The Beautiful Days Festival is held in the grounds of Escot House in Devon. It is run by the Levellers and has no corporate sponsorship. The bars sell real ale and cider at a reasonable price, and there is none of this corporate, overpriced, fizzy shite you get at V etc. This year we hardly queued at all to get in and the heavy police presence of the previous year was missing, although there was still some searching of vehicles.

Friday started well and sunbathing was in order before we had a barbecue and made our way down to The Big Top to start the festival by watching the Levellers Acoustic. I enjoyed it though one friend felt that there was a certain amount of “going through the motions”. I thought they were just a bit drunk and having fun.

I was a bit disappointed by Mr Hudson and the Library, I had wanted to see them, but found their R&B style music quite boring. The Dub Pistols were better, playing dub punk – and not dub versions of Sex Pistols songs as I thought they might do.

The headline acts were also a bit of a disappointment. KT Tunstall is very mainstream and a lot of people enjoyed her, but she wasn’t my idea of an uplifting headliner and I don’t really like her music. We went over to The Big Top for Skaville UK who performed covers of well known ska numbers as well as their own music. They were more like a working men’s club covers band and even their own numbers weren’t very innovative, so we went back to the tent and then down to the Bimble Inn, via the dance tent for a quick bop around, in the hope of seeing Mad Dog MacCrae - I was told this was an Irish folk band, but we had the wrong night and as we were falling asleep on a pile of pillows we ended up going back to our tents for a proper sleep.

Saturday dawned wet and windy, but we didn’t care – we had our wellies and waterproofs and plenty of alcohol to see us through the day.

As it was quite wet, we decided to start the day in the Big Top and were glad we did as the Neil Brophy Band played mellow folk music to set us up for the day. We caught the beginning of Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs whilst we ate a veggie breakfast from one of the nearby stalls. They were quite fun in a silly festival sort of way, but I wanted to see Zombie Met Girl so we made our way to the main stage.

Zombie Met Girl sounded a bit like a punk / rockabilly / Cramps type band from a distance. Close up the sound was more punky, although it may just have been the songs we caught. I enjoyed their set and even had a bit of a dance about to them.

We stayed for Electric Soft Parade. Having enjoyed the Brakes some of whom are members of Electric Soft Parade, we thought they might be similar, but were slightly disappointed. Devotchka were next and they were quite enjoyable in an Eastern European way, although the rain forced us into the beer tent – well, that was our excuse anyway.

Radical Dance Faction were a bit hit and miss in my opinion. The music was good, but the rants between songs from singer Chris Bowsher were tedious as I couldn’t make any sense of what he was on about – more music and less ranting would have been preferable. My memory gets a bit vague at this point, possibly as a result of having too much time spent in the beer tent and not having any paper with me to make notes on didn’t help – but I do remember dancing to Dreadzone, so they must have been good!

A highlight for me was having 3 Daft Monkeys replace Fishbone, who couldn’t make the festival. 3 Daft Monkeys play an eclectic set, fusing folk music from around the world – Irish, British, Klezma and Eastern European. I’ve always liked the sound of Klezma music and since a trip to Romania in the early 90's Eastern European folk has held a place in my heart. So 3 Daft Monkeys rousing sets never fail to get me dancing and singing along. They always seem so happy it’s infectious, and they even made the rain stop.

They were followed by another highlight of the festival, New Model Army, but then I’m biased. New Model Army mixed tracks of their new album 'High', with old favourites. Quite a brave move as many bands stick to the old favourites for festivals as many people won’t recognise the newer work and may wander off to look for other acts. Most people, however, seemed to stay. The dancing wasn’t too rough and even some children managed to stay on parents’ shoulders down the front.

By now the festival was pretty muddy. Normally at this point I would fall over, but I discovered that drinking lots and wearing wellies meant that I managed to stand all night. The downside of the mud was that I didn’t get to sit around at the festival and see some of the performance artists that are usually wandering about. One group I did see were dressed in foam suits as a rap band, playing hip hop and dancing to it – they were great and showed that rap does have a fun side – it’s not all gangsters and guns, but it is yellow foam people with pretend bling as well! Also there was a man in a dress using a banana as a phone – we kept seeing him all over the place all weekend. I don’t know if he was organised entertainment or just a random nutter.

Saturday’s headliners on the main stage were Gogol Bordello, I was expecting a more Eastern European sound to them, but it was very middle of the road and I wasn’t as impressed as I’d wanted to be. So we went to the Big Top where we caught Show of Hands – I was glad we did as they played traditional style folk music, but with a political twist that made it interesting. Their musicianship was excellent and I could still dance to it.

It was back to the tent for us. We debated trying to go and see Mad Dog MacRae again, but the thought of the treacherous mud slide down to the Bimble Inn combined with the increasing rain fall sent us off to bed.

Waking up on Sunday the rain had stopped, but it was overcast and windy. I discovered that my wellies had died. The sole had come off one of them, so a trip to the car had to be made to retrieve my back up boots. We decided that given the mud we would leave on the Sunday night after the Levellers, with our designated driver offering to stay sober for the day – although I suspect that he was feeling rather rough after the vodka he drank the day before!

As we took stuff back to the car, we managed to listen to the Harrisons although not see them – I had seen them before and they sounded pretty good to me. Getting back from the car we found a spot later in the day to do the rest of our trips when there was nothing on we wanted to see, and we went off to watch Hey Negrita, having missed the Fabulous Good Time Party Boys, which would have been good to see.

Hey Negrita did a great set. There was still no sign of their portable skeleton who I have been told nearly always accompanies them, but as that was the only disappointment of their set, I think I can claim it as one of the highlights for me. Their style is quite mellow, south American in sound, and a good start for a Sunday morning.

War Machines of Love were up next, I reviewed their EP for Penny Black recently, and was a little disappointed. They were, however, brilliant live and I really enjoyed them. It could be that they are better as a live band, or just that the production on the EP didn’t reflect their sound as well as it could have done. Adrian Portas was guitarist with New Model Army, but live they did not sound alike at all, other than being a punky rock band.

I had a dilemma next. I really wanted to see Bill Bailey, but I wanted to see Back To The Planet as well. So I decided to go with the first half hour of Back to the Planet followed by the second half of Bill. Having gone to both, in hindsight it would have been better to put Bill Bailey on the Main Stage and Back to the Planet in the Big Top – it was overflowing with people wanting to see Bill whilst there was hardly anyone there for Back to the Planet. Given that Bill Bailey is doing an arena sized tour it wasn’t a hard choice surely ? Anyway, Back to the Planet were very good – always danceable and Fi is a good front woman with plenty of attitude. Bill Bailey was also good, even though we were stood at the side and could only see him by looking at some bloke’s video camera! The mix of stand up and songs went down well, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

This was our packing the car up point, so I’m afraid we missed Great Big Sea and Boney M, although I can’t say I was too disappointed about the latter. We didn’t see Easy Star Allstars as we could see them the following weekend at Solfest, but went to see Kila in The Big Top instead on the recommendation of a friend. Kila again have an Eastern European sound mixed with Irish folk and sing in Gaelic.

We had yet another clash at this point with Afro Celt Sound System being on at the same time as the Damned. We decided to go for the first 45 minutes of Afro Celts and then go and see end of the Damned’s set. Afro Celts started off a little slowly, but soon livened up with repetitive beats in an African style crossed with Irish instrumentation and at one point they were joined on stage by Johnny Kalsi from the Dohl Foundation on his dohl drum.

The Damned are an old favourite of mine, and I really enjoyed having a good old dance and sing along to their set. Alhough the tent was full when we went in, it did empty out during their set with people off to see the Levellers. We stayed until the end thoughso as not to let the Captain down. Despite rumours to the contrary he did play, but Patricia Morrison didn’t though. The Levellers were the same as ever and the fireworks were a nice finish to the show.

Other highlights were the great sculptural street lamps with flames that came out of the top of them. These started steaming during the day and gave off flames at night. I was a bit concerned about how environmentally friendly they were though!

Well done to the stilt walkers for managing in the mud – I was very impressed I had enough trouble without stilts.

Despite the weather, we still had a great festival. Maybe we didn’t see as much as we might have done had it been a bit better. Then again maybe we saw more as we didn’t settle on the ground in front of the main stage. I didn’t make it into the Pussy Parlure as there was way too much to see and do. I also didn’t make it to the Bimble or the Dance Tent as much as I would have liked to – mainly due to the difficulties of walking in the mud and the amount of entertainment on offer across the whole site.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Neil Bailey

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Commenting On: Escot Park, Devon, 17/8/2007...18/8/2007 - Beautiful Days Festival

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18259 Posted By: Lee Rawlings - Claude Comedy Waiter (Exeter, Devon)

I had a great time too as a french comedy waiter.
The nutter with the banana was also part of the entertainment - though he is a nutter too.
The mud was extreme but i never stopped the walkabout acts including myself, i had to buy new suitcases and shoes after that day!!!
Au revoir

If you want to check out my myspace for Pics of hiring.
feel free.

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