Looe Festival, Cornwall - 18th-20th September 2015

I first came to the Looe Festival a year ago as a carefree, child free fella on a mission to drink cider and see bands. Now, 12 months on, I arrive at this tourist and fishing haven with my partner and 11 month old son in tow for my first experience as a 'family' at a festival. Negotiating the winding streets and trying not to be too tempted by the many and varied food stalls we found our way to the beach just in time for my son to officially record his first festival experience as watching the legendary Buzzcocks working their legendary punk rock magic . OK, they're getting on a bit and I'm not sure a beach is necessarily the right environment for punk to really work in but there's no denying the timeless value of songs like 'What Do I Get?' and 'Ever Fallen In Love?'. That said, it was during the latter of these two songs that the mini-Monger fell asleep so I guess being a critic is in the genes.

Lost Dawn - Cornish dandies
Spinning ourselves around to check out the BBC Introducing Tent, we are greeted by the hugely exciting Lost Dawn who hail from the Falmouth scene. The psyche-rock trio have been on my list of bands to check out for a while now and they didn't disappoint with their mixture of tight bass lines, punchy beats and wailing blues riffs all infused with a sense of unpredictability. There were no introductions, no fan fares and the lighting was so bright that you could almost the bones of the band but these don't need to hide behind anything or from anything, they just get to be themselves and we get to watch. Bliss.

Wandering back through the streets it was a delight to hear guitarists playing away in cafes, bands cranking it up in pubs and there was even a guy in a red top hat playing a mean penny whistle at a blistering pace outside a fudge shop. A highlight of these smaller performances was the excellent Real Steel performing a loose, funky and infectious steel band set outside the Cornerstone to an increasing  crowd of massed and dancing onlookers. Some pulled pork and a short walk past a guy play a sousaphone and we were on our way home - not a bad start to the weekend.

Looe was packed. The streets were full of day trippers enjoying the food, the sun and the music onRaikes playing a blinder in the BBC Cornwall Introducing tent. The Liskeard quartet were doing a fine job of warming up the sun toasted crowd with their indie leanings and complex, intertwined melodies. Over on the main stage, though, something altogether more powerful going on as Plymouth based Antimatador were whipping the crowd in to a frenzy with their mix of Rage Against The Machine power, early Incubus funk and a liberal smattering of good vibes. They did pause to make a point about the current Syrian refugee crisis as an introduction to the fiercely infectious 'Mad As Hell'. There is always a moment at any festival where you think you might have found a new favourite band and this time, Antimatador might just have ticked that box.
Antimatador in selfie mode

Back in to the tent for LWM favourites Sound Of The Sirens. I've championed this Exeter duo for some time now and I almost thought their moment had passed and then I walked in to that tent. How two musicians with just an acoustic guitar and a mandolin get a packed crowd to both listen intently and jump for their lives is beyond me but they did it. Last year this pair played to a relatively indifferent Marquee tent but they've worked their socks off over the past 12 months and it has clearly paid off. Next year, the main stage? The Dodge Brothers brought their brand of Bluegrass Americana to the main stage with eagle eyes spotting film critic Mark Kermode on Double Bass but the eagle eared noting that the performance was slick, authentic and driven by the excellent Mike Hammond on guitar, vocals and American drawl. Plenty of banter, audience participation and impromptu dancing in the audience made for a thoroughly enjoyable set as the sun set behind the stage and the fishing boats returned from a day's work to top up the chip shops for the evening rush.

The Retro Gents lived up to their burgeoning reputation as one of the hottest properties on the Plymouth scene (and beyond) with their unique brand of indie with a twist of Arctic Monkeys tightness, Reef style groove and the swagger of Catfish & The Bottlemen. The only thing that let them down was a slightly bass heavy mix on the PA which left everything sounding a bit muddy inside the steamy tent. One of my highlights of the 2014 festival was the discovery of madcap Tankus The Henge so it was a delight to see the band back for another year. As a topless Jaz Delorean (yes, really) and his rag tag bunch of troubadours bounded on to the stage, there was a prickle of anticipation within the crowd and it was instantaneously satisfied as the band launched in to the kind of performance that most bands reserve for their finale. The septet have retained their gypsy pop roots but have added a new level of funk and a slightly heavier, beefier sound to some of the new songs that only makes for a more eclectic and impressive show. Not a new discovery but clearly one of the highlights without a shadow of a doubt.
Tankus The Henge - you wouldn't cross them.

Another day done at the marvellous Looe Festival, then, and an honourable mention must go to the Steampunk Morris group who were wowing and terrifying passersby in equal measure as they carried out some traditional Morris dancing on the harbour side dressed in full Steampunk garb - including one guy in a black face mask that would make Michael Myers whimper. Nothing a tasty Pad Thai for the long walk back to the car can't solve though!

The weather and the mood was far more subdued today as Looe cranked up for another day of music and what better sight and sound to rouse the audience from their slumber than The Normals playing their bright and breezy brand of indie-ska-pop atop their minibus. A Beatles cover got the crowd bouncing and the only interruption was a few stubborn motorists trying the edge their way through the crowd amassed on the narrow street. Heading on over to the BBC Cornwall Introducing tent, we caught the tail end of Cornish quintet Flashes. Strangely, the programme had these guys listed as 'pop' but anyone expecting bouncy melodies or a Britney Spears cover would have been quickly corrected by the grungy wall of noise that these guys create which possibly stunned a few of the still hungover crowd.

Now, Duke Special  is a name I have seen and heard a lot over the years but never actually got around to actually checking which, as it turns out, is a crying shame. With a stage set up that comprised a humble piano and a percussive set up that is anything but humble, these guys set about blending the tones of Tori Amos, the creativity of Ludovico Einaudi and the moroseness of Tom Waits. Once you get in to the same headspace that they occupy, these guys are a joy and their stunning version of 'Old Man River' absolutely slayed a crowd that was lapping it up as the sun started to dip in the sky. Oh, and it's probably the first time I've ever seen anyone 'play' a cheese grater as an instrument which is not something you say every day. Burgeoning Cornish folk combo The Changing Room played to a packed out tent at the other end of the beach with a harp, an accordion and horns all adding to great tunes that were slightly let down by a muddy sound mix.

Over on the main stage, the eagerly anticipated Ferocious Dog  took to the stage in a drone of
Ferocious Dog - you REALLY wouldn't cross them
Didgeridoo and fiddle strains with a politicised spoken word track. When the band finally took to the stage they had a swelling crowd eating out of their hands as their brand of folk-punk that puts them in the same league as Mad Dog McRae, Crazy Arm and Flogging Molly. Some audience participation, a few displays of furious finger work on the frets and some genuine appreciation of the crowd and location from front man Ken Bonsall all made for a great party vibe. But for all the jigging and reeling, Ferocious Dog have songs with weight, meaning and messages which makes them that rare thing in a band - entertaining and enlightening. Enterlightening if you will.

So, another summer falls away and as the flocks of geese fly over towards warmer climes we are left with beautiful music ringing in our ears and another three days of memories in our heads. Looe Music Festival is quickly becoming the perfect book end to the festival summer season but if I had one message to all the fabulous bands that come in from outside the Southwest it would be this: don't forget this part of the world for the rest of the year. There are some avid music fans down here who have to go without for the Winter before bingeing on music in the Summer so don't forget about us, OK?

More information: http://www.looemusic.co.uk/

Buzzcocks - https://www.facebook.com/buzzcocksofficial?fref=ts
Lost Dawn - https://www.facebook.com/lostdawnrock?fref=ts
Real Steel - https://www.facebook.com/realsteelband
Raikes - https://www.facebook.com/raikesuk?fref=ts
Antimatador - https://www.facebook.com/AntiMataMusic?fref=ts
Sound Of The Sirens - https://www.facebook.com/SoundoftheSirens?fref=ts
The Dodge Brothers - https://www.facebook.com/The-Dodge-Brothers-166791935082/timeline/
The Retro Gents - https://www.facebook.com/TheRetroGents?fref=ts
Tankus The Henge - https://www.facebook.com/tankusthehenge?fref=ts
Steampunk Morris - https://www.facebook.com/groups/steampunkmorris/?fref=ts
The Normals - https://www.facebook.com/thehomeofthenormals?fref=ts
Flashes - https://www.facebook.com/flashesband?fref=ts
Duke Special - https://www.facebook.com/DukeSpecial?fref=ts
The Changing Room - https://www.facebook.com/thechangingroommusic?fref=ts

Ferocious Dog - https://www.facebook.com/FerociousDog?fref=ts