Somerfest, Maiden Bradley, 2011 (Or Long May Small Pub Festivals Continue…)

Somerfest 2011 Poster

After work last Friday, husband and I packed up and headed to Maiden Bradley, just on the Wiltshire side of the Somerset border. We arrived at The Somerset Arms at around 9 in the evening – not as early as we’d hoped, but still not too bad – and set up our tent.

In the rain.

As it was starting to go dark.

But you know, I mustn’t grumble – Jon and I are pro’s at putting up our tent these days, and we had our home for the weekend erected in no time, and even managed to get our kit in without it getting too damp.

Time for some music. We’d managed to miss most of Friday’s bands, but headed round to the pub to catch part of The Rude ’em Ups set – a ska/punk/reggae kind of band, who, despite the rain starting to seep into the sound gear, managed to pull of a cracking performance. Thoroughly enjoyed their blending of female vocals, rap, brass, guitars, cool keyboard noises and, of course, drums and bass. It would be easy for all those instruments/vocals to be overwhelming, but the band displayed a really good sense of musical space, and their clever arrangements meant that there was a lot going on without it ever being too much. Good stuff.

Retreating into the pub after bopping around in the wet, we discovered that a ceilidh band had set up in the corner so we decided to dry off and have a few more beers. The Somerset Arms is a lovely pub, and that night there was a really friendly community atmosphere, as well as some good beers on tap (according to hubby anyway – I’m not really an ale drinker) so we were nicely ‘warmed up’ when we toddled off to bed.

Saturday dawned cloudy but dry(ish), and we were looking forward to a day of great music. We’d heard a few of the acts in the day’s line up before, but were also excited about discovering some new bands. There was something for everyone, from a capella to rock.

I had the pleasure of playing the second set of the day, following the fantastic Americana of singer-songwriter  JC Leonard. Although it was pretty quiet at this point, as the sun had not yet fully emerged from the clouds, those that were there seemed to enjoy. Which was nice.

Next up was Rich Maya – a fabulous acoustic guitarist and singer. His voice is warm and mellow, yet still powerful, and his guitar playing is sensitive and dynamic. Really lovely stuff, yes indeedy.

We spent the rest of the afternoon dipping in and out of the music (c’mon, a girl’s gotta eat and stuff – and then there was cider…), and enjoying the sunshine which had broken through the clouds. All the acts were really good, but my personal highlights were The Bateleurs, Beth Monk and Mortdelamer.

Beth is a young singer, but has a mature voice for her age. Accompanied by Francis Hayden on guitar, she had a short set but I was very impressed. Despite seeming a little nervous, she had a good stage presence and sang well. Definitely one to watch out for in the future.

The Bateleurs at Somerfest 2011

The Bateleurs

The Bateleurs are a folk-pop band, who appeared as a duo on this occasion. I’ve seen them before, both as a pair and with the full band set-up and have never failed to be uplifted by their highly infectious, melodious tunes. Their Somerfest performance was no exception – I really like their use of vocal harmonies and upbeat rhythms. Nice.

And finally, Mortdelamer – essentially, they rock. The heaviest band on what was essentially a chilled out summery line up, I was glad to see the crowd’s reaction was a good one as the band struck up their first song. A three-piece led by guitarist and singer Claire Sutton, they skilfully wove a sound that was dark at times, uplifting at others and most definitely exciting. Loved it.

I have to confess that we kind of missed the headline act of the evening,  The Celidh Bandidos. By this point we badly needed a rest, so headed back to the tent. Not very hardcore of us, I know – but after a wee lie down I managed to drag hubby back to the pub for the last dance (which was hilarious to watch – sorry dancers), and after helping sound-man Brian to pack down for the night, we managed to find the energy for a bit more cider, a surprise Mariachi performance and a rousing rendition of The Sloop Jon B.

Essentially, it was a fab weekend – if it takes place next year, I’d definitely go again. The pub landlord,  landlady and staff were great, the whole thing was well organised and the music was brilliant.

Oh; one last note: if you’re ever in need of a reliable, professional, and generally all-round-lovely sound guy (particularly if you’re in the Wiltshire area), give Brian Keen a call – he did an amazing job all weekend (and I’m not just saying that because he let me play with his desk). Thanks Brian!


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