Saturday 24th August
If Carlsberg Did Music Festivals………...
I wasn’t there in the debut year of 2018 as I was forced to lay by a pool in Turkey and drink beer as enforced by my wife, but I already know from the Stonedeaf cyberfriends over the last year I have made on their Facebook page, it is going to be a real gem of a festival. If you are not already on their FB group, it is one I really urge you to join it. Their very interactive social media team really have this spot on, FB, Twitter et al are very good, very informative and very interactive and participative.
Now that I am middle aged, all grown up, sensible (allegedly) married with (adult) kids, a lot of the group sound so familiar and very likeminded. No it is not a festival that is restricted to grown ups, it is open to anyone with the obvious rules of kids being with adults etc., but I feel just from talking to people that it will be the cleanest, most friendly, most helpful festival I will have ever been to. The level of camaraderie within the group is a delight to see. People with hang ups of “I am coming on my own”; “It is my first festival”, “Can someone help me with a tent” type questions are answered within minutes, and you genuinely get a feeling that those issues will be met and helped with on the day.
The number of volunteers is astonishing, it has a real community involvement about it, a passion, a drive, a focus to make Stonedeaf not only the best festival, but the festival that mirrors the old Monsters of Rock (MOR) - the predecessor of Download. Many of the the organisers are ex-MOR regulars and maybe, like me, feel that Download has sold itself out to become too commercial and more for profit and less for the fans, and feel the need to go back to the roots and start again and give back that value for money to the people.
The line-up this year is modest by MOR standards, but nevertheless it is still very good. Samarkind an Irish Blues Rock band; Massive - hard hitting, hard drinking, hard living Rockers from Australia; The Amorettes, a remodelled Scottish and now Australian established female Rock band made up of the original Amorettes singer and two thirds of Tequila Mockingbyrd; Midlands Metallers Diamond Head, legendary leaders of the NWOBHM; Wayward Sons, hugely popular British Rock band with the iconic Toby Jepson at the helm; Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons (PCATBS), the former Motorhead guitarist leading his family orientated band; Inglorious, hugely popular British Rock band with their rapid rise to fame with Nathan James on vocals, and headlined by the legend himself, the voice of Rock, former Deep Purple bass player Glenn Hughes, playing a largely Deep Purple infused set. For a festival in only its second year, that is a very good line-up, sticking with the MOR ethos of a one day festival.
So, what was it like?
To sum the festival up in one word, I feel awesome is as close as I can think of, it really is superb production seeing as the organisers are relatively in their festival organising infancy. The Newark Showground venue is very well located, close to the A1. The land is very flat and you can park your car on a concrete strip, which what was maybe an old airfield runway, so you will never be stuck in the mud. To top that, you are only metres away from your tent as the camping field runs alongside the disused runway, plus some of the food bars are on the same strip and the stage is around 200 metres from the campsite. It is fantastically compact, but there is more than ample space for decent sized tents without the sardines feeling. The volunteers have so much common sense, none of those little Hitlers and power mad jobsworths that you get at larger festivals, or the type of security that want to strip search you instead of just looking in your bag. You can even take your own beer into the venue so long as it is in plastic bottles and in reasonable quantities (about 4 cans per person) plus as your car/tent is only 200 metres away if you want a top up. The food/drink pricing was remarkably low. Bacon rolls £3, Large Cumberland sausage ring in a bun/roll £4.50, tea/coffee £1.50, beer about £4.20 a pint. On departure day, we left around 11. am and about 50% had gone but the field area around the tents was spotless, people had taken their rubbish and either deposited it at the bins for collection or taken it home, the only signs of human life being there was a patch of flattened grass. I really wish other festivals would do this.
It can’t be all good?
This is true but the things that are wrong are so minor and nit picking and they are all part of a learning curve. It could have done with more toilets, urinals for men rather than all cubicles in the campsite. The bar was too small and needs to be addressed for 2020. I would say double the size or have more bars. As the weather was roasting hot, some shaded areas would be good especially for the kids and parents. A single fault with all festivals for me is that there is nothing for toddlers to do, so a simple ball pit or soft play area would suffice. And finally, from a photographic point of view, the pit area was too small for 30 photographers so we ended up getting one and a half songs instead of the usual three as they let 15 in at a time then half way through the second song we swapped out, so that became a little hurried.
Would I advise anyone to go?
Without a shadow of doubt – yes! If this does not win the award for the best small festival, I will eat my hat. One of the real beauties of it is that it is being run by people like you and I who have gone to festivals for years and noted the short comings, the failures, the usual moans and groans and are attempting to create a festival free of those issues. So; will 2020 be perfect? I would guess at no it won’t, but it will be an improvement on this year. The misses of 2019 will, I am sure be ironed out, but new ones will occur. Download, Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, Bloodstock - all have issues and they are relatively huge by comparison, but I genuinely sense that the passion and drive behind Stonedeaf is they want to be the best of the best. I never spoke to anyone who had a gripe against it, that put them off attending in 2020. Everyone seemed to love it, and it looks like we will all be congregating in a field near Newark next year. See you at the bar.
Tony Burgum (photos courtesy of Phil Clarke and Tony).