A vintage edition of the 'festival in a forest' for the Woodzstock crowd
SNUGGLED in the dry under the Haybarn at the Woodzstock festival on Saturday was not a bad place to be as the event got started – the acoustic musicians first.
We didn’t know about the sun that was going to come, or the wild moments on the main stage – and the love declaration in front of it.
But it felt good to start sitting on haybales, the audience being treated to the voice of Canadian singer songwriter ORIT SHIMONI stopping off on her current tour of the North with Rob Ellen’s Moose Mobile to share some of the songs from her nine albums and counting.
Joined by Hamish Roberts on guitar, Orit opened her set with Song For The Awkward, a slow gentle finger-picked song about finding your own space. Where To Begin kept the mood mellow with a segueway into Bob Dylan's Blowin’ In The Wind. And Just Because was introduced as a song not written about a woman so sad because “he had left me, but by a woman so sad to have left him”. Twisting the usual story, maybe, Orit’s lyrics still talked pain as they went ‘Just because I wear no ring/ Doesn’t mean that this didn’t mean a damn thing’.
Too soon it was over, but only after Haven’t Got A Clue which Orit told us she reckoned was the most sensible conclusion she had ever come to – about life, presumably. But she left with a fleeting image of how transitory life is, where “words are spoken, they’re all we’ve really got”. Unless you put them in a song, maybe.
ANDREW STILL, frontman of The Galipaygos who appeared on the main stage later on, was doing a one-man and guitar set for most of his time in the Haybarn, starting with a song that opened up a tetchy conversation between a couple and captured the edgy battle lines of your everyday domestic. Welcoming singer songwriter Sophie Monadea on to join him for a couple of songs, Fighting Talk covered the same country, except in this one, Sophie took one side of the conversation. And the verbal battle of the sexes got moving onto the physical – in the song, anyway – “Well, step outside, show me what you’ve got!”.
Outside, the grown-up in charge of the Lasertag looked like a 21st century Pied Piper, followed by a troop of youngsters on their way for a game.
DR WOOK AKA KRIS DOUGLAS took the little stage next, his warm-up song zooming you straight into a state of readiness, only revealing itself as a sound check once he got up and moved away for a few minutes before the set started! But this was a set that, as usual with Dr Wook, took you to dark places where feelings are beasts to wrestle with in a voice that lives out the story before you. And there were new treasures, if you hadn’t heard him for a while, such as a song that seemed to fit so snugly into his set and his sound that it came as a surprise, asking Kris at the end about it, to discover it was Goodness Gracious by The Heligoats. A master song, it came to life in front of your ears during his performance. Earlier he had said: “I’m a musician who is never prepared – and wing it – so you get what you get!” But that’s great when it guarantees surprises like an imaginative cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, the audience eager to join in with the chorus without being asked. “That’s it!” Kris said, mid-song. But a change of pace and a familiar treasure, Not For Me, with its driving guitar and drum, saw the voice gravel-up, equally at home with the pacier sound life.
Over on the main stage, MC for the day was our own Seven Days entertainment correspondent Kyle Walker, who bigged up the artists set to thrill us, while making sure the crowd remembered to save a little bit of love and pay it backwards to the acts just departed.
The main stage music took over at 4pm and it was with singer-songwriter SOPHIE BONADEA’S compelling voice that the show opened. Her song These Days – which showcased a strong, warm voice – reminded her of another time she had played it and she told a story about picking up musician Charlie Roth’s guitar while working at a festival ticket desk. Sophie revealed he found her playing it, but didn’t tell her off, just encouraged her with ‘Girl, you got to work on your guitar-playing!’.
Sophie was followed by a solo set from Lional’s frontman JOSH MACKENZIE, who played original songs, such as Season Of Salt, Try It On and Lonely So Long with a sublime set of covers.
From The Smiths, Josh said he chose Ask “because it’s actually not that depressing for a Smiths’ song”, and followed it with a tribute to the festival’s music creator Nigel Graham, performing a perfectly-rendered version of David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes. Follow that with Damon Albarn’s Out Of Time “one of my favourite songs, I have to play it for you, I have no choice!”. But there was one more cover. Sometimes Josh’s voice is likened to Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins – I've said it myself – so it was ironic, maybe, but educational to hear Josh ending the set with Rip It Up, complete with looped guitar. He sounds more like himself than Edwyn, really though it's the best tribute to that unique wibbly-wobbly, oscillating magic I've ever heard. But the whole set showed off his voice’s chameleon-like ability to shapeshift into all those stars he had covered, yet still make the songs his own.
Maryburgh five-piece THE MALTS revved up the crowd with their psychedelic rock, launching into their set with Hopelessly In Love and the mesmerising Jaggeresque moves of their frontman Ian Macdonald.
“They were sublime last year and they will be sublime this year too!” said Kyle Walker introducing BIG BOB’S BLUES BAND.
He was right, with Mojo Working getting everything started. The crowd chilled out and danced to Hoochie Coochie Man, living the dream of going a little bit crazy with the dance moves, all ages in a sunny forest glade on a timeless June afternoon, Born To Be Wild. Then the weird alchemy kicks in that quickly makes the sunshine, the laid-back Woodzstock vibe and the sound of Big Bob’s amazing blues guitarwork a spell of summer perfection – second year running.
It seemed to work particularly well on one couple, anyway.
By the time Big Bob’s Blues Band frontman Ewan Reid sang “in the sunshine of your love…” Gary Taylor from Culbokie had proposed to Gill Naisby from Avoch in front of the stage – with the help of a doughnut ring from the Bad Girl Bakery Caravan!
Debuting at Woodzstock – seemed unlikely it was a first time, but they had been moribund when Woodzstock started three years ago – Inverness band THE GALIPAYGOS turned in a mellow set with their wry take on life – Open Water, Sweetheart Smile, Two Mouths To Feed and the song Never Away – about returning to your home town and finding nothing has changed. Steve Sinclair took the vocals for The One That Got Away.
Ploughing On “about drinking more when drinking is no longer necessary” should have struck an immediate chord at a festival, but the Woodzstock crowd seemed pretty well-behaved.
Don’t Start A Band was the official finisher for the Galipaygos, but was advice they – luckily – didn’t take!
Inverness rock band IAIN McLAUGHLIN AND THE OUTSIDERS brought their dark majesty to the fading light, with Dave Ramsay’s rumbling bass the satisfying big heartbeat of the band as numbers such as The Rise And Fall and Falling Through The Dark,
Someone For Everyone and newer song The Weight. No Salvador, sadly. But next time, maybe ...
They were followed by headlining Edinburgh funksters JAMES BROWN IS ANNIE, keeping the crowd grooving into the growing darkness with Doctor Funk, Yasmine Bleeth Plays Drums For The Fat Boys, Five Up High and songs that give little choruses and hooks for the crowd to latch onto and chime in with as they danced.
Finally, it was over but one more final triumph came from the line-up, their seethingly funky Average White Band cover, their mentors’ classic Pick Up The Pieces.
This was a vintage Woodzstock and it was nice to see the little developments moving on from last year. The Haybarn was a great new location for acoustic music and the Ready Steady Go Go DJs throughout the day – and the little comedy stage through the wood was also a great addition. And, trying out a production of Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves from Illyria Theatre at the site later this summer, the Woodzstock organisers could be starting off another thread of entertainment for next year’s festival – already lined up for June 13, 2020.
See full picture gallery from SPP photographer Callum Mackay at the top.