Few weeks back I took a quick 6 hour drive to the deepest darkest parts of the west country to start the festival season with the good people from Fuelled by Cider for what i believe is the forth Cursus Cider and Music Festival.
Cursus is the smaller of the weekend festivals that Fuelled by Cider run with a capacity of about 500 people each of the 3 days. (The bigger ones being Outcider in August and Incider in February, as well as a fair few day festivals)
One stage, one bar, one food stand seems like a different world to any festivals I’ve been to in the past but after seeing the line up for the weekend you would struggle to keep me away.
We arrived on site at mid day on the Friday and where apparently the first people besides the crew to get to the camping area. Parked up and walked about 100 steps which seemed far enough and set up the tent for the weekend. After a celebratory beer for getting the tent up with causing any damage to each other we wondered down to have a look at the stage which was in a decent size marquee but still a bit of a shock as the smallest festival I had been to before the had about 20,000 as a capacity. So incredible bands up close and personal. You wont hear me complaining.
The festival takes place on Canada Farm in Dorset which is owned by owned by Dorset Star Cider who produced a larger amount of the ciders available at the bar.
So to the bar we went to try the vast range of scrumpys available, not being from the west country where do you start? Dry? Medium? Sweet? Which one is like Bulmer’s? NONE OF THEM!
After settling on blackcurrent cider I think called purple haze the cider festival spirit had started. After an afternoon in the sun with a good selection of ciders whilest listen to DJ Dapper Dan from skankin delights podcast providing a great mix of reggae, ska and balkan it was time for the bands.
First up on probably the hardest set of the weekend as a lot of people where still arriving was “The Outlaw Orchestra” playing a mix of whiskey soaked southern rock and bluegrass. Not the biggest of crowds but for those who where there had a great start to the weekend and where well and truly warmed up for the weekend.
Next up was “The Intercepteurs” for those not ready to get skankin you are in the wrong place! Two tone is alive and well and located in the middle of a field on the way to Cornwall. If loads of brass and fast upstrokes on the guitar is your thing you wont go far wrong with these guys. Fans of The Beat or The Specials be smiling from ear to ear.
Third band in and finally time for some punk rock. “IDestoy” are an all female band that blew away the last of the cobwebs that had built since last festival season. Strong riff based punk that will win over even those who claim they don’t like punk music. Can not image a person in there will not be waiting for their debut album to come out.
Suitably lubricated it was time for “The Rumjacks” and the stage suddenly filled up. Smashing out the finest celtic punk money can buy, easily competing with the likes of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. The crowd went crazy, myself including singing every word, dancing to every beat and loving every second of it. If you haven’t seen them before you are missing out. 10 year anniversary tour went on sale this week.
Friday night headliner was “Gaz Brookfield and the Company of Thieves” a set I was very excited for having seen Gaz and Ben Wein play before the idea of a full band show was something i was eager not to miss. No disappointment here! With an set just over an hour of crowd pleasing west country indie folk that seem to get the crowd going that bit more in full band form. Frank Turner watch out.
Once the music finished the djs started up again and the communal camp fire lit and it was time to talk to who ever would listen unfortunately for the good people at London Celtic Punks and Matildas Scoundrels sat within my line of sight so where my company for the rest of the night and the people I choose to blame for hangover that followed.
Day 2 started with me missing Andy Twywan due to everything being too loud so insted I sat with a cup of tea feeling sorry for myself until being handed a beer and being told to “Man up.”
My day started properly with “Sinful Maggie” a band I have been getting increasingly excited about watching since they sent me their debut album earlier this year. Any feeling sorry for myself was blasted well away as they smashed through the majority of the album with the tracks sounding even better live. If you like the idea of rancid having an accordian you will love Sinful Maggie. A massive amount of Sinful Maggie tshirts where about for a band that are still lower on the bill. Great show cant wait to see them again.
“Smiley and the Underclass” are a band I was unfimiliar with. Not knowing what to expect I was pleasantly surprised with a mix of dub / ska and even bit of funk thrown in. Providing the perfect sunny afternoon festival music. The only way I can think to describe them is Rage Against the Machine go reggae due to a slightly more aggressive approach to a normally very chilled out genre.
Next up was another favourite of mine “Matildas Scoundrels” whos debut album “As the tide turns” featured in our best folk punk albums of 2017. Forcing their own brand of aggro-folk up the Dorset countryside. The set was mostly from the album as well as a “sinking in their sins” which got pretty much everyone in the tent sitting in 2 imaginary rowing boats from the stage to the back of the tent while they yelled “row you bastards” it was a beautiful sight. Also if the 2 songs I didnt recognise are ready for the next album then everyone needs to start getting excited.
Again from our top albums of 2017 next up was “Black Water County.” Let me start by saying wow! The stage filled up and the crowd was absolutely buzzing even their sound check was met with a massive applause from the response they got I dont think there would have been any objections to them headlining the festival. The band where dancing as frantically and the crowd and for their final song ( cover of loch lowmond ) most of the band were in the crowd playing away. Not a sad face in the field. Band of the weekend for me.
New Town Kings had a hard act to follow but where the perfect change of pace to break up the day. As someone who is always up for a bit of ska was great to see New Town Kings for the first time since the release of their latest album “Reach Out” which filled the majority of the set and despite the songs being new to the audience still got them dancing.
Before watching “The Eskies” I was convinced that i had seen them before but couldnt remember when. Two minutes in and I was sure that if that was the case I would have remember a band that commands an audiences attention this well. Combining gypsy folk with deep south gospel melodies these guy where easily the most unique sounding band of a very eclectic weekend. Well worth checking out and they seem to always be on tour so dont miss your next opportunity.
Skinny Lister our a long standing favourite for us at Mersey Celt Punks combining sea shanty harmonies with straight up punk rock, dancing is not optional from the second they take the stage and if your not quite drunk enough they always pass the rum around, whats not to love. They dedicated “40 pound wedding” to the guy who was hassling them to play it before they started. ( Dave, you have done well ) Massive sing alongs that leave the crowd singing every word back until your voice is gone. They absolutely smashed it!
Sunday at Fuelled by Cider events is “Ladies Day,” something that we nothing about before we got there.
Naively I asked “So what does that entail? Is it like the races when everyone gets overly dressed up?” I was half right. What i didnt realise its a day of a very large percentage of the men at the festival wearing the best dresses they can find / own. It was bloody brilliant to see the effort that some of these guys had put in and some of them looking far too comfortable in clothes they claim to only wear at festivals.
Sundays music started with “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show” who’s new ep “A snakes a snake” we reviewed last month. With that still fresh in my head I wondered down to the stage to see how the music works out live. The 9 piece made the stage look very crammed but eased away the hangover with a healthy slice of Americana that left a huge smile across my face. They really are the perfect festival band and I hope our paths cross again soon.
I unfortunately missed “Stealing Whiskey” who where on next due to these pesky west country being too friendly my inability not to try and talk to everyone at a festival. Not sure how I managed it in such a small site but I guess the local cider has some magical powers I was not prepared for.
Next on was “The Surfin Turnips” one of the most wonderfully west country bands I have ever witnessed. Some where on the musical spectum between The Wurzels and The Ramones they are a clear local favourite and a cider festival must have. Loads of fun and mild theatrics provided by their percussionist made The Surfin Turnips set was one of the more memorable of the weekend.
After a quick break it was time for “Cuba Libre” another band I was unfirmiliar with before the weekend. With incredible dual vocals mixing rap and soul over a ska soundtrack Cuba Libre are infectious and leave a lasting impression that will be stuck in your head for ages in the best of ways.
The Hawkmen I had never heard before but a man in a lovely dress highly Recommended them to me and also said that members of Skinny Lister where in the band. That was it, I wanst going to miss them. Female fronted rockabilly staight out of a seedy berlesque club. Brilliant.
The Surfin Birds bring a bit of garage rock to the proceeding and a decent change of pace and atmosphere with an old school rock and roll swagger about them and some tight heavy riff orientated rock to back it up.
The Skimmity Hitches is you not familiar with them mostly take songs and change the lyrics so that they are about cider or badgers. My favourite being “Ten pints of Thatchers” to the music of Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band. Highly entertaining and great hosts all weekend.
To close off the festival was the amazing Popes of Chillitown bring a ska punk party taking all the last reserves of energy everyone had left. They remind me of a more energetic JB Conspiracy. They played Opoom so I was made up and a lot off the new album “Work hard, play hard, see you in the Graveyard” which is incredible and highly recommended. Great way to end the festival.
Overall Cursus is a wonderful little festival, friendly and welcoming atmosphere, clean and tidy with a great selection of bands and an incredible selection of local ciders to keep you dancing. I hope to be back next year.
Thanks to Dave for agreeing to come with me and new friends Thom, Lynne, Katie, Mark, Amy, Tony and Tim for making it an incredible weekend.