Brownstock started out as a get together with friends on the farm and after turning into one serious house party, 10 years on they have proved the festival to be a serious contender with the medium size festivals around the country.
Its birthday celebration saw confetti, balloons, cakes, fireworks, lasers and an abundance of all things fun thrown into the mix.
Friday at Brownstock has historically been a warm up for the rest of the weekend, but not this year Dizzee Rascal made sure of that. The evening started with local favourites Crème De Chevre, their Uke inspired covers and medley of classic dance tracks, never fail to impress, this year Faithless tracks were reworked, maybe, just maybe ‘God is a Uke’.
It’s hard to think of a band that has a better fit with Brownstock than The Cuban Brothers their brand of humour, dance and music, is ideal for the Essex faithful. With the new addition of One Erection we was treated to some acrobatics on the Main stage which saw him somersaulting off the stage and into the pit. This was swiftly followed by a bidding war as Miguel offered him to one lucky lady to take home, cook a hot dinner, hoover with some added bonuses the hands could not have shot up any faster as it turned into a full on auction. In years to come you can see The Cuban Brothers having the same relationship with Brownstock as they do with Bestival, well let’s hope so!
By the time Dizzee Rascal hit the stage the arena was rammed in anticipation, and he did not let them down. Dizzie ripped up The Main Stage from the opening beat of ‘Here to China’ with an energetic set and he did not let us down with the visual entertainment! Strobes, lasers, confetti bombs and pressured dry ice cannons were just a few added treats that made for an impressive viewing! He even found time to take a selfie of himself with the audience. The final encore not surprisingly was Bonkers, yes the party had started!
For those who shied away from the big acts on the Main stage The good Shed offered up a full on show from DJ Cable, Liam Bone and headlined by P Money. This second stage caters for all the people who love to party and dance away the weekend without sometimes ever visiting the main stage and this year was no exception.
We started Saturday in a relaxed fashion in The Slippery Saddle Saloon, it's a venue which is well suited acoustic and blues performers that match its rustic interior. Oblivious to slipping into a cult western classic as you slide though the Saloon doors you can’t help but grab a seat on one of the knackered beaten up chairs that look surprisingly inviting and perfectly at home in this joint with wooden barrel tables, in true cowboy style heads turn whenever someone new walks in looking for a change of scene and a new discovery.
Festivals For All were invited to select 3 artists to perform there, the first of which was Norfolk based Lisa Redford, her voice is both soft and powerful and her set was punctuated with wonderful anecdotes which were well received. Unlike other stages the Stage Manager was not a stickler for time so when the crowd asked for more she obliged.
We also managed to catch Roxanne De Bastion who was performing with a birthday hangover, but managed to deliver a beautiful set.
On the Main Stage a crowd was gathering for festival favourites Goldie Lookin Chain proving to us that fashion sense holds no weight in popularity when they had us bouncing along to their hilarious lyrics which never fail to raise a smile....Did anyone remember where those guys said they were from? 30 minutes later, just when you thought the crazy bunch had missed a vital tune out of their set the guys returned back onstage, much to the delight of the crowd to finish with Your Mothers got a Penis which triggered a full conga on stage and started one in the crowd all adding to the party atmosphere.
Roots Manuva had the resident photographers going crazy with their flashes as they ran through the arena getting the best shots of the buzzing atmosphere, a bit of crowd praise didn't do any harm to onlookers and even encouraged the dancing, brownstockers lapped up the pumping tunes and understandably all went mad when 'Witness' kicked in. It was a floorless set, which showed true professionalism through and through and why he is still such a big icon today.
Hip Hop legends De la Soul headlined Saturday performing tracks primarily from their debut album ‘3 Feet High’, which was released prior to most of the audience were born, but that didn’t affect their enjoyment. The highlight of the set was a rousing rendition of their Me Myself And I they were not disappointed, they closed their set with Ring Ring Ring, to the sound of cheers ringing in their ears.
We decided yet again to saunter back to The Slippery Saddle Saloon Bar, which was full to the rafters with a bride, fancy dress and an abundance of cowboy hats. This area has become very popular since its first outing in 2013, when evening arrives this area really comes alive. Most nights the venue could have been filled twice over with many having to make do standing outside, its almost its own small festival within a festival.
We were treated to some of the best funk and soul you are ever likely to hear from Brighton based The Impellers, their set included tracks from their 3 albums including Do Want I Wanna Do. The banter between front women Clair Witcher was good hearted (even when asked to perform Careless Whisper), it seemed pointless watching anything after The Impellers as you knew it would be an anti-climax, so bed it was.
Sunday was an important day as we had been challenged by the festival organisers to take part in its new Man V Burger challenge run by the Twisted burger company for the prize of £100 bar tab and some merchandise. Teams of three had to eat their burgers in the fastest time with the twist that one of the burgers was very spicy ( a disclaimer was signed!! ) Russian Roulette with burgers. As we signed the disclaimer, it hit home that the spicy burger was going to be hot and it was over 1 million on The Scoville Scale. In a nerve racking battle we made it through to the finals, making the afternoon slightly tenser until the eleventh hour when we turned up to be told we had just been knocked out and came third. Thankfully a few minutes before the final the site security and welfare team munched through the burgers in less than 4 minutes we were saved, now we could enjoy the rest of the festival.
The afternoon also saw the annual pub quiz take place in the new Lock Inn which replaced The Piano Bar as a new venue for 2014. The tent was yet again overflowing, people with paper and pens to the ready to do battle.
On the Main Stage local favourites The Milk hit the stage, their sweet soulful sound was just right for the afternoon slot, front man Rick Nunn has a relaxed manner for what is his home festival. They set included a songs which are due to be released in 2015 plus several from their debut album ‘Tales From the Thames Delta’.
Meanwhile over in the Saloon Bar another of our picks singer songwriter Tom Jarvis performed a great set of self-penned folk songs including his new single As Soon As I Can, he also managed to throw in a McBusted and Hanson cover. The good sized crowd demanded an encore, which I don’t think he was prepared for, but still managed a masterful cover Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. This was followed by the customary audience photo.
Strolling through the campsite, we noticed several middle aged women in black dresses, only to find they were part of a choir called Funky Voices about to perform in the Lock Inn. The audience was fairly young and you had the distinct impression that they thought the choir would ‘be a laugh’, but their opening medley of Take That changed that. The choir soon had the audience on side with their gospel inspired singing an ideal set for the whole family.
On the Main Stage The Feeling attracted the largest audience of the afternoon for their last performance of the year, before they lock themselves in the studio to record their new album. The set included Fill My World and Sewn, much to the delight of probably the youngest crowd of the weekend.
The final act on the Main Stage were the 2014 version of Razorlight, their style has changed, it has a heavier edge, Johnny Borrell never the greatest for crowd participation hardly says a word as they speed through their set. After an absence of 4 years helps you to appreciate the quality of Borrell’s compositions, Razorlight recorded some great indie tracks none finer than Stumble and Fall, which was performed with more energy than the majority of the currently in vogue indie bands. The set finished with America as three foot long balloons filled with confetti were thrown into the audience. At the same time we witnessed thousands of eco-friendly balloons with LED lights floating skywards, a great way to end the events on the main stage.
Once again The good Shed was heaving with anticipation for Shy FX and a Pendulum DJ set to close the Sunday. The dilemma, drum and base or a sing a long, we opted for the latter primarily because it had a bar, we were well rewarded as The Dreaming Spires were performing a request set, where it seemed songs could be purchased for a shot of whisky. They covered classics from the 60’s 70’ and 80’s until the lights went down.
A mention must also go out to the The Freres Team who throughout the weekend were hosting the Treehouse stage kept the crowd happy with a constant flow of acoustic, indie, electronic and funky smooth soul beats throughout the weekend. Drawn in by the beauty of the stage (yes an actual treehouse) with slated wood and wild flowers, One minute on the circular seating pods artistically wrapped with branches and leaves and cushioned in middle could leave you stuck there for days....we were not complaining, with the exquisite sounds coming from Thomas James and friends ranging from 70s disco, think Sam Smith meets Justin Timberlake And finishing off with a bit of country Dolly Parton style this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
When you naturally expect a stage to provide a similar sound throughout the day Fantastic Fantastic threw a spanner in the works and made for an intriguing performance with summery pop sounds. Two guys with a MacBook and synth have never been so engaging, think MGMT meets the Pet Shop Boys. This stage isn't just for the cool kids though, the treehouse caters for all ages, proved by a mysterious lone elder lady confidently throwing some shapes and dancing like nobodies watching on Saturday afternoon, her performance was met with supportive cheers from numerous onlookers to which she answered "now that's funk"
The Treehouse Stage was also host to the inevitable ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ where Southend band Longy nominated their trumpet player Feralchild, he took the challenge and managed to play the trumpet albeit with purple lips. Sunday Luke Gambling performed a great set of punk folk including a great ditty about UKIP.
Brownstock isn’t just about the music, all weekend there were free runner displays taking place at The Park by Team Traceur. Joining them were Triple Sword BMX and Skateboarding professionals showing off their skills. Naturally attracting the wide eyed children in the audience the guys were on hand to teach your tot how to walk the tight rope at a low level.
Oh yes and the food, not a chip in sight in the arena, just quality food whether you fancied a buttermilk fried chicken, wood oven pizza next, burritos, hog roast, hot dog, sushi wrap and of course plenty of tea and birthday cake. Plus you could even cycle your blitzer into a frenzy and create your own smoothie.
And if this was not enough excitement for you the now annual paint fight left a rainbow of colours behind, not too sure what the cows will make of that!
The atmosphere all weekend was great and the music had been above our expectations for a small festival. The family and team behind the festival had put on a bash to remember but had also set the bar high for their eleventh event.
Contributions from: Cat Ryan Photos: Tracy Morter, Clare Redman and some of our own.