Monday, 18 May 2015

Surplus Spring Gathering 2015

Another weekend, another micro-festival. This time a bit further afield in South Wales. The 350 person Surplus Spring Gathering is in its first year at a new site at Rhoose near Cardiff and an interesting site it is too. The field is surrounded by a ring ditch and double bank and was a large defended iron age fort known as the Bulwarks. Now the field is home to a weekly car boot sale. How times change! It also sits right at the end of Cardiff Airport runway with approach lights actually in the field. So part of the 'entertainment' was point blank views of planes coming in from Greece and other warmer climes. And as if this wasn't enough Roose Point is just a short walk away - and that's the southern-most point in mainland Wales you know! Exciting eh?!

On paper this festival had a lot going for it: good lineup, only £30 a head for 3 nights with camping, workshops, fire shows, recycling, great food. So did it live up to the hype? Well not quite. It did deliver loads of good food options (perhaps a few too many for the needs of the small, largely self-sufficient crowd), good kids entertainment, a big firepit and a fireshow but I didn't see much in the way of workshops or recycling. The bar only sold a limited selection of cans and bottles plus a few spirits and mixers. Perhaps I've been spoiled at other festivals but to have no real ales or ciders on tap was a disappointment.

Johnny Cage and the Voodoo Groove
However the main feature of any festival is the music and this was pretty good. Spread over two stages with one setting up while the other plays, a model that works very well. Funke and the Two Tone Baby is either stalking us or is literally playing every festival in the country this year. I suspect the latter as he was dashing straight back to Kent for another gig. Not his best performance by any means but once again won over new fans judging by what I heard people saying afterwards. Local Cardiff outfit Afro Cluster picked up the pace with some brassy funk and Johnny Cage and the Voodoo Groove finished off the night with lively rock and roll.

Live music curfew at this site was 11pm all three nights so things soon moved on to the firepit. A fair few instruments about meant it got a bit freeform but I was lucky to end up close to KilnAboy who were running through a few tunes including a new one they were to perform later the next day. Jamming along with them was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

Lost Tuesday Society
I picked up Saturday's lineup again late afternoon with Lost Tuesday Society, or at least the 50% of the band that included guitars, vocals and flute. There was more than a hint of Ian Anderson about the flautist and when he slipped into Bouree during a tuning break my suspicions were confirmed - another Jethro Tull devotee.

Turna Phrase
Turna Phrase is a remarkable young rapper with a real talent who engaged an audience that might not be normally at home with the genre but the main interest was always going to be the last 3 acts on Saturday.

After a good show last week, it was good to see KilnAboy on their home turf. A storming performance to a bouncy crowd keen for a good mosh. The sound was amazing and new traditional-style material went down very well. Old favourites like Lanigan's Ball had the whole place in uproar, Can't wait to see these guys again at Bearded Theory next week.

Another repeat from the previous week in Oxfordshire was Tarantism. Slightly different lineup and we were treated to Mel's trademark double whistle work this time. The crowd were still up from KilnAboy and this was the roughest Tarantism set I can remember. Several people ended up on the little Levitation stage and Mel had her glasses knocked off by her mic at one point. Great fun,

Dub The Earth
I'm not a massive fan of the headliners, Dub The Earth, but I'm always happy to skank away to a bit of dub/ska especially with a riotous crowd like this and things were pretty lively when the early curfew hit all too soon. A cold drizzle awaited outside and I opted for an early night rather than subject the guitar or me to a chilly soaking around the fire.

Effa Supertramp
So on to Sunday and a very strong lineup on the Levitation Stage. This kicked off with the punky presence of Effa Supertramp. Strong activist lyrics (even if I couldn't understand the Welsh songs!) and a strong stage presence made this young singer-songwriter a great act for me, although I appreciate not everyone's cup of tea,

Joe Yorke and friends
Like many I expect, I first came across the next performer Joe Yorke as a guest playing whistle on Free The Land with Inner Terrestrials. Alone or with friends Joe is a cracking act, here playing with Phillipa from KilnAboy on fiddle and another fella on Cajon. Tracks like Babylon and Feed Me come across with skill and passion. Only problem was the set was a bit short. More please Joe!

Two Man Ting
Still on Levitation were Two Man Ting, another cross-over from Something Else. Jon's guitar is superb and fills the sound beautifully with subtle use of the loop pedal while Jah-man's vocals and Djembe carry you into the enticing world of his West African roots.

Iron Eye

A quick sprint over to the Solar Stage revealed the twin saxophones of Iron Eye with some good instrumental grooves. The same musicians then appeared later on the Levitation Stage with Belleville Gypsy Jazz, which did pretty much what it said on the tin. In between we were treated to a little more from the KilnAboy gang as they filled in for an absent Flat Stanley.

Firepit Collective feat Joe Yorke
We'd missed Firepit Collective's early set the previous week so, as one of our favourite bands, we were keenly anticipating them closing the festival on the Levitation Stage. A few sound issues on the stage made for a slightly disjointed start but things soon got going and we were singing along to Jay and Chez's brilliant folk arrangements. As usual guests were pulled on stage to sing or play with some numbers and the whole thing had a very intimate feel.

Lullaby Leesa
Overall this is a good festival but it is very small (day tickets were being sold to car boot visitors on the Sunday for a fiver so even the 350 weekend tickets had not sold in advance). In it's favour it is very cheap, totally local and authentic and low impact. There was stuff for kids and some interesting side shows - ferret racing anyone?! It is what it says, a gathering. A gathering of like minds and musicians and a platform for local acts. I'd have liked some more choice at the bar and a few more loos or more frequent servicing. It also seemed to lack something of the friendly, anything-goes feeling of most other festivals I've been to but perhaps that was just us on this occasion.

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