know I am quite partial to a bit of Goth/Rock, I’ve followed bands like The Mission, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, and Fields Of The Nephilim since I was a teenager. Three piece Diamond Black are right up my street and feature Sisters of Mercy guitarist Ben Christo with Adam Lightspeed on bass and Jan-Vincent Velazco on drums. With their big sound of atmospheric electronica and stirring melodic guitars with melancholic darkness, they don’t disappoint.

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Ben whips up the crowd with some majestic material including the powerful “Through The Misery”, “Dark Anthems” with its industrial leanings and final number “Sorrow”. I’m not sure a barn is quite the fitting place for a Goth band to play, however the sound was spot on and their set was thoroughly entertaining.

The penultimate band of the evening are The Kut, a band that have recently achieved a Number One album in the UK Rock Albums Chart with their 2nd long-player “Grit”. The four piece band fronted by “Princess Maha” are on a mission and the sizeable crowd in front of them seem to have them fired up. The warm late Summer September air seems the perfect way to enjoy their energetic Punk inspired tunes. Maha and Jake on electric guitars form a formidable partnership; coupled with their impressive rhythm section. The now rowdy audience are whipped up with the 2017 song “I Don’t Need Therapy”, “Not Here For Love” and the band’s recent single the powerful “Runaway”.

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Part way through there is a power outage and the band improvise and get the crowd singing to “Seven Nation Army”, the power thankfully soon returns. “Animo” which translates from Latin to mind/spirit/encouragement is dedicated to women everywhere and the courage that they bring to the world. Several members of the audience are invited up on to the stage and dance enthusiastically with the band. At this point I have a confession to make, Maha wanted a picture of the band taken and as our photographer had gone home, I offered to take the snap.

As I climbed onto the stage my big size twelve boot ripped out Maha’s clearly visible pink guitar lead, breaking off the plug on the end. Maha was as gracious as ever and another one was found quickly to finish the band’s last number (Maha I do sincerely apologise, I’m a clumsy fool; I should have known better, I sometimes work as a stage manager!).

Their set ends the music on the 2nd stage and there are a mass of people who want to congratulate the band on one of the best sets of the weekend…. especially Pronghorn drummer Jon Bruce who couldn’t stop smiling, he loved every minute.

Here we are at the final band of the weekend, along with our final band of the outdoor festival season and wow it has gone way too fast. Traditional Barnstomper headliners Black Water County are on the eve of releasing their third album “The Only Life Worth Living”. I think most of us have the anticipation tonight of possibly hearing a few unheard gems from the album ahead of its release. Shan, Tim, Brad, Gav and Ollie are introduced by Grant and arrive on stage to the most enthusiastic and noisiest welcome of this weekend.

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The barn is packed and as the band kick off, their infectious tone gets most of the crowd moving. The band have now been around for over 10 years and are gradually ticking off all their musical ambitions, though each of them remain humble and appreciative of all of the support they get. “No Regrets”, “Living and Giving”, and “Mistakes” with their Punk-infused/Folk are despatched early on, creating a mass of rowdy cider-fuelled people dancing at the front. The new songs arrive in the form of the album title track, recent single “The Only Life Worth Living”, and a “A Cruel State of Mind”. The latter features some glittering mandolin from Gav, along with some fine vocal harmonies and some thought provoking lyrics.

The big hitters are saved until last with the ruckus “One More Beer” and “Under Skies of Black & Blue”/“Runaway” to keep the momentum high until the end. The crowd chant “Oh Black Water Country” over and over showing their appreciation for the fine set and I’m sure we wish the band all the best on their forthcoming release.

What a fantastic 48 hours in the company of some amazing musicians and some of the friendliest, most hospitable people. Thank You to Brad, Lamma, Guyer and your team for your organising skills, Big shout out to Jamie, Jack and Steve for their sound engineering skills. Next year’s dates have already been announced for 30th/31st August… I’ll see you all again then.


More Videos from Barnstomper Festival can be found on our YouTube Channel here.


Words & Media By David Chinery (Chinners)
Photography by Matthew Rayner
Additional Material by Tim “I Smoke A Pipe” Heywood

Black Water County