Endorse-it in Dorset Festival - 7-9 August 2009
Set on a beautiful rural site overlooking Cranbourne Chase in Dorset. Tickets price includes three day entry to Endorse it in Dorset 09 and weekend camping. On site car parking is free. Adults (over 16 years) £68. Children 11-16 years £35. Under 10 years £10. Camper vans £20.
Endorse-it festival started back in 2004 as a birthday party in a barn. Popular cow-punk band Pronghorn organised the party as well as played at it. It was such a great day that they decided to make it a yearly event and let anyone willing to pay a few quid come along!
Spin onto 2009 and Endorse-it has grown and then shrunk with the times. This years festival was slightly smaller than last year, this was reflected in a £7 reduction in an adult weekend ticket. The organisers listened to what people wanted and tried to bring the festival back to its roots. One of the organisers Flounder says "Last year we spent a lot of time and money on the line-up and it didn't really work, this year we've just picked names out of a hat!" Not strictly true I bet but I get the feeling that the organisers reached the dizzy heights of running a successful festival but realised that what is most important is the 'vibe' of the event not what big names are on the line up.
The line up was still impressive despite less money being spent on it. Bands included Zion Train, Dreadzone, Sham 69, Eat Static, Pronghorn, Tragic Roundabout, Pama International, Inner Terrestrials, Powersteppers and Subgiant but more about them later :)
Gone is the big outdoor stage but there is still 3 stages in tents making the entertainment weatherproof if needed. The overwhelming consensus from guests though is they come for the atmosphere and the old school feel of the event not the bands. Ticket sales were reduced this year from 5000 to 2500 which helps keep the community feel alive making it a more intimate affair with everyone seeing the same faces around site.
The festival also has late night entertainment, comedy, family camping area, healing area and chill-out area. There is a great kids area with dedicated children’s entertainment including story telling, circus skills workshop, face painting and a play area. For all ages there is punk karaoke where you can sing on stage with a live band and the chance to dress up on Sunday for Ladies day whilst enjoying a cider or two as it is Scrumpy Sunday.
There are bars selling a selection of real ales, beers, cider and cocktails, as well as a variety of food stalls with organisers involving local businesses. My only complaint about the whole festival is the price of food, the burger van was OK but everything else was pricey. Probably not as expensive as food at a massive corporate festival but for a festival like Endorse-it that has its roots in the free festival scene of the 80s & 90s it would be nice to see cheaper options. I feel paying £5.50 for a bowl of noodles and vegetables is pretty steep. Free festivals often had volunteers running a cheap food outlet, maybe only veggie stew on offer but sold without a profit. Maybe Endorse-it organisers would consider giving a caterer a free pitch in exchange for running a non profit food stall. There was also not a great selection of vegetarian food.
New for this year is the appearance of Strummerville, a registered charity that aims to create new opportunities for aspiring musicians. They brought their new set up, including a hut, new bus, flags, and the Strummerville communal camp fire, which offers sing alongs, musicians, and more.
Our Endorse-it adventure began with getting our van towed onto the campervan field. Rain from the past few days had made the site muddy and there was no way that most vans were going to be able to get onto the site. Luckily the sun was shining by the time we arrived and we saw no rain until Monday morning :) The organisers had arranged for tractors to tow everyone on which worked brilliantly with no one having to wait too long. Campers were also ferried onto the site by trailer with all their bags. For anyone whose ever been to Glastonbury you'll be aware how far you have to carry kit from your car whether its muddy or not and I think this shows how much Endorse-it care about their guests. It must have cost the festival a small fortune to get these tractors working all day Friday and over the weekend and no one was charged a penny. I have been to festivals where you can get charged to be towed, again I really feel this shows the spirit of Endorse-it. We also got a cool live-in vehicle sticker that will stay on a lot of vans for ever more.
Endorse-it opens the campsite at midday on the Friday but the arena doesn't open or music start until 5pm. This gave us plenty of time to get the van sorted out, have a chill out after the driving and hook up with friends. We got into the arena to catch Godhead, a punk rock band with dubby influences. They were really good, loads of energy, some rocking tunes and they had great tattoos too! There wasn't much of a crowd by this point but those there seemed to be enjoying it. We looked round the festival, everything was clean and tidy and most people weren't too messy yet. I hoped the site would stay clean and tidy but that the people would get messier! There was the usual merchandise stall selling programmes and t-shirts, we got a programme with a badge and sticker, bonus! There was also numerous stalls selling clothing, hats, ethnic goods and other trinkets.
We went back to the van for food before the evening really got going. The campervan field had a real variety of vehicles from battered transits to horseboxes to winnebagos. There was more than enough toilets and rubbish bins to go around which gives the few who still think its OK to drop litter no excuse.
Later that evening we went to see Pronghorn who as always put on an entertaining show with their very own cow-punk style. Next was Dreadzone, the last band on the main stage who got the crowd really rocking with old favourite tunes and a few new ones like 'Beyond a Rock' and 'Gangsta' from their forthcoming album. They played a blinding set and a great way to see in the first night of Endorse-it. I had interviewed them earlier for UK Reggae Guide and they were all excited about playing the festival and banging out the new tunes. Their forthcoming tour an album are well worth looking out for. We ended the night in the arena by catching the last part of Tragic Roundabout, a firm festival favourite with their own unique style of punked up ska folk.
Saturday saw another glorious day of sunshine which always helps the vibe. When people can sit around outside chilling, drinking, eating and listening to the music it makes for a much nicer festival experience. There were kids running around and a few adults and everyone seemed to be really enjoying the festival. We saw Attila the Stockbroker who for those who don't know is a punk poet that has been around for years. He writes very in yer face political and funny poems and songs. I had never had the chance to see him before so this was a must. He did a couple of great anti fascist poems and a very topical swine flu one!
Back to the Planet came on at 4pm, they played here a couple of years ago after not gigging for years. Then as this weekend they played all the old favourites like 'Teenage Turtles' as they are not writing new material but they banged out those tunes as if it was still the mid 90s and we were at a free festival. After that it was a dash over to the other stage for the first of two sets Ed Rome played at the weekend. This set was a folky ska type affair with some members of his other band The Big. It was entertaining and the crowd enjoyed it but I was personally looking forward to his reggae set the next day. Again we rushed back to the main stage to see Powersteppers.
I have seen Powersteppers a few times and the set can be anything from dub to dance to dubstep. This time they had long time vocalist Molara with Lofty from Dubmerge. He has a more hip hop style and this was reflected in the set they played. It wasn't my favourite Powersteppers set but it got me bouncing a little and the crowd loved them. Shortly afterwards came Mikey Dread and Channel One sound system, mashing it up with some classic reggae tunes. The records were a little scratched in places but after the DJ told us they had been spinning them for 30 years you can understand why, it even added to the vibe of the gig to know that. It was lovely to bounce to a proper reggae sound system. We then went to catch some of New Groove Formation a band I had never heard of before. They are a ska, beats, breaks type band with reggae and dubby influences. Two guys on vocals, one more of the singer, one more of a MC, drums, bass, percussion and two girls brass made up the group. I enjoyed them particularly the more reggae/ska stuff.
I had met Sean from Pama International earlier and was really looking forward to seeing them as I have seen them a few times and they are always good. Before them Blaggers ITA were on, a band I have never seen and was keen to catch them. We decided to get food as we hadn't eaten all day and had been wandering around loads, with full bellies and suddenly feeling quite tired we made the mistake of going back to the van for a cuppa. Before you know it we were fast asleep and the next thing I heard was the sound of Inner Terrestrials playing the last few songs of their set. It was 1am... damn! We had missed the last part of the Saturday night, we went back to sleep so at least we would be wide awake for the whole of Sunday!
Another perfect day of sunshine welcomed us when we opened the van door on Sunday morning. I was really excited about seeing Zion Train later that evening but before that and on very early at 1.30pm was Dubheart. I had only heard about this band a few weeks before the festival and hadn't really checked them out properly. They are six guys, an amazing vocalist, percussion, keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. We were in for a treat as they put on a beautiful performance of Dub Reggae. They were certainly my favourite unknown act to me I saw all weekend. We then spent many hours wandering, sitting, eating, drinking and chatting, taking in the festival without entering a tent playing music. It was ladies day which meant half the blokes on site had dresses on which is the most amusing thing you will ever see at a festival, particularly those with balloons for boobs!
As the afternoon gave way to evening it was time to see Ed Rome again. This was much more of a Reggae/Ska set still with some members of The Big. It was a great set with some songs from his album 'A Life in Minutes'. He is a great performer with loads of energy and great stage presence. Next was Subgiant, a firm favourite of Endorse-it festival. I think they have played every year so far. They mix drum and bass with beats and breaks and have a great scratch DJ which makes for an amazing live electronic sound. They played a cracking set, the crowd really went wild and it was the perfect band to be on before the mighty Zion Train. I had interviewed Neil Perch from Zion Train earlier in the evening for UK Reggae Guide and he had said he was looking forward to playing Endorse-it again. Zion Train's last album 'Live as One' won Best Dub Album in the 2008 Reggae Academy Awards in Jamaica and they have a re-mix album coming out in September.
The crowd were still buzzing from Subgiant when Zion Train came on and the whole place erupted as soon as the first sound was heard. Front man Dubdadda inspired the crowd with great lyrics, sometimes sang, sometimes spoken. Dave and Richard on brass sent sweet notes through our bodies whilst Neil kept the tunes coming with his live dub mixing. There was a point just before the end where the crowd exploded in noise so loud it was like nothing I've ever heard before. Everyone was absolutely loving it, the tent was rammed with sweaty dancing bodies that spilled outside. All too soon it was time for it to end, Zion Train ended with the classic 'War Inna Babylon' but they could have gone on all night. No one in the crowd wanted it to finish yet! The Town Crier told us there was no more and so we departed to find some more entertainment.
In all a fantastic festival, the site stayed fairly tidy but there was still some litter. We really need to get vocal with this minority of people. Next time you are at an event and see someone drop litter tell them what you think! The toilets and bins were well serviced, I only came across a couple of toilets that were best avoided and even those were nowhere near as bad as some I've seen. The security was pretty low key although I didn't like the fact they all had handcuffs and pepper spray attached to their belts but they didn't make a nusense of themselves so I wont moan. One of the best things about the weekend was solely down to the people there, I was expecting lots of Ketamine casualties due to the popularity of this drug at the moment but I saw no real sign of this. As you would expect there was lots of drinking and ganja smoking and there was some very messy people but nothing threatening or anti social that I saw.
Best band of the weekend for me was Zion Train, I would endorse Endorse-it festival anytime :)
Below are a selection of photographs from the gathering.